One thing I’ve quickly learned—or rather, developed an opinion about—over the course of doing this series is that, for me, a good wine label conveys something about the personality of the wine that’s in it, or the winery that produces it. (For wineries doing a full line of wines that aim to keep the brand consistent, it’s understandably difficult to use branding that will convey the personality of both its Cab Sauv and its Sauv Blanc, for example.) And that’s exactly what The Naked Grape winery (either owned by, a division of, or in some way connected with E. & J. Gallo) is going for.
The Naked Grape line has four wines, and uses a simple, contemporary label across all four: Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio on the white side, and Cab Sauv and Pinot Noir on the red. I picked up a bottle of the Pinot Grigio for $9, and the Cab Sauv for $11. At that price point, with that branding, my expectation is for a simple wine that focuses on the grape alone, without a whole lot of extra flavors. If that kind of thing appeals to you, then you’d probably think of it as being straightforward, or clean. If it doesn’t, you’re probably thinking the wine lacks depth or complexity.
I’ve now found that I fall into this latter category. For the Pinot Grigio … I know that it’s a wine that isn’t necessarily supposed to be complex. But I generally like Pinot Grigio. It doesn’t have be particularly interesting, and it should be a crisp, summery wine; but it should still have some flair. The Naked Grape Pinot Grigio is simply too crisp. It has a flavor of a sour apple with a squeeze of lemon, but the taste disappears quickly after each sip.
Similarly, the Cab is an uninspiring red. I think of cab as a “steak wine”: big, robust. This simply isn’t. The texture is more like a Pinot Noir, and a cheap one at that. Like the Pinot Grigio, the Cab has almost no finish. It’s not that it’s an unpleasant wine to drink; it just doesn’t measure up to the personality you’d expect from a Cab. And at the $11, it falls far short of what I got out of the Pennywise Petite Sirah and Boxhead Shiraz at the same price point.
The Naked Grape labels promise simplicity, and that’s exactly what the wines deliver—for better or worse.