Is Originality Overpriced When it Comes to Wine?

Replica Wine, a Colorado company, is reverse-engineering famous wines to produce less expensive bottlings.
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Replica Wine, a Denver-based company with a production facility in Healdsburg, has made nine wines under its label that they say reproduces top brands such as Rombauer and Far Niente, for about half the price of the iconic labels.

The company’s motto? “Originality is Overpriced!”  Replica started reverse-engineering famous names about three years ago. Its lab measures what’s in the bottle they are looking to reproduce, which gives their scientists a roadmap of different wine brands’ attributes, says Brett Zimmerman, a master sommelier and chief wine officer for Replica (he is unrelated to the reporter). That data is then used to make blending and aging decisions.

The company markets the results as knockoffs of more expensive brands on social media and their website. They produce 36,000 cases annually with distribution in 49 states and the District of Columbia.

On its web site, Replica suggests comparing its $20 bottle of its Retrofit, a California North Coast Chardonnay, to Rombauer’s Chardonnay which averages about $40 a bottle.

However, on the bottles themselves, the company does not state the brand of the wine it is “replicating.”

“Our brands are sold about 40% in chains, 50% in independent retail and 10% in restaurants,” said Zimmerman.

Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits and Republic National Distributing Company distribute the wines.

Producers’ whose wines Replica are imitating, include Rombauer, Far Niente, Alamos and La Crema, declined to comment for this story.

Value in a Label

Jim Dean, the store manager of Hazel’s Beverage World in Boulder, said that his target demographic is millennials. Dean also points out that sales of name brand wines have not decreased as a result, but that Replica represents additional sales.

However, to some, comparisons go beyond what’s in the bottle. “Part of what people are buying is an image on the label,” said Jon Moramarco, a Napa-based partner in Gomberg & Fredrikson Associates. “Just because it tastes the same doesn’t mean it is worth the same.”

“The core fans of each wine would like want the real thing,” said Christian Miller, a Berkeley-based wine analyst who is a proprietor of Full Glass Research. “People who like the flavor of one of the target wines might be somewhat interested, but in many cases, the savings aren’t that great.”

Published on June 20, 2018
Topics: Latest News



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