There are two types of drinkers:
Those who care about the bottle (see this), and those who care what’s in the bottle.
This is for the second group.
Replica is a new wine brand that is “unapologetically replicating your favorite wines.” (They also cheekily note on their site that “Originality is overrated.”)
The catch: they do it for about a third of the price.
The Colorado company utilizes one part science (they run a high-tech analytical chem lab devoted exclusively to wine) and one part one grapes know-how, all helped considerably by their “Chief Wine Officer” Brett Zimmerman, one of only 230 people worldwide ever accredited as a Master Sommelier.
“The idea behind Replica was: What makes good wine taste, smell and feel on your palate the way it does?” says president Ari Walker, who sat down with us at InsideHook HQ to lead a taste test. “Once we know that, we can provide a roadmap or a taste profile.”
“It’s using the art of blending, so these wines won’t be a perfect match to the ones we’re benchmarking,” adds Zimmerman. “There are some distinct similarities, but there are differences. We won’t artificially alter the wine to match. We’ll make them line up close, but they still have to taste good on their own.”
To compare, we blind-tested Pickpocket, a Replica red blend ($25) that riggs on The Prisoner ($46) — a brand that just sold for a whopping $285 million — as its point of reference.
On first taste, Zimmerman was right: there were subtle differences. The Prisoner has a slightly higher ABV, giving it a bit more heft and some more robust tones. Still, I found them relatively equal. Another editor — and more experienced vino consumer — noted that the Replica wines “did manage, like their name, to replicate all of the best aspects of the wine without veering into some of the elements of the wine — e.g., the more liquor-forward profile of the original wine — that make it out of reach to an unseasoned or occasional wine-drinker.”
Initially, Replica will offer five wines, all retailing for $11-$25 and comparing favorably with popular Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, Cab Sauvs and red blends. Three more will follow in the fall. Starting this month, the wines will be available in 38 states as well as a few independent online stores.
If hearing about Replica makes you think of “store brands,” you’re not wrong. “You’re used to seeing private-label brands, but for some reason that thought process never made it to wine or spirits,” says Replica’s lab president Jaclyn Brown. Which has its ups and downs. Tell some kid you bought store-brand cereal, and you’ll experience an almost existential sadness. On the other hand: we’re more than happy with Trader Joe’s products and generic drugs. Consider Replica a bit more on the latter side.
As for finding these well-blended imitators on the shelf: each Replica features the same first letter as its muse (Pickpocket for The Prisoner, Misbehaved for Meiomi Pinot Noir, etc.) and information on their website. But not on the bottle.
“Wine labeling laws are strict,” admits Walker. “We can’t actually do that. But you’ll find them on the same shelf.”