- Costco sells a number of wines under its private label, Kirkland.
- Business Insider’s retail desk recently did a wine tasting with a number of these Costco wines.
- Here’s what we thought of Kirkland’s selections.
Costco is known for its quality wine selection. But the retailer doesn’t just sell other producers’ wine. Kirkland – Costco’s private-label brand – produces a number of its own wines through partnerships with different winemakers.
And the results have been pretty successful. Costco’s wine department has attracted quite a following over the years. There’s even a whole blog dedicated to Costco wines.
We decided to see what the big deal was, so we hosted a workplace wine tasting with a few Kirkland selections. I’ve never hosted a wine tasting before, so this was a pretty extempore production. In the end, I ranked and reviewed each Kirkland wine, and so did all of my colleagues.
Here’s how everything went down:
Getting ahold of Costco wine turned out to be trickier than expected.
Before we could even start sipping on Kirkland, we ran into a problem. New York state laws prohibit Costco from selling wine or liquor within its warehouses.
Many locations make do by arranging for an independent liquor store to set up shop next door, but a number of those apparently don’t carry Kirkland wines.
Business Insider’s headquarters is in Manhattan’s Financial District, so I realised that we’d need to look beyond New York City to track down some Kirklands.
We had to travel for three hours to buy a few bottles of Kirkland.
I ended up embarking on a quest to Oceanside, Long Island, to obtain the holy grail of Costco wines. The odyssey ended up taking me almost an entire work day because I arrived at Jamaica Station in Queens, New York, in between trains to Long Beach, Long Island. But that’s apparently the price that New Yorkers must pay to drink Kirkland wine.
Like many New York-area Costcos, the warehouse in Oceanside has set up a separate liquor store that’s open to everyone. But this particular side store also happens to sell a number of Kirkland varieties.
I wandered around the mostly empty store picking out bottles and ended up with seven selections that cost less than $US60 altogether. I somehow crammed all the wine in my backpack and proceeded to haul it back to Manhattan. I looked a bit like a sad turtle on the train, but each bottle arrived at the office in one piece.
We each tried seven types of Kirkland wine.
Next, it came time to taste the wine. I’m no sommelier, and drinking alone in a conference room at work would have looked like a cry for help, so I arranged a casual wine tasting for Business Insider’s retail desk.
There were seven of us in the wine tasting. Everyone got a line of seven cups. I poured a little bit of each wine into the cups, which were all hastily marked with sticky notes.
The order that we tasted the wines went as follows:
- The Kirkland chardonnay.
- The Kirkland pinot grigio.
- The Kirkland prosecco.
- The Kirkland sauvignon blanc.
- The Kirkland rioja.
- The Kirkland zinfandel.
- The Kirkland malbec.
Here’s my personal ranking of all the wines, along with some notes breaking down what we all thought of Kirkland’s boozy offerings:
7. Pinot grigio
I wasn’t blown away by this 2017 California pinot grigio. The beverage didn’t boast much by way of flavour. My coworkers agreed, criticising the drink as “weak juice” that was too sweet, although one thoughtfully pointed out some “delicate floral” and “melon” flavours.
Then again, you’re getting a whopping portion of wine for just $US7.89. So it’s by no means a rip-off. Just maybe not a bottle you’d give to a friend as a gift.
Wine purists cover your ears: This is the kind of wine I’d splash into some sparkling water or cranberry juice for a spritzer or use to make homemade sangria, as another colleague suggested.
One thing I’ll give the Kirkland chardonnay: It’s also quite a deal. You’re getting a tremendous bottle of what one of my colleagues described as “very chuggable wine-mum wine” for just $US7.99.
That being said, we weren’t quite won over by the drink at the tasting. Our descriptions of the wine’s taste included “nonexistent,” “oaky,” “watery,” “buttery,” and “too acidic.”
A different coworker said it’s a wine that they might drink if they were “at a party and there was no other wine.” That being said, if you need to buy a lot of white wine on a budget, this is a good option for Costco members.
I personally found the chardonnay more appealing than its pinot cousin, but most of my colleagues ranked this bottle dead last when it came time to rate the wines.
The Kirkland prosecco turned out to be a controversial drink.
As a group, we were all more mixed on this wine. I thought it was a decent beverage, but I haven’t drunk much prosecco in my time, so I don’t have much of a point of reference.
Two colleagues described it as bitter, and others used more positive descriptors such as “bubbly,” “chuggable,” “fruity,” and “earthy and fun.”
One thing that stood out in this bottle’s favour for me was the fact that it’s real, honest-to-God prosecco. It’s got the Italian quality-assurance label of DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita).
4. Sauvignon blanc
The sauvignon blanc was the first Kirkland wine of the night that genuinely surprised me. I thought it had a complex set of bold flavours; it certainly wasn’t boring or overly sweet.
My colleagues were mostly on the same page, noticing “grilled-fruit undertones,” a strong “acidic bite,” and “spicy and herbaceous” elements.
White wine isn’t my go-to, so, for me, this $US6.99 bottle didn’t end up beating out any of the reds on the list. But the majority of us in the wine tasting agreed that we’d either serve this wine to friends or give it as a gift.
The Kirkland zinfandel is one of those wines that you’d want to sip by the fire on a wintry night. Most of us at the tasting picked out distinct cinnamon undertones. Two colleagues called the wine “comforting.”
Not everyone was so positive, though. Another colleague dubbed this wine “cosy – ideal for the winter,” although they added that its sweetness was a “downfall.” Another coworker said they were “bored” by the zinfandel’s “stereotypical ‘wine’ taste.”
But for me, none of these drawbacks proved to be much of a roadblock. I’m not repelled by sweetness, and I quite enjoyed this zinfandel. I’d even consider giving this bottle out as a gift around the holidays, given its festive notes.
The rioja came quite close to being my top-ranked Kirkland wine. It’s quite good. I’m not surprised that Andrew Cullen at the Costco Wine Blog singled it out when I inquired about which varieties I should pick for the tasting.
We snagged the 2014 vintage of the Kirkland rioja. My colleagues described this beverage as “spicy” and “very drinkable” with a “great, classic rioja finish,” although some listed drawbacks such as “high tannins” and it being “too light-bodied.”
But, especially when you consider that a bottle of this wine sells for $US6.99, this is an excellent buy.
I’m a sucker for oaky, fruity red wines, and this malbec was just the ticket.
But I’m not alone. Most of us at the tasting actually picked out the Kirkland malbec as the top wine. For just $US6.99, you’re getting a complex, satisfying, and juicy wine.
My colleagues called this wine “complex,” “clean,” “not overly sweet,” and “velvety” “with a good finish.” One wrote: “I could drink this early and often. I’m enthusiastic!”
Another wrote that this wine is “worth more” than its price point.
The Kirkland malbec was the last wine that we tasted, so I’m hoping that’s not the reason for all the excitement. But I’d say that I was quite struck by this selection. And overall, I was quite impressed with the Kirkland wines that we tried.
Not all of them were home runs, but – from the consumer’s perspective – they all offered something, whether that was a ton of wine for less than eight bucks or an affordable bottle of quality wine.
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