- We recently hosted a Sam’s Club wine tasting, trying out seven different Member’s Mark offerings.
- Member’s Mark is one of Sam’s Club’s private-label brands, and it boasts its own line of wines.
- These Sam’s Club selections ended up provoking some strong reactions among our six reviewers.
- Tasters dished out unreserved praise, scathing criticism, and general “meh” reactions – often when describing the same exact wines.
- One thing that many of the reviewers did agree on was that most of these wines from the Walmart-owned retailer are worth their price.
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Sam’s Club has an answer to Costco’s Kirkland wines: the Member’s Mark line of bubblies, whites, and reds.
The private-label brand, which set about expanding its proverbial wine cellar in 2017, is sold by Walmart’s members-only warehouse chain. Member’s Mark recently sent us seven bottles of wine to try.
We grabbed a stack of plastic cups, booked a conference room, and managed to set the tasting up without spilling (too much). Then, six journalists from Business Insider’s retail, tech, and transportation desks were assembled to sip on some vino on a Thursday night.
When it came to taste, opinions were divided – often sharply – on virtually every wine we tried. In some cases, one taste tester’s favourite pick of the bunch was another’s worst wine nightmare.
For most of the wines, however, reviewers did praise the value and low cost of the brand.
Here’s what we thought of these seven Member’s Mark wines:
Reviewers found the Member’s Mark Prosecco crisp, foamy, and ‘suspiciously cheap’
We kicked our tasting off with the Prosecco, a beverage that tasters said made an immediate impression.
One described it as rather tasty at first, with a fast-fading flavour. Another picked out the foaminess of the drink, writing that it was “crisp” and “refreshing,” with notes of “light fruit” and “bitter nuttiness.”
A different taster found that it was “so intensely bubbly that it sort of burned my tongue” on the first sip. Other criticisms included a “rubbery” quality and a lack of acidity.
But fans of the Member’s Mark Prosecco said they enjoyed the “crisp,” “tart,” and “smooth” flavour.
“I would serve it to friends but mostly in a party setting, and with the expectation that we were trying to get real drunk,” one taster said.
Five out of six reviewers said that the $US7.98 Prosecco was a good price, calling it a “steal” and a “decent value.” One even said the price seemed “suspiciously cheap.”
The Champagne offered the tasters a quirkiness that some enjoyed far more than others
This Champagne made like a geyser when we popped the cork, causing a brief moment of panic in an otherwise contemplative and tranquil tasting.
“Nice golden colour, bubbles disappear quick, but the aroma is sort of yeasty, and the flavours are nutty, zingy – slightly unripe – stone fruit, and some actual funk,” one reviewer wrote, concluding that the Champagne had quite a bit of “character.”
That same reviewer speculated that the “cool” Champagne came from a small “grower” outfit, the type of which tend to produce quirkier vintages.
Not everyone was so enthused, however, with other tasters describing it as tasting “cheap” and like an open bottle that had languished too long in “the back of my fridge.”
Other tasters described the Champagne as sweet, “softer and fruitier” than the Prosecco, and salty with pungent parmesan notes that later faded into a sweeter sip.
Reviewers were more split than usual on the Champagne’s price. At $US19.98, this bottle is considerably more expensive than the other Member’s Mark wines at the tasting.
“I’m not mad at the price,” one reviewer said.
The Moscato d’Asti was described as a great pick, but only for sippers with a strong sweet tooth
If you love especially sweet wines, this Moscato d’Asti might be the one for you.
That being said, all but one taste tester criticised this wine for being too sweet. The holdout reviewer clarified that they “particularly like sweeter drinks.”
“This wine is cloyingly, desperately sweet on the first sip,” one reviewer wrote. “It hurts my teeth.” That same taster did add that the wine’s lack of a “lingering aftertaste” left them continuing to sip it, despite their low opinion.
Reviewers described the wine as “peach-like,” “floral,” grapey, lacking acidity, and “deathly sweet,” with a hint of lemon, a “gooey mouthfeel,” and a “decent baked apple flavour.”
The majority of reviewers did say that Moscato d’Asti is worth the price of $US9.98. One reviewer concluded that they’d bring the wine to a party or even serve it to company if they were certain their friends had an intense sweet tooth.
Reviews for the Sauvignon blanc were all over the place
Sauvignon blanc originated in the Bordeaux region in southwestern France, but our taste testers couldn’t have been further apart when it came time to describe the Member’s Mark take on the wine.
Take the wine’s aftertaste, for instance. To one reviewer, it was a “pleasant” conclusion to a “leafy,” “vegetal,” and “savoury” sip. To another, it was “not good” and far too sharp.
One Sauvignon blanc fan who came in expecting to enjoy the wine found it “just ok,” saying that it was two sweet and “grape-y.”
Another taster said they were surprised that the wine was their favourite of the seven Member’s Mark options, adding, “I like it more than I thought I would.”
Testers picked up on notes of apple, pear, and orange, although two reviewers called the wine “bitter” and one taster complained about the lack of “that signature New Zealand citrus zing.”
“It’s definitely drinkable,” one reviewer wrote, saying that they could see themselves breaking it open at a dinner party to serve “after everyone is a little bit drunk.”
With a price of $US6.98, one taster opined that this is a good wine for “getting drunk on the cheap.”
The Zinfandel conjured up unfavourable Marvel references and imaginings of a cosy ‘wintertime dinner party’
Taste testers seemed to feel that this was one of the bolder wines of the evening. But the reviewers largely disagreed on whether the Zinfandel’s boldness was effective.
“The aroma is great, colour is good, and there’s some decent tannic and acidic structure, but the fruit flavour is a a sort of flabby, baked plum that fades fast,” one wrote.
But others didn’t buy the negative Zin spin.
“Someone could bring this over and tell me it was a $US25 bottle and I’d believe it,” a different reviewer wrote, adding that the taste was “a little bitter and dry.”
“Notably, this is the only wine I chose to finish,” the reviewer added.
The Zinfandel attracted a number of wildly varying adjectives like “savoury,” “caustic,” and “fruity.” One taste tester compared its “empty weak body” to a “pre-Captain America Steve Rogers.”
In terms of cost, one taste tester called the wine a “steal” at $US6.98.
One reviewer said they’d bring it to a cookout but wouldn’t serve it to friends, while another opined that it was “a good wine for a wintertime dinner party.”
The Malbec’s reviews were mixed, from raving to revenge-seeking
The Member’s Mark Malbec appeared to stir up some strong opinions in the reviewers.
Descriptors that came to mind included “fruity,” “light,” “watery,” and “nutty.” Two reviewers described the wine as “bitter,” while two different tasters praised it as highly “drinkable.”
Only one standout loathed this wine, with one taster volunteering to “destroy every bottle for the sake of humanity.” They described the drink as “flat, flabby, and stingy on the fruit.”
“The reds are really outpacing the whites for me,” a different reviewer wrote. “The Malbec tasted very full and flavorful, but also extremely dry.”
Yet another taster declared that this Malbec was a “pretty standard red” that doesn’t much “stand out.”
“It’s a little too dry to be super drinkable, but I enjoyed a glass of it,” a fourth, significantly more pleased reviewer wrote. “I would recommend this at happy hour, but maybe not when you’re trying to drink several glasses.”
Reviewers were split on whether the wine was worth $US6.98, although one taster called that a “shockingly” good price.
The sangria proved to be a fruity — and particularly polarising — drink
Sangria may be all about blending fruit and wine, but the Member’s Mark version of this Spanish staple ended up dividing our reviewers straight down the middle.
“If you’re a teenager looking for their first alcoholic beverage, you’d probably like this,” one reviewer wrote, describing the drink as tasting like flat “off-brand fruity soda” that’s been “spiked with rubbing alcohol.”
In response to a survey question about the sangria’s value, another reviewer wrote that “they should pay you $US6.98 to drink this.” They added that they’d only bring a bottle to a party if the theme was “bring your most terrible alcohol.”
But the other half of the taste test group enjoyed the sweet, boozy punch. One reviewer described it as “drinkable” and “fruity,” and a second extolled it as a “great” sangria.
The taste was likened to “Kool Aid,” “watery,” “very sweet,” lacking in “wine flavour.”
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