Posted on | February 21, 2014
Written by | W.R. Tish
The term iconic is not one to be bandied about lightly, but if ever an American wine deserved this status, it is Gallo Family Vineyards Hearty Burgundy. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the humble red wine—a cross-genre blend that captured American hearts and palates long before the current parade of Red This and Red That. Now, five decades later, Hearty Burgundy has been re-addressed with a fresh formulation, and redressed with a commemorative 1.5L bottle.
What set Hearty Burgundy apart, and kept it relevant and popular for so long, is its simplicity. Always non-vintage-dated, it was—and is—a generously flavored, smooth-textured red wine at a bargain price (the current 1.5L retails for $8.99). Hearty Burgundy helped put wine on America’s dinner table—and literally put California on the map during an era when spirits led the market. In 1972, Hearty Burgundy graced the cover of TIME magazine; in a feature on the booming California wine industry, critic Robert Lawrence Balzer called it “the best wine value in the country today.”
VP of Marketing Stephanie Gallo—who now oversees the brand but was born nearly a decade after the wine was born—presented the commemorative bottling at a press luncheon in New York City. “What’s great about Hearty Burgundy is the stories people tell,” she shared. “So many people say, ‘I got into wine because of Hearty Burgundy.’”
Approachable & Affordable
Harkening back to the original blend, the golden anniversary bottling was crafted with input from the blend’s original winemakers. Although the exact varietal components have varied over the years, two grapes have always played a prominent role: Zinfandel for its brambly berry notes and Petite Sirah for its depth of dark fruit. (Note: while only the 1.5L will sport the special packaging, Hearty Burgundy is also available in 750ml and 187ml bottles.)
At its press debut at classic Italian restaurant Carbone in New York, Hearty Burgundy was poured alongside the Gallo 2010 Signature Series Napa Valley Cabernet. And it held its own quite well, complemented fittingly by spicy rigatoni. Stephanie Gallo noted that the wine was her grandfather Ernest’s favorite, adding that Hearty Burgundy was designed “to be enjoyed with Italian foods, around the dinner table, with family and friends.” Mission accomplished, then as now.
Practically synonymous with California wine, E. & J. Gallo Winery has been family-owned and operated since 1933. Amid a portfolio diverse in wine types, origins, styles and pricing, Hearty Burgundy has remained true to its original mission of approachability and affordability. Its $8.99 tag for a magnum stands out as remarkable, especially given the spate of California wines hovering in the $10-$12/750ml range. It’s a tasty reminder that it’s not so unusual to produce a small quantity of great-tasting wine; but releasing a lot of well-made bargain-priced wine is a real achievement.