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Bread & Butter Pinot Noir, 2016

Bread & Butter

Pinot Noir, 2016

California, $15.99/$10.99

Alcohol content 13.5%

Bread & Butter Pinot Noir is a juicy wine packed with red cherry and raspberry aromas, and flavors that make it an excellent inexpensive companion for the rich complexities of a holiday meal.

I wrote in this space a couple of years ago about Bread & Butter Chardonnay, which is still one of my favorites, but only recently was the brand’s Pinot Noir brought to my attention by my friend, Allen. He is often spot on with his cheap wine recommendations, and he hit the mark with this one.

Typically a stickler for keeping his wines tightly in the $10 range, Allen relaxed his criteria to recommend this wine, such is its quality. Thanks to Allen’s suggestion, my wife, Sandy, and I have been enjoying Bread & Butter Pinot Noir, returning to it a number of times over the last couple of months.

This wine also was a hit at Thanksgiving, where it proved a fine match with the lamb and side dishes that we shared at the home of friends.

It is a robust yet clean-tasting wine, which probably accounts for its popularity. Bread & Butter Pinot Noir is ranked this year by Nielsen Co. (yes, the same Nielsen that surveys our TV viewing habits), as the No. 1-selling Pinot Noir in the country in the $12-to-$15 segment of the market.

Sure, Bread & Butter, a name taken from the aroma of the winemaking process, is a large production brand of wines that’s owned by WX Brands, one of the 20 largest wine companies in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean it should be dismissed or that it’s not a flavorful, affordable wine worth enjoying.

Bread & Butter is an example of the complex ownership of some wine producers, which often involves a web of partners with different roles. The company also falls into a category of businesses that have not followed the traditional growth path.

The brand was launched in 2010 by Gregory Ahn and others who owned Alcohol by Volume, a name derived from the designation that appears on every alcohol beverage container in the world. The company’s lore is that the name originated during a night when the founders had consumed a case of wine and a bottle of tequila.

To launch Bread & Butter, Ahn partnered with the owners of Fior di Sole Premium Bulk Wines. Fior di Sole, which means “sunflower,” was started in the early 2000s by Valentina Guolo Migotto, Stefano Migotto and Dario De Conti, who all hail from the same area of northeast Italy. Stefano Migotto and De Conti also studied winemaking at the same school in Italy. And the three are partners in Ca’ Momi, a very good line of wines that I’ve recommended in the past.

Stefano Migotto is currently listed as the winemaker on the Bread & Butter website, and De Conti held that role in 2017 when WX bought the line.

Under WX, which was started as Winery Exchange, Fior di Sole has continued to source the grapes and make the wines.

Unlike the traditional way many of the large wine producers — Gallo, Delicato and others — began making eponymous cheap industrial wines and expanding into higher-end brands, WX and Fior di Sole took a different route. Before they owned their own line of wines, they developed their business by anonymously making exclusive brands for such retailers as Whole Foods, Kroger, Trader Joe’s and others. After establishing the packaging business, they have grown by producing their own labels.

“What we did uniquely was to start with our private business, not low-end proprietary brands,” thus avoiding their higher-end brands being associated with the industrial brands, WX senior vice president Oren Lewin said in a 2017 article in the Napa Valley Register.

Much like the other large producers, when WX bought Bread & Butter, it kept its hands off the winemaking that had established the brand and upgraded the marketing to expand the business. The result is Bread & Butter wines are widely available throughout New England and the rest of the country.

I read recently one should avoid taking high-end wines to holiday events where the focus is on the food. Just take a wine that is good to drink and goes well with the meal. I think that’s good advice, and Bread & Butter Pinot Noir fits the bill. Check it out. It’s a great bargain and often goes on sale at around $10, which makes my friend, Allen, happy.

Suggestions of wines in the $10 range are always appreciated. Warren Johnston can be reached at raiseyourglassofwine@gmail.com. For past recommendations, go to raiseyourglassofwine.com.

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