Posted by: Andy Kelly
19 Crimes. The Banished. The 20th crime was opening this hateful little wine.
This is a very unique entry to Wine Hell. The other wines that reside here have been wines that we’ve bought in good faith, expecting them to be very pleasant on the nose & palate. Not so with this abomination. I bought this wine knowing full well that it was going to be awful and yet I bought it anyway.
So what is this wine, and why the hell should it draw such disgust when all the brand is trying to do is bring cheap, quality wine to us all?
Treasury Wine Estates or TWE are based in Napa, California and they are responsible for a number of the largest wine brands that you see today such as Penfolds, Lindeman’s, Wolf Blass and Stag’s Leap among many more. They own more than 9000 planted hectares across estates in Australia and New Zealand with a further 4000 planted hectares across estates in the US. Their mission is to become the world’s most celebrated wine company though whether they realise their mission remains to be seen.
19 Crimes was founded in 2012 by TWE and the chief winemaker is Michael Kane. Their first wine was the 19 Crimes Red Blend and they’ve since branched out with variations on the blend. They also produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Chardonnay. 19 Crimes have become something of a juggernaut in the wine industry with all varietals easily accessible in all of the main supermarkets in the UK and the US. The wine is relatively cheap though their key success has been the effective branding, marketing strategy and use of technology in enhancing the purchaser experience that underpins the wine.
You can easily become overwhelmed when shopping for wine in a supermarket. A lot of the labels look the same, a lot of the bottles look the same and this can be said for red, white and rosé. You don’t have that problem with 19 Crimes. All the bottles are dark and the faces on each bottle are distinctive so that your eyes are immediately drawn to them and away from anything else.
The 19 Crimes concept is an interesting one also. I’m a bit of a history buff so I like how 19 Crimes have used a different historical figure for their wines, each allocated to a different variety and each with a unique story to tell.
The genius is in how they’re able to tell you their story. You’re first encouraged to download the 19 Crimes app on your smartphone or tablet. You then present the label to your phone or tablet and upon doing so, the character comes to life on your screen. Each character tells you about their plight and how they ended up in Australia which is a clever use of Augmented Reality.
As the characters are real historical figures their stories are easy to find elsewhere too. A quick google of James Wilson, who appears on The Banished bottle, reveals that after 9 years of hard labour he escaped to the US. The British Navy pursued him but the ship he was rescued on rose the American flag after being fired upon and the British, seemingly wanting to avoid a diplomatic incident, broke off pursuit.
One other little quirk that I liked was that they list the 19 crimes that were punishable by exile to Australia on the cork. Seemingly, the corks are randomly placed in the bottle and my cork read “stealing fish from a pond or river”. Bit harsh.
But don’t be fooled by all of this smoke and mirrors. I buy wine for the sole purpose of enjoying the contents within the bottle, not the contents on it or away from it. Sadly, as you’re about to find out, the contents in this bottle lack any redeemable feature at all.
I picked 19 Crimes The Banished up at my local supermarket for £8 and despite the fact that it stood out, first impressions weren’t great. Firstly, good luck finding what constituent grapes make up the red blend. I couldn’t find anything of the sort on the bottle. Secondly, having the winemakers notes on the bottle can be a real help, especially if you’re looking to try something that you’ve not tried before. Could I find this information on the bottle? Nope! The only thing available was a hastily written card on the supermarket shelf which mentioned that it was bold and had vanilla overtones. Needless to say I doubted that.
After returning home, I visited their website to see what information I could find on there. Surely, I’d find what grapes the blend was made of and also some fairly informative tasting notes, right? Wrong. Not a bloody thing. All I could find was the information about James Wilson and a Store locator, both of which were useless to me.
So, I was already pretty downbeat about this wine, but I still held out a faint hope that it would come good after tasting it.
I smelt the cork upon opening the bottle (an odd ritual of mine) and it was the strangest smell I’ve ever come across. It smelt artificial, unlike any other red wine-stained cork I’ve smelt.
After pouring the wine into the decanter I got no nose and that was initially the same in the glass. After much swirling (and soul searching), I could get hints of raspberry and jam but they were very hard to pick out and overall the nose was forgettable.
And the taste?! Predictably awful. It was unbelievably sweet and the jamminess that came through was almost chewy. It felt so sugary that upon the first taste I got the same feeling that I get when drinking coca cola. The sugar hadn’t developed naturally, it felt like it had been added after the fact and it just overwhelmed any other tastes that I hoped to get from the wine.
There was no complexity. I got no discernible fruity notes, there was definitely no vanilla, and the finish was non existent even though the wine felt weighty in the mouth. This is classed as a full bodied wine from Australia, you should be getting some sort of finish from it!
This wine was so bad that I didn’t even get through a second glass. I deemed it unworthy to use as cooking wine so I poured the rest down the drain. It was the most satisfying thing I experienced about the wine!
So there you have it, in approximately 200 or so words I’ve managed to describe this wine to you in all of its misery. But hang on, I’m not finished yet! Within these 200 words, there is more written about this wine than appears on the bottle and the website combined. In fact, all you get on The Banished on their website is the following:
A blend that is brooding with richness. Like the wine rations served on convict ships, every sip deserves to be savoured.
What?! I wouldn’t even serve this wine to convicts in the 21st century let alone in the 18th! This is just an awful, awful wine that is a travesty of marketing over quality.
The triumph for TWE imports with the 19 Crimes brand is that they have successfully dressed it up with a unique theme and introduced new technology to the purchaser experience which has allowed it to sell cheap, poor wine at an inflated price.
Everything about the branding makes me feel like they’re trying to keep me from scrutinising the wine. The wine itself feels like an afterthought. I can imagine their brainstorming sessions in the lead up to launch where they’ve come up with all this really cool stuff about the label and then at the very end of the last session somebody has said “what wine are we going to sell” and the agreed response has been “just give them shit, they won’t care”.
They’ve got to be going for a younger demographic with their advocacy of AR and the technology required. If this is the case then they’re missing out on a massive chunk of the wine drinking community. I could also argue that in targeting the younger audience, TWE don’t have much respect for this demographic and their sense of quality when it comes to wine.
There is so much to choose from in the supermarkets and there are some absolute gems too. If you’re after a dark red blend then look no further than the Diablo Dark Red or the Taste the Difference Barossa Cabernet Merlot. You can purchase both of these for a similar price, they both pack a punch and they are complex enough to keep you interested. Similarly, take a look at anything in our Ned Said section as all of those wines are infinitely better.
But whatever you do, don’t be fooled by the smoke and mirrors and don’t buy 19 Crimes the Banished because you’re being sold a bill of goods.
Image courtesy of The Gentlemen’s Keep via Pinterest