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They say never judge a bottle of wine by its label, but in the case of 19 Crimes, the wrapping carries a unique bit of history you won’t want to miss. Introduced in 2012, 19 Crimes became the newest member of the Treasury Wine Estates portfolio, quickly accelerating into a world-wide phenomenon. And it’s no wonder wine lovers were intrigued since the entire brand is centered on an unexpected theme – criminals. The brand brings a bit of debauchery back to wine with a collection of eight bottles featuring criminals accused of one of 19 different crimes. A true fan of the brand will want to collect each bottle to appreciate each story living on through the wine. And let’s not forget the wine itself, of which there are seven reds and one Chardonnay. It’s delightfully easy to drink, well-priced, and a wonderful conversation piece to feature at your next gathering.
Though this is a California brand through and through, all the wine in the collection is sourced from Australia, a wonderfully diverse climate for producing some of the most flavorful wine in the world. Australia also serves as the inspiration for the crime theme, as each criminal featured on the bottles was exiled from 18th and 19th century Britain to Australia after having committed at least one of the 19 Crimes worthy of punishment. Beginning in 1783, Britain employed this method of sentencing whereby criminals were shipped off to Australia and forced to start over in a desolate, new country. Many of the criminals died at sea, but those who survived helped to create a new community and culture in Australia.
The Rise of 19 Crimes
With the legacy of an enormously successful parent company looming overhead, 19 Crimes entered the market as a near-instant success. The brand launched with a Cabernet Sauvignon and two red blends and the corks featured any of the first five of 19 crimes, from Grand Larceny through Impersonating an Egyptian. The unique, interactive element of the products was a huge hit, particularly among the millennial market. But 19 Crimes brought something else completely new to the wine industry. Each bottle and its character are essentially able to come to life through a connected app and augmented reality.
Simply download the 19 Crimes app through the App Store or Google Play, and use the built-in camera to point your phone at the wine label. In a matter of seconds, the character on the label will come to life in an incredibly realistic video during which the criminal will tell his entire story and the tale of how he was exiled to Australia. It’s an intimate, personalized experience for every consumer, and one that keeps customers coming back time and again.
Cabernet Sauvignon, $15
19 Crimes’ first release is arguably still its best and most popular bottle. The Cabernet Sauvignon is a delicious, easy-to-drink, full-bodied red with all the classic juiciness and dark red fruit flavors you expect in a good Cabernet. At a price range between $10 -$15, the Cabernet is one of 19 Crimes’ more expensive bottles, but the lush fruitiness and subtlety sweet vanilla finish make it well worth the cost. On this bottle, you will also find the face of one of Britain’s more infamous convicts, Michael Harrington. He was perhaps best known for his daring escape attempt, in which he took to the waters off Australia in a tiny rowboat during a raging typhoon.
Red Blend, $13
The other 19 Crimes’ original is a delightful red blend, made with Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Grenache. Aged in American oak, this blend has a fairly large amount of sugar lingering in the final product, which makes it a great table wine when you desire something on the sweeter side. This wine recalls notes of raspberry jam, with a chocolate finish, and a soft mouth feels. Pair it with dessert or serve as an aperitif with bacon-wrapped dates and other sweet appetizers.
The newer additions to the 19 Crimes line are composed of some classics, like a rich Shiraz, and a few unique surprises, like the rum-aged red. In keeping with the 19 Crimes philosophy, these reds are rich and bold, but also highly drinkable. It’s a wonderful opportunity to try some new flavors, and explore grape varieties from the diverse landscapes of Australia.
Shiraz is possibly Australia’s most famous, and most purchased wine, so it’s no surprise that 19 Crimes wanted to showcase their own variation. Like any good Shiraz should be, this one is full and bright with juicy red fruits and a sweet finish. This particular bottle is a blend of Shiraz, Grenache and Mataro grapes, giving the wine a nice boost of brightness and spice that helps cut through the rich fruit. It’s a great accompaniment to grilled meat and creamy pasta.
Pinot Noir, $13
This lovely Australian variation on a classic Pinot provides nice smokey, spicy undertones to a wine that showcases lots of bright cherry and strawberry fruits. It’s a medium-bodied wine, on the heavier side of the Pinot category, but with incredibly soft tannins. It’s a highly versatile wine that pairs well with gamey meats, poultry, and even fruity desserts.
The Uprising Rum Aged Red Wine, $13
This blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache and Shiraz showcase the best grapes of Australia, and luscious, dark wine. This particular variation is aged in rum barrels for 30 days, giving the wine a sticky sweetness on the finish, and lovely vanilla aromas. It’s an homage to Australia’s Rum Rebellion of 1808 and a unique little taste of history. As one might expect, this wine is also quite high in alcohol, giving it a punchy, liquor flavor that cuts the rich sweetness. It’s a wonderful aperitif or accent to bold, spicy food.
The Warden, $25
19 Crimes’ most expensive and prestigious wine is another red blend, this time with only Shiraz and Grenache grapes. It’s a Rhone-style blend that produces a lush, dark red wine that’s surprisingly sophisticated. Red plum, black cherry, and chocolate fill the palette, with a peppery vanilla finish and plush tannins. Despite the higher price tag, it’s an exceptional value for such a complex wine and makes for a wonderful gift or special occasion drink.
Hard Chardonnay, $13
19 Crimes’ only white is described as a “hard” Chardonnay, a medium-bodied wine with the typical oily, honey-like consistency one expects in a rich Chardonnay. The notes of citrus and honeydew present first on the palette, and they are followed by oaky vanilla flavors and a slightly salty finish. It’s a bold variation that a true Chardonnay lover will appreciate.
The Banished Dark Red, $13
Once again a blend of Shiraz and Grenache, this wine is a slightly pared-down version of The Warden. It’s meant to exude all the richness of a good Shiraz, with fruit-forward notes of blackberry and cherry. It’s a wine that can stand on its own, with a lovely sweet finish that will even appeal to fans of drier reds.
Pros and Cons
In addition to being a collection of wine with mass appeal, 19 Crimes is also a great value for the everyday wine drinker. Consumers can often find the bottles for less than indicated as the typical retail price, with the wines averaging $9 – $13 at a national brand store like Total Wine & More. What you get inside the bottle is a great value as well. The wines are grown in the prime regions of viniculture in Australia, primarily the South and the area known as Victoria. The cool, coastal climate in Victoria lends itself well to Pinot Noir, a soft, light grape, while the heat of the South produces rich, plump Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.
19 Crimes are amongst the many brands sourcing top quality grapes from Australia, and the unique blends featured in the line highlight the best of the best. It also certainly doesn’t hurt that each bottle comes with a fun little tidbit of history, and the opportunity to hear from the characters themselves via the 19 Crimes app. It’s a wonderful way for novice wine collectors to explore the fun of trying each bottle and gathering all 19 corks.
As a value brand, it is also to be expected that this wine is not going to be extremely complex, or necessarily impressive to well-tuned palettes. The brand relies heavily on the clever marketing tactics of its augmented reality app and collectible corks to drive sales, and it certainly allows their bottles to stand out on the shelf. If you’re looking for an affordable, easy-to-drink, fun bottle of wine, this is the brand for you. If you’re looking for something unlike anything you’ve had before, you probably won’t find it in a 19 Crimes bottle.
19 Crimes is a small collection with only eight different products, and they have fine-tuned each one to be a quality wine that meets the standards of the one before. However, the classics will always be the best bet, in my opinion. The Cabernet Sauvignon is rich, smooth and just what you want in a dark red that you can sip throughout the night. It pairs well with anything from steak to the chocolate cake but can stand on its own as well. Similarly, the red blend is a delicious highlight of Australia’s best grapes, and while 19 Crimes has released three other variations on the blend, the original is regarded as the best among loyal fans.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you are looking to try the 19 Crimes, but you prefer a sweeter profile when it comes to wine, the 2016 19 Crimes Red Blend with its jammy and berry hints must be your choice.
19 Crimes came with an amazing interactive label! If you wanna try it, just download their app in Apple App or Google Play, scan the label and it will animate three of the criminals/colonists featuring the labels who will start sharing some amazing life experiences and stories.
As you know, Australia was colonized by English convicts who after committing a crime were sent to Australia as a way of “punishment”, rather than death. 19 Crimes illustrate the true story of some of this criminals who became colonists for a new culture in the Australian territory, which means that each of the characters featured in the bottles were real.
19 Crimes is a wonderful example of modern winemaking at its best. Here is a brand that anyone can enjoy and appreciate, that allows fans to interact with their bottles on a personal level, and that brings forth the cultural significance of the region it represents. If you’re new to the brand, stick with the classics, The Cabernet, Red Blend, and even the Shiraz, a prime example of Australian viniculture. For something special, splurge on The Warden, the most complex and unique of all the 19 Crimes wine. No matter what you pick though, you’re sure to enjoy these bottles with friends, marveling over the history on each label, and exploring the delicious contents.