Replica made a big media splash when it launched in 2015. Their pitch was to take well-known, over-priced wines like Rombauer Chardonnay, Meiomi, or The Prisoner, and use sophisticated lab technology to determine the wine’s chemistry. That analysis get’s converted to traditional wine descriptors with the help of expert wine tasters. They then use generic wines made from a variety of vineyard sites, along with traditional blending and aging techniques, to replicate the target wine and sell it at a fraction of the cost. In theory, great wines can be reverse engineered.
So does it work?
Yes and no. Retrofit is supposed to be a knock-off of the Rombauer Carneros Chardonnay, one of the most popular premium Chardonnay’s on the market that sells for around $40. Rombauer is loved for its buttered popcorn aroma and lush, full bodied mouthfeel.
The Retrofit had a pleasant scent of tangerine with the butter prominent but not oppressive. The nose is quite showy, simple but loud and with good clarity.
In the mouth, it is full bodied, creamy with grapefruit hints, but not overly hefty. The obvious sweetness was balanced with crisp acidity. The wine is not merely smooth. Movement and variation is very slow to develop but at the back of the midpalate it compresses and then expands with a quick blast of sandy textures and a mineral halo that gradually becomes angular as it pushes through the finish ending on a bitter note.
Cheerful, ingratiating, and erotic, it’s everything you want in a date when you’re 19, except the bitter finish.
To enjoy this wine you have to like the style—sweet, buttery, and bombastic. But within that style it’s a well made wine—quite entertaining. However, it isn’t Rombauer. It is not as complex on the nose. Neither is it quite as plump, juicy, or “smooth”, as the general public likes to say. But it’s a good facsimile. In the $15-$20 price range, if you’re a fan of Rombauer but short of cash it’s a good choice. Especially paired with Steely Dan’s Hey 19.
As to the future of knock-off wine, talk to me when you’ve got a 2005 La Tâche for $50.
Price: $16 (Purchase Here)