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Winebits 323: Sweet wine, three-tier, high alcohol

Winebits 323: Sweet wine, three-tier, high alcohol

Where do we go? Obviously, not anywhere where three-tier doesn’t exist

Bring on the Apothic: E&J Gallo, one of the biggest wine companies in the world, is making a play for the British market, and is using its sweet red wine to do the job, reports the Harpers trade magazine. The article describes Apothic as a blend of five grapes, though doesn’t mention that it helped pioneer the sweet red movement in the U.S. Rather, it quotes a Gallo official, who says the wine is “very different from previous Gallo brands, and very polarizing.” Still, he says Apothic is selling better than expected, and has been picked up by most of the country’s major grocery stores. It’s odd that Harpers doesn’t mention that Apothic is sweet; its stories are usually better reported than that. Did the writer leave it out on purpose or just not know? Or figured no one in the UK wine business would care?

Play that dead band’s song: The Wine Curmudgeon has often noted that Alabama can be in a completely different universe when it comes to wine distribution and sales, even allowing for the eccentricities inherent in the three-tier system. Like this. And thisBut this one is nifty, even for Alabama. The state legislature wants to pass a law that would make it more difficult for retailers in Montgomery County, which includes the city of Montgomery, to switch distributors. Imagine the clout that’s required to get a bill like that through, which benefits just a handful of companies. It speaks to the immense power of distributors and why three-tier remains so well entrenched in the supply chain.

But it’s in Scientific American: Those of us who write about wine regularly argue about high alcohol, often to no effect other than name calling and snarkiness. But consider this — a report in a respected journal that’s not about wine headlined “Wine Becomes More Like Whisky as Alcohol Content Gets High” and that includes news of a new yeast that allows winemakers to produce fruity wine without high alcohol. Plus, there’s Latin in it, which always impresses me. More importantly, does an article in something as prestigious as Scientific American help mend the rift between the pro- and anti-high alcohol factions? Almost certainly not, unfortunately. The two sides just don’t like each other, and personality — and not wine — has become all.

  • http://www.sedimentblog.com The Sediment Blog

    “It’s odd that Harpers doesn’t mention that Apothic is sweet”

    Nor, interestingly, do the UK supermarkets which are currently selling it! Sainsbury’s, for ecxample, offers the following notes: “a masterful blend of wines [NB!] including Zinfadel, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, creating layers of dark red fruit complemented by hints of vanilla and mocha.”

    Did we see the word “sweet”?

    • http://winecurmudgeon.com Wine Curmudgeon

      I can see why the retailers don’t use the S word, because British consumers may be even more snobby than U.S. consumers. But for a trade not to do it? I guess I should email Harpers and ask.

  • Kurt Burris

    I have seen Apothic on the shelves here in California and never saw anything that said it was sweet. Which, I’m guessing is intentional, since I doubt Gallo does anything by accident.

  • http://www.coloradowinepress.com Kyle Schlachter

    Well, to most casual drinkers Apothic is not sweet. At 1.5% RS it just tastes real fruity and juicy, not explicitly sweet. It is not made to be a sweet wine. Lot’s a high-end “dry” reds have some noticeable and they are not marketed as sweet.

    • http://winecurmudgeon.com Wine Curmudgeon

      Oh boy, an RS discussion! (For those of you who aren’t quite sure what RS is or means — http://winecurmudgeon.com/?p=1317) That 1.5 percent residual sugar is about twice the RS of most dry wines, Kyle. And it does taste sweet. I’ve tasted enough Apothic to know.

      • http://www.coloradowinepress.com Kyle Schlahter

        Jeff, I’ve tasted Apothic, too! I wouldn’t call it sweet. Maybe off-dry or medium sweet, but certainly not outright sweet. Just because a wine has twice the sugar of another wine doesn’t make that wine sweet. Yes, Apothic has a slight sweetness to it. My point is that to most American’s palate Apothic is not sweet. We both know the reason that the “sweet” red market expanded because Americans grew up on sweet tea, juice and sugary sodas. The dry, astringent taste of most dry red wines is not wanted by many people. My friends and family that really like Apothic never use the word sweet to describe it. Some people cannot detect sugar below 2.5%. Others can easily identify it at 0.5%. It depends on where one falls on that spectrum as to how they’d describe Apothic. I don’t think it was made to be a “sweet” wine, but more of a middling between dry wine and sweet wine, meant to hit the sweetspot (so to say) of the American palate (and apparently now the British palate). If it isn’t supposed to be sweet, why should it be marketed as such. Compared to actual sweet wines with 5-10 times the RS of Apothic, Apothic tastes relatively dry. Champagne with twice as much sugar can taste dry. Yes, it does have more sugar than most red wines. Try it next to a Lambrusco, a Brachetto or any of the Sweet Reds by Barefoot, Sutter Home, etc. and Apothic is not sweet. Those “sweet” reds tend to have RS of +3%.

        Here’s the tech info for Apothic:
        Blend of Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon Titratable Acidity: 5.4g/l pH: 3.74 Abv: 13.5% Residual Sugar: 17.2g/l

        And the new Apothic Dark (why put Teroldego in this???):
        Blend of Petite Sirah, Teroldego, Cabernet Sauvignon Titratable Acidity: 5.2g/l pH: 3.8 Abv: 14.1% Residual Sugar: 10g/l

  • the Graped avenger

    Nor did they mention the price discrepancy… Sales price is on the Gin and Tonic index..sad but true.

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