There’s a new red wine that’s becoming a bit of a hit. But the wine writing fraternity are up in arms. It’s Apothic red, from California, and leading UK critic Tim Atkin has described it as ‘undrinkable’.
The problem? It’s sweet. It has 16.4 grams per litre of residual sugar. It certainly isn’t the first red wine to be sweetened up like this: over the last decade, residual sugar levels have been creeping up, and producers have found that regular punters quite like reds that are marketed as dry, but which taste a little sweet.
Winemakers will produce a dry wine, and then at the blending bench they will add some grape juice concentrate: sticky gooey stuff made by evaporating down grape juice (see my blog post on this). Yellowtail, the famous Australian wine brand, was a big hit in part because its reds contained around 10 g/litre of sugar.
I bumped into the Apothic red, which is made by Gallo, at the Tesco press tasting. I then opened a sample bottle that I had at home. Here are my considered thoughts.
It has a sense of deliciousness. In its style, this is a well balanced wine. The fruit is ripe (sometimes these sweeter reds can have a sickly combination of sweet and green), and there’s nice, seductive vanilla, mocha coffee and spice as well as the sweet berry fruits. It is the sort of red wine that people who have a problem with most reds may well like. There are many wine drinkers who simply don’t drink red wine at all, because they just can’t get on with the bitterness and astringency of the tannins. This could act as a bridge wine for non-red-wine drinkers. The branding and packaging is very clever: wine needs more strong brands. I remember the first wine that really grabbed me; that I found delicious. It was a Berri Estates Shiraz Cabernet back in the early 1990s. As a student I was used to grotty European reds (I was on a budget), and the sweetly fruited Australian actually tasted nice. This wine tastes nice, unless you are a wine nut who has become sensitized to sweetness in reds. Most people wouldn’t think of this as a sweet wine unless it was pointed out to them; they’d just think it was tasty.
It’s not a reflection of the vineyard. It’s a ‘made’ wine. It appeals to those with a sweet tooth; generally speaking, there’s too much sugar in our diets these days, and we should wean our palates off sweetness. I wouldn’t recommend it to my readers here, but having said that, I don’t think this is a bad or evil wine. In its style it’s very well made.
Here’s a film of me tasting the wine, with an illustration of exactly what 16 g of sugar looks like: