Saturday, March 26, 2016

Dr. Olmo, Rubired, and Mega Purple - Part 2

Mega Purple is one of several competing brands of grape concentrate that sell for upwards from $100/gallon.  Ten thousand gallons of Mega Purple alone are sold per year.  Twenty-five million bottles of wine per year contain some miniscule percentage of Mega Purple.  Not surprisingly there is a Mega Red with competing brands in that category also.  As the industry leader, Mega Purple's sales figures are easier to obtain than others so the total production of this kind of product is probably known only to industry insiders.

While Mega Purple's primary purpose is to add color to wine, that isn't its only benefit.  Mega purple is a syrup so it offers texture and weight.  Also as a grape concentrate it is 68% sugar so it must be added prior to fermentation so the wine doesn't end up too sweet.  Inevitably Mega Purple imparts an enhanced fruity character to a wine which, when added to all of the other characteristics above, goes a long way toward covering the shortcomings of less than stellar grapes.  In fact Mega purple covers major flaws like pyrazine and brettanomyces, two of the worst qualities a finished wine can display.

What's wrong with that?  Absolutely nothing if you're a mass marketer of vin ordinaire who wants to provide a palatable product for all of the thirsty American wine lovers who have earned a glass after another hard day at work.  Constellation and all of the other mass marketers of economy wine never had it so good.  This is progress.  Who cares if vineyard distinction is lost if the overall quality level is raised.

But if you're aiming higher and competing with high-minded competitors who take what the vineyard gives them and do their best to make wine the old fashioned way, then Mega Purple is cheating. Either that or else this whole industry needs to re-define itself and that may be what is going on in California today.  The bag of wine making tricks has been greatly expanded in this modern era to include oak chips and staves, chemical extracts and essences, powdered tannins, tartaric acid, gum arabic, and different strains of yeast for a multitude of different purposes.  At least Mega Purple is made from grapes.

Perhaps it all comes down to what your understanding of wine is.  As a thirty-five year veteran of this industry I remember all kinds of wines judged to be flawed by standards way above my pay grade.  Over time I have come to agree with most of those pronouncements but at the same time, some of those "flawed" flavors added to many wine profiles and made them more distinctive to my way of thinking.

Only twenty percent of the annual Mega Purple production goes into wine making, by the way.  One might wonder where the rest is going.

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