"Visuals are a messaging shorthand, often used to impart a sense of quality." Emily Bell - Vine Pair
I owe this post to my friend Graham over there in Kuala Lumpur who told me that he was somewhat distressed by an article he had read about rubired and mega purple. It sounds a bit like the title of a fairy story doesn't it? And it probably is a bit of a fairy story for one Dr. Harold Olmo, and Constellation wines. Graham is distressed because he says there is a trend for sugary red wines for ladies - bit sexist Graham? - in Malaysia and it's all the fault of rubired and mega purple.
Well let me explain. Well repeat other people's explanations. Rubired is a grape - a Californian grape bred by the said Dr. Harold Olmo from two Portugues wines Alicante Ganzin and Tinta Cão. Or put somewhat more technically in Wikipedia:
"Rubired is a hybrid of the vinifera variety Tinto Cão and Alicante Ganzin, which itself is a hybrid of Vitis rupestris Armon Rupestris Ganzin No. 4 and the vinifera crossing Alicante Bouschet." Wikipedia
The intention I think was to produce a grape suitable for hot dry climates as in California - shown by the terrible fires of the moment. It is a teinturier grape which means that not only is the skin red, but the flesh is too. There are very few of these kinds of grapes. Most red grapes have clear juice, the red colour the wine being obtained from the skins - but you knew that. I don't think rubired is actually made into a wine on its own although I did see a reference to it being added to Australian port at one point - in the late twentieth century. (Late twentieth century - doesn't that sound like a long, long time ago?) I don't think it is grown in Australia either, or if it is, it is in very small quantities - I saw some sort of official report on plantings of grape types and it was mentioned, but very, very small plantings. And Wine Searcher states:
"A handful of experimental Rubired plantings were trialed in Australia, but these have been largely grafted over in favor of higher-quality varieties."
Mind you various articles seemed to imply that it was/is used in cheap Australian shiraz.
Because the real use these days for rubired grapes is in the production of Mega Purple:
"To make Mega Purple, Rubired grapes are prepared into a kind of wine with a ton of residual sugar (about 68 percent) and a very rich color." Emily Bell - Vine Pair
This very concentrated additive, developed by Constellation wines, is then used to boost the colour of red wines that don't look red enough for modern, perhaps, the implication is, uneducated tastes. I saw several articles that suggested that the bulk of wines under US$20 were boosted with mega purple to a greater or lesser degree. Although they hinted that some more respected winemakers used it too. Not that they are admitting to that fact.
"Mega Purple is thought to add “roundness” and boost the fruit or residual sugar of a wine that may have come out with less than desirable body."
Only a tiny amount is required but it is sometimes overused resulting in those sugary wines that Graham spoke about.
I think we can breathe easy in Australia - at least when we are buying expensive wines - not that we do that very often in this house. I also saw that some countries ban its use, but it didn't specify which ones.
However, it is true that the aesthetics of wine are very important aren't they? My husband once went on a three or four week wine course. One entire lesson concentrated on colour and what you could tell from it. So there is a huge amount of emphasis in the wine world on the colour of the wine and what you can deduce from it.
Which brings me to an ad. I was going to write a whole post on it as I was so impressed - not so much by the product itself - Penfold's wines - but by the message about the words 'Fine' and 'Extraordinary' and just by the ad itself - it is stunning. Well I think so. 'Fine' meaning not worth bothering with and' extraordinary' being something we should all strive for. Alas most of us mere mortals will never be extraordinary - at least not in the way depicted here. It is being screened before the Tour de France - Penfolds is a sponsor. Pinfolds produces, Australia's most famous and revered red wine. Surely they don't use mega purple.
Do watch it. I suppose it's a bit corny but I think it's sort of perfect.