Being a wine student you have to drink – well at least taste – a whole gamut of wines you would never normally buy. Sadly this is not just top class Clarets or Australian superstars; it applies equally to ‘commercially important, widely available’ wines. So this includes white Zinfandel, Black Tower, and the like. You have to know about the new kids on the block, even if you are unlikely to ever buy them again.
Enter Apothic! The red version is in a way much more ‘interesting’ than the white or the new fangled rosé. It’s a blend of Californian-sourced Zinfandel, Cabernet and Merlot, percentages undeclared so that it can reflect what is available in any vintage. The fruit is rich, just slightly confected (‘alcoholic ribena’ but that doesn’t quite reflect the blue berry note of the Zin), distinctive graphite notes, plus chocolate from ripe, hot region Cabernet. So this is not a neutral, wishy washy number but a red wine with plenty of fruit character, very soft tannins and some acidity. What really hits you after a glass or two – which show that I really did drink this – is that it is markedly sweet on the finish. So such acidity that there is is set against not just ripe, fruit-sweetness, but actual residual sugar, contributed by adding concentrated grape must. If it were a German mass market wine we would give this procedure an acceptable name: Süssreserve!
But before we get too snooty about this wine, let’s remember that blending and sweetening is how Champagne is made and how a whole generation of UK wine drinkers – my parents’ generation – came to love Liebraumilch and Mateus Rosé. Without those mildly sweet wines, we might not have the wine culture that we do have in the UK today.
To apply the Hugh Johnson test, do I want to finish the glass (yes I have), the bottle I am sharing (not looking good) or open another (no, we are more likely to open something else to cleanse the palate). Could it be a bridge for those who drink white Zin and were brought up on Coke? Definitely. Have Gallo made a fortune out of this wine? You bet: red blends outperformed the overall US wine market by a factor of five over the last year and a half.