Last night I sprung a surprise quiz on a group of wine enthusiasts who were attending one of my programs. I asked them to give me a thumbs up or down on two mystery wines: Apothic Brew, a Gallo wine infused with coffee, and Four Virtues, a zinfandel partially aged in toasted bourbon barrels.
I hated Apothic Brew -- not just because it assaulted my palate but because it was a laboratory Frankenstein developed by a marketing department eager to tap into consumers' gullibility. At least the Four Virtues zinfandel redeemed itself with good flavors, even though it was too sweet for my palate.
Nonetheless, the audience showed that my seasoned palate is not what most winemakers care about. Half of the crowd liked the Four Virtues zin; less than half like the Apothic Brew. They all found the wines "interesting" and appreciated the opportunity to try something off the wall.
And, maybe that's the point. I often harp that wine drinkers regularly stick to the same wines year after year when there are so many alternatives that will deliver pleasure. So why shouldn't they try a blend of wine and coffee? Who am I to say they shouldn't like it?
Wine conventions are being dismantled daily as winemakers seek to find the new trend (white zinfandel, orange wines, rose, et al) that will earn them and their shareholders big profits. Fetzer was the first to make wine in bourbon barrels and it flew off the shelf. Others -- Rutherford Wine Company, Robert Mondavi, Gallo -- jumped on the bandwagon. Do bourbon barrels add anything to the wine? I'm not sure -- but it's a great marketing tool because bourbon is trending nowadays and the producers are making money.