Wine Talk

Snooth User: KNEEDRAG

Mega-purple help!!!!

Posted by KNEEDRAG, Jun 9, 2010.

Hi Everyone,

New here so be gentle. Ever since I've heard about "Mega-purple" I've tried to do as much research on the topic as possible. Most people on the retail side either don't know about it or claim ignorance. Once I picked up on what I perceived to be M/P I've had a hard time getting passed it. Michael and David's 7 Deadly Zins seems to be the pinnicle of "inked" wines and have been told they readily admit to using M/P.

So is the following description really the Mega-purple additive or did the majority of wine producers change their blending? Am I just tasting really young wines or did something happen from 2005 on? Anyone else have this issue?

Symptoms:

Deep purple color (unnatural?)

Tobacco and tar aroma

Wine is not complex and gets flat the more decanted it becomes

Leaves teeth and tongue purple

Flavor destroys taste buds and leaves taste in mouth which taints other non-M/P wines 

In just about everything California (high to low-end) from 2005 and beyond. (few exceptions)

Unable to distinguish a difference from year to year.

As mentioned elsewhere, there never seems to be a "bad year" in California anymore. The first taste is always the best and it goes down from there.

I miss the red and rust colored (thinner?) California wines of days passed. Even old favorites like Caymus "seem" to have gone to the dark side. Is this psychosomatic?

Please educate me.

.

 

 

 

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Replies

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 9, 2010.

Some more on Mega Purple can be found below, in:

Wikipedia Here's a pertinent quote: "Mega purple has raised some controversy within the wine consuming community as its use is considered to be akin to adulterating a wine. Others, such as John Williams, winemaker for Frog's Leap Winery, has stated that the need for its use is evidence of poor viticulture and or winemaking."

Vinography, with some interesting comments below the blog. One interesting quote from the article: "The answer cannot be that anything more complicated in the winemaking equation than one man, one vineyard, one old cellar, and fifty old barrels used the same way for decades is somehow a bastardization of wine, yet there is clearly a point at which wine ceases to be wine and becomes a wine-flavored beverage"

All Business, by Dan Berger, who pretty much got the controversy rolling. Interesting comments on who uses it and why, and what different percentages do to the wine.

The Daily Beast

Basic Juice

An LA Times article on what's really in wines. Here's a pertinent quote: "Mega Purple is one of the more notorious additives. Anil Shrikhande, vice president of research and development for Constellation Wines, which manufactures it, says Mega Purple is 100% grape juice concentrate from grape varieties known as Rudy Red, Central Valley and Royalty. Although it is intensely sweet, it is used primarily to add color. It comes in white, pink, red and purple. Introduced in 1992, Mega Purple is sold to various food processors as a natural coloring agent. Twenty percent of the 50,000 gallons produced each year is sold to the wine industry, Shrikhande says"

a thread in the Mark Squires forum, if you subscribe to eRobertParker

 

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Reply by gregt, Jun 10, 2010.

kneedrag - I don't think it's responsible for all the things you mention but I do think it's just silly to use it. 

And I don't think you can blame the winemakers either.  I think you can blame all of the "educators" and writers and self-appointed teachers who claim that they're doing things like demystifying wine or simplifying it or whatever. 

Look at just about any book or article that purports to explain to a novice how to taste wine. Even a few posts on this forum.  What is the first thing they tell you to do? 

"Look at the color.":

And of course now you're supposed to have clear glasses so you can see the color perfectly. 

I never understood what the point of that is.  If I have an old wine, I expect it to be orange-red.  If I have a young one, I expect it to be darker and more purple.  BFD.  So what?  Why is that important in any way at all?

It isn't and it's silly to worry about it.  Some people say that looking at the wine enhances their experience.  That's another load of BS IMHO.  If true, it's only because they've conditioned themselves to be concerned with the appearance after having read or heard those instructions to look, swirl, sniff and taste.

So now you have a critic and he/she writes of a wine ". . .inky purple in color . . . blah blah blah, 94 points."

Critics write about the wines on the market and the wines they receive to review.  Those are overwhelmingly young wines.  Many of the critics have the same inexplicable need to describe the color of the wine.  Because most wines reviewed are young, they will almost always be purple as opposed to red.  Of those, some receive bad scores but people don't care about those, they look at the wines with high scores.  If the critics know what they're talking about, and many do, they will usually state that the wine will be at its best in X number of years. 

But Charlie Customer may not read that last part, may not know about it, and may not care.  He reads that the wine is inky purple, takes it home and goes on a forum to talk about how huge and massive it was and how great it was.  Insidiously, the idea of a dark purple color has thereby become associated with good wine. 

It's completely silly and foolish to worry about the color.  But what would you do if you were a producer? If a darker color gets you two more points from a rater, that can mean the difference between 88 and 90.  That's the difference between selling out and putting the wine in the clearance bin.  Many of the best-known critics actually state that they assign certain points for color. As a result, now we have a thriving industry that shouldn't even exist!

There is absolutely no reason at all to have an opinion about the color of a wine other than to indicate whether it is oxidized or flawed.  And that will probably be apparent from the nose anyway. With that exception, the color of the wine is simply the color of the wine with no value attached and which should NOT be graded or considered in assigning a score.  

So the use of Mega Purple isn't the end of the world, but it's used because foolish customers and critics seem to respond positively to darker wines.  DUMB DUMB DUMB DUMB.  WIne is to drink. Not to gaze at.

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Reply by gregt, Jun 10, 2010.

That's what I think anyway.

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Reply by outthere, Jun 10, 2010.

WIne is to drink. Not to gaze at.

Brings a whole new meaning to "blind" tasting.

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 10, 2010.

Frankly, deep purple wines tend to scare me... ;-)

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Reply by outthere, Jun 10, 2010.

I didn't even know they made wine. ;-)

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 10, 2010.

Was wondering how quickly someone would pick up on that opening...

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Reply by StevenBabb, Jun 10, 2010.

well i have to chime in on the "looking at the color"....

for everyday drinkers, it's not really important.... but for blind tasting, and trying to figure out the varietal and vintage, it can play a big part... try to get past a blind tasting in a sommelier exam without looking at the color and viscosity.... it's about 80% of deducing what something isn't.... it's hard enough as it is....

as for DP, they should have to state on the bottles if they use it... not worth your brix if you do....IMHO

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Reply by outthere, Jun 10, 2010.

Was wondering how quickly someone would pick up on that opening...

Their winery is in Montreux.

Tasting Note, Color: Deep Purple, Nose: Smoke, Palate: Pale almost watery, Finish: Hits you like a flare gun and burns all the way down. ;-)

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Reply by KNEEDRAG, Jun 10, 2010.

Hi Everyone,

I appreciate what you're saying about the color but that is just the first indication, at least for me, that something might be rotten in Denmark. Could be plaid for that matters, really.

If the color is "Deep purple" then it typically goes down hill from there. I may not fully understand how Mega-purple really effects the wine. Some say it just coloring, but I swear there's more to it than "just" color. I can usually detect the all-to-familiar smell of what I've been labeling as M/P. It has a very consistent aroma, no matter the winery, that warns me what lies ahead. Its the complexity, or lack there of, and coating of the tongue that's sure to come if I decide to drink it.

So am I putting too much blame on M/P and it's a more complicated answer than just the single additive? Dan Berger writes in this article (just 2 posts down) how Cabs have changed.

http://napavalleyregister.com/lifestyles/food-and-cooking/wine/columnists/dan-berger/article_704bc688-0712-11df-a231-001cc4c002e0.html

He explains how California cabs are "virtual wines" and how they have been morph'd into what they've become, but he doesn't explain what their doing to turn it into the parody of it's former self.

For whatever reason if it looks like a goose and smells like a goose, then more often then not it turns out to be a goose. Color seems to be just a red-flag of the dangers lurking below the cork. I understand even in my limited capacity that Italian wines use different grapes but I get a crisp finish and not the grape-juice mouth I get from the local fruit squeezers.

Anyone else forgone Cal Cabs because they've changed, and not for the better?

Has all this been discussed before and I'm just a "new'b" coming up to speed?

P.S. "outthere"s "Hits you like a flare gun and burns all the way down. ;-)" Now that's funny

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 10, 2010.

Kneedrag, this whole thread is pretty much about overdone California interventionism:

What's wrong with California Cabs?

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Reply by gregt, Jun 10, 2010.

No you're not covering old ground and it's a good topic you brought up. 

But first a question for StevenBabb - how many people are taking a somm exam?  I do blind tastings every week and you're right that the color MAY give you an indication of the wine's age, but if I take it from my cellar, what do I care?  More importantly, how can it tell you about a variety if you have blends?  About ten minutes ago I got home from a tasting of 2007 Priorats and CdPs and every wine was dark purple. 

That color is meaningless in that context.  It didn't help me distinguish France from Spain from CA, which contributed one wine. All were blends except Clos Erasmus, which I think is all garnacha these days - not 100% sure. 

So unless you're drinking monovarietal wines, the color doesn't really help identify anything. The fact that I didn't like too many of the wines had nothing to do with the color. Aroma and taste are the only critical issues.

Kneedrag - some dark purple wines are wonderful and if you've tasted enough young wines, you can sort of figure out where they're going in a few years, but again, the color is irrelevant to that process.  Or rather, it's an artifact of the process, not something to judge the wine by. 

Most barrel samples are going to be purple.  Most wines released in the first year are going to be purple.  Some of those are going to be magnificent in a few years, some will just suck in a few years.  I would hesitate to use color as a proxy for quality, whether for good or ill. 

My guess, and it's only a guess - I'm not trying to argue w anyone here, is that what you're picking up is not the MP itself, but the winemaking that demonstrates the philosophy behind someone who would use MP.  In other words, they want the wine to be big and showy and the MP is part of their bag of tricks, but you're probalby also picking up super ripeness and oak and alcohol and whatever else they have going on.  But again, I'm no expert on MP and I'm kind of curious now.  I do like a number of the Michael David wines, and I think they just don't need to use MP if they do. 

As far as Berger's article is concerned, he's pretty focused on a small segment of the market.  In Napa and perhaps Sonoma, land is expensive, people who own vineyards ( or recently bought in) need to make a decent ROI, and the big wines sell.  People don't really cellar them in my experience.  Therefore, why not make a wine that's good out of the chute?  I don't have a problem with it and I don't want to wait 20 years to taste something that I may not even like and may not be alive to try.  So with big investments, people amp up the wine.

However, that's not all that's around and it's not the entire world of CA cab.  Randy Dunn, Phil Togni, the Raymond brothers, the folks at Mayacamas, at Steltzner, Heitz, Chappellet, Corison, Ridge, Chat Potelle, and even Viader, Staglin and a few others are still making wines that are going to age nicely. 

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Reply by StevenBabb, Jun 11, 2010.

<---- taking somme exams... and yer right about blends... makes it hard to tell just by looking... but then again, it would be almost impossible to decipher what everything was in a blend if you were tasting blind... right?... and pulling it from your cellar, you can look on the bottle to see what it is, not exactly a blind taste... and isn't the original wine mentioned in this forum's post a mono-varietal... zin???

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Reply by gregt, Jun 11, 2010.

I don't know. He mentioned a zin as an example.  I kind of like that zin too.  As far as deciphering what's in a blend - yeah, sometimes it's not possible.  But sometimes you just know that there's some merlot or cab franc, or in another one you know there's some grenache.  Of course, sometimes what you know turns out to be entirely wrong!  But there can be some giveaways. 

I think it's easier to ID something if you notice it, whereas the fact that you don't notice it doesn't rule it out as a presence.  And I never actually thought about it, but now I guess I'll make note of MP as an ingredient if the wine seems suspiciously dark. 

My point was only that most people aren't blind tasting.  You're completely right that the more information you can gather, the better off you are in that context.  But most of the time it's just about opening something to drink and in that context, whether a wine is deeply colored or less deeply colored, or whether you can even see the color at all, is irrelevant to the overall enjoyment.

Incidentally, off topic I know, but since you like that kind of stuff, have you ever done your tastings with black glasses?  We tried mixing whites and reds but contrary to what I expected, it wasn't all that difficult to tell the difference. A rosado however, can be a challenge.

Best.

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Reply by StevenBabb, Jun 11, 2010.

at first, i wasn't going to respond in this forum, i haven't heard of M/P before, but it sounded like an interesting concept.... we've all seen/had those stained teeth.... but i thought i could lend another perspective on when color and clarity can be important....

when i'm at a tasting or competition, and not a test, i only look at color/clarity to try and build up my mental database...

as for black glasses.... sounds pretty cool..... in my younger day (or even on a picnic, but don't tell anybody) i've done the whole plastic cup thing..... and when drinking out of the bottle, you REALLY can't see the color!!! (again, i was in high school, don't judge me)

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Reply by gregt, Jun 11, 2010.

Been there.  When it's direct from the bottle I don't think color or aroma are the prime concerns!

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Reply by zufrieden, Jun 11, 2010.

I could write a paper of publishable dimensions on this subject - the subject of Mega-Purple and the aesthetic appeal of color (or not). I don't have the energy to elaborate just now (but perhaps if popular demand is there...later).  

My immediate reaction to all this chatter is a two-fold question: (1) Is there any integrity in the wine industry that a food coloring is allowed into a food product treated more like an item on the Antiques Roadshow and (2) Is color of any consequence in the enjoyment of wine?

Suffice it say that (1) is the result of a disease too elaborate to discuss shorthand.  However, (2) is a bit softer, if still quite contentious.  I agree that color and other aspects of wine appreciation are taken  to heights that pierce the boundaries of most universes of taste.  I disagree, however, that color is of little or no consequence; if this were the case, the presentation of gourmet food would also be of little importance.  I claim that food presentation and appeal is of great importance.

What thinkest thou of that?

 

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Reply by gregt, Jun 11, 2010.

I think it's marketing.  You have some chops on the grill.  Eat them off paper plates and maybe you have some grilled veggies on the side.  You can take exactly the same thing and serve it on china.  Which TASTES better?  Neither. Depending on your mood, you prefer one or the other and maybe the experience is different, but the taste isn't. 

Same w wine.  I drank a 10 year old cab tonight.  Intentionally I put it into a glass that had designs on the sides.  In fact, the glasses are beautiful in their own right.  They weren't clear so I didn't get to see exactly how red or purple or brown the wine was. And whether or not I had the wine blind, I'd probably still be able to call it a cab. 

So let's assume (even tho I'm not sure how far I agree) that presentation really does matter.  Does that dictate a clear glass as opposed to beautiful cut crystal?

One of the genuis moves in marketing history was Reidel's insistance that their glasses are shaped for particular grapes or regions.  They laid off all of their expensive craftsmen who used to cut crystal and they charged gullible customers extra money for what was actually a cheaper glass.  Simply brilliant!!  And the Americans who wrote things like Wine for Dummies or similar books bought into the concept and they tell people to pay attention to the color of a wine. 

Uh, OK. My wine is red. Now what?  What have I learned about the wine?  Your wine is always going to be some shade of purple/red or golden/amber or pink.  If your wine is green or plaid, THAT'S worth noting.  But if I'm drinking red wine, and I'm not trying to guess something about it, what do I care what the color is?

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Reply by dmcker, Jun 12, 2010.

I think we're skipping over the fact that aesthetic, sensual pleasure can be achieved from purely visual input, too. That's why wine is so complexly delightful. It looks beautiful, especially in candlelight through the prism of cut crystal. It smells beautiful, it tastes beautiful on its own, and beautiful in a different way in combination with various foods. And the buzz from it can feel pretty darn good, amplified then by interesting conversation with friends sharing the experience. All are part of the gestalt, including the visual.

That being said, I stand by my statement that too-purple, murky-dark wines are offputting to me. And I assume we can get stained teeth from wines that have never had MP added, ne c'est pas?

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Reply by StevenBabb, Jun 12, 2010.

i think that it should be printed on the label.... if you use what is essentially food coloring in your wine, it should be out there for all to see..... weather or not the wine contains sulfites is printed.... and that's something thats seen as a useful tool in wine making....

if it's use was printed, and made known to the consumer, then we all could decide if we wanted to drink it or not....

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