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Why The Wine Industry Is Moving Toward Semi Sweet Wine

It’s an interesting part of the wine industry, there’s a big push toward semi sweet wine, as an introductory offer of sorts.  It also pits generations against each other.  Boomers HATE semi sweet (or off dry) wine.  Millennials seem to really like it.  This isn’t the first time that you’ve heard that the two groups don’t exactly see eye to eye is it?

Video Transcription:

Hi, I’m Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. So, I’m joined today by what are two of I think the fastest growing wine brands in the United States. They’re here for kind of a similar reason, although the way that they’re created is completely different.

First, one thing that we’re seeing in the industry. Millennials, it’s a generation that I’m kind of on the cusp of, are getting older, and are starting to consume more and more wine. I think we’ve heard about millennials in the media kind of ad nauseam at times, but really this is the largest purchasing block that we’ve had as a single generation since the Baby Boomers, and so that makes them important. From the wine industry standpoint, if they drink more wine than beer, that’s incredibly important, but they also grew up with something that past generations really haven’t, and that’s soda and other sweet drinks, kind of juice, and that kind of stuff was more common when they were younger.

They stereotypically, and this is all stereotypically of course, have a kind of sweeter complexion for drinks than have had past generations. I think that’s fair enough to say and really that doesn’t say anything about Millennials themselves. That says more about our parent’s choices than are own, but the wine industry is starting to kind of try to bring them into the fold, and doing a fairly good job of it by making these kind of not sweet wines ’cause sweet wine to me is kind of a dessert wine, but really a semi-sweet or kind of off dry.

19 Crimes and Apothic both have some residual sugar. We should take a second and say wine makers are able to- Fermentation takes sugar and turns it into alcohol. To have residual sugar, you have to have taken some of that sugar and not allowed it to turn into alcohol during fermentation. So, wine makers have to stop fermentation to keep residual sugar ’cause they’re not dumping it in afterward.

How do you do that? Quite honestly, the easiest way is you just drop temperature low enough and fermentation stops. It’s something that happens occasionally. This year, we probably will see it in Napa as the Napa harvest gets later and later in October. If we have a cold winter that starts early, you will have some open top fermentors that stop fermenting because they frankly get too cold, and some wine makers will move them into a warmer area and get started again, others will set it in the corner of the winery and wait for Spring. It’s an interesting dynamic.

In any case, back, so wine makers stop fermentation so it keeps it a little bit of residual sweetness. It also keeps alcohol levels fairly reasonable. This 19 Crimes brand which I’ll go into more detail individually about it, but it’s kind of a fascinating marketing study, but it’s only 13 and a half percent alcohol. The wine, it’s a red wine from South Australia, which really if we were to let it play out completely would be over 15 percent.

In a lot of ways, it’s an incredibly smart way for industry and for certain labels to react, so you’re hitting kind of two high points at the same time. First, you’re getting a little bit of residual sweetness. Second, you’re hitting a lower alcohol point, which even if you only moderately drink wine you’ve heard about, and then lastly, what does residual sugar really do other than give you a sense of sweetness? It also rounds out the tannins, so you get this kind of more complete kind of look and mouth feel than you would if it’s a completely dry wine.

Both brands growing and growing incredibly quickly. I’m sure you have 19 Crimes and Apothic Red at your local grocery store, or at your local drugstore, kind of wherever wine is sold over the counter for $10 or so a bottle. I’ll go into detail on both of them, but really this is a way that the industry is starting to bring in new drinkers and younger drinkers. It’s this off dry and if you look at these, these are … Where is this made? South Australia. Southeastern Australia in this case. I mean, that’s a huge place. Where is it actually grown? You don’t know. California, likewise. Huge place, number of vineyards, but this is marketing more so than wine making. The wine making is let’s make something that’s consistent from vinage to vinage and let’s do that by we can partially control based on sweetness and mouth feel as opposed to actual grape kind of input.

In that case, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. Hope everyone’s having a good week so far.

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