I have notes for 26 wines, most of which I tasted with at least one other person. The notes summarize the consensus opinion, and we judged the wines on their merits — not as, “Boy, this stinks because it’s sweet red wine.”
Having said that, most of the wines were not well made, and displayed a cynicism that surprised even the Wine Curmudgeon. They tasted as if the producers figured sweet red drinkers don’t care about quality, but only about how sweet the wine is. Hence dirty wines, wines made with unripe fruit, and wines that tasted more like Kool-Aid than wine.
This might fool the consumer in the short term, but it won’t help much after they buy a bottle or two. It will turn them away from wine, something that the wine business seems to know how to do all too well.
What too many people making sweet red seem to forget is that quality does matter, even in a sweet product. Coke and Pepsi might be sweet, but they’re also well made, with flavors in addition to sweetness. And what’s the Holy Grail of the soft drink business? To make a sugar-free soft drink that tastes as good as one made with sugar.
The best wines of the tasting were the Sutter Home Sweet Red, which was clean and balanced and would actually pair with food (barbecue, perhaps); two Italian wines, Rosetta and Montefiore, which were being made long before the sweet red craze began; and St. James Velvet Red, which I’ve given a gold medal to in several competitions.
Photo courtesy of Lynne Kleinpeter, using a Creative Commons license