Comparison Tasting: Apothic Red, Menage a Tros California Red and Cupcake Red Velvet

In a recent post by the Wine Curmudgen titled Has sweet red wine taken over the U.S. market? he describes the enormous growth in sweet red wine sales. The idea that sweet red wines are quickly rising in popularity in the United Sates is somewhat disturbing and made tasting some notable examples an adventure. We are not overly fond of sweet wines and tend to avoid them. Thus, we had simply never tasted any of these wines that were being marketed as “sweet reds” so the tasting was especially intriguing. We picked the three best sellers for our tasting: Apothic Red 2013 ($7.99), Ménage à Tros California Red 2013 ($6.99) and Cupcake Red Velvet 2012 ($7.99). These three brands are said to account for half of the sweet red wine sold in the United States.

That’s the background, now here’s how we tasted them. The bottles were covered and opened and all the tasters had three glasses in front of them. We all tasted the wines, discussed them and amazingly came to the same conclusion about each one…something that rarely happens when tasting wine!!! We could discern no significance difference in color or clarity but the difference in aroma was immediately obvious to everyone. The Cupcake Red Velvet had a smokey bouquet that carried through the taste and the long finish. The other two wines had a slightly fruity bouquet with the Apothic having hints of red licorice. All three had a sweet fruit taste, with the Apothic Red having a heaviness to its sweetness. They all finished sweet, but the Cupcake Red Velvet had a slight tartness at the very end. All the wines were smooth blends, had soft tannins, light-to-medium body, 13.5% alcohol and no complexity. In the end we all ranked them in the same order:

    1. Cupcake Red Velvet.
    2. Ménage à Tros California Red.
    3. Apothic Red.

It was an interesting tasting because even though these wines are marketed as “sweet reds” they are not as sweet as the inexpensive box wines, but should clearly appeal to those used to drinking sweet beverages such as Coke or sweet-tea.

Note: These wines were purchased from the Ralph’s Grocery Store in Agoura Hills, California with a 30% mixed six bottle discount.