We all love that rich, purple hue in red wines, but are vineyards using additives to acquire it? This week we’re talking about Mega Purple and why we DON’T use it.
Let’s be honest. Drinking wine is a sensual experience. When we say that, we mean you use all five of your senses to enjoy it. It’s the jolly sound of corks popping, the complex aromas, the texture, and obviously the delicious taste. But the look of wine is just as much a part of that experience as anything else.
While wine doesn’t necessarily have to look delicious to be delicious, consumers tend to like their red wines really red. Most of the color comes from grape skins during the fermentation process. And for one reason or another, sometimes the color isn’t as pronounced. When that happens, some companies resort to color-correcting additives like Mega Purple.
A shockingly large number of vineyards use Mega Purple, but if that’s the case, why aren’t more vineyards owning up to it?
Because the use of this particular additive is riddled with controversy. There are even some parts of the world where its use is banned. So, this week we wanted to provide some background on Mega Purple and explain why we choose not to use it.
What is Mega Purple?
Mega Purple is a color-correcting additive made from Rubired grapes. This extremely vibrant grape has both red skin and red flesh, which is why it’s able to impart such a deep color. To prepare it, the grapes are made into a type of wine with extremely high sugar content (roughly 68%).
It’s so powerful, however, that when it’s used, it can only be used in very low amounts. This is just as well, however, because a gallon of the stuff can run around $200. Even just one gallon, though, is enough to color several hundred bottles worth of wine.
Wineries sometimes choose to use Mega Purple purely for aesthetic purposes. We’re visual creatures, and the image of a pale red wine just isn’t always as appealing as a dark, rich red wine. So, if consumers tend to think that a darker wine means a richer, more complex wine, wineries want to make sure their products fit the bill.
Mega Purple is also thought to add “roundness,” which basically just means that it pumps up the fruity flavors and residual sugar. It’s also used to cover up any pyrazine flavors. That’s the compound that imparts more vegetal, bell-pepper flavors to some wines. While there’s a time and place for those flavors, they’re a more niche flavor that young wine drinkers don’t always find desirable.
So, if this additive just helps wine acquire a deep, rich color and cover up some less desirable flavors…what’s the big deal?
The Drawbacks of Using Mega Purple
First, it’s often overused. When we said you only need a tiny amount of it, we weren’t kidding. If you take a glass of water and add one to two small drops of Mega Purple to it, the water will turn such a dark purple it’s nearly black. But this additive can affect more than just the look of a wine.
Too much Mega Purple can actually soften or completely neutralize the natural aroma and flavor of a wine. In an interview with wine expert Ellen Landis for Great Northwest Wine, she said, “I can see it, I can smell it, I can detect when the aromatic varietal characteristic is muted, and it’s so obvious to me.”
While the use of Mega Purple is more prevalent in less expensive wines, you can actually find its use throughout the wine world. Finding a winemaker who will admit to using it, however, is difficult.
Part of the reason for that is because winemakers are worried people will think they’re using Mega Purple to improve a wine made from less than superior grapes (which isn’t necessarily true). If you weren’t aware, winemakers are very touchy when it comes to the quality of their grapes.
In an interview with Wines Vines Analytics, one anonymous winemaker said, “Sure, I use it, but only very infrequently and only for some of my (lower-priced) wines.” He stated that he never uses more than .06% in any finished wine because “…you run the risk of getting some over-ripe characteristics.”
Wineries May Opt For Blending Instead of Using Mega Purple
For wineries trying to color-correct or fill in any flavor gaps, blending is an option that can help them avoid resorting to additives like Mega Purple. One of the main reasons a winemaker will create a blend is for just that reason.
As an example, adding a small amount of Malbec or even a Petite Sirah can add that characteristic dark color. If you’re trying to fill in any flavor gaps, blending can help out there as well.
A Malbec could be added for both color and to boost acidity. A Petit Verdot increases tannins whereas a Cabernet Franc could decrease tannins, and a Merlot is often used to smooth out the wine.
Basically, winemakers are some of the most resourceful people! While there’s a host of additives that can be used to tweak a wines flavor, aroma, and texture, there are so many natural ways to ensure a wine has the qualities you’re looking for without affecting its clarity and purity.
Why We Don’t Use Mega Purple in Our Wine
One of the main reasons we don’t utilize Mega Purple is because of our dedication to growing, harvesting, and crafting low-carb wines free of toxins and additives. We like to keep our wines as healthy as possible. That means no added sugar, which means no Mega Purple.
We’re also in LOVE with the region our wine comes from. Italian wine has a special place in the hearts of most wine experts, and we work very hard to make sure the terroir of our wines is fully expressed. Mega Purple has a habit of making wines all taste alike. So, while creating a consistent flavor is important for mass-market wine companies, we prefer to celebrate the uniqueness of our wine.
We don’t want to create something that tastes just like everything else. We use dry farming techniques for a variety of reasons. One of the most important reasons, however, is that it creates grapes with more pronounced flavors that are characteristic to a particular region. We want all of the aromatic compounds to have their chance to shine, and that won’t happen if we use additives like Mega Purple.
Each of Our Bottles Tells a Story
I guess you could say we’re just really proud of our wine. We don’t mind that each vintage might be a little different. To us, that’s all part of the art of making wine. Each vintage tells a story, and we can’t wait to share that story with you.
We hope you found this information interesting, and that it’s helping you understand why we work so hard to create additive-free wines. If you’re ready to be part of our story, be sure to Subscribe to our Wine Club to get a discount on your favorite bottles every month.
Not sure if you’re ready for full membership? No problem! Check out any of our bottles and feel free to snag one or two whenever you feel like it. Either way, be sure to follow us on Instagram for all the latest updates and new releases.
Cheers! Salute! Santé! Salud! Skål!