No, Mega Purple contrary to what you might think, is not the worst super-hero of all time!
Mega Purple is 100% grape juice concentrate that is supposed to darken the color of a wine without adding flavor or aroma. It comes in white, pink, red and purple versions, and believe it or not, you have definitely consumed Mega Purple before, whether you’ve known it or not! This especially true if you’ve ever bought a bottle of grocery store Pinot Noir that’s under $10.
The main benefit behind the use of Mega Purple as an additive, is that you can add a small volume to wine without listing it on the label. Mega Purple is manufactured by Constellation Brands from not so well-known grape varieties such as Rubired and Royalty.
Now before you get all up in arms over Mega Purple and rioting in the streets, bear this in mind: YOU (the consumer) are the reason wineries use Mega Purple!!!
Imagine, if you will, that you’re a winemaker. You’ve just finished making your $25 retail Cabernet and it’s one of your best in recent vintages. But there’s one small problem: the color! Sure it looks fine to you as a winemaker, but you know full-well that American consumers are stuck on the idea that for wine, darker is better. So as a winemaker you have two options: add a smidgen of juice from some dark-skinned grapes (and depending on the quantity, be legally required to list it on your label and tech sheets), or buy some “Mega Purple” and save some cash!
In this example, we’re talking about a winemaker making a $25 retail bottle. But what about the guy making the $6-$9 retail bottle? Which option do you think he would choose..?
Mega Purple to the rescue!
There is another reason why wineries decide to use Mega Purple. States such as Texas that have a problem with grapes not fully ripening (due to a short growing season), can (of they wish) find a small amount of salvation in these types of products. That doesn’t mean to imply that all wineries in the colder States are using a wine additive such as Mega Purple, but the option is available to them, should they choose it. However, if a winery can’t get enough color in California, they are probably doing something wrong (picking their grape too early etc.) or using poor quality grapes (as with a sub $10 grocery store Pinot Noir). But wineries aren’t satisfied with enough color — they want Inky Black! Actually more specifically, the wineries don’t want it, the consumer is demanding it!
Personally I am divided on the use of Mega Purple. All too often, when I am pouring Pinot Noir at a tasting, I hear; “Wow, this is awfully light in color, isn’t it!?!?” It doesn’t matter what I say from that point on, the customer already has the perception that the wine in lacking in flavor due to the light color.
The other side of the coin is that undeniably there’s a certain amount of deception going on by any winery that uses Mega Purple, which opens a whole other can of worms regarding labeling ingredients. But I’ll save that for another time…