Wine factories—producers of “commodity” wines—hit the jackpot with varietal wine naming. No French or Italian or Spanish or, shudder, German über-confusing wine words to learn. No arcane labels to decipher. No humiliation from snotty sommeliers.
American winemakers made affordable, drinkable-if-not-complex wines the average Joe and Jane could order: “Chilled Chardonnay, thank you.” “Hearty Cab with my steak, sir.” “Santa Barbara Pinot Noir, please” (after movie Sideways).
Following up on single-grape labeling, commodity wine makers tapped into blend trend by labeling classic wine matches with varietal components: Cab-Merlot for Bordeaux style. Syrah-Grenache for southern Rhone style.
But commodity marketers are never satisfied. When you have oceans of juice, you always search for new ways to package, new ways to entice next consumer or hold existing one.
Wine blends are wonderful—world’s great wines are more likely to be blends than single grape variety. In U.S., however, once you blend, law requires you label with the déclassé name “red wine.” American and Aussie commodity makers came up with answer: pander to word play, zero in on the Zeitgeist with shopper stopper names, more kitschy the better.
Commodity wine recommendations:
• Reds (by Laurel Glen). Zinfandel, Carignane, Petite Sirah. Edgy revolution-feel label; opulent mélange of juices. $9
• Folie à Deux Menage à Trois. Zin, Merlot, Cab, plus double-entendre. Why don’t the three of you try it? $9.60
• House Wine Red. Make naming problem your asset: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot. No kitchen sink? $12
• Big House Red. Includes kitchen sink: Sangiovese, Carignane, Syrah, Barbera, Mourvedre, Petite Verdot, Montepulciano, Zinfandel, Tannat, Aglionico, Charbono. $10
• Red Truck California Red Wine. Syrah, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, Merlot. Bow to Bubba. 750 ml $9.50; also available in marketing marvel 3-liter “mini-barrel” about $30.
• Seven Daughters Red. Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Syrah, Carignane and Sangiovese. Seven grapes, get it? Dark red fruit, vanilla. $16