The SW Summary: On the wine industry’s purple secret, packaging misconceptions, a new $5.25 million greenhouse and more

By Hanna Halmari
Mega Purple: The wine industry’s deep, dark, purple secret

In Pix Jeff Siegel discusses the secrecy surrounding the use of ‘mega purple,’ a grape juice concentrate commonly added to Californian wines costing below $15. The concentrate, made from a hybrid grape called Rubired, is added to darken and sweeten wines. Although the addition of Mega Purple in California “neither breaks state or federal laws or violates most appellation regulations,” it seems to be the secret that no one in the wine industry wants to talk about. Siegel notes the frank response of one winemaker who, when asked about Mega Purple, answered: “I don’t use it, so that’s why I can talk about it. Because if I did use it, I wouldn’t be talking on the record.”

Whilst it’s generally acknowledged that cheaper, supermarket-style wines include the concentrate, some winemakers suspect that the more popular wines priced at $20, $30, or even $50 use Mega Purple too. However, it’s impossible to know. According to California winemaker Randall Graham, the answer to the Mega Purple question lies in ingredients labeling. “No one in the wine business wants to tell consumers that there may be Mega Purple or other concentrates in their $75 or $100 wine,” he points out. “That’s the reason why there is so much resistance to ingredient labels and why we need them.”

Read more here.

Moving on from misconceptions

In VinePair Mailynh Phan explores the widespread – and problematic – misconception among consumers that heavy, capsule topped bottles correlate with better quality wine. According to Nielsen’s Beverage Alcohol Category Shopping Fundamentals study, 73% of consumers say they are willing to pay a premium for sustainable packaging. If consumers want to purchase more sustainably packaged wine, then why does the wine industry continue to use heavy glass, unnecessary wine capsules, and unsustainable wine closures?

Phan stresses the responsibility of the wine industry to stop perpetuating the myth around heavier bottles and quality. Instead, the industry should “move on from unsustainable traditions” and collectively help educate consumers “on what to look for when determining both quality and sustainability.” Read more here.

New greenhouses to protect U.S grapevine collection

A $5.25 million greenhouse is to be built on the University of California Davis campus to protect an important grapevine collection, reports Wine Business. Leading the project is Foundation Plant Services (FPS), a primary provider of “high-quality, virus-tested” grapevine plant material to nurseries in the US. Measuring 14,400 square feet in size, the greenhouse will “have a vestibuled entry, be inspect proof,” and provide a high-level of protection against diseases such as red blotch. The greenhouse is expected to be completed by the end of 2023 and the FPS plans to build another one a few years later to increase the capacity of vines housed. Read more here.

Silver linings: The opportunities in wine’s supply crisis

As the old adage goes, in every crisis lies opportunity. This is the angle Kathleen Willcox takes in her recent article for Wine-Searcher, in which she takes a look at the ways the wine industry’s supply crisis has fueled an uptake in environmental practices. Pandemic-related supply chain disruptions, now exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, coupled with rising inflation have led many winemakers to speed up the conversion to organic and to reduce the need for inputs from afar. 

Willcox quotes Jake Terrell, director of vineyards in Napa-based Sequoia Grove Winery, who shares how organic farming practices have made wine production and cellar management less costly:  “Since beginning organic conversion, the grapes have been higher quality, and come to the cellar with better nutrients and amino acid balance. That means less intervention, fewer augmented nutrients and additions, and it saves us on time and cost of supplies.”

As many wineries move to become more self-reliant through organic and regenerative practices, some are also investing in wine technologies. These include precision agriculture tools, electric tractors, and UV technology to eliminate the need for vineyard fungicides. Read more here.

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About the author

Hanna Halmari

Hanna Halmari is the editor at Sustainable Wine and the head of conferences at Innovation Forum. Hanna specialises in sustainability research and events across various industries. She holds an MSc in international development from Kings’s College London, where she developed a strong interest in political economy and post-communist transformation. Hanna speaks Finnish, Bulgarian and English. In her spare time she is a dedicated Radio Lollipop volunteer at Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, enjoys travelling, and tasting new wines.