Sweet red wine.
This is a trend that has reached an order of magnitude that is no longer possible to ignore. Surely the pathology of it predates the millennium, but only in the last year or so has it gone fully mainstream - in a stealth sort of way.
Sweet red wine probably existed long before dry red wine. Back in Roman times they likely just called it vino (hazarding a guess that they didn't get too hung up on brix or percentages of Sangiovese versus Canaiolo). Fast forward a couple of thousand years and we've become much more specific about what we're drinking. And that's why this trend is so puzzling.
There's a new breed of red wine that is unmistakably far from dry, yet it is being marketed as "red blends". For this consumer, that creates confusion and frustration. That frustration bubbled over recently after ordering a glass 14 Hands 'Hot To Trot'. 14 Hands is a Washington winery that's produced some respectable values in the past, so "red blend" was mistakenly assumed to mean "Bordeaux blend without the pretentiousness or price tag".
And this is hardly an isolated example. Apothic Red has been critically acclaimed and appears to be selling like umbrellas on a rainy New York City sidewalk. Cupcake's Red Velvet, Bridlewood's 175, Meage a Trois' Red, Gnarley Head's Authentic Red...the list of expanding lineage goes on. Yet mysteriously absent from the marketing of (most of) these wines is any reference to residual sugar, lack of dryness, or the incredible hangover they promise. Instead, the words "plush", "velvety", and "soft" are used to describe what are absolutely awful experiences in imbalance to anyone with a palate for dry wines.
Designed by a focused group, concocted in a laboratory.
As tempting as it is to decry this as a scourge plaguing our nation, there's a pretty good chance that these sweet red wines are bringing more people to wine who otherwise would be drinking Red Bull and Krapov vodka. Yes, purists (including this one) will be challenged to repress their gag reflex with these wines, but hopefully we can all agree that a society that drinks more wine - even if it is this stuff - is a more enlightened society.
So, why won't the marketers of these wines come clean and just tell us what we're getting? Because their focus groups probably also told them that while they want to drink sweet red wine, they don't want to be seen drinking red wine. Just a guess.
For a more enlightened perspective and round up of sweet red wines, check out Jeff Siegel's (aka The Wine Curmodgeon) series on these wine http://www.winecurmudgeon.com/my_weblog/2012/06/the-ultimate-internet-guide-to-sweet-red-wine.html