Posted 10th January 2013        

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I have a theory that the average American tooth (by which I mean a USA-resident, with the emphasis on “dent”) is sweeter than its European counterpart. At least, sweeter than its British counterpart. I can’t speak for Kosovo, and whatever Terry Wogan might claim, I never said I could.

There are dim memories of warm cherry aromas coming from many of the easy-going rich and fruity reds I tried on the only Californian holiday I’ve been lucky enough to experience while of wine-drinking age. The quality in general was excellent (and I never had a bad bottle with “Robert Mondavi” written on it).

But if I had one criticism – and it’s really a matter of taste rather than quality – I’d say that American reds are often a bit too fruity, and a bit too sweet, for my liking.

Enter stage left (if that’s where M&S hangs out) Cupcake Vineyards, with their ominously unspecified blend of red grapes with the scrumptious-sounding name of “Red Velvet”.

I’m guessing it’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. It has the former’s warm and (in American hands) fruit-heavy flavours, falling just short of full-bodied as the major fruit hit leaves little behind in its wake. The dark, chocolatey aromas and tinge to the taste speak to me of Zinfandel, but I’ve no idea what else is in there. The full, fruity aroma with hints of lavender has a touch of the Bordeaux (US translation: Meritage) about it, but there are no complex herbs or spices that I can detect, and what shapes up to be a good strong wine seems to expire with the first wave of flavour. In the end it’s a front-loaded, medium-bodied wine with just a bit too much sugariness on the palate.

I don’t want to say it’s bad, because it’s not quite like anything I’ve tasted before. It is interesting, to a point. It’s certainly most reminiscent of New World (especially US or South African) Cab Savs, but not – alas – of ones I’ve actually enjoyed. I remember an unpleasantly sweet, coffee-flavoured bottle from the big South African brand, Stormhoek, which I loathed. Like that, this could well be somebody’s absolute favourite wine – but I struggle to think who.

It hasn’t the full body and luscious qualities of a good port; nor has it the complexity of even an average claret. It’s half dessert-wine and half medium-bodied table-wine. It says it should be drunk with spicy steaks or dark chocolate desserts but I think both meals would be compromised by its presence. This wine could ruin the flavour of a good steak and would be punching above its weight if used to accompany real chocolate, and its own fruity charms, such as they are, would falter.

I’d give it a miss, but if you fancy it you can pick it up from Marks & Spencer for a tenner.

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Meet the Author:
Alexander Velky
Alexander grew up on Anglesey, almost as far away from civilization as he’d have liked. He studied English at university and subsequently moved to Prague to teach it to Czech people for just long enough that he could say he’d done that. He then returned to the UK to do an MA in Professional Writing, and later moved to London by accident and worked in the music industry for a while. His interest in wine has been developing throughout. He took the WSET Intermediate exam, for which he was rewarded with a certificate and a pin badge, but he probably won't bother doing any more. He now lives in Pembrokeshire with his wife and daughter. He writes, and drinks, for a living. You can follow him on Twitter if that's how you choose to spend your time. Photograph by Léonie Keeble