Kids must drink

A strange sight greeted me the other day in Sainsbury’s.

It might have been there a while, but I had not noticed. However, when I did, it struck me as quite odd, but relevant. It was well away from the wine aisle, and not even a gondola end promotion. It was in the chiller cabinet. The fresh juices to be precise.

I was picking up some apple juice for my daughter when out of the corner of my eye I spotted the word “Merlot”. I knew something wasn’t right as I had already glanced around the regular haunts for wine in this supermarket. On the eye level shelf in the chiller cabinet were two different plastic bottles of grape juice. One labelled “Chardonnay”, the other labelled “Merlot”. Apparently these are grape juices made from these varietals somewhere in “the vineyards of Italy”.

All of this was quite shocking.

First of all, we are advertising the grape varietal names most often associated with alcoholic dinks, namely wine, to the major consumers of grape juice – kids.

Secondly, I always assumed that grape juices could only be made from table grapes, not those destined for fermentation, as the former are sweet, juicy and less ‘complex’.

Is this a good thing? Well, I clearly remember growing up drinking “my wine” when my parents had theirs, so this is not new, although that was labelled simply as “Welch’s grape juice” (I still remember this – odd). It also means, in theory, that grape growers in certain areas have a new potential outlet for grapes that cannot be sold as wine, but that I would need to research more as I still can’t quite believe this is a simple case of not fermenting the grapes.

In Spain, younger drinkers do like their glass of “mosto” (must) so I guess this is our equivalent, even if ours has to be packaged, shipped, branded and sold for a lot more.

It does indicate, though, that these grape varietals have now been so ingrained in our national consciousness that they can be used for products that are not wine.

Varietal labelling has come a long way in 30 years.