In 1996, two highly-regarded Californian winemakers took the first step towards creating a new category of wine. By blending Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and branding it Ménage à Trois, Dr Richard Peterson and Scott Harvey had produced one of the first premium red blends in the US. Twenty-five years later, according to the latest Nielsen figures, red blends now account for nearly one in every seven dollars spent on wine in the US.
Clare Tooley, wine development director of Lionstone International, the US arm of the UK direct-selling giant Laithwaites, is fascinated by the phenomenon. Over the last six years, British-born Tooley has seen stores across the US introduce dedicated Red Blend sections – and fill them with bottles costing up to $100. These wines, she says “have caught the imagination with strong visual branding, as well as a taste profile that is immensely appealing to the US consumer palate.”