Once upon a time, you could tell whether a red wine was of good quality or not by its degree of sweetness — cheap wines were usually lightly sweet, but the finer the wine, the drier it was likely to be. Nowadays, these lines have blurred to an extraordinary degree, thanks to the American palate and its taste for sweetness. Americans are more fascinated with food and its flavors than ever before, which has led to being more open to new tastes and novel combinations in drinks, as well. One trend driven by this appetite for something new and different is the wave of premium "red blends" that are higher in sugar, lower in acidity, and softer in mouth-gripping tannins than premium red wines, which traditionally needed to be drier, more acidic, and more tannic in order to age gracefully. Twenty years ago, it was rare to find red wines with a subliminal shred of sweetness over $10 a bottle, but now the trend is firmly entrenched in the teens, 20s, and even into triple digits with some of California's cult wines. The idea is to make red wine for instant gratification, with no need to serve it with food or mature it in cellars to reach its peak, like this lovely blend from the Hess family. Primarily a blend of petite sirah and syrah, it contains smaller amounts of six more grapes, all known for the dark color and intense flavor of their wines. The result is a smooth and velvety slow-sipper of a wine that features flavors of blackberry jam and blueberry pie.

Hess Select "Treo" Red Blend, California, $14.99 PLCB Item #9894;
sale price through Aug. 26 (regularly $17.99). Also available at:

West Deptford Super Buy Rite in Deptford, $15.99, www.williamstownbuyrite.com;  Canal's Bottlestop in Marlton, $16.09, www.canalswine.com; and Total Wine & More in Claymont, Del., $19.49, www.totalwine.com/