Posts Tagged ‘ripe’

Ripe, Jammy and Sweet – the Difference!

September 20, 2017

I have had some very nice wines in the past month or so, and from looking at my tweets   it occurred to me that there was enough for a blog!

A constant in many of my wine recordings and tweets is the word “ripe”. To me, that means the fruit in the wine is pure and really comes through – currants and cassis (for cabernet sauvignon), black and red cherries (for Syrah and Grenache), and so on.  It seems to me that the riper the fruit the more delicious the wine. Make sense? Wine is made from fruit, fruit needs to be ripe…and so on!

 

And then there is the word “jammy”. I use it mostly for Aussie Shiraz, and both in a positive and negative way. Done right (in my opinion, anyway), jammy blackberry fruit can also be super ripe and pure – like the preserves you put on toast in the morning. I love it in Old Vine Shiraz! But done wrong…it can be cloying and sweet…watch out for not only some of the “animal” label Aussie wines, but also some of the California wines that are becoming popular with some palates these day.

 

Finally, there is the word “sweet”. I reserve that term for a wine that is supposed to be sweet in the traditional sense. Usually that means a German Riesling or a dessert wine from Portugal, France or somewhere else. But it has to be balanced – not cloying or over the top, but with good acidity as well.

 

So three words…very similar, but very different…at least for me!

 

SB

 

www.sbwinesite.com

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Syrah/Shiraz…France, Australia, North America…what’s the difference?

September 14, 2016

As usual, I have been drinking a lot of Syrah lately, and continue to be amazed at how different the style of the wine can be depending on where it is made/what winemakers want to do with it.

Most people are probably familiar with the Syrah/Shiraz differences…same grape, but made in a different way. Syrah is typically full of peppery black cherries, touch of earth, a bit lean (but not unripe) and no oak at all. Shiraz, on the other hand, is often a fruit bomb – blackberry jam, so ripe it almost appears sweet, and the oak appears as vanilla.

Syrah is most famous in France (northern Rhone, to be specific, where it makes such famous wines as Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, Cornas and Cote Rotie). And Shiraz, of course, is almost synonymous with Australia.

But both styles are also made elsewhere, and can be dead ringers for those made in these homelands. Washington State, for example, makes some great Rhone style Syrahs, and I am very proud to say that BC does as well! Cassini Cellars, Moraine, Quinta Ferreira, Moon Curser…all are very nice. And the best is by Nichol Vineyards, which at 8 yrs old is almost indistinguishable from a Crozes Hermitage.

Interestingly, when made elsewhere, Syrah can taste almost totally different!

One of my favourites is California, where many producers balance the Northern Rhone style with additional ripeness (but not the jamminess of Shiraz). Ojai is a good example. But this style also appears elsewhere, including in my home province, where Orofino makes a stunningly ripe wine!

I have also found that when Syrah is made in Italy, Chile and South Africa, it often takes on much more earthiness, and herbalness (if oak is used to age the wine). These wines aren’t my style, but some people swear by them, particularly because the latter examples can be great bargains.

In general, I find that oak — at least overt oak — doesn’t add to my enjoyment of Syrah, adding too much of the Bordeaux style herbs and woodiness.

But that is just me! The important thing is to know the different styles of Syrah, find out what you like, and then follow your style…it may appear in a whole bunch of places you never thought of!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

CABERNET SAUVIGNON – THE REAL “HEARTBREAK GRAPE”

January 7, 2016

Happy New Year, everyone!

To kick off the year, I am going to do as series of blogs on the major grape varietals/the wines they make. And to start, the so-called “king of grapes” – Cabernet Sauvignon. Although, for me, you could also call it the “heartbreak grape” (with all due respect to Pinot Noir).

Most people know about “Cabs”…they are probably the first red wines they tried! Initially made famous because of their role in the great Bordeaux wines of France, they became arguably even more popular in the last 30 years because of how they are made in California.

And there-in – at least for me – lies the paradox (and the heartbreak).

I, too, started off on Bordeaux when I “got into wine”. With no other reference points, I though all red wine was supposed to be like the way Cab was made into wine in Bordeaux – cedary, woody, with only hints of fruit (mostly cherries). I enjoyed it…or so I thought!

And then came California! I will never forget the night…I had started to read the Wine Spectator, which favoured California wines, and they were hot on Robert Mondavi’s winery. I had my first real job out of university, so a little money, and bought the 1985 and 1985 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons (for about $23)…and was blown away!

Super pure and ripe blackcurrants exploded on my taste buds, delicately covered by vanilla. Big, rich, not tannic at all…wow! I couldn’t believe it!

From then on, I searched out for those wines, including on a subsequent trip to Napa and Sonoma with my bride to be. It was amazing to find so many wineries making what I would come to call the California style of Cabernet Sauvignon (and Merlot and Pinot Noir, as well, for that matter).

From there, it became hard to go back to Bordeaux, although by then my new cellar was fairly full of it. I kept trying the wines as they aged, but found very few with any semblance of that purity of fruit. By contrast, as I go older, I found that many of the California wines still kept a lot of their fruit even as they aged!

For over thirty years I have been searching for those wines in all kinds of places – Chile, Spain, Australia, Washington State and – more recently – here in BC, but don’t find them as often as I would like. If anything, Australia is the best place for that style now.

Which is where the heartbreak comes in…along with the price I have to pay to find really good ones in California these days.

But sometimes –particularly if there is something to celebrate – it is worth it! Last year, in recognition of my Junior Girls 27 – 6 record, I bought a couple of bottles of the Caymus Vineyards Napa Valley Anniversary bottling (2010, I believe). Highly rated (95+) and over $65 up here…but amazingly ripe! And it reminded me of the first great Mondavi wines I tasted so many years ago.

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

HOLIDAY WINE BLOG – BEST DEALS TO STOCK UP ON

December 5, 2012

Okay, next up are my picks for “best wine buys for the season”. These are the wines that you can either get by the case (if you are hosting a party) or take as a host/hostess gift. Regardless of the situation, you won’t break the bank…and your friends will be impressed with the quality of your wine selections!

Let’s start with white wines this time – a perennial best buy, and a newcomer that has blown me away the last couple of vintages. The first is the Viognier that Chilean winery Con Sur makes. Yes, it is on the ripe side for a Viognier, made in that fruit cocktail style. And, yes, it is so fruity that you almost mistake it for being sweet (although it’s not). But for the price — $10.99 – it is hard to beat. And it will turn more than a few heads at any holiday party.

The other white is the same price, but may be an even better value. I am not normally a big fan of South African wines, but the Two Oceans winery is doing some amazing things for ridiculously low prices. The 2011 Sauvignon Blanc might just be the best overall wine bargain around – classic, dry SB, with touches of herbs and grasses around crisp, dry citrus fruit. It tastes like it should cost $10 more, but is only $10.99 to start with! I imagine in places with lower alcohol taxes this is probably a $5 wine, which makes me cry!

On to the reds. A repeat from last year’s list and another perennial best buy in its own right, the Vin de Pays from Domaine de la Bastide is what an every day wine should be. It is made from Rhone varieties (Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, etc) and exhibits that classic south of France style – dry, with earthy black cherries and no oak. A pleasure to drink, and amazing at $10.25.

At a buck and a half more, Castano’s Monastrell is also a great deal. Different grape, but the wine tastes very much like the Bastide, although perhaps a bit earthier. It is my favourite wine deal from Spain, and again has no oakiness at all. At $11.97, you can afford more than a couple of bottles.

So what about sparkling wine, then? Not usually something you consider a bargain…but there is, once again, a great value wine out there! It is also from Spain, the NV Brut by Segura Viudas. It is made in the classic “cava” style – green apples, crisp, dry but also fruity, with nice bubbles. At $15.99, it is affordable enough to serve at an open house!

Finally, sweet wine. Not many will serve sweet wine during the holidays, but if you are having cheese, nuts, etc., you would be surprised how well it goes (and will be received). If you want to go that way, try the 2011 Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc from Chilean winery Concha Y Toro. A Sauternes “look a like”, it is golden yellow, with sweet fruit on the nose and nice caramel/toffee flavours. A little goes a long way with sweet wine, so at $14.99, a couple of bottles will probably do.

So there you go! A selection of best buys that will make any party, house warming, event, etc. a hit. And they won’t break the bank!

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

WHAT’S WRONG WITH BEING RIPE?

November 22, 2012

I have now seen it twice in the past week, so have to ask the question…what does it mean – and why is it increasingly being seen as a problem – if a red wine is too ‘ripe’?

Now, by that I don’t mean sweet. Fortified wines like Port are a whole other ball game.

No, the focus seems to be all about the fruit in the grapes getting so ripe that causes the wines to become…something. Over-ripe, then? Or raiseny? How about unbalanced or one-dimensional?

Well, why don’t we deal with these one by one.

Over-ripe? Well, to me that would mean when something starts to go bad, like fruit that has been left on the counter too long. I find it hard to believe that the wines which have been getting this “too ripe” rap are in this category. They are expensive, from good producers…that doesn’t make sense.

Raiseny, then? Well, that implies dried out…and there is a style of wine where that is actually the goal. Amarone – from Italy – is made by the ripasso method, whereby the grapes are dried before the wine is made. That makes the wine have a raiseny tinge to it, but that is the style. Not for everyone, perhaps, but not a problem either. So strike two, in my books, against the “too ripe” argument.

So how about unbalanced? Personally, at least when it comes to fruit, I would argue the more fruit the better. For those people who promote “food wines” (which need food to taste good) or like herbal, woody wines without a lot of fruit, I guess this would be a concern. But not for me.

So that leaves one-dimensional i.e. too fruity! Well, that one just seems ridiculous. When we eat fruit (and vegetables, for that matter), don’t we want them to be as ripe as possible, so they will fully display their characteristics? Apples, pears, oranges, grapes, tomatoes…all taste best fully ripe. So why not wine?

What’s with the “too ripe” thing, then? Well, I have an idea.

There is a significant part of the wine industry (wineries and wine reviewers) who – for whatever reason – seem to have a vested interested in promoting old style ideas. Whether it is “better with food”, “give it a few years” or “more complex than fruity”, they seem to come from a perspective that needs to make wine more complicated than it should be. Ironically, that’s what turns so many people off wine in the first place.

But I think they are wrong. Even allowing for differences in style – which I fervently support – the bottom line should be that wine is made from fruit, so the riper the better. If it isn’t, beware of excuses for under ripe or overgrown grapes. A glass of wine should be something you can enjoy on its own, and on its own merits.

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com