Posts Tagged ‘sweet’

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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Rose – Sweet, Dry…or Both?

April 30, 2014

Okay, the sun is out, it feels like summer, and I saw the first wine column on Rose today. So that means I need to do my annual blog as well!

The subject – as always – is whether Rose should be dry or sweet. But, for me, this isn’t an “either/or” question. Instead, if the wine is made well, the answer is – both!

But first a quick reminder about what Rose is. Almost always, Rose starts as a red wine and is made by leaving the skins on for just a little while. The contact with the skins provides the colour, which can range from a light salmon to a deep pink colour. As well, because the wine is made from red grapes, it tends to have more body and flavour than most white wines.

Now, back to the issue – sweet or dry.

The main problem with sweet Rose is its legacy. Most people growing up have, unfortunately, tried bad sweet red wine. White Zinfandel, Mateus, Baby Duck – there are lots of other examples. Sickly sweet to the point of almost being cloying, it is hard to drink more than a glass (if that). And that is what many people think of when they hear the word Rose.

At the opposite end or the spectrum – particularly for people who have been to the south of France – is dry Rose. The same colour as its sweet cousin, but a very different animal once you taste it! Dry, sometimes very dry, with far less fruit, although no wood to speak off.

In between is the off-dry version which – interestingly – is increasingly being made, and made well, in British Columbia. Once again, the same colours, but explosively fruity on the nose and in the mouth, and very balanced in the mouth, but finishing just a touch off dry. On a hot summer afternoon, there are few things that are better.

So which is the right choice?

Well, I certainly agree that the sickly sweet versions are to be avoided at all costs. So we have no arguments there.

The dry ones? Well, when we were in the south of France a number of years ago, that was all we drank, and we loved them. It was summer, so very hot, and they are incredibly refreshing! As well, with no sweetness, but lots of body, they go great with a wide range of food, from seafood to cassoulet and duck confit.

The problem, though, can be the cost. Dry Rose has become trendy, which means that some of the “name brands” are getting very pricey, even approaching – and exceeding – the $40 mark! Tavel is one that has always been up there, but recently Brad Pitt and Anjolina Jolie also made one that was a bit less than that. It was good, but not worth the extra bucks.

In my view, Rose is like Beaujolais – it should be simple, easy to drink, and less (hopefully far less) than $20. In France, there are lots of examples of that for far less. In fact, it is often thrown in as part of dinner in many restaurants!
As for the off-dry versions, I love the best of them – in the summer. In BC, La Frenz makes the best one (for around $18) – it is bursting with ripe grapefruit! Quails Gate makes another, as does Chaberton in Langley, both of which are a few bucks cheaper. Sitting on the deck, with or without food – there are few things better!

So the answer, then, is dry and sweet, or at least off dry. Summer is short enough, so why not enjoy both?

SB

http://www.sbwinesite.com

What’s in a wine label?

March 21, 2013

I saw an interesting column this week about what to look for on a wine label and thought I would “weigh in” as well.

I spend a fair amount of time in wine stores, and can’t believe how many times I see the same thing – someone looking at a bottle of wine, turning it over and over, trying to figure out whether to buy it or not! For me, the key – like anything in wine – is knowing what style you like and then building off of that to understand what is on the label (and therefore in the bottle).

What do I mean by that? Well let’s see…

Starting with white wines, a couple of key questions:
• Do you like your whites bone dry or a touch sweet?
• Do you like oaked wines or not?

For the first question, if the answer is “bone dry”, then you probably want to avoid the German/Alsace varietals – Riesling, Gewurtztraminer. Most of the best of these wines are finished at least a little bit sweet. They will usually be rated a (1) on the shelf marker. Really ripe white wines – like Viognier from North America – you might also want to avoid, as their incredible fruitiness can come off as sweet even when it isn’t.

For the oak question, if the answer is “yes”, then go for oak aged Chardonnays, Semillon/Sauvignon blends, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc. The label will say there is oak aging on the back, so it is easy to find out. If the answer is ‘no’ to oak, then go for un-oaked versions of the above. Many – in particular Chardonnays – will say “un-oaked” right on the label, and/or talk about being aged in stainless steel (like Chablis from Burgundy).

And what about reds? There are three questions to consider about the style of wine that you like:
• Do you like oak or not?
• Do you like your reds more “fruit-forward” or with more herbs and wood flavours?
• What is the alcohol level?

The first question is the same as for whites, although maybe even more important for red wines! Oak impacts red grapes in vastly different ways, which can also really change the style of the wine. For Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Shiraz, it can give a wonderful vanilla overlay and/or a cedary, woody flavor. The same for Pinot Noir. Interestingly, the impact can be even greater on Malbec and Grenache, taking much of the overt fruitiness away from these wines. Almost all wine labels – on the back – will talk about how much oak is used, so that can be a guide for you.

If you don’t like oak, you either need to look for the few red wines without it…or those that don’t seem to show the influence very much. For the former, Malbec is a great bet (the unoaked kind, of course) and can be a great deal. For the latter, wines from the Cotes du Rhone (Syrah and Grenache-based), as well as many Italian wines (like Chiantis, Brunellos, Barolos, and Barbarescos) are good choices. Ironically, many of these are more expensive alternatives and/or quite tannic when young, so look for the lower end Chiantis and Cotes du Rhones.

Fruit forward or not? California, Australia and certain BC wines are more fruit forward, meaning the fruit should be more prominent than the wood influences (whether vanilla or cedar). For Cabernet Sauvignons, that can mean vanilla-covered blackcurrants; for Merlots, super ripe plums, and for Shiraz jammy blackberries. Bordeaux and Burgundy go to the other style, meaning you will get more wood and herbal flavours in your wine.

Finally, alcohol level. Assuming your wine isn’t sweet (like Port), the higher the alcohol, the fruitier the wine, as the ripe fruit has more sugar which is turned into more alcohol. Sometimes the wine can also seem unbalanced because of the alcohol, but if done right these are the epitome of what fruit-forward wine drinkers are looking for.

So there you go! Know your style, and then look for the clues on the label to tell you what is there. Do that, and you will have an easier time understanding the bottle you are looking at in the store.

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