Bgr-fullbg

 

Tasting Wine

Fruit Character

  • The next impression is of the character of the fruit. Fruit character is pronounced in some wines and weak in others. A young wine of high quality may not show a pronounced fruit character in its youth due to the need to “open up,” while others will be very “forward” or aromatic even in their youth. This is a function partly of climate, and wines from a warmer climate show better at an earlier age.

    Several aspects contribute to fruit character. The first is the actual fruit component. While it is not strictly necessary to identify a particular fruit--after all, this is a subjective association--certain grapes are often identified by the same descriptors.

    Thus Cabernet is often described as having a ‘blackcurrant’ aroma, Merlot as having a ‘plum’ aroma, Cabernet Franc as having a ‘floral (violet)’ aroma, Pinot as having a ‘cherry’ aroma, Riesling as having a ‘floral and peach’ aroma, Semillon as having a ‘fig’ aroma and Chardonnay as having a ‘tropical’ aroma when grown in warm climates and a ‘citrus and green apple’ aroma when grown in cool climates. There are many other examples, such as rosewater for Gewurztraminer, and new conventions develop as new grapes become trendy, such as ‘white pepper’ for Gruner Veltliner and ‘honeysuckle’ for Viognier.

    [Link to this Entry]

  • These terms and phrases can be referred to as conventions. They represent a universal language of wine tasters, and if you say of a Cabernet that it has “a rich aroma of ripe blackcurrant fruit,” most tasters will understand the character that you are referring to even though it doesn’t really smell like a pint of blackcurrants at the grocery store. Other associations are sometimes useful, but if they do not correspond to an accepted convention, then they will be less useful in communicating with other tasters that don’t share your vocabulary.

    [Link to this Entry]

  • Fruit character is commonly referred to as ripe or green. This is a product of vintage variation and forms an essential part of evaluating a wine. A Cabernet-based wine develops green pepper and herbal aromas if it is not ripe, while Merlot can show tea leaf aromas if it is not quite ripe. Some grapes are left on the vine until they are over ripe, and these wines can take on an unpleasant cooked, baked or burnt aroma. Some tasters look for this over ripe character and refer to it as ‘jammy.’ ‘Jammy’ is seen as pejorative in many circles and these wines often lack acidity and balance.

    [Link to this Entry]

  • Oak treatment is usually obvious on the nose. Twenty years ago the vanilla and smoke aromas of high toast oak barrels were considered a mark of quality, but the trend now is moving away from obvious oak to more balanced and well-integrated aromas. French oak has a sweeter aroma of cinnamon and vanilla bean spice, while American oak is often identified with a dill aroma by some tasters and a coconut aroma by others. These differences are due to the different species of oak found in these regions.

    [Link to this Entry]

  • In addition to the fruit and oak aromas there are other, secondary aromas that derive from the terroir (climate+soil) that produced the grapes. Grapes grown in a rocky or chalky vineyard will often have a flinty or minerally aroma. This is particularly noted in regions such as Burgundy, Germany and the Loire Valley, particularly Pouilly Fumé.

    Other regions also have their conventions, such as ‘asparagus’ for New Zealand Sauvignon, often due to the clones of Sauvignon employed and ‘sweaty saddles’ for Hunter Valley Shiraz. Other broad conventions for these secondary aromas include ‘spicy’ or ‘peppery’ (Shiraz), ‘gamey’ (Grenache), and ‘woodsy’ or ‘earthy’ (Pinots).

    [Link to this Entry]

  • More aromas are produced during the winemaking process itself, quite distinct from the fruit or the terroir. These can include a tropical or banana aroma arising from low temperature fermentation or carbonic maceration, a yeasty ‘lees’ aroma from aging a white wine on the lees, or a ‘buttery’ one that comes from malolactic fermentation.

    [Link to this Entry]

  • Fruit character will change with age. Young wines are referred to as having a primary aroma. This is the youthful combination of fruit and terroir-driven aromas that dominate a wine on release. As the wines age, they show what is called a developed character. Cabernet-based blends are said to take on aromas of lead pencil and tobacco or cedar, Pinots are referred to as developing an earthy edge with hints of truffles and wild mushrooms ('sous bois' in French), Riesling takes on an almost chemical ‘petrol’ aroma and Chardonnay takes on a nutty, toasty finish.

    [Link to this Entry]