Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Monday, 12 March 2012

Fiona Beckett: Why are some red wines so soft and soupy?

Fiona Beckett

Yesterday Fiona Beckett asked this question on on her 'Wine, naturally' blog: Why are some red wines so soft and soupy?

She got a very intriguing answer from Jason Lett of Eyrie Vineyards in Oregon, who sent her the recipe for making soupy reds. ‘A fascinating insight into commercial winemaking’ comments Fiona. Indeed it is assuming that Jason’s recipe or elements of it are widely used. Powerfully makes the argument for listing the ingredients in wine.

Back to Fiona’s post:

‘This is a question I've been pondering for a while, most recently at the Oddbins tasting this week. I'm not singling them out in particular - it could have happened at any supermarket or high street multiple's tasting - not that there are many of the latter these days.

You know the sensation. That the wine is unnaturally smooth and sweet - plushy is a tasting term I tend to use. Usually quite high in alcohol. Next to no acidity. Sometimes so heavily oaked that the predominant flavour is vanilla. The wine world's equivalent of a cup cake.’

I realise that there is a market for this style of wine but it's not a taste I share or one you tend to find among producers who primarily make wine for a local market. Or for consumers who generally drink wine with food rather than drink it on its own.

I guessed it was a question of picking grapes ultra-ripe, and of using thermovinification or one of the many other ingenious techniques open to the modern winemaker so I put the question out on Twitter. I got some fascinating replies of which more later but the most comprehensive answer came from Jason Lett (below) of Eyrie Vineyards in Oregon who I met a couple of years ago and whose wines I much admire.'

Jason's recipe for soft, soupy wines is here.

1 comment:

Jim's Loire said...

Posted on behalf of Loire courtier, Charles Sydney:

Hi Jim,
Fiona's comments are interesting and reflect a reality we've been trying to come to terms with for some time.

The problem isn't the wines - they're generally nicely made (certainly way better than the equivalent ten years or more back) and with loads of sweet fruit.

The problem is rather that the average wine drinker doesn't like the dry, tannic and astringent wines you or I might get a kick out of when we're sitting over a decent meal.

Apparently Joe Public actually prefers red wine with sugar in it - so most modern producers leave 4 gms/litre (apparently considered as 'dry' by most standards), and that can go up quite steeply.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch, we're limited to a maximum 2 gms/l - with the majority of our growers fermenting their wines totally dry to avoid any risk of refermentation (yup, that can happen, even at less than 2 gms!).

Rough calculations based on figures provided by customs show Loire reds accounting for about one half of one percent of all the red wines drunk in the UK. (ouch).

So now we wait for someone to relax the rules to let us make wines Joe Public will actually buy.

Short term, the use of thermovinification techniques are a big help as they allow us to extract the colour from the grapes quickly, without the long maceration that also extracted the tannins.

Whatever. In the old days people only drank sweet or semi-sweet whites - and now look at them. You have to start somewhere, so there's hope for us yet!