Thursday, December 4, 2008

Jammy Versus Lean and Earthy

As a retailer who has spoken to a great many people about their red wine preferences I have learned to put people into two separate categories. Lean and earthy or rich and jammy. It might be a bit unfair of me to categorize everyone one way or another, but for the most part this does hold true. I confess I find it a bit frustrating. While I understand people like what they like, I think correct context for appreciating a wine can go a long way towards enjoying it.

Leaner, earthier styles tend to come from Old World sources such as France and Italy. They are more acidic on entry and tend to reveal themselves on the finish. These wines prime your palate for food and take a back seat to your meal. The higher acidity helps to make the flavors of your food more pronounced and create harmony with the dish. As the French say, food is the star of the show and wine is the supporting cast.

Rich, and jammy wines have a place too, but it is rarely with the meal. My complaint on this front is that sometimes the flavors are over-ripe and sugary (which is the dirty, little secret of their appeal) and the corresponding alcohol is just too up front. Longer hang times for the fruit result in more sugar, which results is more alcohol produced during fermentation. If done well these wines can be great sit-by-the-fire and sip wines. My favorites of this category are the wines of Torbreck, a great Australian producer who manages to create depth and mask the alcohol quite well.

I think both styles have a place, and that is just the point.

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