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Aug 2, 2006 08:50 PM

Grapey Wines

[The moderators split this off from this topic, which puts my opening post (written as a reply) it in context:


Different varietals have all sorts of different flavors and aromas. Referring to peach, mango, blueberry, raspberry, grapefruit, etc. narrows it down.

In my experience, among wine professionals, "grapey" is generally a negative term, unless you're drinking something like Concord or Catawba. "Fruity," "fresh," "forward," and "ripe" are positive terms for wines where the character is dominated by fruit rather than wood, minerals, etc.

I've had old wines where it was hard to believe that they were originally fruit juice. That can be good or bad depending!

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  1. A standard descriptor for Concord or Catawba is "foxy".

    3 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Yes. But as I've heard it used, "grapey" usually means a vinifera that in the speaker's opinion is heading too far in that direction.

      Speaking of which, are there any good, dry labrusca wines on the market? I had excellent under-the-counter Clinton a few times in the Veneto so I know it's possible.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        Yeah, I'd say when the flavor profile is closer to grape juice than wine. Grapey is the principle descriptor for muscat or lambrusco.

        Funny, we did talk about LambruscO, but I can't recall what Arrigo recommended. As far as lambruscAs, I didn't know these hybrids were planted in the Veneto. You got me.

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          Clinton's apparently a popular rootstock in the Veneto. Some farmers figured out they could make a tasty wine similar to a dry Lambrusco. But as it's not an approved variety it's strictly black market.

          I guess it's actually a hybrid of labrusca and riparia.

    2. As far as non-fruity/grapey wines, old Barolo or even younger Barolo is the first thing that comes to my mind.

      Barolo descriptor post -

      2 Replies
      1. re: Melanie Wong

        In the mid-80s I made dinner for some non-wine-nut friends and poured a preposterously oaky Martin Ray chardonnay. After a few sips, one said, "They made this from grapes?"

        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Fair enough! I had the chance to taste a boutique sake that was aged in one-year old barrels from a fancy white burg producer, maybe Ramonet or the equivalent. The wine geeks among us felt it tasted just like premier cru white burgundy, and I won a bottle for correctly guessing the right forest of origin.

      2. Never mind, I figured it out.

        1. I think that we’re really talking about two questions here, one has to do with the language of wine, and the other with the wines themselves.

          The myriad of descriptors we use are an attempt to find some common language with which to describe different wines. To be truly specific would be lost on most people, and cumbersome at best. “This wine is a little heavy on the methyl butyrate, but I love the notes of isopentyl acetate and octyle acetate” – pineapple, pear, and orange sound more appetizing, and are more broadly accepted. So I understand the need for descriptors we all can relate to. However, I suffer through “roasted meats, melted licorice, scorched earth, liquefied minerals, crushed rocks, and a whiff of white flowers” – some of Parker’s current favorites, and to my mind vinous hyperbole. What kind of roasted meat I wonder, how do you liquefy minerals, whites roses or daisies? Does any of this really help?

          While “grapey” is not a term I encounter much in the wine business, we routinely describe wines as being varietally correct – meaning the Sauvignon Blanc in our glass smells and tastes like, well, Sauvignon Blanc. The taste of a ripe cluster of SB grapes is very much like the resulting wine, provided is hasn’t been overly manipulated, and this is true of most varieties.

          Some examples of wines and/or varietals that I would consider inherently and obviously grapey ( and by that I mean tasting of grapes) include Beaujolais, the simpler Sangiovese based wines, Valpolicella, Muscat in any form, the Grenache based wines of the Rhone and Sardinia, CA Zinfandel, Barbera etc. What these wines/varieties have in common is some fairly strong and distinct fruit (grape) aromatics and flavors, coupled with a winemaking tradition that tends to highlight those instead of masking or adding to them. It is true that they are more linked to their grape characteristics when they are young. As wines age they develop secondary and tertiary characters largely at the expense of fruit. But some, as Melanie pointed out, seem to hang on to that connection even as they develop.

          At it’s best, I think, wine is an expression of the grapes from which it was made, and the site upon which they were grown. Many stray far from this, but to my mind they are none the better for it.

          1. I tend to prefer wines that have straightforward varietal character without a lot of wood or cellar trickery. Though on the other the best wine I ever had was a 20-year-old 1962 Ch. Gruaud-Larose that was pretty much the opposite.

            "... Beaujolais, the simpler Sangiovese based wines, Valpolicella, Muscat in any form, the Grenache based wines of the Rhone and Sardinia, CA Zinfandel, Barbera ..."

            If those are "grapey," are there other wines you would you call "fruity" instead?