Monday matchup: Cabernet Franc/Noiret blends

I haven’t reviewed a wine in a while, so here are two! It’s not every day you see a comparison of blends of Cabernet Franc and Noiret, a relatively new hybrid grape developed by Cornell. But this isn’t really your everyday wine blog.

Note: I tasted these two wines together, blind, in identical ISO 9000 glasses. I did this partially because I received the Stoutridge as a sample from the Hudson Valley Wine Goddess. For more details about samples, see the sample policy.

Fulkerson Winery Burntray 2007

Picture 15

Appellation: Finger Lakes
Grape: 50% Cabernet Franc, 50% Noiret
ABV: 12%
Price Point: $12
Closure: Red molded synthetic cork

Technical Notes: 9 months in French and American oak.

Hedonic Notes: PEPPER! You are the hot dog guy in BurgerTime and this wine is Peter Pepper. Black pepper but also zingy white pepper are right up front on the nose. There is an interesting floral component, too. On the palate is a structured acidity, with some dark fruit and oak around but not so well integrated. A bit of {astringency} on the gums. It’s a little bit thin for me, but if it had a bit more {mouthfeel} I would really like it.

Rating: corkcorkcorknocorknocork 3 out of 5 corks for a fun, easy drinker with a spicy edge.

I’ve already written positively about my visit to Fulkerson Winery (on the west side of Seneca Lake). Unfortunately, this particular wine is sold out at the winery, but they have just released a non-vintage Burntray, which is 66% Cabernet Sauvignon and 34% Noiret.

Stoutridge Vineyard Cabernet Franc Noiret 2007
Appellation: Hudson River Region, NY
Grape: 50% Cabernet Franc, 50% Noiret
ABV: 12%
Price Point: $28
Closure: Natural cork

Technical Notes:From the website:

We are a gravity winery, meaning we never use pumps or filters in our winemaking. In addition we do minimal chemical processing to our wines. We do not “fine” our wines with gelatins, tannins or clays. We do not add water or sugar nor do we chemically adjust the acidity of our wines. We use minimal sulfites in our wines and we do not add sulfites or sorbates to wine after they are made. The wines are very nearly unprocessed and in a very natural state.

Hedonic Notes: At first sniff of this wine, I thought something was wrong. I got this odd, labrusca-type smell. While Noiret does have some labrusca parentage, the other Noiret wine certainly didn’t have a Welch’s grape juice aroma. Then I tasted it.

Bubbles mean fermenation.  Welcome in champagne, unwelcome in this wine.  I broke the screen on Sarah's camera at the Wine Festival (sat on it), so pictures are a bit hit or miss lately.

Bubbles mean fermenation. Welcome in champagne, unwelcome in this wine. I broke the screen on Sarah's camera at the Wine Festival (sat on it), so pictures are a bit hit or miss lately.

… The light effervescence on my tongue was unexpected, as was the ferocious acidity. I looked down at the glass to see tiny bubbles around the rim, which stuck around long after I had poured. Unlike Don Ho, though, these tiny bubbles in the wine did NOT make me happy. This wine had undergone a re-fermentation in the bottle. The off-the-charts acidity made me think that it had not fully completed {malolactic fermentation}. Now, MLF can be a real bugbear for winemakers, and it’s tough to tell exactly when it’s finished without an enzymatic assay or special test strips (both quite expensive). As the technical note states, the winery strives to use low sulfites. In this case, any sulfiting was not enough to dispatch the malolactic bacteria. In addition, this wine was unfiltered, so surviving malolactic bacteria probably paraded right into the bottle, where they were able to happily convert at least a little more of the malic acid into lactic acid (releasing CO2 in the process). This was OK in my winemaking class, where we were clearly amateurs and our MLF got stuck after about three weeks, but for a commercially released wine, re-fermentation in the bottle is totally unacceptable.

I wish that was the only thing wrong with this wine, but it was also {oxidized}. The sharp tinge of acetaldehyde on the back of my tongue was unmistakeable. When wines are unfiltered, winemakers generally rely on racking to clarify wine before bottling. Racking (i.e., settling wine, then decanting it off of the sediment into another tank or barrel) exposes wine to oxygen, so additional racking steps may have led to oxidation in this wine. After a day, the oxidation was even more pronounced and getting worse, while the Fulkerson was still very drinkable 2, 3, and 4 days after opening.

This could have been a bad bottle, but something tells me there is something systematic about at least one of the faults that I discovered. This could be one of those cases where “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean “good.” Are you listening, Alice Feiring?

Rating: halfcorknocorknocorknocorknocork 1/2 out of 5 corks for reminding me of our batch of Pinot where MLF got stuck and the wine oxidized while we waited for MLF to restart.

I feel bad because I investigated Stoutridge after hearing a glowing recommendation from a reader about the winery (Sorry, Matt!). This wine apparently won a gold medal at the New York Food and Wine Classic, AND Debbie sent it to me, so maybe it was just a bad bottle. At any rate, I would like to try more wines from the Hudson Valley, in addition to giving this one another shot.


Science: Grape Profile: NOIRET
Noiret (nwa-RAY) marks the first {hybrid} grape I’ve had since I decided to begin my quest to drink wines made from 100 different hybrid grapes, and it’s a good one to start with. It was released by Cornell University in 2006, though it had been available for test runs by growers since 1994. It has a complex interspecific parentage, being a cross between Steuben, commonly a table grape, and the not-so-artfully-named NY65.0467.08, of which one of the parents is Chancellor. Its lineage includes vinifera, labrusca, and ruspestris grapes. Its major aroma characteristics seem to be black pepper and some dark fruit. In general, when I think Noiret, I think pepper.

According to John Iszard, Fulkerson has apparently been making wine from Noiret since 2003 and they are very pleased with its performance. I have heard through the grapevine (HA!) that vegetative growth (i.e., favoring leaves and shoots over fruit) can be a concern with Noiret, and viticulturalists at the Geneva Experiment Station are still experimenting with different rootstocks to control vine vigor. This grape’s performance so far makes it promising, especially given the complexity that a little pepper can add to a wine. Look for this one to appear as a blender in many wines in the future.

For the full details on this grape, see this bulletin released by Cornell.

Smoke on the wine

photo-9

A "meh" picture for a "meh" wine.

Americana Vineyards Cabernet Franc (N/V)
Varietal:Cabernet Franc, Baco Noir??
ABV: not labeled, (“table wine”) is it that hard to get your alcohol measured?!
Price Point: $18
Notes:
Looks: reddish-violet, pretty intense
Nose: Smoky*, vanilla oak on the nose. Toasty, chocolatey, I am smelling a lot of oak and not much wine. Kind of smells like a roasted marshmallow. Other than that, not much to offer.
Palate: I get smoky, oaky flavors on the palate, followed by straight up, somewhat harsh acidity and a short, bitter finish. You know, I wouldn’t be surprised (just guessing here) if this were blended with a bit of Baco Noir, a red {hybrid} which to me has an unmistakable smoky aroma, to add some color. Baco is found in a lot of other Americana wines as well…

Rating: 1.5 corks corkhalfcork for a thin, acidic, smoky wine.


Americana Vineyards has its benefits. It’s one of the closest wineries on the Cayuga Wine Trail to Ithaca. Their tasting room is a big barn with a nice bar and ambience and live music on Sunday nights. Also, it’s usually open until 6 so when you get kicked out of your last winery at 5 or 5:30, you can always stop there on the way home. Also, one of their wines, Sweet Rosie, a dessert wine, comes with a piece of fudge. Um, and they have big wine dogs. I think that’s about it for me.

Cabernet franc is one of those varietals that is supposed to do well in the Finger Lakes, so I like to pick one up whenever I visit a winery. Now, 2006 wasn’t the best vintage (I bought this bottle in January or so, so the bottle made with 2007 grapes is probably not out yet) in the Finger Lakes. I’m also not sure that they used all 2006 grapes, since it’s non-vintage, there’s no way to know. This wine, though, is really going out of its way to hide it. Baco for color, oak for “flavor”. Not that I mind oak, but there’s just not too much cabernet franc expression here, or really any expression. And at $18, no way would I get this again.

*Science!

Guaiacol and its derivatives are usually smoky, like bacon, but sometimes not in a good way.

Guaiacol and its derivatives are usually smoky, like bacon, but sometimes not in a good way.

Smoky aromas could have several sources (e.g., the grape varietal), but the most likely culprit is toasted oak. The insides of oak barrels are charred, or “toasted”, before being sold as wine barrels. Winemakers can usually choose light, medium, or heavy toast. Toasting extracts some flavor compounds from the wood, specifically lignin degradation products. Lignin, simply, is a molecule that holds the cellulose fibers in wood together. (For this reason, it’s a real pain in the biofuel industry, but we digress…). Compounds that result from the breakdown of lignin include eugenol (clove aroma), vanillin (vanilla), and guaiacol (smoke). (Ref: Galletti et al., “Chemical composition of wood casks for wine ageing as determined by pyrolysis/gc/ms”, Rapid Communications in Mass Spectrometry, 1995). In this case the smokiness could derive from the oak (guaiacol) or the smoky component in Baco noir which has yet to be elucidated (it could very well be similar to guaiacol.) Guaiacol taint (“smoke taint”) is sometimes found in wines made from berries that are near wildfires (e.g., recently in Australia) and therefore exposed to smoke. The guaiacol in the smoke will accumulate in the waxy outer coating of the berry and make its way into the wine.

Published in: on 2 April 2009 at 3:01 am  Comments (4)  
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