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.

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6 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Interesting (and unfortunate) review. I think noirette may have some potential as a blender, adding some depth of color and a dash of complexity for operations trying to produce passable red vinifera. 50/50 is way too much.
    Considering where noirette is planted and who tends to grow it, it’s entirely possible a few clusters (or rows) of Concord got in the mix.
    Unfortunately, poorly constructed wines like this makes hybrid-vinfira Frankenwines apostasy to many.
    Thanks for the insight!

    • David:

      Wow, that’s a pretty damning comment.

      I thought some of Stoutridge’s enological practices were questionable, that’s true, but the faults I describe have nothing to do with the grape itself. Viticulturally, though, there is no way one could confuse Concord with Noiret. Have you SEEN a Concord leaf? They’re as big as my hand and really light on the bottom, while Noiret leaves are much more vinifera-like. And anyone with a nose could smell a Concord vine a mile away! 🙂

      Seriously, though, Fulkerson has made many wines out of Noiret (one 100% in 2005, which won a bronze at the Wine & Food classic, for what that’s worth) and they have been making wine in the region for 20 years and growing grapes for 30. Stoutridge is a brand new winery (I believe 2007 was their second vintage), in a fairly underdeveloped growing region, so they are likely still working out some of the kinks.

      I don’t think it’s fair, though, to equate growing hybrids with lazy winemaking. The Fulkerson is a perfect counterexample. While the pepper can be a bit heavy in Noirets (especially 100%), the Fulkerson was a perfectly respectable wine that I would say goes beyond “passable”.

      It’s just this perception of “apostasy” that I am trying to combat by drinking 100 hybrids. Maybe after I complete this task I will be in the same camp as you, but so far, I believe that hybrids will continue to play an important role in NY and other states’ viticulture for years to come.

  2. […] Monday matchup: Cabernet Franc/Noiret blends « Ithacork: Wine and Science in the Finger Lakes ithacork.wordpress.com/2009/10/13/fulkerson-burntray-2007-vs-stoutridge-cabernet-franc-noiret-2007 – view page – cached 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… (Read more)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. (Read less) — From the page […]

  3. Tom,
    I liked this alot. Especially all of the references to your Winespeak section. Very helpful to someone that may not know alot of wine speak. The history of the Noiret was perfect. You don’t always see that. It gave me a better understanding of the grape and the wine. Though what I really liked was that you were humble about the 2007 Cab Franc Noiret. You may not have liked it, and it could have been a bad bottle. But instead of shrugging it off and maybe not posting it, you explained all aspects of what you tasted and how it could have come to be a bad bottle.

    I hope to read more posts like this, well written, understandable and educational. Thanks for this.

    ~Michael

  4. […] in 1972 and has been the most successful hybrid wine grape Cornell has released (The others are Noiret, Corot Noir, Valvin Muscat, Melody, Horizon, Chardonel, GR7 (Geneva Red 7), and Traminette, along […]

  5. […] in 1972 and has been the most successful hybrid wine grape Cornell has released (The others are Noiret, Corot Noir, Valvin Muscat, Melody, Horizon, Chardonel, GR7 (Geneva Red 7), and Traminette, along […]


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