Tuesday, May 08, 2007

When Reds are Green

When you think red wine you typically think of warm red fruits, warm red spices, and warm red aromas.

But sometimes, red wines are green. And what's more, they're supposed to be. (photo by Ian Britton from FreeFoto.com) Take cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. The varietal characteristics of both of these wines indicate that some green bell pepper, asparagus, and herbal notes are to be expected. Of course, if you let them ripen to their maximum capacity in hot vineyards, much of the green vegetativeness of the varietals will simply cook off. Often, oak barrels take care of any last vestiges of these flavors especially in the New World where fruit-forward wines are not only common, they are preferred by many drinkers.

If you drink mainly New World wines, these vegetal flavors in red wines can come as something of a surprise--and not necessarily a pleasant surprise, either. Too many vegetal red Bordeaux led Parker to start the The Wine Advocate in order to ferret out the green from the red since he felt the green wines were under-ripe.

Recently, I had a green red, the 2004 Chateau du Hureau Saumur-Champigny ($7.99/375 ml, Mission Wines; 750 ml from other merchants for under $15) In this wine, the red fruits are a minor player, accompanied by vegetal and herbal notes in both the aroma and the palate. Decanting for an hour helped the fruit come forward a bit, which indicates that this wine may become more fruity over time, and it also helped to take the herbal notes and make them more intriguing and less overpowering. If you buy this wine, I would recommend keeping it for another year, or decanting it for 2-3 hours, or both. And food really helped to manage the assertive green flavors, so I would recommend that you serve it with something red and green, like rosemary marinated steak or pepper steak with lots of peppers.

This was certainly not as round and lush as the 2003 vintage of this wine that Brooklynguy had recently, and not as fun and inviting as the Vinum "Scrapper" Cabernet Franc I tasted a the Family Winemakers. And if you're not a CabFranc fan, this isn't the wine for trying the varietal out. Though I wasn't a huge fan of this wine, and its flavors weren't as integrated as they should have been, with its strong varietal characteristics it still represents good QPR. And if you've not tasted a green, old world wine, or have ever wondered why Parker loves his jammy, extracted fruits, this would be a good wine to try just to see what all the fuss is about.


Anonymous said...

Hey Debs - Sorry you weren't crazy about the Saumur-Champigny. 04 was not the greatest year, and some wines were under ripe. not sure aging would help. Especially since you tasted a half bottle, which ages faster than a 750 to begin with. By the way, the Hureau that showed so well in our tasting was an 05, not an 03. Thanks for the shout out, take it easy. And please don't give up on Loire reds - they're so good when they're good.

Dr. Debs said...

Hi, Neil. No, I won't give up on Loire reds. I have loved them in the past, and will love them in the future. But I suspect you are right: this is not a bottle that age will not improve much. It is what it is: a green red.