Why No Phenolic Character in Reds??

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TomHill
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Why No Phenolic Character in Reds??

#1 Post by TomHill » June 26th, 2019, 6:32 am

I've been tasting over the last five yrs or so as many skin-contact whites as I can. They often have a very distinctive
smell & taste character that I call "phenolic". It seems to transcend varietal character, depending (mostly, but not always)
on the length of skin contact. This "phenolic" character is not like the chemical phenol, the chemical you find
in Cloraseptic. It is much more akin the the smell you get from a freshly rosined violin bow. Sometimes a slightly cidery character.
If you've tasted many skin-contact whites, you are familiar w/ the smell & taste. You can sometimes get it in the smell from whites
with only 3-4 days of skin-contact, to months of skin-contact. Like the smell & taste of "botrytis", it seems common across any varietal
character. Sometimes it is accompanied by varietal fruit smells, sometimes the "phenolic" character obliterates everything.
But it is a unique character that I find, in varying degrees, in skin-contact whites.
So....my question is...for all of you learned folks out there...why do you never seem to get that "phenolic" character in red wines,
which obviously have a lot of skin-contact, often longer than the whites??
Tom

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Re: Why No Phenolic Character in Reds??

#2 Post by Tom DeBiase » June 26th, 2019, 7:10 am

TomHill wrote:
June 26th, 2019, 6:32 am
I've been tasting over the last five yrs or so as many skin-contact whites as I can. They often have a very distinctive
smell & taste character that I call "phenolic". It seems to transcend varietal character, depending (mostly, but not always)
on the length of skin contact. This "phenolic" character is not like the chemical phenol, the chemical you find
in Cloraseptic. It is much more akin the the smell you get from a freshly rosined violin bow. Sometimes a slightly cidery character.
If you've tasted many skin-contact whites, you are familiar w/ the smell & taste. You can sometimes get it in the smell from whites
with only 3-4 days of skin-contact, to months of skin-contact. Like the smell & taste of "botrytis", it seems common across any varietal
character. Sometimes it is accompanied by varietal fruit smells, sometimes the "phenolic" character obliterates everything.
But it is a unique character that I find, in varying degrees, in skin-contact whites.
So....my question is...for all of you learned folks out there...why do you never seem to get that "phenolic" character in red wines,
which obviously have a lot of skin-contact, often longer than the whites??
Tom
Not totally sure of the answer but I do know that the main color - pigments of red wine are Anthocyanins that ARE phenolic compounds that have their own flavor characteristics. They are there, just taste different.

Tom

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Robert Love
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Re: Why No Phenolic Character in Reds??

#3 Post by Robert Love » June 26th, 2019, 7:48 am

There are a couple things here. First, red wine does have phenols, but they are different: anthocyanin, for example. Even tannin is a polyphenol. But when we talk about a “phenolic quality” in wine, we’re generally referring to the phenols found in white wine. In other words, it isn’t that red wine doesn’t have phenols, it is that we use the term to describe the phenols we see in white wine, I suspect in part because they can be very extreme in some cases. I think your description is pretty good: A woodsy, resinous quality, often bitter in excess.

By the way, phenolic quality isn’t limited to skins. I see it most often in (non-skin-contact) Riesling and Grüner Veltliner.

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Re: Why No Phenolic Character in Reds??

#4 Post by Otto Forsberg » June 26th, 2019, 7:55 am

Robert Love wrote:
June 26th, 2019, 7:48 am
There are a couple things here. First, red wine does have phenols, but they are different: anthocyanin, for example. Even tannin is a polyphenol. But when we talk about a “phenolic quality” in wine, we’re generally referring to the phenols found in white wine. In other words, it isn’t that red wine doesn’t have phenols, it is that we use the term to describe the phenols we see in white wine, I suspect in part because they can be very extreme in some cases. I think your description is pretty good: A woodsy, resinous quality, often bitter in excess.

By the way, phenolic quality isn’t limited to skins. I see it most often in (non-skin-contact) Riesling and Grüner Veltliner.
When I read the first post, I was about to write exactly the same thing.

Red wines are all about phenolic character - that gives them most of their typical qualities. The phenolic character in red wines is just different from skin-contact whites. And I can imagine some of those "phenolic" orange wine characteristics are present also in red wines, but they come across differently because of the flavor matrix or are just overwhelmed by the characteristics typical of red wines.

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John Morris
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Re: Why No Phenolic Character in Reds??

#5 Post by John Morris » June 26th, 2019, 8:12 am

Two bits of speculation.

1. Perhaps what your tasting in the whites is simply masked by the many other components in reds.

2. It seems that a lot of skin-contact whites are also low sulfur. What you say about the uniformity of this flavor across grape types and skin contact times made me wonder if it's the so-called "mousiness" that I often find in no- and low-sulfur wines. For me, that often dominates the fruit quality completely.
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Anton D
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Re: Why No Phenolic Character in Reds??

#6 Post by Anton D » June 26th, 2019, 8:26 am

TomHill wrote:
June 26th, 2019, 6:32 am
I've been tasting over the last five yrs or so as many skin-contact whites as I can. They often have a very distinctive
smell & taste character that I call "phenolic". It seems to transcend varietal character, depending (mostly, but not always)
on the length of skin contact. This "phenolic" character is not like the chemical phenol, the chemical you find
in Cloraseptic. It is much more akin the the smell you get from a freshly rosined violin bow. Sometimes a slightly cidery character.
If you've tasted many skin-contact whites, you are familiar w/ the smell & taste. You can sometimes get it in the smell from whites
with only 3-4 days of skin-contact, to months of skin-contact. Like the smell & taste of "botrytis", it seems common across any varietal
character. Sometimes it is accompanied by varietal fruit smells, sometimes the "phenolic" character obliterates everything.
But it is a unique character that I find, in varying degrees, in skin-contact whites.
So....my question is...for all of you learned folks out there...why do you never seem to get that "phenolic" character in red wines,
which obviously have a lot of skin-contact, often longer than the whites??
Tom
My first thought was that you were describing the profile of terpenes in the wines.

Which grapes have you noticed this with?
Anton Dotson

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Re: Why No Phenolic Character in Reds??

#7 Post by Otto Forsberg » June 26th, 2019, 8:53 am

John Morris wrote:
June 26th, 2019, 8:12 am
2. It seems that a lot of skin-contact whites are also low sulfur. What you say about the uniformity of this flavor across grape types and skin contact times made me wonder if it's the so-called "mousiness" that I often find in no- and low-sulfur wines. For me, that often dominates the fruit quality completely.
It's brett or some other funk in most cases. Mousiness very rarely if ever dominates any characteristics in the nose or on the palate, only in the aftertaste.

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Re: Why No Phenolic Character in Reds??

#8 Post by John Morris » June 26th, 2019, 9:57 am

Otto Forsberg wrote:
June 26th, 2019, 8:53 am
John Morris wrote:
June 26th, 2019, 8:12 am
2. It seems that a lot of skin-contact whites are also low sulfur. What you say about the uniformity of this flavor across grape types and skin contact times made me wonder if it's the so-called "mousiness" that I often find in no- and low-sulfur wines. For me, that often dominates the fruit quality completely.
It's brett or some other funk in most cases. Mousiness very rarely if ever dominates any characteristics in the nose or on the palate, only in the aftertaste.

If you're sensitive to it, it's not rare in low-sulfur wines; it's very common. I find I can pick them out in restaurants quite quickly, even when I know nothing about the winemaking. But roughly a third of the population has no sensitivity to mousiness at all.

You're correct about it being detected only retro-nasally -- at the back. So perhaps that's not what Tom is encountering, although his violin analogy made me wonder.
"I'm a Frisbeetarian. We worship frisbees. We believe when you die your soul goes up on the roof and you can't get it down." – Jim Stafford

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Re: Why No Phenolic Character in Reds??

#9 Post by Otto Forsberg » June 26th, 2019, 11:19 am

John Morris wrote:
June 26th, 2019, 9:57 am
If you're sensitive to it, it's not rare in low-sulfur wines; it's very common. I find I can pick them out in restaurants quite quickly, even when I know nothing about the winemaking. But roughly a third of the population has no sensitivity to mousiness at all.

You're correct about it being detected only retro-nasally -- at the back. So perhaps that's not what Tom is encountering, although his violin analogy made me wonder.
I'm pretty sensitive to it based on how in many tastings I've been able to pick it as one of the few or even the only person in the tasting. However, normally even a minimal dose of SO2 is enough to prevent THP from forming and it normally requires a good deal of oxygen during the fermentation to occur. It isn't particularly common in low-sulfur wines, but can be somewhat frequent in no-SO2 wines. Even then it requires either somewhat oxidative vinification or then just lousy vinification process.

And I've noticed that some people apparently have no sensitivity to mousiness at all, because I know several importers of natural wines and only one of them consistently has wines in their selection that are often heavily mousy. The other importers have never had any.

Finally, a thing that would obviously make mousiness the wrong answer here is that there are lots of conventionally made skin-contact whites that have a healthy dose of sulfites and still display that orange wine character Tom calls "phenolic". Mousiness is an unpleasant, unclean and disturbingly grainy flavor, whereas that "phenolic" character is, well, something completely else.

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