John Morris wrote: ↑
January 16th, 2020, 12:28 pm
Thanks for all your posts here, Wes. They've helped me (start to) understand why some big wines work and others don't.
It's been clear to me back to the 80s that zins can do well at higher alcohols than cabernet, and may even be better for it (up to some point).
Although grenache-based wines are seldom low in alcohol, they often seem to hit a wall at some point where isn't enough of something
to sustain the alcohol. They can have a kind of hollowness -- a shell of alcohol with nothing in the mid-palate. What do you think that is that can go missing? In the worst cases, it's hollowness with a cooked fruit or porty set of tastes and a burn in the throat.
It's not my favorite grape, but I've handled it for several vineyards and a few wineries. There's such a range of expressions, and it's been around so long, and is so widely planted, clonal diversity must be a big factor why I love some of it and can't stand much - even from favorite winemakers. It's got a reputation for being thin skinned and having uneven ripeness (also common with Zin), like Bates Ranch and Unti. We've gotten thick skinned, even ripeness dark fruit from Siletto and Cedar Lane. Our Sumu Kaw is about midway, with even ripeness. To contrast that, we had a Sicilian clone grafted there which is completely different and unlike any Grenache I've tried.
Generally, I think the thicker skinned (site plays a big role in that, too) ones just have a lot more "stuff" to age well. A thin skinned one, regardless of ripeness, isn't likely to age well without some blending help.
The "seldom low in alcohol" comment is interesting. I think that comes from fearful winemakers making dreadful mistakes, the same way they do with Zin. Instead of panicking and trying to get every grape fully ripe, at the expense of wine quality, masterful winemakers appreciate a range of ripeness. Optimal aromatics, good acid, maximal complexity rather than fuller fruit.
Even ripeness was a fairly modern over-reaction to badly uneven ripeness and over-cropping in Bordeaux. VSP was a big part of that, helping get better, more even quality out of that fairly cool region. Taking VSP to Napa seems to have been a mistake, where many of the old great Napa wines were from head-trained vines. Then again, you can still train for a wider range of ripeness or blend to get good complexity of that sort using VSP.
Then again, this did allow for a new style which depends on even ripeness. And meticulous sorting. That's the silky, polished, elegant and often dense wines, like a lot of Napa cults. Shriveled grapes taste concentrated. Raisinated grapes have a raisin taste. Wines made with some raisins in the mix can hide that some of the time, but that raisin taste does not fade the way fruity esters and other compounds do. I've definitely had wines that were big, "gorgeous" critic darlings young, but lost all their fruit with age, leaving a hollow/thin burny raisin water. Bleh.