Wine Talk

Snooth User: spikedc

Plush, succulent, easy drinking reds !!

Posted by spikedc, Mar 12, 2012.

Another article from Journalist Fiona Beckett. Kinda know what she means about the term 'Plushy wine' don't know how much of it is true you guys will know better



Reply by JonDerry, Mar 12, 2012.

Interesting stuff Spike, it definitely helps brings to light all the stuff that might be going on behind the scenes. Moreso with the larger production brands, and also cheaper brands, but i'm sure i'd be surprised with some wineries I may think highly of, or some that I think taste great that have a lot of manipulation behind them. 

My palate tends to be seeking more tannin and acid anyway, so this might become less of a worry for me, though there are some low acid wines like Caymus that I still enjoy from time to time.

Reply by shsim, Mar 13, 2012.

hmm I knew wine making had alot of things into it... but never knew that there was so much that winemakers would do/add to a wine to make it a certain way. Especially all the unnatural stuff. And I knew that winemakers had to add water sometimes due to too high of sugar - potentially leading to too high alcohol content... 

Isnt the most important thing is the grape itself that expresses the land it was grown from? I guess it is more a commercial thing to cater to what the majority wants instead of what it is supposed to be... but doesnt that take away the style of a winemaker?

Reply by spikedc, Mar 13, 2012.

I must admit even though i'm inexperienced compared to a lot of you guys, should i feel a little worried about the way wine making is going ?, especially as shsim said 'all the unatural stuff '. I love wine, different grape varieties, countries, area  but even i'm sampling some wines which taste basically like an alcoholic sweet fruit cordial. Maybe it's just a sign of the times

I'm off to another wine tasting tonight at a local retailer, hopefully no 'Cordials'

Reply by outthere, Mar 13, 2012.

Worried? Eh, the number one thing is that you enjoy what you drink. If that turns out ot be a spoofilated wine then so be it. Follow your palate. It will take you where you need to be. You will end up liking what your palate likes not what any of us tell you to like.

If you like wines without a lot of intervention then you'll know when you pour the first sip. Don't get so caught up in what is hip or in but rather what you enjoy. Wine is a cyclical thing. Your tastes evolve over time. Enjoy the journey.

Reply by BrugmanRose, Mar 13, 2012.

Outthere is making a very good point that many wine drinkers never learn.  Learn to trust your noise and palate. If the wine is doctored with chemicals your head will tell you soon enough with some aches. If artificial flavoring is added and or sugar your palate will slowly become educated to tell you but in the mean time you may enjoy that wine or style of wine making you have come to like.

In poor vintage years, some  winemakers have had to add acid or sugar to make their wines drinkable so realize that  this is part of a winemakers life to protect his financial stability.  This is what makes drinking different vintages of wines from the same winery interesting. You can see, smell and taste his talents at work in each year. Also some winemakers prefer to blend older wines with younger wines and not give the wine a vintage date. This allows him to build up the poorer wine of one year with better wine of another.  IS this a bad idea?

You also have a winemakers blending better wines from one area of the vineyard with lesser quality wine from another area to make it more drinkable as well as produce more inventory of salable wine.  Is all of this bad?  It has been a tradition in the European way of making wines since Charlemagne times when the court demanded good wine and winemakers learned to adjust the quality of the fermented juice with molasses, honey, herbs as well as lemon or apple acid.

The French or I should say the winemakers of Normandy because the French King did not rule that area of France in the 1600’s, often blended molasses with white wine and reds to sweeten them up because the Dutch who were the main buyers for Loire Valley wines in those times wanted overly sweet wines to blend and distill back home.

On the other hand large companies that homogenize their wines so they taste the same every year  is catering to the Kool aide crowd. These are simply people who have not developed  an interest in tasting shall I dare say RAW wine but prefer the same flavor in each and every hummm Goood bottle. So that is their enjoyment level and they pay well for it. I would venture in time they will want better quality wine.

The basic truth is that with UN Davis constantly pumping out theories and inventions to change what the fermented juice is all about, we are going to experience a lot of alternated wines out of California and elsewhere. When I was selling French and German wines against California wines in the late 60’s and 70’s, I was dismayed at the arrogance many new California winemakers had and what they did to try and make great wine. The older well established California wine families had  bothered to learn the customary French, German and Italian ways and made very good wine. Not always excellent wine but very good wine. Most of the new comers thought spending money on equipment and new technology was the way to reach the top. Then in the 80’s and 90’s  some of these winemakers  in  Napa and Sonoma began going to France, Germany, and Italy to learn the traditional ways so they had a good basis of what wine making, and grape growing was about and could reproduce it in their own winery before centrifuging every bit of alcohol  to a specified content.

Does anyone remember the constant stories year after year of what was going on in Beaujolais with the wines. Wine makers were blending Algerian, Italian or cote du  Rhône or provincial wine to their Beaujolais with a  lot of sugar to have more inventory. And the public seemed to buy it and not know the difference between a real nice bottle of Beaujolais wine and these imposters. My point and I believe Outthere’s point is that people will drink what they enjoy but in time they will develop improved noses and palates to choose a better quality than in the past.


Reply by dmcker, Mar 13, 2012.

This is becoming a good discussion, but unfortunately don't have enough time right now to write a worthy post.

One thing before leaving for the moment, though. Do you remember in the early-mid '80s, Brugman, when Pieroth and *many* other German, Austrian and northern Italian winemakers got outed for adding copious amounts of diethylene glycol (a major ingredient in car-radiator antifreeze, still added, to my knowledge, to domestic Thai beer) to their wine? It made the wine rounder, softer and easier to drink. Dare I say 'plusher'?

Relativism can be carried too far.... ;-(

Reply by Richard Foxall, Mar 13, 2012.

Said it elsewhere:  Wine (or some alcoholic beverage) was the original manufactured product, the thing that humans settled down to reproduce, or they would have stayed hunter-gatherers.  (Which was an easier way to live, it turns out. People are willing to do a lot for a drink.) And winemakers always talk about the "levers" they can pull--natural yeast or inoculation with desired strains, the kind of oak barrels (or not), getting the barrels out of the sun/underground/in temp-controlled caves, limiting the temp of fermentation, and so on.  If the Spaniards hadn't figured out that topping the barrels was a good idea (and taught it to the Bordelaise, thanks, GregT, for teaching all of us that), where would we be?  Drinking unstable, weird crap, and not from Frank Cornelissen. 

It's a line-drawing exercise.  Yeah, the dieth-glycol was clearly over the line.  I'm leery of oak chips, but what if you can't afford new, custom toasted barrels?  Is it so wrong to combine them with more affordable used or reconditioned barrels to get the same effect as Caymus gets with theirs?  Are you bringing the same quality (hey, more to spend on the grapes) with a lower price? 

Full disclosure:  My dad sold centrifuges--really big ones-- to large winemakers, like Delicato and the like, when I was in college (early 80s).  That's how I met Frank Indelicato, who, with Peter Mondavi, is the last of his era still standing. Not really the wine I drink, but I do enjoy wines made by Two Mile, and the winemakers there tell me what levers they pull--they kill native yeast with SO2 on some grapes and introduce their chosen yeasts (they have an urban winery, so they could get very odd yeasts, esp since they used to be down the road from a bakery), they control temperature, but they hand-punch down because they think pumping harms the wine.  Oh, yeah, they blend other grapes.  In the US, you can add water, in France you can chaptalize.  Some places allow acidification, some don't. 

I'll pass on the gum arabic, too. 

Reply by shsim, Mar 13, 2012.

Good discussions. It is good to learn about the winemaking practices of each winemaker although it is hard to keep track really...

I agree with Outhere about drinking what you enjoy but I wonder if the enjoyment changes when you know about what went into the wine. Of course, that is bias tasting and you should probably find that out after you tasted the wine and judge if you like it. Thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge BrugmanRose! I never knew about all that but it is not surprising and that happens to most other products too. One example is Chinese food in US made to cater more to American palates than anything.

And Foxall, I dont mind water, more sugar and acids being put into wines but yes there is a line to be drawn. Especially when wineries cut corners with certain malpractice although I do not know of such a thing. It would not be surprising though would it? Should wineries then be obliged to share their winemaking practices publicly, at least what roughly what they have done? Are wineries checked by the FHDA for certain standards? (Pardon my ignorance...)  Because gum arabic doesnt sound good to me too.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Mar 13, 2012.

Spoof is everywhere, and frankly a lot of people blantantly lie about it because there are no real consequences. It's one fo the reasons that organic and biodynamic producers are gaining so much traction. Not really for the voodoo aspect, but rather because they are pretty straightforward in the disdain for most manipulation.

Reply by JonDerry, Mar 13, 2012.

Good point Greg, that's absolutely why biodynamic producers (and the like) are gaining points by the general public. Consumers are tolerating these kinds of sneaky additions to wine less and less. Until punishable standards are put in to place, this is all the consumer has to go on, the word of the producer, and/or proof of their efforts to be responsible.   

Drinking and liking a "doctored" wine may or may not be fine, though once you know what's going on behind the scenes you can't really go back to the way you used to enjoy it. After all, part (if not a major part) of these experiences, like relaxing and enjoying wine, occur in the mind.


Reply by BrugmanRose, Mar 14, 2012.

Thank you for your comment shsim, I enjoy talking or in my case rambling about the old days.  It is interesting that Foxall’s father was working in the industry, perhaps he can nudge his father for some old stories.  He should have a few good ones I am sure.

Dmcker brought up the point about the: ‘ German, Austrian and northern Italian winemakers got outed for adding copious amounts of diethylene glycol (a major ingredient in car-radiator antifreeze’.  I posted a story about my experience in Tokyo with the Austrian Commercial department putting on a big wine show for the local Japanese importers and wholesalers as well as large retail shops on another post addressing this issue.

I worked with an associate who was an accountant for one of the large California wine producers and he told me that none of the accounting staff was allowed in certain parts of the plant. It was like a James Bond movie script. Things were going on with the blending and mixing that none but the individuals working in the area should know about or see.

I know an Italian wine maker in Fresno,[ his vineyard is made up of mostly 100 year old Zinfandel vines. He and I talked a few times about him producing an aged Zinfandel rather then just supplying the market with bulk] anyway, He told me about the Mid Night Run into Napa story. It seems that tank loads of bulk wine juice from the central valley are run up into Napa after Mid Night. This is so the tourist are not over crowded on the narrow roads but also that tourist do not see the tankers unloading wine at various wineries that use it to bring up the sugar content and body for their own wines. Blending central valley wines with Napa juice is crucial to most larger wineries because of the low sugar content and lack of other characteristics of the juice. In order to produce the inventory they need to sell to fund the winery this kind of blending is necessary. The wines taste good and sell but buyers are not always getting what they think they are getting when they buy bottle from a Napa winery.

Given how long I have been in the industry, I am aware that many people of my age are fading away. May I suggest that those of you who are much younger, seek out wine tradesmen at all levels and sit down with them and ask them about their experiences. Long time bartenders can tell you about all the nonsense that went on when liquor companies introduced new labels. Wine shop owners can tell you stories about new wines coming into the market and the strange things that went on to make the label successful. How very, very Large wine companies dominated the wine section not just with labels but strong arm tactics. I have a few stories myself and some warm fond memories of fist fights in the parking lots with some of the salesmen for one very large wine company. But these are better to be kept to myself as I do not want this wine company defending itself on The Snooth or elsewhere. They are very sensitive about the public understanding their history [ that is real history in how they made wine]  a bit of a oxymoron there,[ on the word ‘wine’ as we in this group like to think of what wine is and from what it should be made of.]].

I find most wine writers are not experienced in working in the field of the wine trade of any length of time so they have very knowledge of the history of the industry outside of what they occasionally read. But the chances of many of you to really speak to someone who was there and has memories will be fading, so make the best of it because we have to have some level of knowledge of the past within your age group of it will be lost forever. 


Reply by EMark, Mar 14, 2012.

Brugman,  I would like to ask about the"Midnight Run" that you discussed.  I had never heard of it, but the concept does is hardly surprising.  Doesn't  Bronco have a production facility located in Napa Valley?  I'm sure they are bringing in grapes from all over the state to go into their labels.  However, I don't think anyone would confuse any of the myriad of Bronco labels with a premium wine.

I am concerned about your statement "but buyers are not always getting what they think they are getting when they buy bottle from a Napa winery."  It is not clear to me if the buyer is being duped or if the buyer is just being naive.  Here is what I am wondering.  Let's say the buyer goes into the Big Wine Company's tasting room in St. Helena and tastes the Big Wine Company Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.  He likes it and he buys it.  Now I'm not exactly sure on the law here, so somebody help me out if I'm off.  The designation "Napa Valley" requires that at least 85% of the grapes must be sourced from the Napa Valley AVA.  That being the case, if 86% of the grapes come from Napa Valley and 14% come from Lodi, then life is good.  The buyer tasted the wine, he liked it, and he bought it.  If he thinks that 100% of the grapes came from Napa Valley, then maybe he is naive.  Is Big Wine Company being shady in their labeling?  I don't know.  I would like to hear other opinions.

Suppose that at the same tasting room they are offereing one of Big Wine Company's second labels:  BWCo Private Blend California Cabernet Sauvignon.  It is comprised of 35% Napa grapes and 65% Central Valley.  In this case, the buyer is again naive if he thinks he is getting Napa fruit just because he bought it at the winery's tasting room in the Napa Valley.

Clearly if the 35 Napa/65 Central Valley "Private Blend" was labeled "Napa Valley," the buyer has been duped and Big Wine Company should be indicted  Are you suggesting that the something like this happens?  

Reply by BrugmanRose, Mar 15, 2012.

Emark  asks the same question most people do who learn that many Napa and Sonoma wineries blend their wines with outside the designated area grape juice. And they want a clear and precise answer to this question.

I can not give a precise and formative answer because there is none that matches each winery. Only the blender knows what is really from barrel and tank into the bottle.

I go back to my golden rule, if you like the wine drink it. If you think you know enough about the flavor of Napa cabernet grown on the floor of the valley and can tell when outside regional wine is added to give it more sugar and body then have fun sampling and see what you come up with in the tasting rooms and see what kind of answers you get from the staff.

If you can not distinguish what is in the wine as to blends then why worry?  You should concentrate on wines that make you feel good when you sit down to dine with wine.

To you next last questions, there are several books out  that speak about  young people who worked in the vineyards  at crushing time. They would track the load of grapes coming in on trucks to the press and crushing area. They knew something about the grapes and so when a truck load of grapes was delivered and they were told this was  AA grape but they knew it was CC, they wrote   AA down anyway  on the report and so the crushing of AA and fermentation of AA took place on paper.  You will find these kinds of stories in books that talk about the times of young wine makers who before they became wine makers were college students working during the crushing season. This happens in all wine areas of the world but not every winery does it.

I would say that Big Companies do not often have a “ Private Blend “ as it is costly for them to take the time to isolate a picking from one hill side or area of vines and make it into a “ Private Blend” they would be better off selling it to someone else.  They are known for homogenized wines and a “Private Blend” of 86% particular grape would be out of character.  Anyway they are in the business of selling cases not auction house images.  And yes wine buyers are duped all the time until they learn to taste and drink what they like and not what is on the label. A second label is a different story where the winery wants to build a label in a lower price range and again a lot of tricks are used to give the impression that the label says it all. Take the time to simply taste the wine and not bother with the label until you have tasted enough to know if you like it or not.

For me the designation of an area is more about keeping the price of a wine from an area UP rather than insuring quality. This argument goes on and on in France and Germany as well as in Italy and Spain. Some winemakers want to simply make their wines GOOD each year. If they have to follow the rules of a designation then they can not always make a good wine each year. On the other hand those who want the designation understand the value of it on a label because most wine drinkers know so little about what they are tasting. These people buy a label but do not know what the real flavor the wine should have coming from that region. And it is difficult to give a region  a definite flavor [ taste of terroir ] because the grapes come from all over the region and the mineral make up throughout the region differs, the climate throughout the regions differs and the when the winemakers picks his grapes, how he crushes them and ferments them with what yeast and so on and so on . So what does it mean to drink a 86% Napa Cabernet Sauvignon? In my book very little. What I look for is the wine I like to drink and knowing something about the winemaker and what his or her aim is in developing the style of wine in that particular year.

Money or profits has always been the controlling factor in the wine business. But there are plenty of winemakers who take pride in blending juices from different areas to produce what they want in the bottle. If the public does not like it well fine the bottle remains unopened. If the public likes it then the blender continues to do what he does best, blend juices for a specific flavor. He is not concerned about meeting some bureaucrat’s definition of a designation rule.

Perhaps fine examples of this was Christian Brothers, Louis Martini with his Mt. Reds and Sebastiani with his reds and whites. In those days [ before the 70’s ] I believe that you could label a bottle of wine by the varietal grape name if 55% of the juice was from that varietal. In any case these three wineries made very nice reds and whites that could be drunk young without a lot of oak or wood tannin in them and the fruit tannin would lessen in three or five years for the reds so they became more smoother but they did not necessarily age long. They were not blended for aging but they were blended for drinking and enjoying. Each also bottles the estate wine which was a much higher percentage of the varietal grape on the label  but again they wanted a wine that was not overcome with fruit tannin or wood tannin but drinkable in three to four years and would age nicely for many more.

By late 60’s smaller wineries where all trying to make the finest Cabernet Sauvignon  or Pinot Noir for reds and Chardonnay for whites. The chardonnays in those days all seemed to come with a huge oak flavor. This was to over shadow  the poor quality of the wine itself. Many wine makers were looking for a gold vein to cure their financial woos and  100% Cabernet Sauvignon  or Pinot Noir was what they thought the answer was. Very interesting times but full of misconceptions offered by the industry and believed by those who only read wine articles and saw TV adds. Those who knew what they liked to drink had a less confusing time in those days.

EMark these are thoughts of an older man who simply loves good wine and not the wine game.

Reply by EMark, Mar 15, 2012.

Thank you for the detailed response, Brugman.  I wholeheartedly agree with most of your comments.

Just for your information, I am also an older man who loves good wine, although I have to admit, I also enjoy intellectualizing and learning about the intrigue of the wine game.  I do use certain information on the label to make purchase choices, but I do have a filter that ignores other label information.

The one comment that you made with which I have a bit of disagreement is "Big Companies do not often have a 'Private Blend'. . . ."  "Private Blend" is one of those nomenclatures that do not have any legal meaning in the US.  It is a marketing device, and I think most informed wine drinkers know that.  So, big companies, like Mondavi, BV and Beringer do have multiple lines of lesser priced wines for purely marketing reasons.  They freely use words like "Private Blend" or "Proprietor's Reserve" (I guess the word "reserve" does have legal meaning in the state of Washington, but not California.) or "Winemaker's Selection" or "Coastal Estate."  These wines are clearly meant to attract the consumer who wants to buy from a recognized maker but does not want to invest serious money for a wine that he plans to drink immediately.   I also admit that I buy these wines for my consumption.  They are quite reliable and reasonably priced.

Reply by BrugmanRose, Mar 15, 2012.

EMark, you are on point with this discussion. However, what I define as a Big Company is what we thought of Big Companies when the Cows did wonder the fields and produced real milk. Companies like Italian Swiss, Guild and Gallo, Taylors and a few others. The companies you refer to where small companies [ BV and CK and Mondavi , However Berigner was always a large company for me] growing up in my early days. These smaller wineries  did own their own vineyards in good quality producing areas and did move to produce a second label as you say: " wines are clearly meant to attract the consumer". Touché and corrected I stand.

I have enjoyed the second labels and found that for the money they can be a good quality depending on how much of the first grade juice the winery forgot to bottle in the first place. Thank you for the follow up as it is always interesting to share views with a wine lover and not a critic who feels he has to make his point right or wrong.

Reply by BrugmanRose, Mar 19, 2012.

While there was a little discussion about getting headaches when drinking red wine it is also true with white wine when they come from large producers who add additives [ for want of a better word ] to make the wine  taste the same year after year after year.

Here is a  quote from Hugh27 a contributor to Snooth with 40 years in the business: “while it is true some wines do have tannic aftereffect the most often found culprit is the company making the wines- Branding of products (mass production) requires the product to taste the same every time- nature does not let wine do that, so many producers, especially the big advertisers add chemicals to stabilize the flavours and this is the headache maker…”

Earthgirl another Snooth contributor gives us an excellent example of the effect sulfa/sulfites have on some individuals and we need to be aware of this when we serve wine.  She describes her reaction to a wine her husband baited her to drink “…testing me by 'bating' me to drink that wine that made my mouth numb, or gave me a 'glimpse' of a headache from the first take on the 'nose'”.

I also have over 40 years in the trade and know full well that large producers doctor their wines to maintain a certain flavor.  It is a practice that is common enough with large bottlers.

There was a story long ago about an Italian Chianti Wine Company [ not vineyard } selling a very popular Chianti label and exporting a lot of this Chianti to America. After three or four years the Italian tax office visited the facility to see why no wine tax had ever been paid. The Authorities  found no reason the company should pay a wine tax. The regulation for this tax specified any or all wine and spirits produced from GRAPES should pay a tax based on alcohol content. This concoction that was being bottled and sold as Chianti wine was not made from grapes but an alcoholic mixture with coloring and flavoring. The newspaper article mentioned several large piles of old auto tires in the back area of the facility. Now, there is some food for thought!  Evidently the company did pay an alcoholic tax which was far cheaper than a wine tax.

My boss at one time, an Italian Gentleman; Dan Delorezo, told me a story about when he took the Italian paper with this article around to all the restaurants and Italian Delis who were selling this wine and showed the proprietor the newspaper article. He said he spent all week delivering his chianti to these tradesmen and hauling off the chianti mentioned in the article and disposing of it somewhere.  This was back in the early 60’s I believe when dump sites were really that.

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