Hello Prince Albert! Most wine drinkers can notice the difference in taste between a fine wine and an everyday budget wine. You can often see it on their face when they take that first sip; “Oh, this is good stuff!” They may not be able to specifically explain why they enjoy a wine but the common answer is both simple and true: they like the taste!
Flavor is an easy thing to recognize; you either like the taste of something or you don’t. What is less known is the technique used to create certain flavors in wine and with some training and education, these techniques become easier to recognize.
For example, in fine wine production malolactic fermentation is used to soften or round out a wine by converting tart flavors (malic acids) into creamy, milky textures (lactic acids).
What people may not realize is that budget wines also receive plenty of alterations/additions to enhance flavor, texture, acidity etc.
An excellent example of this is in the Bodacious Pinot Grigio and the 19 Crimes Red Blend I tasted this week.
Let’s start with the Pinot Grigio. This wine was delightfully crisp and fruity but was on the edge of tasting flabby (too much body and/or sugar). What saved this wine was an alteration known as acidification. As sugar levels rise in grapes, the acidity naturally drops which makes it difficult to produce a sweet but balanced wine. This can be achieved through careful management of the vineyard and winery. F
or budget wines however, the cost of this management can become prohibitive and shortcuts like acidification are sometimes necessary to deliver an affordable but delicious product. It was instantly noticeable that this wine had received a boost of acidity to offset its higher sugar content.
The 19 Crimes Red Blend seems to have had some manipulation as well which reminded me of a practice used in modern orange juice production: boosting the flavor by the addition of flavor packets (in this case, the addition of extra juice /wine into the main blend).
The wine tasted like it was pumped full of concord juice and possibly other flavor additions.
Does the possibility of flavor manipulation make the wine bad? Not necessarily. In the end, it comes down to the taste. I honestly liked the taste of all three budget wines this week and they have their place but I will mention that the recognizable taste of manipulation in a wine cheapens the experience.
This is true for me because winemaking is an art form and while alterations and additions are a necessary part of the process, it ends up feeling a bit like a lab experiment and less like an alchemical transformation of grapes into wine. Here are my wine picks of the week!
Bodacious Pinot Grigio: (Canada and imported). Medium-dry white, pale lemon color. Funky and slightly off-putting on the nose with peaches, pears and bright citrus. Medium-minus body on the palate, medium-plus acidity and quite fruity. The addition of acidity helps lift this wine greatly and makes it a pleasure to sip.
The off-scents on the nose point to the use of inferior juice but alterations make it very drinkable. Pair with chicken, fresh salads, pork or white pasta sauces like alfredo. The acidity is very palate cleansing! $5 (200 ml can), 12% ABV
Barokes Cabernet, Shiraz, Merlot Blend: (Australia). Off-dry red, deep ruby color with hints of purple. Offers a complex bouquet of blackberries, black cherries, cassis, cedar, green pepper, vanilla and plums. Medium-plus body with plenty of black fruits, licorice, black currants, vanilla, black pepper, high tannins and a long finish. Impressive for a budget/canned wine and a great choice for red meats like steaks or roasts! $5 (200 ml can), 13% ABV
19 Crimes Red Blend: (Australia). Medium-dry red, deep purple color. Rich, fruity and intense scents of concord grapes, cooked prunes/plums and cherries, animal notes (barnyard), cassis and vanilla.
To the taste, medium acidity, full body, cassis, soft black pepper, stewed black/blue fruits (blackberry, blueberry) and fresh cranberries. Medium tannins make this very silky and smooth with powerful intensity. Shiraz on steroids! $7 (180 ml bottle), 13.5 % ABV
Merry Christmas and thanks for reading!
Aaron Winsor is a Prince Albert local whose work experience with the SLGA is what ignited his passion for high quality wines, beers and spirits. He has continued his wine education through WSET (Wine Spirit Education Trust) and has achieved level 3. Check him out on Instagram @aaron_the_wine_guy