Dan was surprised by a definition equating the definition ‘foxy’ with animal fur
I in turn was surprised by Dan’s comment because ‘wet fur’ was a descriptor for foxiness that I knew, used and considered a standard descriptor.
In turn that surprised Robin Garr who posted that “I grew up around Eastern wines and have never heard this description.”
I was thinking about it last night and have developed a theory, in three parts.1) Why is the taste of Vitis Labrusca described as ‘foxy’.
Because that species is known as the ‘fox grape’ and it has a distinctive flavour unlike other grape species. Thus because that flavour is the flavour of fox grapes, it is foxy.2) Why isn’t the term ‘fur’ or ‘wet fur’ used for that flavour in the US.
Because there is no need to describe the flavour further. The Labrusca variety with the most intense ‘foxy’ taste is Concord and Concord is widely available as grapes, juice, jams, and flavourings in sweets and children’s cough medicine in addition to wine.
Robin nails it when he says “in the US, in any case, "grape jelly" works nicely for Vitis labrusca, although it’s circular Foxy smells like jelly made from fox grapes.”
In other words, if you want to tell someone what foxy means, there are many examples of Concord widely available.
This is borne out by various definitions online:Foxiness: A tasting term to describe the smell and taste of Concord grapes and wine, and the smell and taste of similar varieties of the native eastern U.S. grapes Vitis labrusca. The aroma is attributed to formation of methyl anthranilate in ripe Labrusca grapes.
Glossary of Terms for Enology, Viticulture and Winemaking www.napavalley.edu/.../Winemaking_GlossaryOfTerms.pdf Foxy: The aroma and flavors defy verbal description. The best way to imprint "foxiness" in the memory is to mentally compare the flavor of fresh Concord grapes and any fresh California table grape
http://www.internetwineguide.com/structure/abwine/word.htmFoxy : The musty odor and flavor of wines made from Vitis labrusca grapes native to North America, usually something undesirable
: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wine_tasting_descriptors3) Why is the term fur or wet fur used for that flavour?
The definition that Labrusca’s taste is foxy and that foxy means the taste of Labrusca is, as Robin says, circular and the advice to experience foxy by tasting Concord works only where people know Concord.
Outside the USA, where there are no Concord wines, grapes, juice, jams, or flavourings, other descriptors must be used.
I am not in the USA and have tasted only a handful of Concord wines, but never drunk one, I put Concord grape jelly on my breakfast toast when in the USA but get only intense sweetness. I don’t hunt foxes and don’t have a pet so I am not in a position to know enough about animal fur, or Concord to say whether this descriptor is correct.
The descriptor may have come about because outsiders thought when Labrusca was called foxy it was describing the taste as being like a fox.
But tasting like a fox has long been a descriptiona. "The Foxe Grape . . . smelleth and tasteth like unto a Foxe": John Parkinson, Theatricum Botanicum: The Theater of Plants (London, 1640).
b. The "fox" grape of Virginia is of "a rank Taste when ripe, resembling the Smell of a Fox, from whence they are called Fox-Grapes":
Robert Beverley, The History and Present State of Virginia (1705).c. "A strong scent, a little approaching to that of a Fox, whence the name of Fox-grape":
Humphry Marshall, Arbustrum Americanum: The American Grove, or an Alphabetical Catalogue of Forest Trees and Shrubs, Natives of the United States, Arranged According to the Linnœan System (Philadelphia, 1785).d. "There is another property of this grape which alone is sufficient to prove it to be the Vit. vulpina , that is, the strong rancid smell of its ripe fruit, very like the effluvia arising from the body of the fox, which gave rise to the specific name of this vine, and not, as many have imagined, from its being the favourite food of the animal; for the fox (at least the American species) seldom eats grapes or other fruit if he can get animal food":
William Bartram, in James Mease, ed., Domestic Encyclopaedia (1803-4).
Sourced from A History of Wine in America: From the Beginnings to Prohibition. Thomas Pinney 1989. http://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpresseboo ... ft967nb63q
Pinney devotes five pages in an Appendix titled Fox Grapes and Foxiness
to trying to discover “why fox? and what quality in the grape, exactly, is meant by foxiness?” and concludes “So, if we still do not know for sure why the labrusca is called the fox grape, or why its wines are called foxy, at least two languages [English and French] agree to use those terms.”
So those in places where readers do not have access to Labrusca describe foxiness as being like (wet) fur because that is what it tastes like to them – or because that is the descriptor they found when researching.
A question to those who know Labrusca - how would you describe foxiness to someone who'd never tasted it?