Animal Fur Anyone?

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Re: Animal Fur Anyone?

Postby Joe Moryl » Sun Dec 30, 2012 1:09 am

Yes, you can smell the methyl anthranilate aroma of a field of ripe Concord grapes some distance away.
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Re: Animal Fur Anyone?

Postby Dan Smothergill » Sun Dec 30, 2012 7:54 am

Nancy and I have been talking about this of course and here are some thoughts. First, what is someone taking the rigorous course of exams certifying professional sommeliers expected to know about labrusca? Anything about foxy or animal fur in there? Second, the referents of words can vary from the obvious to the arbitrary. "Submarine" is a good example of the obvious. The names for flavors of quarks ("e.g., "strange") on the other hand are, as I understand, entirely arbitrary. Where does foxy fit on this spectrum? Perhaps it once had a metaphorical relation to labrusca grapes that has been lost over time (see below). The referent of "animal fur" is obvious enough but if it represents an attempt to move foxy from the arbitrary to the obvious end of the spectrum it doesn't work well. Third, could Aesop's "The Fox and the Grapes" have any bearing on all this? The fable certainly predates the discovery of labrusca grapes, so any connection would include the genus of grapes rather than the labrusca species alone. Paul W. points out that the aroma of ripe labrusca grapes in the wild
can be smelled tens of yards away from the vine.
Perhaps American colonists were so struck by the sharp smell of ripe labrusca that they came to identify these particular grapes with the familiar fable. They were foxy. At the very least, Wikipedia, the gold standard of references, gives us this comment by Marianne Moore on the fox deciding that the unattainable grapes were sour after all, " "Better, I think, than an embittered whine".
Good night.
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Re: Animal Fur Anyone?

Postby Steve Slatcher » Sun Dec 30, 2012 8:52 am

Paul Winalski wrote:BTW, that character is even more overpowering in the wild V. labrusca grapes, which aren't really particularly good eating.

You mean the musky character? So it seems it has been selected out of the domestic varieties to a greater of lesser extent.
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Re: Animal Fur Anyone?

Postby Peter May » Sun Dec 30, 2012 12:21 pm

Victor and Dan

Regarding the origin of the term fox for the grape did you read the appendix to the book a quoted - it's online here http://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpresseboo ... and=eschol
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Re: Animal Fur Anyone?

Postby Dan Smothergill » Sun Dec 30, 2012 1:16 pm

Regarding the origin of the term fox for the grape did you read the appendix to the book a quoted - it's online here http://publishing.cdlib.org/ucpresseboo ... and=eschol


Thanks for the reference Peter. Pinney says in the appendix,
“One theory may, I think, be dismissed as purely fanciful: this is the notion that "fox grape" alludes to Aesop's fable of the fox and the grapes; on this account, the grape is named after the grapes that the fox in the fable could not reach and therefore called sour” (A History of Wine in America, Volume 1: From the Beginnings to Prohibition, Thomas Pinney (p. 444).


That's not quite it. The idea is that grapes have been associated with the fox from the time of the fable and because the aroma of these grapes was unusually strong (grapey) they were identified as foxy.
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Re: Animal Fur Anyone?

Postby Joy Lindholm » Sun Dec 30, 2012 1:42 pm

Peter May wrote:A question to those who know Labrusca - how would you describe foxiness to someone who'd never tasted it?


I can't speak for Labrusca varieties, but I can attest to the presence of "foxiness" in some hybrid wines, especially wines that I have tasted from Nebraska and the midwest US. At a local wine tasting a couple years ago, I tasted several varieties such as Chambourcin, De Chaunac, Edelweiss, Frontenac (Red & Gris), La Crosse, Norton, Seyval Blanc, St. Croix, and Traminette. Quite a few of these exhibited a funky, animal quality - to my surprise it was most notable in the white wines. I like the term "foxy" because if anyone has ever been close to a fox (I used to foxhunt several years ago), you will find they emit an aroma not unlike that of a skunk, with a bit of wet dog mixed in. That aroma is very similar to what these wines have, and it is so strong and off-putting to me that I can't see how anyone would want to drink wines with that quality. Now, Nebraska isn't known for producing great wine, so I'm sure the examples weren't great, but I will never forget that "foxy" quality. I will say I have never found that quality in Concord or Catawba wines, so maybe it is prevalent only in certain hybrids?
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Re: Animal Fur Anyone?

Postby Peter May » Sun Dec 30, 2012 3:18 pm

Joy Lindholm wrote:
Peter May wrote:A question to those who know Labrusca - how would you describe foxiness to someone who'd never tasted it?


I can't speak for Labrusca varieties, but I can attest to the presence of "foxiness" in some hybrid wines, especially wines that I have tasted from Nebraska and the midwest US. At a local wine tasting a couple years ago, I tasted several varieties such as Chambourcin, De Chaunac, Edelweiss, Frontenac (Red & Gris), La Crosse, Norton, Seyval Blanc, St. Croix, and Traminette. Quite a few of these exhibited a funky, animal quality - ?


Thanks Joy

But I'm not sure this has made things clearer to me because if the definition of foxiness is that it is the taste of Labrusca and Concord in particular then the wines you mention can't be foxy ...

Which ones of that list? Seyval Blanc was quite popular in England and I can't differentiate it from Vinifera, I get no off tones in Traminette.
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Re: Animal Fur Anyone?

Postby Paul B. » Mon Dec 31, 2012 5:44 pm

Dan Smothergill wrote:As for animal fur, the authors say: "Wine from American species, particularly Vitis Labrusca, can have a very distinctive flavor - definitely an acquired taste - combining animal fur and candied fruits, often described as 'foxy'" (p. xiv). Foxy has been described in many ways, but this is a new one for me.

Candied fruits I definitely agree with. In fact, when I first made a dry Niagara, I took pains to accurately pinpoint all the specific aromas that I found rolling around in the glass, and the main ones I found were a heavy petroleum/oily note, a strong floral note (jasmine) and the candy-sweet musk that you get if you've been handling pineapple slices and the juice dries on your hands.

When it comes to Concord, that specific, delicate musky note is expressed more like what you get from handling raw strawberries. Again - it is a candied scent, and very sweet to the nose. It's what makes Concord, and Niagara in particular (as they are the most pungent of the common labruscana grapes) better as sipping wines.

In other related labruscana grapes, the quality is there but it is much reduced: There is a slight hint of the strawberry musk in Catawba, but more rosewater (it's similar in Steuben); in Delaware, there is the floral jasmine-like note of Niagara, but much less of the candied pineapple musk. In Fredonia, you mainly get blueberries and blackcurrants, and there's just a hint of sweet candy holding it all together.

When it comes to the old-line non-labrusca hybrids (like Foch) as well as Cynthiana, the word "foxy" causes much confusion. In all my experience with those grape varieties, what you typically get is a torrefied note not unlike very darkly roasted coffee, or buckwheat. You never get the sweet candy notes of the labruscanas.
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Re: Animal Fur Anyone?

Postby Victorwine » Mon Dec 31, 2012 8:51 pm

Hi Paul,
Was waiting for you to reply!
Do you have any thoughts about the origins of the term “fox grape” or “foxy”?

Dan,
Indeed linking the terms “fox grape” and “foxy” to the fable as Thomas Pinney noted is fanciful. What interest me, is that the tale pretty much parallels the “discovery” of V. labrusca.

Salute
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Re: Animal Fur Anyone?

Postby Paul B. » Mon Dec 31, 2012 9:01 pm

Victorwine wrote:Hi Paul,
Was waiting for you to reply!
Do you have any thoughts about the origins of the term “fox grape” or “foxy”?Salute

Hi Victor,

No, not really. Those terms were in circulation long before my time, and in my personal quest for knowledge about these grapes and their wines, I have chosen to limit my reference to those descriptors because I find them too prone to causing confusion. I prefer to go deeper and describe the specific aromas I pick up in a given labrusca wine, one by one.

Happy New Year.
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Re: Animal Fur Anyone?

Postby Dan Smothergill » Tue Jan 01, 2013 3:56 pm

Candied fruits I definitely agree with. In fact, when I first made a dry Niagara, I took pains to accurately pinpoint all the specific aromas that I found rolling around in the glass, and the main ones I found were a heavy petroleum/oily note, a strong floral note (jasmine) and the candy-sweet musk that you get if you've been handling pineapple slices and the juice dries on your hands.

When it comes to Concord, that specific, delicate musky note is expressed more like what you get from handling raw strawberries. Again - it is a candied scent, and very sweet to the nose. It's what makes Concord, and Niagara in particular (as they are the most pungent of the common labruscana grapes) better as sipping wines.

In other related labruscana grapes, the quality is there but it is much reduced: There is a slight hint of the strawberry musk in Catawba, but more rosewater (it's similar in Steuben); in Delaware, there is the floral jasmine-like note of Niagara, but much less of the candied pineapple musk. In Fredonia, you mainly get blueberries and blackcurrants, and there's just a hint of sweet candy holding it all together.


Sometimes it takes awhile to flush Paul out but it's always, always worth the wait. :P

Happy New Year all!
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