What's wrong with fruit?
In our pursuit of wines of classic subtlety and refinement, wine enthusiasts occasionally sound like we're opposed to the idea of wine that simply tastes like fruit.
Tasting terms like "fruit-forward" or even "fruit bomb" sometimes seem almost pejorative; and if these descriptions reflect a wine that's out of balance, soft and fat, lacking the acidic structure or complexity that makes a wine interesting, such criticism may be justified.
But let's not lose sight of the simple reality that wine is, after all, fruit juice, and there's nothing the matter with that.
In support of this testimony I offer the evidence of two recent tastings, one from California and one from Spain, both wines that are surely fruit-focused, if not necessarily explosive.
Bodegas Loriñon 1999 Rioja Crianza ($11.99)
This very dark garnet wine shows reddish-purple glints against the light. Ripe sour-cherry aromas add attractive notes of oak - aromatic vanilla and appealing "mulled wine" nuances of cinammon, clove and orange peel. Full, juicy and tart, fresh fruit flavors follow the nose, with crisp acidity and palatable tannins to round it out. U.S. importer: Classical Wines, Seattle (June 27, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: Fine with beef - in this instance, thin-sliced roast beef over a bed of barely steamed fine-shredded cabbage on a crisp potato pancake.
VALUE: Very good value.
WHEN TO DRINK: Ready to drink, but even modest Riojas will age well for years.
WEB LINK: The importer has a fact sheet on the Loriñon producer, Bodegas Breton, at
Sausal Family 2000 Alexander Valley Old Vine Zinfandel ($14)
This dark-garnet wine offers classic Zinfandel aromas, fresh and true blackberries with just a whiff of a pleasant "leafy" character that adds complexity and interest. A blast of berry fruit, jammy and ripe, is structured with plenty of acidity, a full and balanced flavor with enough fruit to keep substantial (14.1%) alcohol from dominating. Although 2000 wasn't considered a great Zinfandel vintage in Sonoma (and its long, cool autumn may be a factor in the slight "green" quality in the wine's aroma), this one turned out just fine. (July 4, 2003)
FOOD MATCH: Full and appealing fruit made it a fine match with a smoky char-grilled chicken.
VALUE: Under $15 is more than fair for a Zin of this quality.
WHEN TO DRINK: I'm a believer in drinking Zins young, but fruit and alcohol will carry this one for years if you want to cellar it.
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Wednesday, July 30, 2003