Wine has five components that determine taste and quality: alcohol, acid, tannin, sweetness/dryness, fruitiness. This week, final component: fruitiness.
Fruitiness partly is taste, but more an effect on your nose. In that sense, fruitiness is similar to tannin, which is not really a taste, but a feeling in the mouth.
Your nose is as important to enjoying wine as your taste buds. To fully enjoy, swirl wine in your glass and inhale its aroma—“bouquet”. Even when you drink, bouquet affects experience. Wine experts believe they discover more from smelling than tasting.
That’s where fruitiness comes in.
Fruitiness is wine’s ability to produce fruit-like aromas and flavors. Although grapes are fruit, the most-planted fruit in the world, other fruits and plants are used as wine descriptors.
Different varietals produce different fruit descriptions. Cabernet Sauvignon: black fruits (black currant, blackberry, black cherry). Pinor Noir: red fruits (red cherry, strawberry, ripe tomato). Chardonnay: stone fruits (apple, pear, peach, apricot), citrus fruits (lemon, lime, tangerine, orange), tropical fruits (pineapple, banana, mango, kiwi, guava). Chenin Blanc (honeydew melon, cantaloupe).
Describing the hugely complex smells and tastes of wine is among most challenging tasks in language. If you cannot put it into words, don’t fret. Few can, and those that can often disagree.
Fruitiness is most expressive in young wines and white wines. As wine ages, particularly reds, tannins preserve the wine while fruitiness retreats. Enjoy fruitiness? Drink young wines.
• The Reserve Yellow Tail Shiraz. Cherries, strawberries, fruit lingers on tongue. $11
• Adler Fels Gewurztraminer. Tangerine, pineapple, lemon, grapefruit. California. $14
• Chateau de la Chaize Brouilly. Fruit forward red & black cherries/berries, hint of lemon; 100% Gamay grape, France. $15