Have you ever been at a wine tasting and heard the host or wine expert taste a glass of red wine and exclaim “jammy fruit!” Ever wondered what the heck she was talking about? This descriptor is used more and more for certain types of wines and with a little knowledge, you’ll know exactly what to look for.
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How to Identify Jammy Fruit Tastes in Wine
Learn about the “must,” and how it affects fruitiness. It seems like a no brainer that wine would inherently be fruity, as it is made from fruit itself. This is quite often not the case, actually. A grape goes through a tremendous amount of change before it is put in the bottle sitting in front of you. Especially red wine. Red wine is made by, not only crushing the grape to extract the juice, but, once the juice is extracted, it is left to macerate with the skins of the grapes that it came from. This collection of skins and seeds is called the “must,” and it is full of a chemical called tannin. Tannin is that mouth drying chemical that is naturally present in grape skins and tea leaves.
Taste the tannin. Certain grapes have more tannin than others, and often times, especially in young wines, it is the tannin that stands in the way of a full fruit taste. A low tannin grape will come across as more lush and, well, jammy. That is to say, it will have the taste of fruits that are used to make jams, like strawberries, plums, and blackberries. Tannin disappears as a wine ages, or as it is exposed to air. Do this experiment: take a glass of your Cabernet Sauvignon straight from the bottle and taste it. It will no doubt have a pronounced tannin ting to it’s finish. Now, pour it back and forth between your two glasses twenty times. After you do this, taste it again. It will be softer, lusher and, yes, more jammy.
Taste how acidity affects jammy fruit tastes. If you’ve ever bitten into a lemon, or tasted lemon juice straight, you know exactly what an acidic fruit tastes like. Now, think about the last time you tasted a spoonful of blackberry preserves. Does the adjective “sour” or “acidic” come to mind? Probably not. This is because blackberries, especially after being cooked down to a preserve, are relatively low in acid. The same is true with wine grapes. Some are just naturally more acidic than others, and this will stand in the way of their jamminess. Do this: pour your Pinot Noir and Merlot side by side. Taste the PInot Noir. It will have a lot of different characteristics, but one that you may find, especially if it is young and unoaked, is a slight acidity. Now taste the Merlot. People have often described Merlot as or “velvety,” meaning that it has dark, rich fruit flavor, much like a jam or a preserve. How is it that this grape, no matter where it is grown, has a reputation for smooth, dark and jammy fruit? It is inherently low in acid.
Taste a wine with terroir, and understand how it relates to a wine’s jamminess. The Syrah grape is inherently a fruity, somewhat low in acid grape. But this is a grape that varies greatly in style, depending on where in the world it is grown. Soil plays an integral role in how a jammy a red wine can be. Do this: pour your Shiraz and Crozes Hermitage side by side. These two wines are made from the exact same grape, but one is grown Southern Australia, where the hot sun beats down for long growing days, and the soil is ridiculously lush and fertile, and the other is grown in France, in rocky soil with harsher growing conditions. Taste the Shiraz. It will be very fruit forward (meaning, the fruit is the first thing you taste) and the fruit, itself, will be plums, blackberries and strawberries, most likely. Now, taste the Crozes Hermitage. You may taste fruit, but next to the Shiraz, it isn’t the “main event.” There will be an earthiness. This is what the French refer to as “terroir,” which, loosely translated, means “a reflection of the earth.” All wine grapes reflect, in their respective tastes, where they were grown. The warmer and more lush the climate, the more likely the wine you taste made from that grape with taste lush and jammy, as well.