March 7, 2011

It's all in the tastebuds


    Ripe, heavy, concentrated red wine flavours that take on the character of jam. Sweetish, possibly cloying. Good if not over-done.
I was recently challenged to explain ‘jammy’ and was at a loss to go much beyond what you find in my . Truth be told, I haven’t come across that many truly jammy wines. I do remember one occasion, at a small wine fair, when a respected sommelier came up to me and excitedly told me I HAD to try this wine – a robust Portuguese red. I found the wine a bit too jammy for my tastes. But before I could say anything, the sommelier blurted out “and it’s not the least bit jammy!” Hmmm…

So I decided to do a bit of research to see if anyone else was confused by this term. Here’s what I found, gleaned from about a dozen different sources:

Opinion A, Jammy is good: “sweetish”, “concentrated”, “superb extract”, “forward”, “approachable”, “fruity, tasty and pleasing”, “jumps out of the glass”, “open”;


Opinion B, Jammy is not so good: “cooked”, “flavors of jam rather than fresh fruit”, “hot climate”, “overripe fruit”, “low in acid”, “not necessarily complex”, “overripe character”, “high alcohol”, “negative tasting term”, “baked, cooked or stewed fruit”, “unappealing”, “lacking in tannins.”

For a time, big juicy wines were the rage – Aussie shiraz in particular. And if a little is good, then a lot should be better, so some of these wines just got bigger and bigger, evolving into   “sweetish”, in-your-face fruit bombs with port-like alcohol. Thankfully the wines became as tiresome to the consumer as they were to the palate, and many of us began to look for a bit of subtlety and finesse instead.

You can still find overly jammy wines, but the market is definitely shifting away from them.

Best Bets in Fruit Bombs

Argentina: Malbec
Australia: Shiraz, “GSM” (grenache, syrah, mourvedre)
California: Zinfandel (not the pink stuff), Petite Sirah
Chile: Carmenere, Mourvedre
Eastern Europe: Plavac Mali
France: Cahors (Malbec)
Italy: Negroamaro, Nero d’Avola, Primitivo

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