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Blog: Fruity wines vs. Fruit Wines

Posted: Monday, 20 August 2012 16:52

Blog: Fruity wines vs. Fruit Wines

August 20: One of the main flavour component in wines is the fruit-it could be subtle or bold and forward, sometimes known as fruit bomb that can make the wine interesting to novices but boring to the initiated whereas fruit wines are simply wines made from fruits other than grapes, the basic premise being that any fruit having sugar is fermentable into wine.

It is traditional to call wines made from grape (vine) simply as wine. Grape juice has an interesting quality-after fermentation and aging certain ethers are formed.  These ethers not only smell and taste like different fruits, but of grapes grown in different soils and under different climatic or micro climatic conditions Although each grape has its own DNA and a spectrum of flavours one can expect from the ethers for a particular grape varietal, there is a wide variation possible and made even more complex due to the different style of making wine including the touch of different types of oak and the time for which the contact is made.

Some wine drinking beginners have the wrong notion that fruity wines imply mixing of fruit juice or infusing their essence in wine to give it the flavours one reads in the flowery and at times incomprehensible tasting notes that confuse them rather than help. One of my close friends, who always travels first or business class, insisted that the wine they served him in the plane had strawberries, blackberries and plums or melons and apples, and was infused with spices sometimes. These are all the characteristics of wine that evolve during fermentation and ageing in the bottle, making fine wine an extraordinary beverage with a lot of mystery surrounding  it.

A young wine is generally fruity - occasionally the cheap wine producers would con you by adding sugar and making you believe it is fruity. It is a better wine if it is really fruity and gives you the impression of having more sugar than it actually does - I get fooled at times, thinking it has higher sugar content because of its charming fruitiness.  However, with age, the fruitiness is tamed a bit with other components like spiciness being ‘added’ to it during evolution. However, the basic fruity character never changes. For instance, a Cabernet Sauvignon will have blackberry or blueberry flavours or some other berry like characteristics but never an apple, citrus or melon flavour.

Interestingly, barring Moscato grapes, the wines do not, or should not taste like grapes-in which case the wine has a rather negative connotation of being ‘grapey’.  As the wine matures in the bottle, it becomes less fruity and more elegant, the oak barrel fermentation and maturing adding to the complexity in flavours including various forms of spices which the Indian palate craves. The balance of fruit with other components is very important for an elegant wine. But if you like fruity wines, especially from the New World, that is an option and certainly a welcome one for the novices who love the feel of fruit on their palate. The spectrum varies from being simply fruity, jammy, fruit forward or a fruit bomb.

Fruit wine is made by fermenting fruits other than grapes.  ‘A wine-like beverage can be made from almost any fruit, berry, or other plant material containing sugar,’ according to Jancis Robinson's Oxford Companion to wine definition. Apples, including cider and perry (wine made from pears), may be the classic form of fruit wine - the apple state of Himachal Pradesh being the predominant state making apple wines and ciders.

It can be made from all fruits having sugar - like strawberry, blackberry, blueberry, kiwi, cherry and even banana, mango and lychee fruits. It can be made from practically any fruit including plant materials like rhododendron (a flower found in the hills of Himachal), which is known to be good for the heart.  Horrible in taste (read medicinal), it has a market as people believe in the medicinal properties of the flower for the heart.

Recently, a Canadian company has been in news for making white wine out of tomatoes - which are scientifically termed as a fruit and not a vegetable. Fruit wines may have the flavour of the fruit they are made out of. For instance, an apple wine will taste of only apples; a strawberry wine would not taste of blackberries. It may be devoid of the flavour of the fruit, as in the case of tomato wines made in the province of Quebec.

Most fruits have high acid levels making it necessary to dilute the crush with water to make the resultant wine less acidic. Use of sugar can be prevalent in both (grape) wine or fruit wine, in order to make fermentation complete to add to the stability. The process of making fruit wines has an edge over (grape) wine in that they generally contain citric or malic acid whereas grapes result in tartaric acid which is prone to bacteria attack and in the process of keeping bacteria under check several complications may develop, affecting wine flavours.

The biggest disadvantage of fruit wine is that, apart from not offering any complex and multiple flavours that are abundant in grapes due to various ether formations, it has no ageing potential or shelf life. The wine does not get better in the bottle and the fruit characteristics diminish fast, making it inadvisable to keep the bottle longer than a year generally.  The anti-oxidants available in grapes are missing but the alcohol content would have the similar benefits and dangers of over drinking as in wine. Fruit wines go well with food-especially the apple white wine and plum red wine when made decently.

Incidentally, in Europe a wine can be made only from grapes to bear the nomenclature of wine, whereas in the USA where every state makes wine - a great majority being from fruits other than grapes - one can call it fruit wine. In India there are no such laws in place-where even ‘Port’ can be made by fermenting eating grapes and fortifying with natural alcohol and additives to give it different flavours.

It makes sense to make fruit wine where fruit is in abundance and due to the seasonal nature, needs to be ‘preserved’. No wonder Himachal Pradesh is the apple wine center of India. With a captive niche market of 30-40,000 cases within the State, the 3 producers in the State focus on apples, but also make quaffable wines from plums, apricots and strawberries and kiwis etc.- the fruits available within the state. Sold generally at around Rs. 150-220 a bottle (mercifully, the excise duty is negligible and the VAT is 4%) these wines are bound to gain popularity as the wine awareness is created.

The Haryana-based Luca wines has been quite successful in marketing its made wines (a term defined by the Oxford Companion), the wines manufactured from the imported grape juice concentrates and also the ‘Port’ wine. But it is in the limelight also because of the lychee wine it pioneered last year. A trifle too expensive at Rs.780 in Delhi and Rs.850 MRP in Haryana, it has nevertheless good demand and several international customers are sampling it. It is also the first winery in Indian which has been able to produce mango wine released recently. Available in a small quantity in Haryana at the same price, Nirvana Biosys claims several enquiries from UK, Japan and Italy.

Whether you like fruity wine or fruit wine, the choice is yours…it does not hurt to know the difference. But until the wine laws in India are well in place, I would advise our readers to go with the flow and call wine made from the grape (vines) as wine and all others as fruit wine.

For earlier article click

Attain Sweet Nirvana with Lychee Wine

Shimla to Shillong Seeking Fruit Wines



Subhash Arora Says:

Dear Ulrich, I completely agree with you. That’s why I love the German dry white Rieslings-they are really fruity- even the slightly off dry version. But my Blog was not about giving details about fruity wines but differentiate (grape)wines from fruit wines. Being a nascent industry, many naïve wine drinkers are not well informed about the difference and hence the blog. But thank you for stressing the point about my favourite white wines. Subhash

Posted @ August 23, 2012 13:02


Ulrich Langguth Says:

Dear Subash, I read your article on FRUIT in wines with interest. Indeed, it is a very interesting subject which touches a wide spectrum.
I may not have come across any notes of yours on the fruit in RIESLING wines and the balance between natural residual sugar and Riesling ACIDITY. It may appear to be big-headed when I say that I strongly believe that we German producers are top in producing great fruity wines, especially from the Riesling grape. The additional story is how residual sugar and acidity balance, how the sugar integrates but it is next to the acidity a guarantee for aging. Best regards,Ulrich Langguth

Posted @ August 23, 2012 12:35


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