Friday, January 20, 2012
Fungicide residue makes white wines sweeter
Five Spanish scientists published a study last summer that might have gone unnoticed if not for the Academic Wino, aka Becca Yeamans, who posted it on her blog yesterday.
I'll cut to the chase: White wines with higher levels of fungicide residue may taste sweeter and have more tropical fruit, apricot and floral aromas.
Wow. Talk about a reason to try to teach yourself to like drier, less fruity wines.
While the study has major flaws, notably that it has not been replicated, it's still a study I wish I'd never seen, but I can't unsee it now. I'll wonder from now on, when I smell tropical fruit aromas in Chardonnay, if I'm really smelling fungicide. And thanks, Spanish scientists, for spoiling floral aromas in white wine for me forever.
The scary thing about this study is that there's almost no good news for organic or biodynamic grape growers, nor even for low-fungicide growers trying to grow sustainably. It's as if a panel of sommeliers came out with a blanket endorsement for Monsanto.
Of course, the actual seven wine experts who sensorily evaluated the wines in the experiment said nothing of this sort. But they're European; they have European palates. They associated quality with dryness. They would be appalled by a random selection of $10 mass-market wines on this side of the Atlantic.
To be fair, the connoisseurs' market doesn't prize sweetness or tropical fruit flavors in white wines. But connoisseurs, who make up maybe 80% of wine bloggers and at least 50% of wine blog readers, probably make up something like 15% of the US market, if that. There are probably 3,000 bottles sold of $9 Menage a Trois white for every one of artisanal dry Ribolla Gialla.
Put yourself in the position of a California grower, especially after the last two very wet vintages, where mildew was a constant threat. Are you going to painstakingly follow organic or biodynamic practices? Or are you going to dust your crops 'til they look like white-trash Christmas trees, as that would be safer for your bottom line? Moreover, you can flock those vines with that poison and still get certified sustainable.
Sigh. Consider it a call to action to support wines that are grown from organically or biodynamically farmed grapes. Or, just learn to love the apparently sweet, floral, fruity flavors enhanced by fungicide.
Posted by W. Blake Gray at 6:00 AM