Wednesday, November 24, 2010
The Naked Vine Tries The Naked Grape
The Naked Grape is a new line of wines from Grape Valley Wine Company in Modesto, California. They do four varietals: Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
According to the press release from the winemaker, Hillary Stevens, “More and more people are looking for ways to simplify their lives…we’re happy to assist in that venture by providing wines that stay true to the fruit in the bottle and provide an utterly uncomplicated sipping experience.” The wines are also described as “easy to enjoy” and “focusing on what’s important and stripping away the rest.”
What all does this mean? Since I was sent a bottle each of the Pinot Grigio and the Pinot Noir to sample, I hoped to sort out the quote.
One thing to remember: just because a wine has a varietal name on the label, it doesn’t always mean that you’re entirely drinking what you’re thinking. For example, when a wine from California has “pinot noir” on the label, the law requires that it has to contain 75% pinot noir. However, once you get to 75%, any other grape in that 25% is fair game.
There’s nothing new about blending grapes. All French Bordeaux are blends. Wines are usually blended to enhance certain flavors or add complexity. In this case, these wines were blended in such a way to remove complexity and make the wine more straightforwardly fruity. Why would a winemaker do this?
As the press release also states, “When it comes to The Naked Grape, there are no pairing rules – all of the wines taste great alongside any type of food.” Such a statement makes me skeptical, because I can’t imagine cracking a pinot grigio with a flank steak – but uncomplicated wines do tend to make easier pairings. So, what did we think?
The Naked Grape California Pinot Noir (nonvintage) – As I mentioned, this wine is at least 75% pinot noir, but the rest of the blend is composed of Tempranillo, Grenache, and Alicante Bouchet. It’s light bodied and acidic, and there’s a considerable amount of fruit when you first take a sip. However, the flavor slammed its brakes on the back of my tongue. This wine had one of the shortest finishes I’ve ever had. There were cherry flavors along with a “bite” that reminded me a little of a Beaujolais. Uncomplicated certainly was an applicable moniker. Its uncomplicated nature served it well with food. After trying it with a bite of new potatoes with butter, salt, and parsley, the Sweet Partner in Crime stated: “You don’t find many wines that pair well with salt.” As a dinner wine, it was workable.
I understand (I think) what the winery’s trying to do. They want to make a table wine without calling it a table wine to avoid the connotation of “cheap wine.” (And it’s relatively inexpensive – it’s $9 a bottle.) But “uncomplicated table wine” is probably a better moniker. I think if they were up front about it – even putting that on the label instead of a varietal, they’d draw a more “accurate” audience.
For a relatively generic drinking experience, it’s a decent enough quaff. That said, at a $9 price point, I think I could find something a little more interesting for my palate.
[Many thanks to Marieke at Hunter Public Relations for giving me the chance to sample these wines.]