Others ask, “Is there really fruit in the wine? Do cherry notes mean you put cherries in it?”
In both cases, I understand the confusion. The release of the Cranberry Wine seemed like the perfect time to translate this aspect of winespeak and address the difference between fruit characteristics in grape wine and wine made from fruits that aren’t grapes.
What makes the smell in wine?
The human nose can perceive approximately 2000 aromas. Over 200 of these are detectable in wine due to the unique chemical construction of the grape. The aromas that are emitted by a glass of wine originate in the humble beginnings of the soil in which the vines were grown. The grapes that grow from any vine have compounds created by minerals and components in the soil that lead to amazingly consistent flavor precursors that form the flavor profiles of different grape varieties. These flavors are activated during the fermentation process and trigger the range of aromas in wine. Fruits typically have flavors and aromatic profiles that are well-recognized by people, making them a good way to describe these complex aromatic elements. A cranberry just tastes and smells like a cranberry while a Cabernet Franc wine can smell like cranberries or red currant and, over time, develop different aromatic elements including tobacco and spice.
This aromatic consistency can be a helpful way to smell the health of the grapes that were made into the wine in your glass. For example, a good glass of young Cabernet Sauvignon has overwhelming berry fruit aromas and lots of depth. If the grapes were picked before they were fully ripe, those aromas will lend more towards vegetable smells, like green peppers, rather than fruit.
How are fruit wines different?
The structure of a grape is vastly different than that of other fruit. Grapes have a different acidic composition than fruits such as apples, pears and peaches. While the taste of these fruits are affected by the soils that they grow in and their method of cultivation, they have more consistency in aromatic execution than grape varieties, particularly those of the vitis vinifera species, the European grape species commonly used in winemaking. Non-grape fruits like oranges, raspberries, blueberries and cranberries also have far less fermentable sugar. This means that winemakers typically have to add sugar to start fermentation in fruit wines. If this process is not balanced, the addition of sugar can lead to fruit wines that are too sweet, too syrupy, or both.
Introducing Sharrott Winery Cranberry Wine
Sharrott Winery’s Cranberry Wine is light and sweet with fresh acidity and strong cranberry aromas. It is a light pink, salmon, copper rose color that shines in the light. I tasted it with two other cranberry wines, both from central Pennsylvania. The first PA wine was also light bodied with a muted light pink/salmon color but it had tart acidity that was mouthwatering but unbalanced in a significantly sweeter wine. There was a touch of white pepper in the finish of this wine in direct contrast to the next, a cranberry wine with slightly woody overtones. It was a deeper, coppery rose color with a nice shimmer but tasted a lot like burnt Ocean Spray. Admittedly, both of the wines that went up against the Sharrott Cranberry in this tasting were at least a year older. Unlike grape wines, as fruit wines age, the aromas and flavors dissipate instead of develop, making it a better bet to enjoy them in the first year but no more than two, after bottling. Balance is an extremely important element in a cranberry wine because if a wine is overly tart or overly sweet, it can range to leaving a sugary coating on your tongue to a distinct burn. Fortunately, our first Cranberry vintage has been an overwhelmingly tasty success. It pairs particularly well with another new addition in the tasting room, Cherry Grove Farm’s Havilah cheese.
Khadija Woods is a Certified Sommelier and Wine Specialist. Get in touch! Send your questions, comments, food pairing epiphanies and tasting notes to Khadija@SharrottWinery.com.