Fri 30 May 2008
As many people know, Randall Grahm, the canny proprietor of Bonny Doon Vineyard, is committed to listing the ingredients of all of his wines on the back labels, starting with the vintage of 2007. One would assume that this would be a simple proposition; the ingredient of wine is grapes. In fact, the wines from Heller Estate say exactly this on the back labels, as in: “Ingredients: 100% organic malbec grapes.” There you go.
But matters are never so easy for Grahm. Here, for example, is the ingredients list for the recently released Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare 2007 “Pink Wine of the Earth” (How’s that for an appellation?): “47% grenache, 27% cinsault, 14% syrah, 7% grenache blanc, 5% roussanne grapes, tartaric acid, sulfur dioxide, pectinase.”
In the interest of complete transparency, Grahm goes farther, deeper: “In the winemaking process the following were utilized: Yeast hulls, bentonite, yeast nutrients, French oak barrels, untoasted oak chips, organic skim milk, copper sulfite.”
By this time, Mr. & Mrs. John Q. Wine-Drinker, standing in the retail shop trying to decided what wine to take home and drink with a ham sandwich, puts this bottle back on the shelf, muttering, “I’ll take my rosé without the skim milk, organic or not, thank you very much.”
It seems to me, in other words, that this is an instance in which complete transparency could backfire. How much do people actually need to know about how wine is made, when they just, you know, want a glass of wine with lunch?
Now it’s true that these constituents are traditional and harmless in winemaking, though some people are allergic to sulfur. Most of them are used to clarify the wine and “fine” it, as the term is for drawing particles to the bottom of the tank or cask to get rid of them. That’s the case with bentonite and skim milk, which is used in the form of casein. None of these elements is left in the wine when it is bottled. Pectinase is used to settle grape solids in the must, before the wine is sent to tanks or casks. Who, I ask, really needs this technical knowledge? Whose pleasure is increased thus?
On the other hand, the Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare 2007 is a delightful rosé. Sporting an entrancing ruddy watermelon color, the wine offers beguiling notes of melon, strawberry and plump. ripe peach with a hint of tart cranberry. Flavors are consistent with the bouquet, adding, though, strains of darker and slightly spicy raspberry. The wine is crisp and lively, just off-dry, with a dry, bracing finish that brings in a bit of dried herbs, a layer of chalk-like minerals. We drank this at home with salmon tacos. Thoroughly charming and delicious. Very good+ and Good Value at about $15, though I have seen it on the Internet for $12.
Closed with a screw-cap, as all wines from Bonny Doon are. Production is 7,800 cases.