Ban the US fruit bomb?

Why the fashion for fruit bombs?
There has been a fashion, much followed in the USA, for “fruit bombs”, BIG, over-ripe wines as high in alcohol as some fortified wines which have distilled spirits added to them. This has been driven to some extent by wine critics who have had a tendency to award the highest scores to the richest, jammiest wines. Many winemakers were quick to adopt the style in a bid to win the points that would help them market their wine. But did the preferred taste of consumers drive the trend or did consumers follow the points?  It is a bit of a chicken and egg situation.

Who’s to say that those consumers are wrong? It’s a matter of taste after all.

Overripe fruit & balance; are they compatible?

The fruit bomb however is not a style that lends itself to what is generally considered a top quality, well-balanced wine – see my previous blog “What makes a wine a good wine?”  The problem is twofold. Firstly the longer the grapes are left on the vine to extract really ripe fruit flavours, the more sugar they accumulate and the alcohol level of the wine therefore rises.  In addition there is a decline in the acidity of the grapes which helps make wines fresh on the palate; this can lead to “flabby” (flat, heavy), short-lived wines. Higher alcohol and lower acidity can therefore mean that the structure and balance of the wine is compromised.

Wondering why good US wines are hard to find in the UK?

This fruit bomb fashion was not one generally followed by wine lovers in the UK which may account for why it has been difficult in the past to find decent US wines over here. 

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Another factor however is that the USA is the biggest consumer of wine in the world and whilst it is the 4th largest wine producer in the world after France, Italy and Spain, it is only the world’s 6th largest exporter. This shortage of wine exports is one reason why we also generally have to pay more to get our hands on the really premium quality US wines. Given they do generally cost more, it is important to chose carefully.

Changing fashions?
The jammy fruit bombs are making way now particularly at the premium end of the market to wines combining fresher primary fruit flavours, secondary and tertiary flavours from the development process (more on these flavours in a future blog), structure and elegance.  They will not disappear altogether as there are still a large number of fans – but it is good to have the choice.

Lindsay Cornelissen DipWSET,
© Wines With Attitude Limited
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Lindsay is passionate about good quality wine and set up her online wine business, Wines With Attitude, in 2014 to share that passion with other wine lovers.

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