Monday, October 4, 2010

Chariot (Jim Neal) White Wine 2009

I just had to pick this wine up when I saw it. I have no idea why, but the posts on the previous two vintages of the red Chartiot are the two of the most read posts on this site by a pretty wide margin. A couple of people seemed really offended that I compared the Chariot red to's just cheap wine. Take it easy. It's built for your unsophisticated fat-ass, sugar-loving, potentially diabetic American palate. Just like Coke. I've mentioned it before, but for whatever reason, I get more hits on this site from Trader Joe's wines than anything else. I guess that TJ's wines are a crap-shoot (speaking of which, you should read this funny thing over at the Cab Franco Files...), so maybe people are trying to flesh out the rare gem from the garbage? I guess there's also a significantly smaller market for what I tend to drink most often, which is stuff in the 10-30$ price range, so maybe that explains why people aren't interested in reading about wines that are, well, better, probably more expensive, and definitely less available. Anyways, enough bullshit, what's up with this wine?

5$ at Trader Joe's. Sarah had a glass of this before me and said the following: "It smells like something...and I just can't place it." I poured a glass, and immediately said "Milk left-over after you've had a bowl of Fruit Loops." Yeah, I know it sounds insane, and I haven't had Fruit Loops in, I don't know, 15 years? Maybe longer? Anyways, Sarah immediately said "Oh my God! You're right!" So somehow, both of us have a pretty vivid memory of eating Fruit Loops (maybe that explains why I was a tubby little fat-ass when I was a kid?), that neither one of us want to revisit, and yet it's stuck in our sub-conscious as a specific enough smell to become a wine descriptor. (And that should tell you why you should trust your own palate...I mean really, Fruit Loops? Is anyone taking me seriously now other than Sarah?) Here's what the Fruit Loop thing breaks down too: I think it's got a lot of candied lemon and some other lime-ish citrus to it, although I'm sure there are some other things in there too. The nose has some floral characteristics to go with all the citrus. Once the Chariot gets in your mouth, it's obvious that it's off-dry to a certain extent (and if it isn't, it sure is sweet), but still has enough acid to balance it all out before leading into a finish with hints of peach. I don't really know what to think of this wine. Hand's down, I do not think it is as good or as interesting as the Red. This is a style of wine that is sort of in no-man's land as far as I'm concerned. Why? The wine-maker has painted himself in a weird stylistic corner. Everyone was probably expecting something like this to be completely dry, or God forbid, Chardonnay-ish. Consumers are confused by wines like this. What the fuck do you do with them? That's the age old question, isn't it? Go grab some Thai food, some Mexican food, or basically anything that's nuclear spicy. I also happen to think that there are a lot of other semi-dryish wines that are a whole lot better. Alsace comes to mind; so does the Loire; so does Riesling. All of them have good values to drink that are far superior to this particular wine, although they may be twice as much. For me, I'd be happier with something that wasn't so syrupy this case, I'm going to acknowledge my bias and compare this to Sprite. This tastes like industrial food. (How else do you get Fruit Loops? Is there a chemical that pertains to "Fruit Loop" scent? It's scary as fuck, but there probably is some industrial chemist that has created exactly that. How else would the taste of Fruit Loops be so fucking consistent?) I'd prefer a 9 or 10$ Kabinett Riesling, or even a domestic one. Lots of choices out there. If you're cheap and like Sprite, have at this--it's not too bad. C+/B-


Joshiemac said...

Felt about the same, I liked what I was getting on the nose but it was too sweet and syrupy to suit my taste. That being said, it paired pretty well with some very spicy hunan food and I didn't feel like it was $5 wasted.

I doubt I'll buy again.

Jeff said...

I always like it when people agree with me. I bet it went good with that Chinese food too...I mean really, I always worry with something spicy that I'll destroy whatever nuance there is in wine I'm having with the spice. When it's cheap and bordering on forgettable, I don't feel bad about it.

Cabfrancophile said...

Sprite, love it! Good point about spicy food, too. I often don't get why my girlfriend likes to make certain foods super-spicy. I get bad hiccups with tons of spice, but beyond that it just obliterates other flavors. She hates over-extracted or super tannic wines, which also tend to be dominated by one component. I guess there's not much logic in taste, though. People like what they like.

As for Froot Loops, I bet the artificial flavors are based at least in part on esters. These are the same chemicals in real fruit, but I have no doubt real fruit chemistry is far more complex. A red Froot Loop maybe has a few esters in it and tastes fake, while a real cherry has dozens of esters and other compounds that make it taste real. I think this is the case with a lot of artificial flavors, actually. They have one or several key aromatic components, yet lack the real, complex chemistry. It's like actually seeing a sculpture in person versus seeing a picture. It's a projection into fewer dimensions.

It's no surprise that cheap wines taste like fake fruit since they manipulate the fermentation to produce fruity esters. But the flavor and aroma spectrum is limited as a result. A limited number of fruity esters in my mind is artificial fruit flavor. The wines may not have added artificial flavors, but the chemistry is likely pretty much the same as in Froot Loops or Jolly Ranchers. It's just yeast make the chemicals instead of chemists doing synthesis.

Jeff said...

Thanks for all the chemistry info. I buy a lot of natural flavors from a variety of different's always interesting to taste them. Some are better than others, and there are many different ways that companies use to create flavors. Anyways, I'm not a technical person, so I tend to just glaze over any chemistry type of stuff; that background was cool.

Taste is very tied in to how you were raised with food...and the level of heat is definitely a part of that. My gringo palate is a lot different from someone that grew up in an ethnic household, or a hot climate where you need to eat something spicy so you can sweat to cool down.

And the hiccuping thing drives me insane too. I thought that it was just me? But I guess not. When it comes on it's embarrassing. Next time you're in LA, you really ought to try out Jitlada if you get the chance. Everyone and their mother recommends it for Thai food in LA, and it's insanely good. Anyways, it's home to some of the spiciest things that I've ever eaten...the soft-shell crab curry is awesome, and it definitely made me hiccup. Unfortunately, it isn't wine food for me. It's beer or iced tea food.