More on greenness. In the comments, one respondent asked for examples of South African wines that showed this greenness. I can think of three recent reds that illustrate my point. First, wine we had with lunch today, and one that I enjoyed a good deal Ė the Saxenburg Private Selection Shiraz 2001, Stellenbosch. Itís a big, rich, sweetly fruited red with good concentration and some meatiness, but underneath the fruit thereís a distinctive green herbal streak. Iíve noticed this in previous vintages of this wine (the 1998 springs to mind). It doesnít ruin it, but I suspect it would be better without it. The second is the Beyerskloof Synergy 2002: lots of bright berry fruit, good concentration, but a herbal streak, too. Then thereís the Platter five-star Glen Carlou Syrah 2004, which has lots of ripe fruit, some oak, but still detectable underneath all this is the greenness. Again, it doesnít ruin the wine, but I feel it holds it back. This is just off the top of my head; Iím not claiming that this is rock solid evidence to defend my case Ė Iím merely putting forward a theory.
Itís important to remind readers that Iím not putting the boot into South African wine. Greenness in reds is a problem elsewhere Ė look at cheap Bordeaux. Often, though greenness is a problem in cooler climates or where yields are too high. Itís rare to find greenness in high end wines from warmer climates. This is why the leaf roll virus/vine mealybug story seems to make sense here. You have a vineyard with a bit of virus infection. You harvest it at the same time, so you are picking some grapes that are fully ripe with high sugar levels, along with those that havenít reached physiological ripeness and show some green characters. Or, you have endemic virus infection, so you leave the grapes on the vine as long as possible, resulting in high sugar levels (perhaps in part by dessication as well as real ripeness) along with sub-optimal physiological ripeness, also resulting in green herbal characters in the wine. Once in the winery, you can try to mask greenness with new oak, microoxygenation, and sweet fruit and high alcohol from those grapes that are ripe, but it results in wines that are less than totally convincing.
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