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helenjp

Unfiltered wine

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Curious, I bought a bottle of 2010 unfiltered red "something" organic French wine, as I hadn't seen an unfiltered wine on sale in my local Japanese shops. I HAVE had Japanese-made wine which was not labeled unfiltered, but which certainly looked and tasted unfiltered, to my rude, unlettered senses.

This, however, produced a slight fizzing sound as the cork came out - cork looked okay though. Smelled very raisiny, so I assume it was doing a little extra-credit fermentation.

Poured some out - hmm, looks faintly on the brown side of red to me.


Taste cautiously....tasted sour and faintly funky, as well as that raisiny, too-long-on-the-shelf port aroma.

So now I'm even more curious. Should I turn my back on unfiltered wines, only buy those made very locally and pretty recently, or just do a whole lot more reading before buying. I think I won't mention the winery, as it has a swag of organic certifications along the bottom, and I think I just made an unwise purchase. I did pause when I saw that it was the only bottle of its kind on the shelf...

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I have never heard of organic, unfiltered French wine but from the way you described its color and taste, It sounds to me to have been a problem because it was improperly handled and stored rather than having been bad right off the bat.  Most red wine is ready to drink in about 3 years, some less. Only some really tannic wines benefit from a lot of age so being too old would have added to the problems you describe.  If it wasn't a vintage wine, though, it might be hard to tell how old it was. PS was this wine a specific grape or was it a blend?


Edited by Norm Matthews (log)

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I agree with Norm, the wine's faults are not due to it being unfiltered.  It's just a bad bottle for whatever reason.  Take it back to the store.  We had a $50 bottle of organic California red wine a couple of years ago and it was similar to what has been described here.  We opened another one and it was fine.  It happens.  Just don't drink it.

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No chance of my drinking it! It really was the most undrinkable wine I remember encountering. It was a gamay wine from Morgon, so not the best wine to park on a shelf for 6 years anyway, I suppose.  

It was undoubtedly too old - the choice was pretty much $5 French or this unfiltered but elderly item. Since summer the variety of imported wines available in supermarkets near me has really plunged.Over half of the wines are Japanese in my local supermarkets, but nothing that I want to buy there - Japan does make some good wine, but it is not on sale in supermarkets.

Japan has just released plans to raise the tax on wine so that it is the same as for sake, and I can't help wondering if the sudden drop in availability of imported wine is part of a drive to wean wealthy consumers off it. (To give you an idea of how import-driven the wine market here is, just under 30% of bottled wine on sale is made in Japan, and just under 25% of THAT is actually produced from fresh grapes rather than from largely imported grape concentrate).

Now I'm curious, I just might buy the next bottle of unfiltered wine that I come across!


Edited by helenjp (log)

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A six year old Morgon is likely the problem....I believe that is on the edge of its life expectancy.  Bummer about the China wine scene.  There a number of wineries here in the Okanagan that have been purchased by Chinese business people.

i would srtill try taking it back for a refun if ther is still wine in the bottle and you did not ditch it.  Best of luck.

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It went down the sink, unfortunately - and Japan, not China! I visited a very new winery up country a few weeks ago that was showing some Americans around. I had the impression that they were potential investors.

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 Beaujolais is made with gamay grapes and Morgon is in the Beaujolais region.  That wine is meant to be drunk young.  Beaujolais nouveau is a very popular wine that is fermented for just a few weeks; released immediately and drank as soon as possible. It is just about all gone within two months after release.  I think 3 years is the longest regular Beaujolais is normally kept. I guess your wine was not labeled as Beaujolais because being organic and unfiltered, it did not meet the legal standards to be called by that appellation.


Edited by Norm Matthews (log)

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I am sure you are right, Norm.

Now I am curious - how many people have drunk unfiltered wine? And if you have, is it something you would go looking for again? I have drunk some Japanese wine that appeared to be attempting a "natural fruit" take on wine, I think it had probably been filtered a little bit, but it was almost as cloudy as grape juice, and the flavor was heading toward the juice side too. It was OK, but I thought it lacked aroma, and the flavor was just .... boring.

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I have not had unfiltered wine, or I should say I have not had wine that said that on the bottle.    My impression is that it is fairly new product,possibley a passing fancy, but I wouldn't know because I am not much of a wine drinker anymore.  Organic suggest to me that it is free of sulphites and that alone can contribute to wine tasting off because wild yeast is unpredictable in how wine turn out and un filtered can just mean the wine is allowed to settle and is siphoned off into bottles without disturbing the sediment.  No problem there that I can see.  In my wine making days, that is how I bottled my home made wine all the time.


Edited by Norm Matthews (log)

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I don't have any expert answers to your query, @helenjp, but it inspired me to pick up a few bottles of Beaujolais to 'study' :).  My wine book (Karen MacNeil's Wine Bible) tells me that while many prefer to drink them as soon as they are released, Beaujolais Cru wines can be kept for 5 yrs or more and Morgon is one of the crus with the most aging potential so while a 2010 Morgon is getting on, it's not unreasonable to think it could still be drinkable and even enjoyable.  

The book also says that much modern, commercial Beaujolais stretches vines for max yields, adds sugar to compensate for underripe grapes and filters "severely" so it will be completely stable.  In comparison, old-style Beaujolais is produced using low-yield grapes, no additional sugar and filtered "lightly if at all," so it would seem that an unfiltered Beaujolais Cru could be a traditional product.  

 

My local wine megamart had a dozen or so Beaujolais Cru wines. None specified "unfiltered" on their labels.  I picked up 2 Morgons, 2012 and 2014, and a Fleurie, 2013.  I'm curious to taste them.

 

Back to the filtering question.  There are those that believe filtering can strip wines of flavor and body, although this article says that the limited studies performed show no conclusive evidence either way with respect to taste.

I have had unfiltered wines and they were fine.  I don't specifically seek them out but I've tasted them during winery visits.  Here's an unfiltered white from Booker in Paso Robles, CA:

IMG_1297.jpg

Not sure this photo adds much to the discussion but does show the cloudiness of an unfiltered wine.  I took the photo during a visit to the winery in 2011 when I purchased a bottle of this wine and an unfiltered rosé.  I've had later releases from the winery that were filtered so it's possible the wine maker was  just playing around, although it seems like unfiltered or lightly filtered Beaujolais Cru wines could be a real artisanal product. 

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Thanks @blue_dolphin.  That is very informative. I'd like to add that the Beaujolais Cru wines are a step above the regular Beaujolais which may last as long as Cru level wines if properly stored, and  I speculate that the Morgon Gamay may be a couple steps below Beaujolais Cru wines.  Edit PS an unflitered wine is capable of being quite clear. It isn't always cloudy just by definition.


Edited by Norm Matthews (log)
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Very interesting, and Blue Dolphin thanks for the photo, I was indeed wondering what an unfiltered white would look like.

Being a good Kiwi lass, I know very little about French wine, so this is all interesting to me.

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I have a bit of a different view on both how common unfiltered wine is and on the ability of Beaujolais to improve with age.

 

While I agree that only a rather small proportion of French wines are unfiltered, I wouldn't consider it a rarity. I have had a number of them - many of which were quite good. I find this more common from younger producers and growing areas outside the most typical, highest value vineyards - the Loire Valley comes to mind as having a number of producers applying a number of styles. While I don't think that the unfiltered nature of the wine had any bearing on your bad bottle, it could be indicative of a winemaker working with other less traditional methods - such as low or no sulfer - that could have caused what you describe.

 

Perhaps more importantly, I would urge people not to be afraid to cellar well made Cru Beaujolais. I have been a part of tasting dinners including semi-aged bottles  and verticals up to 8-10 years old and, in the case of the vertical, the oldest two examples were best. Beaujolais is a wonderful fresh wine to drink young but it can really add interest and character with age. For what it's worth, the producer of the vertical that we assembled was Marcel Lapierre. Lapierre produces a few different cuvee - all of which are good. Other producers to look for are Foillard, Thevenet, and Breton. Fortunately, even the best Beaujolais are still reasonably inexpensive so you can try many. I would, however, recommend staying away from virtually all of the Beaujolais Nouveau, which is more of a marketing exercise than an effort to make good wine.

 

Here's to hoping that your next bottle is better.

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