Taste through wines with the aroma compound, Pyrazines
We are all victims of the triumphs and pitfalls of our gene pool . . . ugliness and beauty that manifests itself in both physical and nonphysical attributes, like a penchant for smoking or abnormally vascular calves. The manifestation of genes is maybe most interesting in dog breeds, due to the absurd history of careful inbreeding. Do you know what a pug is? The breed is unmistakably itself—recognizable by its short snout, square head, tiny stature, and huge personality. A perfect example of selective breeding. Though it’s not the short snout (brachycephaly) alone that defines “pugliness,” the trait does align the pug with other brachycephalic breeds like the English bulldog and the bullmastiff, all three of which hail from the mastiff family. What does this have to do with wine?
The royal family of Cabernet sauvignon, Cabernet franc, and Sauvignon blanc (the baby and the parents, respectively), like the mastiff family, also has an abnormal trait: all three grapes exhibit the aroma compound called pyrazines, known for vegetal odors. Bell pepper, jalapeño, chive, green bean, and grass are some of the descriptors associated with the compound, and are generally considered undesirable aromas in a wine, correlated to the difficulty to ripen the grapes (due to climate/grape character). When a wine is too green, it tastes off, or unhealthy, like a pug that’s nose is smashed too deep into its skull. In analyzing these wines, think not only about that time you forgot you bought a bell pepper and two weeks later you opened the fridge and smelled so
me strange melted veggie mystery goo, also think about the wheezing breath of your childhood neighbor’s obese bulldog . . . Enjoy!
2015 Domaine Girard ‘La Garenne’ Sancerre (Sancerre, Central Loire, FR) 100% Sauvignon Blanc
The Domaine Girard Sancerre is made from just a single vineyard next to the winding Loire River in central France. This wine is a classic, though maybe a bit on the ripe side for a typical Sancerre. Do you smell fresh grapefruit? The pyrazines come across as a background of chives and cocktail onions, intermingled with the intense mineral aromas that the wine gives off. The vivacity, companionship with food, and sprightliness of the Girard make it a perfect lil pug. Don’t resist the temptation to take it for a walk.
THE ENGLISH BULLDOG
2013 Château Beau-Site Saint-Estèphe Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux Rouge (Medoc, Bordeaux, FR)
Summer time in New Orleans means hiding indoors. It also means red wine drinkers oughtta grab an ice bucket and chill their wines down, setting aside the Cabernet Sauvignon for a higher acid grape that makes super fresh and vibrant wines like Cabernet Franc. Chinon is a perfect summer red, pretty and floral, bursting with aromas of strawberries and raspberries and red bell peppers (pyrazines!). The Messanges Rouge is your NOLA summer lounging bulldog, bringing you laughter and keeping you in your chair, snacking, safe from the wet heat.
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot
The Beau-Site Bordeaux is special because it’s a blend of almost all the original Bordeaux grape varieties, excluding Malbec. It is classic Left Bank Bordeaux, rich and leathery, aged in a ton of new French oak, dark fruited and intense. The pyrazines come across in a spicy way in the glass, like fresh jalapeño, maybe due to some of the other background flavors. This wine is massive, regal, and will give your toddlers piggy back rides, just like the bullmastiff.