The Budget Sommelier

Friday, April 22, 2005

2 new Reds tried last night

2003 Cote Zero, Orleans Hill Winery, CA
2003 Liberty School Syrah, CA

Didn’t really have a great shine to either of these wines. Both were picked up from legendary cheap wine purveyor TRADER JOE’S market. Liberty School was a $10 over-peppery tight young thing with too much pucker. There are better places to lay down a 10-spot.

Cote Zero is in the organic and “sulfite free” category of wines. It’s a sub $10 bottle. To me it tasted tight and chalky, but not undrinkably so. Other folks at the table were actually pretty happy with it. I have to go back and look at my receipts to see how sub-$10 it really is. For $5, it would actually present pretty well, if it’s pushing $10, I’ll have to think twice before buying more. And I’ll have to remember who really liked it. It’s one of those things, people really do taste things differently, not just that people have different likes and dislikes, but often people actually will taste something else, some other flavors or characters of a wine. Anyway, I like to try to remember which of my friends liked what and serve accordingly when they come over, or I bring a wine to them.

As for the Organic thing, more power to the vintner who produces excellent wine with organically grown grapes. At home, we definitely try to go organic in the kitchen as much as we can (and as much is as reasonable on the pocketbook - $6 for organic strawberries? I’ll stick to oranges.)

But on the topic of “sulfite-free,” it is a much queried and debated issuee. My understanding is that small amounts of sulfites are a natural by-product of the fermantation process. So a “sulfite-free” wine is not really a possibility. However it is the practice of many vintners to add sulfites as a preservative, thus giving birth to the class of “no sulfites added” wines. There are also many in the know who say that, contrary to urban legend, sulfites are NOT responsible for the dreaded “red wine” headache.

The Organic Wine Company has a nice article clarifying some confusion and myths about sulfites in wine.

Andrew Waterhouse is apparently a Master’s student at UC Davis in CA (I came across his posting on the web). He has some pretty succinct comments on the sulfite issue. Also he’s willing to do some research on the issue, maybe we’ll start a collection to get him some funding ;-p


  • Jerome, you're right about the sulfites question. They get a bum rap. A very small part of the population is sensitive to sulfites. If you can eat dried apricots, you don't have that problem. And, contrary to popular belief, wine growers add more sulfites to white wines than reds.

    Organic wineries can't add sulfites to their wines and still call them "organic," but since sulfites form naturally on grape skins, they're probably not sulfite-free. Sulfite-free wines exist, but they're flukes.

    By Blogger Debbie, at 5:19 PM  

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