WineSmith Saint Laurent (3)

Intriguing varietal. Clark, with the looser tannic structure and higher pH, what is recommended drinking window, and is this the type of wine to serve cooler than room temp?

Here’s a continuation of my fascinating St. Laurent project. This is a fascinating grape to work with, with amazingly plush, dense, soft tannins and complex flavors. It ripens very early (thus its namesake, who was martyred on August 10th) and this has wonderfully low alcohol when ripe (12.6%). It also tends toward bright fruit and quite bracing acidity such as you might see in a Sancerre Rouge or Asti Barbera.

Although French in origin, its tight cluster makes it more suited to drier continental climates such as Austria and the Czech Republic. Unlike most of my other wines, which tend toward classic French styles, this grape, (same deal for Duriff) can’t even be grown in France because of its tight cluster which rots in the French humidity. So it’s going to be a completely new palate experience. It has its detractors – even one loyal WineSmith fan who sincerely hates it despite his best attempts.

In this second year working with Dale Ricci’s Carneros fruit, I opted to bring out more brightness in the nose through whole cluster techniques and abandoning the lees stirring we did in 2013, which I thought suppressed the wine’s fruit. Since 2014 was a cooler year, we also have a bit more acidity.

I think it’s a real upgrade from 2013, but the style is certainly a little different, and some of you may prefer the 2013.

Like many winemakers, I really enjoy acidity in white wines like Sauvignon Blanc, but as I write in Postmodern Winemaking, I consider high acidity the enemy of red wine texture because it stimulates salivation, which in turn combines with tannins to combine with tannins for a coarse mouthfeel.

But this variety has a different kind of tannin (the French call it “enrobed” tannin). I’ve only encountered it in a few other varieties like Norton, which has a high polysaccharide content that makes its tannins very soft by interfering with their binding to salivary protein.

So here we have a different sort of red that works with fish, greasy foods like choucroute garni and fruit salads. I think of it as a great picnic wine that you can chill like a Beaujolais.

I was able to engage woot’s army of Lab Rats in the original January offering to provide copious notes and to comparing the two vintages.

Definitely works at lower temperature, as a picnic wine like a Nouveau Beaujolais, but not necessary if you prefer cool room temperature, which I’d do with grilled salmon as befits its Pinot Noir parentage.

As for aging potential, I think it depends on what you want. The pH is entirely normal at 3.73 for a light red. See my book Chapter 9, Winemaking at High pH.

I think it will age a long time and the acidity will soften and incorporate, so we will trade its bright freshness for complex nuances. I don’t know whether I’ll like it better then, but its use will shift. At the price, I’m inclined to guzzle now and save a few bottles for five and ten years just for the hell of it.

My notes for this wine from Cellar Tracker;

PnP, the wine is deep ruby in the glass with good clarity. Black cherry, clover and dandelion on the nose. I remember the previous vintage as being fairly herbaceous and it seems like this is shaping up similarly. I presume incorrectly as there is far less herbaceousness on the palate than there is on the nose. The wine is fruit forward - with black cherry, freshly-picked plum, cranberry and hints of clover.

Juicy mouthfeel contributes to the fruit forward profile as well. Food friendly acidity and a clean, medium finish help make this an easy drinking wine. I would say that the 2014 is more immediately accessible than the 2013 was. I liked the previous vintage once my palate became acclimated to it but I liked the current vintage right away due to the juicy, fruit-forward flavor profile. There is very little oak influence and tannins are light but noticeable.