A blog devoted to exploring wines made from unusual grape varieties and/or grown in unfamiliar regions all over the world. All wines are purchased by me from shops in the Boston metro area or directly from wineries that I have visited. If a reviewed bottle is a free sample, that fact is acknowledged prior to the bottle's review. I do not receive any compensation from any of the wineries, wine shops or companies that I mention on the blog.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Symphony - California, USA

Alas and alack. It seems that Symphony is so obscure that I can't find a picture of symphony grapes anywhere online (or ripe grapes in any case...there are a few pictures of some tiny green berries that look like under ripe grapes, but most under ripe grapes all look the same anyway). So instead here's a picture of my dog desperately trying to get my attention.

Once upon a time in California, there was a guy named Harold Olmo who made his living creating new species of grapes either by crossing two vinifera species or by crossing two different vitis species. We've met people much like Olmo here before: Seibel and Landot were both French scientists with many crossings and hybrids to their credit. Olmo was based at UC Davis in California and created many widely used grapes like Ruby Cabernet, Emerald Riesling and Rubired, among others. What he and many other scientists at UC Davis were interested in was creating grapes that could withstand the climates of some of California's less than ideal growing sites. To that end, his work was very successful, as Ruby Cabernet and Rubired are widely used in bulk wine production in areas like California's Central Valley which is far too hot for most wine grape varieties. The problem is that the wine produced from these grapes tends to not be of particularly high quality and lack character.

Symphony is anything but a characterless grape. Dr. Olmo worked for thirty years to perfect this crossing of Muscat of Alexandria and Grenache Gris before he introduced it commercially in 1981. It has not exactly caught fire in California, as there were only about 700 acres (280 ha) under cultivation in California as of 2004 (other states have some plantings as well). The largest plantings of Symphony are owned by the Kautz family who also own Ironstone Vineyards. Their bottling is called "Obsession" and it is 100% Symphony. I picked up a bottle of their 2009 vintage for about $10.

In the glass, the wine is very pale silvery lemon color with a greenish tint. The nose on this is very assertive and very flowery. It is immediately apparent that this grape picked up a lot of the Muscat character from the crossing. There were also some ripe, citrusy grapefruit aromas as well, but flowers is the overpowering message here. On the palate, the wine is light bodied with medium acidity and a little sweet. Their website indicates that there is 1.62% residual sugar here, but it tastes a little sweeter because of the flowery aromas, I think. There are orange blossom and mandarin orange flavors along with some apricot-like stone fruit characteristics and the flavor that Muscat brings to the table that can really only be described as "grapey." The finish is carried by a nice lingering, mouth-watering minerality. On the whole, this is a pleasant, slightly sweet little sipper. The acidity could stand to be a little higher, but it's not a real deal-breaker or anything. The flowery aromas and flavors were too much for my wife and she couldn't make it past a single glass. It's hard to go wrong here with the price, as Muscat-based wines will typically run you at least twice this so if you're on a budget, this is a very good option. I can't see this ever really replacing a nice Moscato d'Asti or an Alsatian Muscat in my cellar but it is certainly an enjoyable drink that I can imagine really hits the spot on a warm summer day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Interestingly enough, Symphony is grown on the big island of Hawaii at the Volcano Winery.