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Bell Pepper on the nose

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Jeff Yeast

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Bell Pepper on the nose

by Jeff Yeast » Thu Nov 02, 2006 9:26 am

To piggyback somewhat on the Eucalyptus thread, I thought I would mention something that I find very appealing: Bell pepper on the nose and palate. I first experienced this sensation in a few Cabs from Stellenbosch SA, but I am noticing it more in big California cabs and also in a lot of cab francs. Is this something that others experience, and if so, do you find it enjoyable?

Thanks! 8)
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Re: Bell Pepper on the nose

by Redwinger » Thu Nov 02, 2006 9:38 am

The last few years it seems that I am encountering bell pepper notes on quite a few New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs. It is not a flavor profile that I favor in my wines and as a result I'm increasingly gun-shy about Kiwi SB.

FWIW, I'm not a big fan of bell pepper in my food either, so that may explain my aversion to it in my glass.

BP
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Re: Bell Pepper on the nose

by Robin Garr » Thu Nov 02, 2006 9:45 am

Jeff, adding to Bill's response, a bell pepper character in reds or whites is usually a sign of under-ripeness. Individual responses to it vary widely - I kind of like it in New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, where it can take the form of a green-chile or even jalapeno flavor, but most wine geeks find it less appealing in reds. Years ago, it was so common in Monterey reds that it was almost considered a sign of <i>terroir</i>, and vine growers in the region quickly learned to use vineyard techniques (trimming leaves away from the canopy, mostly, to expose the bunches to direct sunlight) to foster greater ripening. It's also worth note that Sauvignon Blanc follows a pretty direct spectrum from grassy/green-pepper at the cool, shaded, underripe end to citric at the warm, sunny, ripe end, and that as average temperatures increase, a lot of Sauvignon Blanc - even in New Zealand - is moving in the citric direction.

I'm not poking at your tastes here, just pointing out that to some extent "green pepper" has taken on a negative connotation because it connotes under-ripe fruit, and in Cabernet Sauvignon in particular, most judges would probably mark it down a bit. But like so many wine descriptors, what's interesting as a subtle flavor nuance can become a little overwhelming when it's dominant.
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Re: Bell Pepper on the nose

by Ian Sutton » Thu Nov 02, 2006 9:58 am

I think tastes vary widely. Whilst I agree with Robin on the usual reason for bell-pepper, I'm not sure I do about it being necessarily marked down - that depends on where the judges are and which way the wind is blowing. I'm sure Parker would mark it down, but Jeremy Oliver might appreciate it.

What did surprise me was that it emerges in bigger Californian Cabs. This would suggest that grapes with both ripe and underripe characteristics went in (and in noticeable proportions of each). If the fruit is hand picked, then they can have a couple of sweeps through the vineyard to get a more even spread of ripeness. Harder to achieve this via machine harvesting.

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Re: Bell Pepper on the nose

by Jeff Yeast » Thu Nov 02, 2006 10:00 am

Really? That's interesting, as it is a sensation that would cause me to purchase a case. I hope I am expressing my meaning correctly though. The sensation I get is of raw, crisp, almost fruity bell peppers, not cooked. I'll also note that I have never tasted this in a sauvignon blanc, or any other white wine, but that's probably from my lack of experience.

:D
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Re: Bell Pepper on the nose

by Carl Eppig » Thu Nov 02, 2006 11:26 am

If you like it Jeff, pop a Chilean Merlot, most any Chilean Merlot; and you will get it in spades! I don't like it at all. I tend to call it "raw green pepper" which I don't like; as opposed to cooked green pepper which I do like, as in stuffed peppers.
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Re: Bell Pepper on the nose

by Paul B. » Thu Nov 02, 2006 12:06 pm

Jeff, I get lots of bell pepper in our Ontario Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon wines, as well as in the odd Merlot that can still be found (the grape takes our winters badly and Merlot production has fallen in recent times in Ontario).

I used to get the quality in some inexpensive Hungarian Cabernets years back, and I liked it because of the "paprika" element that really - and uncannily! - harmonized with the Hungarian-inspired goulash that I would make.

But in our Ontario versions, the aggressive bell pepper notes are often the result of inadequate fruit ripeness. What really turns me off is bell pepper coupled with large amounts of vanillin oak - blech!
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Re: Bell Pepper on the nose

by Jeff Yeast » Thu Nov 02, 2006 1:01 pm

Thanks for the input everyone and for the tip on Chilean merlots Carl. How about this, so I can be sure we're comparing the same thing, can you folks recommend a few readily-available wines with what you consider having bell pepper notes and I'll try them and report back. Thanks!
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Re: Bell Pepper on the nose

by Thomas » Thu Nov 02, 2006 1:12 pm

Jeff, the bell pepper smell is from a chemical that is commonly on the high side in the Bordeaux family of grapes. When it's quite pronounced it is considered a flaw, possibly from unripe grapes or particular cultivation methods on the vine, or both.

There usually is an undernote of it in the "B'dough" varieties when the wines are in balance. Sometimes, the undernote is not enough for many people to pick it up in the nose.
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Re: Bell Pepper on the nose

by wrcstl » Thu Nov 02, 2006 3:38 pm

Jeff Yeast wrote:To piggyback somewhat on the Eucalyptus thread, I thought I would mention something that I find very appealing: Bell pepper on the nose and palate. I first experienced this sensation in a few Cabs from Stellenbosch SA, but I am noticing it more in big California cabs and also in a lot of cab francs. Is this something that others experience, and if so, do you find it enjoyable?

Thanks! 8)


Jeff,
Everyone has flavors that they find enjoyable. I am the opposite of you. I do not like bell peppers and use that as the reason I dislike Loire CFs. I take a lot of abuse from my wine geek friends for not liking such a popular red wine but if you can't drink it you can't drink it. As Robin says it is a sign of fruit that is not ripe but even in some well made wines I find the taste not to my liking.
Walt
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Re: Bell Pepper on the nose

by Jenise » Thu Nov 02, 2006 4:36 pm

Jeff, 15 years ago my wine mentor taught me to recognize Washington state cabernets by that bell or jalapeno pepper element. Now that I live in Washington state, I don't see as much of it. I've wondered a number of times if improved vineyard management has eliminated most of it or if it's just that I'm 15 years older and perhaps less sensitive and more accustomed to it. When I do note it, I have to admit to not minding it as much as others might as long as its a balanced nuance to ripe fruit.
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Re: Bell Pepper on the nose

by Clint Hall » Thu Nov 02, 2006 5:09 pm

A bit of bell pepper - not much - in inexpensive Cabs sometimes strikes me as interesting as usually in cheap Cabs there isn't a whole lot else going on. In costly Cabs that's not what we're paying for. I think Ian's guess makes sense - that a touch of bell bepper in the heavyweights is the result of havesting a few underripe grapes with the ripe ones, which is something the winemaker doesn't want, and I don't either.
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Re: Bell Pepper on the nose

by Dave Erickson » Thu Nov 02, 2006 5:52 pm

Just a second on the "bell pepper" in Chilean merlots--or, frankly, any under-ripe merlot. As noted, it also shows up in some Sauvignon Blancs; I've found it particularly pronounced in some Austrian SBs.

I'm not a fan, but clearly many wine-lovers enjoy it.
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Re: Bell Pepper on the nose

by Jeff Yeast » Thu Nov 02, 2006 6:03 pm

Dave Erickson wrote:I'm not a fan, but clearly many wine-lovers enjoy it.


I hope so, but I'm feeling in the minority right now :wink: I will say that my experience with this sensation has not been with cheaper wines. In fact I don't recall tasting it in anything retailing less than $20. I'm beginning to think I'm not effectively communicating what I am tasting.
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Re: Bell Pepper on the nose

by Clint Hall » Thu Nov 02, 2006 6:18 pm

Jeff Yeast wrote:
Dave Erickson wrote:I'm not a fan, but clearly many wine-lovers enjoy it.


I hope so, but I'm feeling in the minority right now :wink: I will say that my experience with this sensation has not been with cheaper wines. In fact I don't recall tasting it in anything retailing less than $20. I'm beginning to think I'm not effectively communicating what I am tasting.


Jeff, I think you are probably communicating what your are tasting. The smell and taste of bell pepper is pretty hard to mistake, even for people with far less wine drinking experience than yours. I recall three paint-splattered house painters from a project next door sneaking into one of our local wine merchant's Cab tastings and trying to swill as much as they could get away with, and one of them paused to comment, "Hey! Doesn't this taste like green pepper?"

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