Last night, as a part of my Week of 3s project, I tasted three different Baco noir wines from three different Hudson Valley wineries.
These were actually the first Baco noirs I had ever tasted and after the tasting I'm still not sure that I quite know what to expect from the hybrid variety. They were all quite different.
So what is Baco noir exactly? It's a cross of Folle Blanche (a French vinifera wine grape) and an unknown American grape from the Vitis riparia family. It first created by French wine hybridizer Maurice Baco, so that's where the name comes from.
According to Wikipedia:
At one time Baco noir was commonly grown in France, but by European Union regulation, the commercial use of hybrid grape varieties is restricted. In 1951 the variety was brought to the cooler viticulture regions of the United States, such as New York, Michigan, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Oregon. In New York, there are an estimated 240 hectares of Baco noir currently grown.
As I sat down to taste these wines from Hudson-Chatham Winery, Warwick Valley Winery and Benmarl Winery, I had no idea what to expect. Most red hybrids don't hit my palate quite right, but I'm always opened minded.
I started with Warwick Valley Winery's Black Dirt Red ($11) a (I assume) non-vintage wine that is 100% Baco noir. In the glass, it's a bright ruby red with a thin magenta rim. The nose isn't overly expressive, even with vigorous swirling, but it did offer some light cherry aromas and some raisins and earth. On the palate, it's medium-light bodied and fresh tasting with lively acidity that would work well with food I think. The flavors are a little underripe with some cherry, earth and dried fruit flavors. It doesn't seem like this wine saw any oak either. It reminds me a bit of some steel-reared Long Island cabernet francs I've tasted from cooler years, but there's also something vaguely Gamay-like about it as well.
Next in the trio was the Benmarl Winery 2006 Estate Baco Noir ($28), a completely different experience. Where the Warwick Valley was a little thin and underripe, this one is ripe and rich. Clearly darker in the glass, it's a medium-dark crimson. The nose is also much more interesting with cherries, raspberries and cocoa powder aromas and a sprinkling of black pepper. The palate is rich, soft and chocolaty with bright red fruit, sweet vanilla and hints of smoke. The tannins are low, so I'm not sure how much longevity this wine has in it.
The finish is medium-long and ends with a red apple skin note. with Without knowing much about the grape variety, I'm tempted to say that this one is manipulated quite a bit, but I don't dislike it. After it was open for a few hours, the chocolate/cocoa flavors became a bit less dominant, which is a good thing. I look forward to trying this wine again tonight.
Last in the grouping was Hudson-Chatham Winery's 2007 Baco Noir Reserve ($19), which has the most structure (both tannins and acidity) of the three and might not be quite tasting its best yet. Similar in color to the Benmarl, the nose offers red cherry, raspberry and caramel-vanilla aromas. Medium bodied and a bit rustic, this small production Baco (85 cases) is youthful and a bit tight. Cherry and blackberry flavors are there, but not expansive. There's also some vanilla and oak, which are a bit front-and-center at this point. There's something I like about this one though. But more on that soon.
I'll be re-tasting all three tonight and adding my star ratings to the reviews and updating my notes as needed.