What does “fruit forward” mean?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What does “fruit forward” mean?

—Siatunuu, College Station, Texas

Dear Siatunuu,

“Fruit forward” is a popular term to describe a style of wine where the fruit flavors are dominant. Other wines might emphasize savory notes, or have plenty of fruit flavors, but they are more integrated with the wine’s other elements. But in fruit-forward wines, fruit notes prevail. There are many decisions a winemaker can make to get to a fruit-forward profile, from deciding when to pick the grapes to determining how much (if any) oak barrels are used.

The term can be either positive or negative, depending on the context. But I definitely see it creeping up in two areas outside of describing specific wines. First, many use the term “fruit forward” as a way to describe how New World wines are more likely to emphasize fruit flavors over Old World wines. While that was a helpful distinction years ago, I feel like the lines have been blurred between styles and regions—and in a good way. There’s a delicious, complex world of wine out there and it’s not as simple anymore as assigning a single style to a single region.

Secondly, "fruit forward" can be a pejorative way to indicate a wine that’s out of balance and lacking complexity. The term can be used to refer to wines that are simple, cheap and/or one-dimensional. I don’t think that’s a fair use, however: A wine can appear fruit-forward at first, revealing its nuances with air or over time, but that’s how the term is sometimes used.

—Dr. Vinny

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