Our customer Dan Sullivan writes:
“Years ago a very famous wine editor described a wine from Bordeaux as being very foxy. Never having tasted a fox I asked him if there was a restaurant in NYC that had fox on the menu. No response.”
Please hold while we catch our breath…😂🤣😂🤣😂🤣
Dan, you are amazing for having written that. Kudos sir, you won that day.
Now that we’ve collected ourselves, let’s get down to business.
We’re going to deviate a bit from the general wine simplified structure here, since “foxy” isn’t a term widely used now, and quite honestly, it isn’t something good to say or that will get you more pours from your tasting room staff.
While not a flaw, “foxy” refers to a wine smelling and tasting musty. This generally isn’t a quality associated with vitis vinifera (European wine grapes we all know and love: Cab, Pinot, Syrah, Chard, Sauv…etc), but one associated with vitis labrusca grapes of the Americas (Niagra, Concord, Delaware, and Catawba to name a few).
If you’ve ever drank Welch’s grape juice, you know the “foxy” flavor – it’s that dominantly “grape” flavor and smell.
Now, where did this name derive from? Because clearly no one in NY is serving fox, and we can attest, no one in the SF food scene is either (however we do know a chef with a pet fox, more on that in a moment…).
The nickname for the American grapes were “fox grapes” and with each having the same musty, grapey quality, it became known as being “foxy” – this has nothing to do with the direct smell (or god forbid, the taste) of a fox.
So, our chef friend with the fox: yes, he keeps it as a pet, raised it since just after birth, the circumstances around his acquisition of said fox are still intentionally blurry – we think there are some legal things around keeping a domestic fox, yet we haven’t honestly cared to look into it too deep. The damn thing is super cute. And cuddly. And doesn’t smell musty, or “foxy” for that matter, possibly due to a strict bathing regiment? Not entirely sure.
As for a French wine being foxy, that might mean the wine reviewer was raised and possibly professionally trained in an area with the fox grapes in production, most likely smelled that unique French cellar funk on a Bordeaux, and without knowing that might not be the best way to describe the nose he was getting on the wine, reverted to what he knew best, calling it “foxy.” Saying a wine is foxy screams a wine writer from the Midwest or North East, the same way saying “hella,” in conversation is indicatively a west coaster in your presence. You can figure it as regional dialects in the wine world, if you will.
Now, much like a wine having fragrances of rubber, tar or leather, some people love the foxy characteristic, so it in and of itself isn’t a flaw, just something that’s an acquired taste or love. Yet, as stated above, we’d refrain from using it liberally as a descriptor barring the correct place for its usage, vitis labrusca wines.