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It depends what you mean by "rich". If you mean more alcoholic, then that does have to do with the initial amount of grape sugars present in the wine. In CA, you'll generally have more grape sugar than in France, because the climate is generally hotter. There is also a tendancy to leave more residual sugar (sometimes well over 2 g/L) in the wine, leaving a slightly sweet taste, even in red wines. Riper grapes mean more extraction of color and tannins (plus many wineries are looking for highly extracted wines). But the main factor is climate. You find "richer" wines in the Rhone Valley in France, for example, than in the Loire Valley, because of the hot southern climate (both the whites and the reds). Hope this is helpful!
as you will have noticed most new world wines have a much higher percentage of alcohol. californian wines taste sweeter because alcohol imparts sweetness: ie: makes it seem sweeter (more palatable for consumer who do not drink wine on its own). However many also have a higher residual sugar level simply because their is no law as far as I know that dictates what is a dry wine. In France INAO puts AOC wines through chemical analisis after avery vintage before granting AOC.
Great question, SeeJay. I'll add a sensory sidenote to the super answers provided by Rugger and Explorer and Julien:

Aroma can contribute to the perception of taste. In this case, the aroma of ripe fruit can make you believe that the wine tastes sweet.

Sensory scientists have shown that when ripe strawberry aromas are added to a sugar-water solution, tasters rate the solution with ripe fruit aromas as being sweeter than the same solution without the added aroma.

When it comes to wine, riper grapes impart aromas of riper fruit. Your brain associates those really ripe aromas with sweetness and you find yourself thinking that the wine is sweet.

The best way to check for sweetness, short of getting your hands on the wine's tech sheets from the winery, is to pay close attention to the taste and the mouthfeel. The presence of RS can be indicated by a sweet taste and a slightly cloying, coating sensation in your mouth.
Let's talk about certain Languedocs as well. You are right and we all agree that alcohol encreses this perception of what in France we call moelleux. Than the extractions and even vanilla notes from the oke can sometimes give a certain roundness that boosts the same sensation.

Best regards
Julia Gosea
Sommelier-Conseil

quote:
Originally posted by French Wine Explorers:
It depends what you mean by "rich". If you mean more alcoholic, then that does have to do with the initial amount of grape sugars present in the wine. In CA, you'll generally have more grape sugar than in France, because the climate is generally hotter. There is also a tendancy to leave more residual sugar (sometimes well over 2 g/L) in the wine, leaving a slightly sweet taste, even in red wines. Riper grapes mean more extraction of color and tannins (plus many wineries are looking for highly extracted wines). But the main factor is climate. You find "richer" wines in the Rhone Valley in France, for example, than in the Loire Valley, because of the hot southern climate (both the whites and the reds). Hope this is helpful!

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