Wednesday, January 13, 2010

"There is truth in wine, though it may take a little time"

Vinification by definition: Attaining quality and style in the fermentation of the grapes and aging of the wine.

Viticulture by definition: Attaining fruit quality through agricultural decisions.

You guessed it there are more decisions to be made once the grapes are grown and the vermin have been avoided!

It is Harvest time! Yay, you say!


When do you harvest? Summer of course...but do you pick in the morning, afternoon or at night? And you thought this was going to be an easy question! The easy, short answer is when ever it is the coolest out side, so that the grapes are still firm and less fragile.

Next how do you harvest? By hand or machine? both have their benefits, it usually comes down to a matter of money.

Once the grapes are harvested and safely in the winery it is time for the crushing. More decisions, do you de-stem or leave the stems in tact? Do you crush the grapes by machine or by foot, of course assuming your feet are clean. while machines normally promise they have clean feet, they also may end up crushing the seeds, adding a hint of bitter to the wine. Foot treading grapes is still practiced mainly in Portugal and mainly for high dollar ports. Apparently it is expensive to get people to stomp your grapes.

If a white wine is whole cluster pressed, this is where they press it stems and all. Somehow this causes the wine to be less bitter. Now a little known fact for those who are not wine geeks, all grape juice starts out clear. The color of a wine comes from the skins. If it is a white wine you are making the skins are removed before fermentation. For red the skins are left on, the longer the skins are left on the darker the color, higher the tannins and the more intense the flavors become.

Adjusting the must, is a must, or at least check the must. The Must is the unfermented juice of grapes extracted by pressing before it is fermented. Checking the must is to find out if the sugar levels are where they should be. There are a lot of complicated steps from here having to do with fermentation, first getting the yeast and sugar together so they can become alcohol. Off to the presses! There is a coating of yeast on the skins of the grapes and when they are crushed or split this causes the sugar from the juice to blend with the yeast and so begins fermentation. Now if we are making white wine, the skins are removed before fermentation begins. If it is to be red wine we leave the skins in during fermentation. The longer the skins are left in the mix the darker the color.

At this point we almost have wine! Just a few months to a few years away....lets take a break and grab a glass of wine. With all this wine talk I am feeling parched.

The wino's question to you is, was your wine of choice fermented with the skins on? or Off?

In wine there is truth

Viticulture is the process of obtaining fruit quality through agricultural decisions. The main goal of viticulture is to produce grapes with characteristics deemed desirable to produce a wine at a price which the wine can be sold for a profit. This is no simple task, there are so many decisions that go into growing producing and bottling wine...that it seems almost overwhelming. Every decision from choosing a site for growing grapes, the soil they grow in all the way to the process of aging will effect the quality, style and price of the wine.

Once all these decisions are made the entire process could take up to five years before the wine makers know for sure if all the decisions were good ones. This is not like cooking where you can taste the product along the way. Tasting the dirt probably won't tell you much.

Without overwhelming you with all the gorey detains of Viticulture, there was a detail that I learned about that I found very interesting. Almost all of the worlds grapes grapes are grafted and planted on American Rootstock. A rootstock is a just the stump, which already has an established, healthy root system. Due to a little bug called Phylloxera, that loves grape vine roots. This bug originally is from the eastern United States, and our grape roots are immune to this bug, making it the perfect root stock.

Of course the bad news is we wouldn't need to do this if the Americans had not shared our little Phylloxera bug with the Europeans in the late 1800's....thereby destroying the wine industry around the world. Them little bugs travel fast and were really hungry. All is good now, but maybe don't mention it when visiting France...this could explain why they are not that fond of us.

"Life is like wine, the longer you take to enjoy it the more chance you've got of tasting vinegar.”