Saturday, February 28, 2015

Is terroir still central to winemaking? Doesn’t it seem that the New World wines lower its significance...

Is terroir still central to winemaking?  Doesn’t it seem that New World wines and new world winemakers on the face of it give a lower profile to its significance? Is that really happening?

A lot of wine drinkers say terroir and the ‘sense of place’ is the most important necessity in the wines they most enjoy drinking.

Why is that?

The crux of the issue is that there’s this acceptance that establishing the appearance of prestige for a wine and those who drink it is very important... and to the French this is no alien concept. They are so very good at this

The French market prestige very successfully, particularly in Bordeaux and Burgundy which has exaggeratedly increased the value of the wine in those areas; it’s almost guaranteed that with every vintage there’s recognition that the wines constantly have a place at the uppermost of the wine industry.

In roughly all cases, it practically doesn’t matter what chateau or domaine produced the wine, as the brand is so powerfully tied to the region.

But let’s be clear… the history of accomplishment that has permitted this occurrence to happen, has taken a lot of time and a lot of money and Bordeaux and Burgundy has some of the worlds very best wines.

But can the same tactic be used effectively in the new world?

Napa Valley has as near to a terroir-like approach. Does it matter?

...and yes Napa Valley has established an almost unusual success among wine drinkers, especially with cult cabs and the spotlight on certain AVA's... But has this truly furthered the region in total?

It’s not so easy to pinpoint because of the regions and sub-regions.

A lot of the new world areas are so much more infinite than their equivalents in the old world. So there will be some degree of comparison. But sometimes not. Let's take the Barossa Valley of Australia as an example; there are some thirty different soil types while in to contrast in Bordeaux France there are about six.

So how much specificity can one find with the amazing amount of variableness. Probably not very much all the time.

Does modern wine making in new world vineyards make the perception of terroir irrelevant?

Right now the many regions and sub-regions of the new world are virtually unknown outside the local community. It's changing but not at an accelerated pace. That’s where marketing can come into play and poses a conundrum.

Considering prestige of areas like Bordeaux and Burgundy; the effect is that new world wine makers are pushing the regions that are known and that leads to the new world winemakers knowing that they can do better by leveraging the areas that are known. This leads to more and more oversimplification which is without question the opposite of what terroir is really all about.

What’s really happening is that as more new world producers start to take an interest in terroir, the scientists are staying on top of it and are becoming more concerned in defining terroir and describing its effects on wines. Because there is no denying that where grapes are grown impart unique characteristics into those grapes, which are singular to their region of the world.


Monday, February 2, 2015

Making "White Wine is a Beautiful Thing and knowing the 'Key Steps' goes a long way!

Springtime is here!

We all know making Red Wines have a process to go through... White Wines have a process they go through as well and it's basically straight forward. There very little that can be considered 'really' right or wrong. The thing is you ask 10 different wine makers on something you might get 10 different answers! So as you go along try to find out 'why' you do something...not only just 'what' to do.

So let's talk about what it takes to make White wines once they go from the vineyard to the actual wine making process...

After Harvesting the grapes, Crushing and De-stemming the grapes, Cold soaking them and Pressing the juice. There are some key steps that are the important to making white wine. 

Ok, here we go with the 'key steps'...

Key Step 1:  Alcoholic Fermentation
This critical process the converting of the sugars into alcohol. Essential! Fermentation requires the action of yeasts in order to turn the sugars into alcohol. Now these yeasts can be the natural yeasts from the vineyard, or specially selected, cultured yeasts. The cultured yeasts are much easier to control and they ensure guarantee a more consistent fermentation. The natural yeasts, on the other hard, ensure a truer manifestation of the vineyard’s terroir, but can be a lot less reliable and more challenging and sluggish. So each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Also Note…the fermentation vessel used is a very big decision. For example; there's oak, stainless steel or the use of another inert vessel.
Because of its strong attraction with oak, Chardonnay is often fermented in small oak barrels to control the oak influence. But not always...definitely not always. Oak can reflect vanilla, coconut, caramel, spices, toast and all kinds of nuances and flavors.

It's also good to know that aromatic grapes such as Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc are typically fermented in stainless steel or other inactive vessels to preserve their vibrant aromas and flavors.
Also, fermentation temperature also impacts the wine.

Overall, white wines are typically fermented at cooler temperatures than red. The cooler the temperature the more well-preserved the primary fruit aromas and flavors. Warmer temperatures make for a more 'structured' wine.

Usually when the yeasts have converted all the sugars to alcohol the fermentation is over, you essentially have a dry wine... But, if the intended style off dry or medium sweet, the winemaker will stop the fermentation before all the sugars have been converted.., this leaves the desired amount of residual sugar. You see that in the Loire, France whites wines for example.

Key step 2: Malolactic Fermentation (sometimes known as MLF)
After the alcoholic fermentation.. some white wines go through a process called ‘malolactic fermentation’. It's a re-stirring! So technically this is not a true fermentation it’s really a conversion of any remaining ‘tart’ malic acid (think green apples) in the wine to the softer lactic acid (think milk).

Again, Chardonnay is one of the main wines to undergo full or partial malolactic fermentation. Have you ever noticed that many Chardonnay wines have a buttery or creamy note? Well, pretty much due to this to this process. It's so good with Seafood and Shellfish! 

Key Step 3: Lees Ageing
When all the fermentation is over, the new wine is resting on all the dead yeast cells, this is called called ‘lees’. The big or heavy lees are usually racked (drained off) off fairly quickly. But many winemakers choose to leave the new wine on the remaining ‘fine lees' for a period of time... now it can be anything from a few weeks to several months and sometimes even years. The winemakers do this because ageing on the lees adds texture, palate weight and complexity to the wine. It also helps keep the wine fresh while waiting to be bottled.

During this time, some winemakers, again a lot of the time with Chardonnay, they do what is called ’battonnage’ – which is simply the stirring of these 'lees' around, to give an even more creamy texture to the wine.
***Now Blending can happen if desired...and this is a critical in achieving the final desired style.

Wines made from a mix of different grape varieties are probably what's thought of when we think of first think of blends.

But varietal wines are very often blends too...

For example; blends from different vineyards or blends of wines from different vats that were treated differently during winemaking or maturation. you see blending enables the winemaker to achieve smoothness and consistency in a wine.

Key Step 4: The Finishing of the wine...which has it's own situations, which I'll keep to the very basic statement.

Before bottling, wines can be clarified. This is to ensure that the wine is stable and that's it's own involved process in itself...
For example wines with residual sugar really need to be sterile filtrated to make sure that there is not even one little yeast cell still remaining that could start a re-fermentation in the bottle. That's would suck and would put a major damper on things, so you can imagine...

Well there you go...

Those are the Key steps in making white wine that make all the difference in the world.

In breaking it out like this you can better understand what it takes to make the whites which often seems like magic!
Voila! There you go!