Archive for the ‘Winemaking’ Category

We can only wish ...

We can only wish …

 

Let me be clear. I don’t make wine. I have never made wine. Everything I may know about making wine comes first from books and secondly from correlating what winemakers say about making wine with how their wines taste.

Over the years, I have accumulated a lot of “learning”, and I can now say with full conviction that there is no one way to make wine.

I have heard all the theories, listened as winemakers proclaimed everything from biodynamics to barrel aging, from high acid to high approachability as the only answers, the “right” answers.

I have had to hold my tongue with some difficulty as winemaker after winemaker disparaged their peers whose wines I have praised in print. “Added a little water”? “Added acid”? “Used more than 25% new oak”? All verboten.
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I saw a he-said, he-said argument about sexism in wine media this week and it got me to thinking about the state of sexism in the wine industry.

About 20 years ago, the wine industry was male-dominated at every level. Today, women winemakers are common, and some wineries have advertised specifically looking a woman to take the post. Women general managers are more rare, but they exist.

Women sommeliers were rare as recently as 10 years ago, but don’t seem so anymore. One place I don’t see a lot of women is in wholesaling, which is the most consistently profitable occupation.
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One of the most disappointing moments in life is opening up a bottle of wine and realizing that it’s spoiled. While it may seem trivial to consider such an occurrence as such a detrimental moment, you have to realize that we’re passionate about wine.

Besides, it’s embarrassing to return a bad bottle of wine at a restaurant. And, it’s frustrating when you find that perfect bottle, only to come home and discover you wasted your money. Remember, we’re talking about wine that has a default flavor profile, not ranting about wines that taste horrible. So, how exactly does a bottle of wine go bad? There are several factors that can explain so.

Oxidation

Perhaps the most common fault in wine is oxidation. This occurs when the wine is overexposed to oxygen, which is wine’s worst enemy. Oxidation will lead wine to lose it’s flavor, giving it a lifeless taste and resembling vinegar. Color will also be affected. White wines will appear darker and others will become cloudy.

Environmental Conditions

There are various environmental conditions that can ruin a bottle of wine. These can occur from the wine-making process to bottling to storage. Here’s a rundown of the most common environmental problems.

  • Tainted cork, or TCA, occurs when mold grows on a chlorine bleached cork, or even in the barrel. It creates an earthy, moldy and musty aroma that masks the wines natural fruit aromas.
  • Heat exposure, or maderized, happens when the wine is literally cooked. This is a result of in-proper storage, meaning the wine has spent an excessive amount of time above  55°F.Lightstrike can be a problem when a bottle of wine has been overexposed to UV radiation.
  • Ladybird taint can turn wine rancid when bugs, mostly beetles like ladybirds or Asian lady beetle, are harvested along with grapes.
  • Brettanomyces, or simply Brett, is simply yeast spoilage. Since this thrives on wood products, like barrels, we’ll go ahead and say that this is an environmental condition. Once a winery has been infected, it’s difficult to get rid of, since it can transfer from wood to wood. The result is a wine that tastes like a barnyard or wet dog.

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Winemaking is an 8,000-year-old tradition, and the first wines tasted … well, terrible.

 

People added ash, resin and even lead to “enhance” the flavor . Luckily, most wines today are pretty darn tasty on their own, thanks to modern fermentation techniques and innovations in packaging that help your wine stay fresher longer, and you certainly don’t have to worry that a wine-maker used lead to improve his product’s flavor!

We’ve also seen a big shift in where we produce wine. Once considered a hoity-toity European beverage, wine is made and drunk all over the world, and you’re as likely to find a decent glass of red at your neighborhood pizza joint as at a fancy French restaurant.

Winemakers have also gotten more conscious of their environmental impacts. Since a good wine starts with the grape, and good grapes start with good soil, the wine industry has stayed on the cutting edge of sustainable agriculture. Any vintner worth his salt knows that protecting the environment is more than just good for the planet — it’s good for his wines.

With such a long history, there have been lots of innovations through the centuries, from how winemakers grow grapes to how they market those bottles. Let’s look at 10 of them.
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Grape Harvest Festival in Mendoza, Argentina

Grape Harvest Festival in Mendoza, Argentina

A first look at vintage quality in South America, with eyewitness reports from growers and winemakers

Ready to taste the first wines of 2013? While vines are just flowering in Europe and North America, the Southern Hemisphere has picked, crushed and fermented this year’s crop. Argentina and Chile experienced a cool growing season, which left vintners waiting for grapes to fully ripen. That wasn’t a problem for big reds like Argentina’s Malbecs and Chile’s Cabernet Sauvignon, but it could be trouble for Chilean Sauvignon Blanc.

Here’s a sneak peek at the upcoming vintage. Check out Wednesday’s report on Australia and New Zealand and come back Friday for details on South Africa.

Argentina
The good news: A long, cool growing season produced what many winemakers are calling fresh wines

The bad news: Up and down temperatures tested winemakers’ patience and required long hang times for grapes to reach full maturation

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Harvest at Spier, Stellenbosch.

Harvest at Spier, Stellenbosch.

A first look at vintage quality, with eyewitness reports from growers and winemakers

Ready to taste the first wines of 2013? While vines are just flowering in Europe and North America, the Southern Hemisphere has picked, crushed and fermented this year’s crop. South African grapegrowers enjoyed a wet winter, meaning healthy yields, followed by a dry, warm summer. But rain during harvest made picking anxious at times.

Here’s a sneak peek at the upcoming vintage. Check out Wednesday’s report on Australia and New Zealand and Thursday’s on Argentina and Chile.

South Africa
The good news: South Africa’s 2013 harvest has drawn praise from most producers, with a strong start and finish to the growing season

The bad news: A bit of rain and humidity mid-harvest forced some producers to scramble for proper canopy management and gamble, successfully, on better weather late

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Grape harvest in the new world.

Grape harvest in the new world.

A first look at vintage quality down under, with eyewitness reports from growers and winemakers

Ready to taste the first wines of 2013? While vines are just flowering in Europe and North America, the Southern Hemisphere has picked, crushed and fermented this year’s crop. Australian vintners report that the 2012-2013 crop was small, thanks to dry conditions in the east and storms in the west. New Zealand’s North Island faced heavy frosts to start the season, while on the South Island, a compressed harvest made for a logistical nightmare.

Here’s a sneak peek at the upcoming vintage. Check back Thursday and Friday for South Africa, Argentina and Chile.
Australia
Region: South Australia: Clare Valley, Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Eden Valley, Limestone Coast

The good news: Low yields and dry conditions produced concentrated wines

The bad news: A series of heat waves reduced the size of the crop

Picking started: Mid-February

Promising grapes: Shiraz, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling

Analysis: Vintners in South Australia will remember 2013 as one of the earliest and shortest vintages in recent memory. Winemakers are excited with what they picked, reporting good to outstanding quality in both their white and red grapes. “There will be some truly awesome wines from 2013, just not as much of them to share,” said Paul Linder, winemaker at Langmeil in Barossa.

A combination of hot weather and below average rainfall in the spring reduced grape yields across the state. John Duval, of his eponymous winery in Barossa Valley, said vintners had to be diligent with their irrigation to protect grapes from withering on the vines. He said yields were down between 30 to 50 percent in Barossa Valley. Cooler growing regions such as Adelaide Hills and Coonawarra in the Limestone Coast avoided the worst of the heat.

A heat wave jumpstarted harvest in mid-February, with growers scrambling to pick grapes as sugar levels spiked. The upside to the dry conditions was low disease pressure in the vineyards and a small crop that produced concentrated grapes. “Reds are showing excellent color and flavor, with balanced tannin structure,” said Duval. Winemakers in Eden Valley and Clare Valley reported good natural acidity in their Rieslings, despite the heat.

 

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The origin of French wine.

The origin of French wine.

A new study finds evidence that ancient Gauls began wine production in 425 B.C. in the Languedoc

Dom Pérignon, Pétrus, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti—the roots of these iconic wines and all of French wine culture may lie in a simple stone press, according to new scientific research. Uncovered in the Mediterranean town of Lattes, just south of Montpelier, the roughly 2,400-year-old artifact was originally identified by archaeologists as an olive-oil press. But a new round of chemical and archaeological analysis now identifies the press as the earliest evidence of wine production in France.

The analysis, headed by Patrick McGovern, the scientific director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and reported in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, uses an array of evidence to not only hypothesize when the French started making wine, but who originally taught them how to do it.

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French wine industry rooted in Italy!

French wine industry has Italian roots!

The earliest evidence of wine in France suggests that it came from Italy, and that it was mixed with basil, thyme and other herbs, according to new research.

This early wine may have been used as medicine, and likely was imbibed by the wealthy and powerful before eventually becoming a popular beverage enjoyed by the masses, researchers said.

The artefacts found at the French port site of Lattara, near the southern city of Montpellier, suggest that winemaking took root in France as early as 500 BC, as a result of libations and traditions introduced by the ancient Etruscans in what is now Italy.

The analysis in the US journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is based on ancient wine containers and a limestone press brought by seafaring Etruscan travellers.

“France’s rise to world prominence in the wine culture has been well documented,” said lead author Patrick McGovern, director of the bimolecular archaeology laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

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Yes, it’s true. Two of China’s wines have won silver in this year’s Decanter World Wine Awards, Jing Daily reports.

The wines are the Great Wall Terrior 2006 from Shandong and Domaine Helan Mountain Special Reserve Chardonnay 2011 from Ningxia.

A total of 20 wines from China were recognized this year by Decanter out of a total 49 entries.

In 2011, Helan Qing Xue’s Jia Bei Lan Cabernet Dry Red 2009 received the top prize from Decanter, drawing much skepticism and controversy.

While China does not have a great reputation for its wine (real or otherwise), there are domestic vineyards producing quality wines.

 

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