Posts Tagged ‘Oenology’

 

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.
Read on …

The science of winemaking.

 

From refining a style to rescuing a difficult vintage, how outsiders can help a winery

 

WHEN MICHEL ROLLAND was named the winemaking consultant to France’s Château Figeac two months ago, a great protest was registered in certain wine-drinking circles. The St. Émilion grand cru would be ruined; the wine would be “Rolland-ized,” opined drinkers posting on a popular discussion board. One reader even declared that the move was “a disaster for all fans of Figeac.” The impassioned discussion ran to seven pages and lasted two weeks. Who would guess that a winemaking consultant—even the world’s most famous one—had the power to provoke such an outpouring of passion, not to mention a purported ability to destroy a Bordeaux estate?

Winemaking consultants range from professionals who might offer a word of advice on the final blend to those who are involved in every phase of the winemaking—from the vineyard to the bottling line. While consultants have been employed for decades, the profession has lately been the subject of much debate: Do consultants actually help elevate the wines of an individual estate, or do they simply stamp out the same wine over and over again? For example, to members of that particular discussion board, a “Michel Rolland wine” was shorthand for an “overripe, over-extracted, high-alcohol” product. But was that fair? I contacted some prominent winemaking consultants—starting with Mr. Rolland—to hear what they had to say.

 

Read on …

Sonoma's old vines.

Sonoma’s old vines.

 

In Sonoma’s Bedrock Vineyard, I’m surrounded by 124-year-old twisted vines with the arthritic look of stumpy bonsai trees.
The mad mix includes a couple of dozen varieties. Bedrock winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson points out familiar zinfandel, little-known bastardo, nearly extinct castets and some grapes no one’s yet identified.

He makes a pretty delicious red that contains almost all of them.

“Old vine field blends are the only California wines that aren’t ersatz,” he says. “They’re unique. What’s magical is the sum of the parts.”

His dozen or so red and white cuvees from historic vineyards are among the state’s most fascinating wines, high on bold personality, with warmth, intensity, perfumed aromas and layers of flavor. Tasting them, I’m drinking California wine history.

While Sonoma has the largest concentration of old vineyards in the state, they’re in danger of disappearing.

Twain-Peterson, 32, is one of the people on a mission to save them.

In old tan shorts, grey shirt, and a three-day beard, he tours me around this vineyard he owns with his family, filling me in on its backstory. The founders, in 1854, were “Fightin’ Joe” Hooker and two-time shipwreck survivor and banker William “Tecumseh” Sherman, who later became famous Civil War generals.

After root-louse phylloxera wiped out the vines in the 1880s, mining magnate Sen. George Hearst, father of newspaperman William Randolph Hearst, splashed out part of his fortune from the Comstock
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Australian oenology pioneer, Ray Beckwith.

Australian oenology pioneer, Ray Beckwith.

 

Working for Penfolds, Beckwith discovered how winemakers could prevent spoiled wine

 

Ray Beckwith, considered one of the founding fathers of Australian winemaking, passed away Nov. 7, in his longtime home region, the Barossa Valley. He was 100.

Beckwith will be remembered for his 1930s research on stabilizing wine and protecting it from spoilage, work that laid the foundations for Australia’s modern wine industry. His work at Penfolds from 1935 to 1973 revolutionized winemaking practice and was instrumental in the development of Penfolds’ leading red wines—Grange, Bin 389 and St Henri.

Winemaker and author Ian Hickinbotham, who made the first wines at Wynns Coonawarra estate during the same era, told Wine Spectator, “Let’s be blunt—there would have been no Grange without Beckwith’s brilliance. Possibly, Beckwith contributed more to Australian enology than any other.”

In 1936, Beckwith made the groundbreaking discovery that… read on

After an exhilarating first day at the Cape Wine 2012, Professor Alain Deloire from the Department of Viticulture and Oenology at the University of Stellenbosch, kicked off a fascinating seminar on “A passion for old vines”.

The beautiful and charm of old vines. (Image courtesy of Martin Redmond)

On a academic level an old vine could be defined as an old woody structure consisting of roots, a trunk and arms. The aspect that distinguished it as an old vine however, is the fact that such a vine is “full of memory”.

On a genetic level, the old organs on such a vine, are not only able to annually give birth to new leafs and berries, but miraculously also pass on its “memory” to these new organs.

It is this “memory’ that makes old vines so precious. In a sense, old vines will after years of being cultivated in a specific site, become at home that environment. They will adapt themselves to a specific climate, soil and people. This will then be stored in their “memory”.

European producers and even consumers have been aware of this for centuries and because of this a strong relationship exists between the perceived quality of a wine and the age of the vines. Older vines are simply seen as producing better quality wine and are equally true for both red and white varieties. This quality aspect is founded on the fact that an old vine has an established root system.

The European producers are also in the habit of isolating buds containing the “memory” when and where ever old vines are discovered. This genetic material are then used to transfer the “stored” memory to new vines.

In a country where vineyards are being planted for production “runs” off between 20 and 25 years only, such an approach to old vines asked for a serious mind-shift.

Can this be to tall an order and to big a dilemma for an industry so focused on just keeping the boat afloat on an ever changing global economic ocean?

They are part of the new generation promoting worldwide the Argentine wine. They are awarded and recognized by the international press for their innovations.

These young winemakers are around 30 years old and started to make incursion into the wine world when it did well in the international markets, 7 years ago. These professionals are propelling the new style of Argentine wines. At the tip of the iceberg, Marcelo Pelleritti, Monteviejo winery’s winemaker is found, along with Alejandro Vigil of Catena Zapata, being the precursors of this generation. Then, they are followed by great winemakers such as Ignacio López (Etchart winery), Juan Pablo Michelini (Zorzal Wines), Marcos Fernández (Finca Decero), Matthieu Grassin (Alta Vista), Germán Masera (Noemia) Matías Riccitelli (Matías Riccitelli, Mr & Mr SA), and Sebastian Zuccardi (Familia Zuccardi).

All of them agree that the wine is not only for experts and they want to demystify it. They maintain that their challenge is to show the world that Argentina is not only Malbec. This group of winemakers seems to be thrilled to… read on