In the middle of our busy days I can occasionally get a photo of something I have been thinking of sharing with you. This may seem disjointed, but there are things that I have learned and things that amaze me in my quest to make better wine that I hope you can appreciate with me.
I have now been tasting wine (vinifera) grapes as they ripen for two years; last year I had lots of questions about how to know if the grapes were ripe since sweetness was far beyond what ordinary table grapes would ever be. As the rachis matures it ‘lignifies’ or turns woody brown (most do this, some only begin to show lignification before ripeness). The same is true of the seeds, green before ripe and nut-brown when truly ripe. White grapes go from green to pale gold while red varietals have their own version of redness that deepens as they mature. Knowing what style of wine you want to make determines what stage of ripening the grapes will be picked at. So many variables make for the interesting wines we have to choose from!
Making Rose’ wine, since fermentation basically bleaches the juice, requires contact with the skins, so how long do you really need to leave the juice in contact? Varietal has a lot to do with the contact time. Style of making the Rose’ also has a bearing, but that is a much more involved topic by itself. As we have taken samples during the last few weeks we squeezed the berries when we pick them to give them time to sit in the bag, with the skins, before draining off the amount we need to test the Brix, pH, and acid levels. Maturity of the grapes again plays a part in releasing the color from the skins.
Is it necessary to use a lab? Whether it is in-house or not, having scientific data available to help guide choices has merit. Having made wine without the benefits of lab results I am a believer in using them. Wine isn’t all science, but it seems to me there are perks when blending science and art. Big facilities that make huge amounts of juice don’t actually taste each tank/barrel/blend, they rely on lab results heavily. Smaller, boutique/craft, wineries can better balance the ‘art’ side of winemaking with the science if they choose. Having cut my wine teeth in a state that has more boutique wineries than large-scale wineries, I am partial to the small-scale production wines.
Yeast, native or commercial, have to be healthy to ferment the juice it is thrown into. Who knew yeast have nutritional requirements and preferences? When you bake, you learn the temperature and moisture necessary to activate yeast cells, but feeding the yeast isn’t as readily important when the turn-around from beginning to baking is hours instead of days like in wine. Since we all want our wine to turn out ‘excellent’ we want to reduce the problematic microbes that compete with the yeast we inoculate with, so ensuring our yeast are healthy and happy is a big-deal.
A well-respected winemaker, from one of the larger ‘small’ local wineries, commented that we are in the ‘controlled-chaos’ state during crush. After all of the waiting and rescheduling I had to laugh about the controlled part – but it is full of interesting moments! Some are actually peaceful. It is a world apart from my previous life and I appreciate that so very much.