Episode 41: Let's Talk Winemaking
Happy 2024 Wine Family! We're kicking off the new year by getting back to basics. In this episode we are breaking down some different winemaking processes and how they affect the wine you're drinking.
Pop Some Bottles:
We're featuring our very own 2020 Kamp Tal Gruner Veltliner on this episode. Julie gives you the low down on all of her winemaking decisions that created a white wine that is drinking better than ever 3 years in.
The date the grapes are harvested usually shows up on the bottle in the form of the vintage date. But for this example we're not necessarily discussing whether or not a particular year was a "good" vintage. Instead we want to explore when in the season the grapes are harvested and how that decision affects the wine being made.
Different grape varieties will ripen at different rates of course. But on top of that if you're harvesting grenache with the intention of making it into a rosé you're probably going to decide to harvest those grapes earlier than if you were planning on making a red wine with those same grapes.
Maceration Time, Cold Soaking and Skin Contact:
Maceration is just a fancy wine term for how long the grape skins are in contact with the juice, aka skin contact. Typically this happens during fermentation. But did you know that there is a process called cold soaking where the grapes are left to sit in cold temperatures before fermentation to extend their maceration time? We're breaking down how that can affect your wines.
Yeast Selection and Nutrients in Wine:
Ah yes, the age old (not really) debate about native yeasts and commercial yeasts. A winemakers decision about what type of yeast they use to ferment their wines does have a big impact on how the wine will turn out whether you're on the natural wine train or not.
Hot vs Cool Fermentation:
Fermentation temperature makes a difference! When yeasts are converting sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide is it an exothermic reaction which is to say it a release of heat. As the yeast replicate more and more of them are eating sugar causing the heat to rise pretty rapidly until about 95-100 degrees. Then taper off as the wine finishes fermenting.
Some winemakers like to start off with warmer ferments and then cool them off, or vice versa, using their experience with their grapes to coax more color and texture, to give the yeasts what they want so they don’t struggle before they are done doing their important job.
Whole Cluster Fermentation or Destemming:
The simple breakdown is this, whole cluster means including (or partially) including the grape stems as the wine is fermenting. Destemming means, not surprisingly, no stems at all are included. Stems can add very specific flavors to your wine as well as more tannic structure.
Pump Overs vs Punch Downs:
You've got to keep your cap wet! You know, that famous saying. Here's the deal, during fermentation the grape skins are going to settle at the top of whatever tank or vessel you're fermenting in and form a cap. And the whole point of keeping those grape skins in the fermentation mix to get all the goodies that they have to offer. Things like color pigment and structure. So in order to big these components into the mix you have to make sure the skins are constantly mixing with all the juice. AKA you've got to keep your cap wet!
But there are different techniques for doing that, namely a pump over verus a punch down. And at this point in the article it shouldn't surprise you that the choice of which of those techniques to use to going to affect the flavors of your wine.
Oak vs Stainless Steel:
And then last but not least we want to talk about what the wine is aged in and how that affects the wines flavors. We've covered this concept a little more in depth in another podcast episode.
But for today let's talk about Chardonnay. I like to call Chardonnay the tofu of wine grapes. On its own it's got a little something going on but it is highly susceptible to its environment. And by environment I mean both where it is grown and how it is treated in the winery.
Chardonnay that is aged in oak barrels tends to be richer, even darker in color with flavors of baking spices like vanilla, clove and nutmeg. But a Chardonnay that is aged in stainless steel tends to be crisp and bright and clear with flavors of citrus, minerals and chalk.
What you age your wines in makes a difference.
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