In a previous blog entry about optimal berry size, Michael Donohue made the following statements:
“One of the beauties of wine is that is the sole alcoholic beverage that occurs completely 'sui generis' - NO additional hops or distillation required. Saignée or bleeding the vat might be acceptable IMHO if you are trying to make a rosé or make your wine more concentrated…”
I often wonder to myself if the only “acceptable” winemaking practices are those that have a French word that describe them, like saignée. Since I have yet to hear a French word for adding water to wine, it must not be cool. Just a little theory I’m working on. :-)
I responded to Michael that there is at least one thing routinely added to wine: oak. Oak barrels have a huge flavor impact to wine. And red wine (especially Pinot Noir) without any oak tastes really weird.
Since I was feeling pretty good about having defended my position, I started thinking more about Michael’s question. And then something else hit me – something so accepted and traditional that I knew I’d get in trouble even mentioning it. But I just can’t help myself. What had popped into my mind was … what about stems?
Whole-cluster fermentation has been around forever. My assumption is that prior to the existence of destemming equipment, all red wines must have been produced from whole-cluster fermentation. But are stems a main ingredient, or are they an addition? Now that we can easily remove the stems, is including them a manipulation? After all, isn’t it the fruit that we’re really after?
I know, it sounds almost heretical, doesn’t it? And believe me, I’m not saying that whole-cluster fermentation is wrong in any way. But it was something that crossed my mind. I know that the grapes are attached to the stems, and the cluster is what’s picked, not individual grapes. But if I think about it, I can’t see any reason why you’d consider the stem to be the core of what makes wine. They must be an addition.
Personally, I don’t like the idea of adding stems to our fermenters – mostly because they look like vegetables. And I HATE vegetables. So no stems for us. The weird thing is that I do like wines made from whole-cluster fermentation, especially from wineries like Calera and Brewer-Clifton. I just can’t bring myself to use them at Loring.
What do you think? Are stems an integral part of wine? Or are they just another manipulation found in the winemaking toolkit?
Larry Schaffer — Central Coast — November 10, 2006 1:01pm ET
D Fredman — Malibu, CA — November 10, 2006 3:54pm ET
Brian Loring — Lompoc, CA — November 10, 2006 6:24pm ET
Charles J Stanton — Eugene, OR — November 10, 2006 10:11pm ET
James Molesworth — November 11, 2006 8:56am ET
D Fredman — Malibu, CA — November 12, 2006 10:04am ET
S Vaughn White — November 13, 2006 3:21pm ET
Kevin Rogers — Geyserville, CA — November 13, 2006 4:51pm ET
Robert Fukushima — California — November 13, 2006 8:45pm ET
Kirk R Grant — Ellsworth, ME — November 14, 2006 6:30am ET
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