I have this rather idyllic perception of how wines should be made. The K.I.S.S. method (Keep It Simple, Stupid) in life seems to be the better approach more times than not.
I really appreciate the effort involved when I hear that a winemaker went out of his way to produce a wine with as little intervention as possible, although that may not always be practical. Some people, including me, feel that the grapes are at their maximum potential as they hang on the vine and that each manipulation along the way to the bottle can only take away from that potential. Although a wine has never been made without some form of manipulation, I feel it should be limited when possible. Winemakers use ever more science to their advantage to make a more consistent and better-tasting product. I guess my question is: How much manipulation is too much? As a winemaker, where do you draw the line?
I know of a famous California cult-Cab producer that made a highly rated wine in a great vintage that I feel was over-manipulated. I learned this because I asked a friend who works for the winery what happened to this particular wine. I felt it was flawed, and he agreed. It tasted like dry Port with volatile acidity and was raspy on the palate. I tasted it many different times and found the same notes. Not what I expected from a wine that garnered a triple-digit score from another wine publication.
He explained to me that the winery team harvested the grapes at sugar levels of more than 30 Brix, which gave them a potential alcohol level of around 17 percent--well above normal. Normal yeasts will die from alcohol poisoning before the wine reaches this level, leaving some of the sugar unfermented. So the staff added water to dilute the juice to the point where the yeast could ferment it completely dry, with all sugar being converted to alcohol (and CO2). In diluting it, they changed the acid balance as well, which is also important in fermentation, so they added acid to better accommodate the yeast. After fermenting the wine dry, they used a reverse-osmosis device to remove the amount of water that they had added. This brings the juice back to its original concentration, but concentrates everything else in the wine as well, including the alcohol and the acidity. They then used spinning cones to remove alcohol to get it down to a more normal level, and then they de-acidified the wine to get the acid levels back down. Whew. The hose-draggers must have been spent after that vintage.
I understand the desire to have physiologically ripe grapes for full flavor development. But what if flavors do not fully develop until the sugars hit 35 Brix? Then what?
I applaud Brian Loring for being so open in his blogs about how he produces wine. Most wine producers who utilize rather scientific methods do not discuss it openly. It seems to be a taboo in the industry to even bring it up.
I realize that everything in the world is not perfect, and winemakers do get paid for a reason. They know how to get the best results with what they are given. I just feel that there should be a happy medium on the scientific front. Maybe I am once again way off the crush-pad, but I’m just wondering where this middle ground is?
Any winemakers want to chime in?
Lorenzo Erlic — victoria canada — December 2, 2006 12:31am ET
Brian Loring — Lompoc, CA — December 2, 2006 3:16pm ET
Anacleto Ludovic — paris france — December 2, 2006 4:08pm ET
Delmonico Stkhse @ Venetian — Las Vegas, Nevada — December 2, 2006 6:29pm ET
Apj Powers — Dallas, TX — December 2, 2006 8:23pm ET
Brian Loring — Lompoc, CA — December 2, 2006 8:40pm ET
John Gavin — CA — December 3, 2006 8:01pm ET
Delmonico Stkhse @ Venetian — Las Vegas, Nevada — December 4, 2006 1:43am ET
Kevin Rogers — Geyserville, CA — December 4, 2006 6:00pm ET
Edoardo Fioravanti — Florence\ Italy — December 19, 2006 7:08pm ET
Filippo Recchi — Florence, Italy — December 21, 2006 7:19am ET
John Poggemeyer — Cleveland, OH — January 4, 2007 1:13pm ET
Delmonico Stkhse @ Venetian — Las Vegas, Nevada — January 5, 2007 8:36pm ET
Berry Crawford — January 10, 2007 4:18pm ET
Michael C Thompson — Destin, FL — April 22, 2008 10:14am ET
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions