About Me


Gavin Hubble - (BSc & Post Grad. Business Marketing) - I started working in the wine industry over 23 years ago in New Zealand. Working in; wine retail, sales, wine production, label & packaging design, marketing, wine buying, consulting and wine education. I am responsible for the Brand Health of 60+ wine brands distributed here in New Zealand. Wine Brands from New Zealand, Australia, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Chile and Argentina. I work closely with the Trade Industry - (Retail Stores & Restaurants) introducing, educating and positioning exciting and unique brands to wine enthusiasts all over the world.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Amphora

An amphora is a type of ceramic vase with two handles and a long neck narrower than the body. The word amphora is Latin, derived from the Greek 'amphoreus', an abbreviation of 'amphiphoreus', a compound word combining 'amphi' - ('on both sides') plus 'phoreus' ('carrier'), from 'pherein' ('to carry').
Amphorae first appeared on the Syrian coast around the 15th century BC and spread around the ancient world, being used by the ancient Greeks and Romans as the principal means for transporting and storing grapes, olive oil, wine, oil, olives, grain, fish, and other supplies. They were used around the Mediterranean until about the 7th century, then wooden and skin containers seem to have taken the place of amphorae thereafter.

 

Amphorae were so cheap and plentiful, when empty, they were broken up at their destination. In Rome this happened in an area named Testaccio, close to Tiber, in such a way that the fragments, later wetted with Calcium hydroxide, remained to create a hill now named Monte Testaccio 45 metres tall and more than 1 km in circumference.
High-quality painted amphorae were produced in significant numbers for a variety of social and ceremonial purposes. Their design differs significantly from the more functional versions; they are typified by wide mouth and a ring base, with a glazed surface and decorated with figures or geometric shapes.
Two principal types of amphora existed: the neck amphora, in which the neck and body meet at a sharp angle; and the one-piece amphora, in which the neck and body form a continuous curve. Neck amphorae were commonly used in the early history of ancient Greece but were gradually replaced by the one-piece type from around the 7th century BC onwards. Most were produced with a pointed base to allow them to be stored in an upright position by being partly embedded in sand or soft ground.
Amphorae varied greatly in height. The largest could stand as much as 1.5 metres high; while some were less than 30 cm high, most were around 45 cm high.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Lagare

The Lagare is an open shallow concrete vat, perhaps one metre deep and several metres square. After the grapes are picked during the day, they are spread across the bottom of the Lagare until they reach a depth of about knee-height. Each Lagare contains a large drain connected directly to the fermentation vats and all are filled with the grapes every harvest day. Treading is taken very seriously as it is this process which lends Quinta de la Rosa wine a very special quality.

 

The local pickers, many of whom spent the day hauling the same grapes up and down the mountainside, bare footed and bare legged, clad in T-shirts and shorts, climb carefully into the open vat of freshly picked grapes. The individuals in each team link or place arms around each other's shoulders, thus, forming a continuous treading line. One designated individual quite loudly begins to call the treading rhythm, as he does so the left and then right leg of each of the individuals rises and falls in unison compressing the fruit with the bare soles of their feet.
The team continue relentlessly on for two full hours without a break. Once this first stage known as the 'Military' is completed, a further one hour of 'free' treading follows, this usually occurs at night, and often to the accompanied by music.
The end result (other than a number of purple workers) resembles nothing more than a port-filled stone tub. The naked human foot is actually ideal in that it applies just enough pressure to crush the grapes, but at the same time is soft enough to avoid shattering any of the grape seeds, releasing bitter flavours into the juice (a common flaw of mechanical presses).
While foot-treading is unusual, it is the fermentation process - or more accurately the practice of what might be called 'fermentus interruptus' - that makes port unique. This unnatural technique dates back nearly 300 years.
Though not unique to Quinta de la Rosa only a handful of properties in the Douro maintain this labour intensive tradition.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Vin Doux Naturel

Vin doux naturel translates as 'naturally sweet', but this is hardly the case, we are talking about wines made using 'mutage', the addition of grape spirit to the must, added before completion of fermentation. This action kills the yeast, and the unfermented sugar causes the wine to be sweet. With 'mutage', however, the yeast action is halted by the addition of alcohol, resulting in what is really a blend of wine, unfermented grape juice and added grape spirit. The most common styles involve Muscat usually 'Muscat a Petits Grains', as in Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, and Grenache, as in Banyuls an appellation of Roussillon.

 

This region might be regarded as the birthplace of the vin doux naturel method in France, as it was here, in the 13th Century, that Arnaud de Villeneuve, of the medical school at Montpellier University, perfected the technique. Arnaud a renowned doctor demonstrated that the addition of spirit to the must halted fermentation, and so won a patent from the king of Majorca, who then ruled Roussillon.
Despite this great success, this particular use of grape spirit was of no great interest to Arnaud; like many physicians, he valued the relatively new process of distillation because of the medicinal properties of the alcohol obtained. Yet centuries later, Arnaud's method of mutage remains essentially unchanged.
With vin doux naturel (VDN), the spirit accounts for up to 10% or the total volume, but it is traditionally a very strong spirit that is added, often around (190 proof); as a result the total alcohol content of the finished product is typically 15%. Nowadays, the grape spirit is likely to come from the same source, the European wine lake, rather than local distillation, but whatever the source, the blending is such to give the final desired ABV in keeping with local tradition and, of course, wine laws. The resulting wines are usually 15 to 18% alcohol but can range as high as 21%. VDNs vary in sweetness, with white wines generally being sweeter and less alcoholic than reds.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Solera System

The Solera process is the aging of liquids like wine, vinegar and brandy, by fractional blending in such a way that the finished product is a mixture of ages, with the average age gradually increasing as the process continues over many years. A solera is literally the set of barrels or containers used in the process. Products which are often solera aged include; Sherry, Madeira, Marsala, Mavrodafni, Muscat, Balsamic, Commandaria, Sherry vinegars, Spanish brandy and rums.

 

This process known as solera (a Spanish word), was developed by the producers of sherry. In a Spanish sherry solera, the vintner may transfer up to a third of each barrel, each year. A solero sherry has to be at least three years old when bottled. The traditional Sherry Solera is exposed to the sun, hence the name. The warmth of the sun encourages an active fermentation and aging. This unique blending system consists of several rows of small oak barrels stacked upon one another grouped by vintages. The oldest is at the bottom and the most recent at the top.
At bottling, approximately one third of the contents of each of the barrels on the bottom level is removed. Sherry from the row immediately above will replace what was removed and so on until a complete transfer is made from top to bottom.
No container is ever drained, so some of the earlier product always remains in each barrel. This remnant diminishes to a tiny level, but there can be significant traces of product much older than the average, depending on the transfer fraction. In theory traces of the very first product placed in the solera may be present even after 50 or 100 years.
In Sicily, where Marsala wine is made, the system is called 'in perpetuum' (Latin - forever).
Some Sherry and especially Madeira can be labelled with the word 'Solera' and a date. This is a marketing strategy, as it simply means the year that the Solera was started, and the bottle may contain trace amounts from that year, at best.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Riddling

Riddling is one step in the traditional method of making Champagne or sparkling wine that is required for bottle fermented wines.
After aging the bottles undergo a process known as riddling (remuage in French). In this stage the bottles are placed on special racks called 'pupitres'. Riddling racks consists of two rectangular boards with a hinged top. On both sides of the rack have six rows, each row has ten holes designed to hold the champagne bottles by its neck. The riddling rack is capable of holding 120 bottles of champagne; however, there are some that are able to hold more.

 

The person that places the bottles in the racks is called the riddler. Each bottle is then marked on its base; generally that of a white line. On a daily basis, the riddler must turn each bottle a few degrees. After placing each bottle at a 45 degree angle with the cork pointing down. The shake and twist is intended to dislodge particles that have clung to the glass and prevent the sediments from caking in one spot; the tilt and drop encourage the particles, assisted by gravity, to move downward towards the neck; the time in between riddlings allows the particles to settle out of solution again. In about 6 to 8 weeks the position of the bottle is pointed straight down with sediment in the neck of the bottle.
This manual way of riddling sparkling wine is still used for Prestige Cuvees, but has otherwise been largely abandoned because of the high labour costs. Today this process is nearly entirely done by a machine invented in Spain in the 1970s. Since they handle hundreds of bottles simultaneously, gyro-palettes are both more efficient and more consistent at consolidating sediments than the traditional hand process.
When riddling is finished, the sediment collected in the bottle neck is frozen to form a 'plug' which the next step in the process removes (degorgement or 'disgorging'). After adjusting the level of fill and setting the sweetness, it is corked, caged, labelled, rested and then shipped to market.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Phenolics

The phenols compounds in wine include a large group of several hundred chemical compounds, known as polyphenolics, which affect the colour, taste and mouthfeel of wine.
This large group can be broadly separated into two categories-flavonoids and non-flavonoids. Flavonoids include anthocyanins and tannins which contribute to the colour, taste and mouthfeel of the wine. Non-flavonoids include stilbenes such as resveratrol and compounds derived from acids in wine like benzoic, caffeic and cinnamic acid. In wine grapes, phenolics are found widely in the skin, stems and seeds.

 

In winemaking, the process of maceration or 'skin contact' is used to increase the influence of phenols in wine. Phenolic acids are found in the pulp or juice of the wine and can be commonly found in white wines which usually doesn't go through a maceration period. The process of oak aging can also introduce phenolic compounds to wine, most notably in the form of vanillin which adds vanilla aroma to wines.
In red wine, up to 90% of the wine's phenolic content fall under the classification of flavonoids. These phenols, mainly derived from the stems, seeds and skins are often leeched out of the grape during the maceration period of winemaking. The amount of phenols leeched is known as extraction. In white wines the number of flavonoids is reduced due to less skin contact that they receive in winemaking. Like other flavonoids, the concentration of flavonols in the grape berries increases as they exposed to sunlight.
While phenolics comprise only 1% to 5% of wine constituents (majority water and alcohol), they are important because of their contribution towards appearance (colour), taste or mouthfeel (bitterness and astringency), and potential human health benefits.
Precipitated, they form an important part of wine's sediment and play a considerable role in wine ageing. Red wines are much higher in phenolics than white, which is why red wine is better at protecting against heart disease.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wine Bottle Sizes...

Over the centuries - because there was little uniformity in the size and shape of wine bottles, people purchasing wine often didn't know how much they were getting. At one point in the Roman Empire, people would bring their own bottles and just pay for the amount measured and poured into their bottles.
As the Romans advanced their techniques, they eventually discovered that the easy-to-blow onion-shape bottles they typically created weren't ideal for storing wine on its side, which helped it age and wet the (rags used as stoppers) or cork. Thus, they began making longer, flatter bottles that were easier to carry and contained a standard amount, between 0.70 litres and 0.80 litres. This also helped standardize the amount of wine people purchased, though it wasn't until the 1800s that glass blowers perfected this. In 1979 both the United States and the European Union set standards that wine bottles hold exactly 0.75 litres.

 

As well as the traditional (in many cases, legally required) 750ml bottle (the standard size found on wine merchants shelves), and the useful half-bottle (containing 375ml), there are a number of legally permitted 'large format' bottles. Many of these are named after biblical kings.

Here are some:
Jeroboam - There are two sizes of Jeroboams: the sparkling wine Jeroboam holds 4 bottles, or 3 litres: the still wine Jeroboam holds 6 bottles or 4.5 litres.
Rehoboam - Champagne only 4.5 litres or 6 bottles.
Imperial - 6 litres or 8 bottles. Methuselah - Same size as an Imperial (6 litres) usually used for sparkling wines.
Salmanazar - 12 bottles or 9L.
Balthazar - 16 bottles or 12L.
Nebuchadnezzar - 20 bottles or 15L.
Melchior - 24 bottles or 18L.
Solomon - 28 bottles or 20L.
Melchizedek - 40 bottles or 30L.

The only other commonly encountered size is the 500ml bottle, used for some Ports designed for drinking young, Tokay, the famous sweet wine of Hungary, and in France's Beaujolais area a 500ml bottle (which they call a pot) has long been used.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Oxidation

The oxidation of wine is perhaps the most common of wine faults, as the presence of oxygen and a catalyst are the only requirements for the process to occur. It is also known as maderized wine, from Madeira wine, which is intentionally oxidized.
Oxidation can occur throughout the winemaking process (hence exposure to oxygen in the winery is carefully controlled, although not completely avoided), and even after the wine has been bottled. Anthocyanins and other phenols present in wine are those most easily oxidised, which leads to a loss of colour, flavour and aroma - sometimes referred to as 'flattening'. In most cases compounds such as sulfur dioxide is added to wine by winemakers, which protect the wine from oxidation and also bind with some of the oxidation products to reduce their organoletptic effect.

 

When a wine becomes oxidized it will turn towards brown - just as a cut apple left on a bench top. White wines will start to show an amber tint and red wines will start to develop a brown edge when viewed in a glass that is tilted. In extreme cases where there is excessive air exposure over longer periods of time, the wine can develop a nutty to caramel aroma, and may also develop slight off-flavours that resemble raisins or cough syrup. It is also important to note that white wines are affected more easily by oxidation than red wines. This is mainly because red wines have more colour pigmentation than white wines. This extra colour pigmentation acts as an anti-oxidant, preserving the wine's colour and flavour.
The biggest factor in oxidation is the amount of wine surface contact with air following opening and pouring. Therefore, wine preservation products that are most effective at reducing air contact with the wine surface will best reduce oxidation.
Once a bottle of wine has been opened for some time, or if oxygen has seeped past a faulty cork or a damaged screw-cap, the wine will oxidise, so simply check all wines before serving.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Tastevin

A Tastevin is a small, very shallow silver cup or saucer traditionally used by winemakers and sommeliers when judging the maturity, quality and taste of a wine.
The saucer-like cups were originally created by Burgundian winemakers (where a very high-level wine society called the Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin, was named after the tasting cup) to enable them to judge the clarity and colour of wine that was stored in dim, candle-lit wine cellars. The Tastevin cup can vary in size but is typically 7-8 cm in diameter.

 

The wine would be poured into a shallow layer over the brightly reflecting silver, tasted and swirled by the connoisseur and spat out into a bowl. By definition a taster, "tasse a vin" or tastevin would only hold a small amount of the wine. It needed to be made of a material strong enough to withstand the rigors of daily use as well as being made of a material (Sterling silver) that would not taint the wine in any way.
Regular wine glasses were too deep to allow for accurate judging of the wine's colour in such faint light. Since it is flat like a saucer, it is almost useless for smelling the wine. Tastevin are designed with a shiny faceted inner surface. Often, the bottom of the cup is convex in shape. The facets, convex bottom, and the shiny inner surface catch as much available light as possible, reflecting it throughout the wine in the cup at various angles at once, making it possible to see through the wine. Clarity is less of an issue than it used to be in wine, and with the advent of modern electric lights, glasses are much more effective, so the tastevin has mostly been relegated to novelty.
Although Sommeliers often wear them around on a ribbon or chain around the neck as a sign of respect to tradition.
There are references to the use of Tastevin's in old manuscripts of the 14th and 15th centuries and the earliest English tastevin is dated 1603. The tastevin remains today as the acknowledged ceremonial symbol of Burgundy, France.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Punt

A punt, (also known as a flat-bottomed boat and an upward kick in Rugby), with regards to wine - refers to the conical indentation at the bottom of a wine bottle and especially Champagne bottles. It doesn't seem to matter whom or in which wine drinking country you ask this question, there is no consensus explanation for its purpose.
Most agree that a bottle with a punt rests more easily on a table, because with a flat-bottomed bottle it would rock around as it would only need a small imperfection to make it unstable in the table surface. With the ring of the punt being the only surface contact, it helps the bottle sit more stable.

   

In modern times, bottles are not handmade or mouth blown as they were in the day. They are now made in molds. So they could easily be made without punts! Many white wine bottles (example: the tall Riesling bottle) are in fact made with a nearly flat bottom. However, for historical reasons, most red wine bottles are made with punts. That's because one theory of punts is that the punt helps to collect sediment into a thicker ring, so that it does not as easily slide down the inside of the bottle and out into the glass.

The more commonly cited explanations include.

It increases the strength of the champagne bottle, structural integrity, allowing it to hold the high pressure of sparkling wine and champagne.
The larger the punt, the larger the external size of the bottle can be made while still holding 750ml on the inside. This can give the illusion that a wine is of high quality because of the weight/size of the bottle. It is thoughts by many that the deeper the punt the more expensive the bottle and the wine inside. It is often used (along with a slight inwards taper to the bottle) as an indication of a 'better' bottle of wine.
I have poured a lot of wine, from bottles both with and without punts, and I'm still not sure if we will ever find the definitive answer to this question, but it is definitely a conversation starter.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Stonyridge 'Larose' - Waiheke, NZ

Over the past 20 years, I have had both the opportunity and pleasure to visit many wine regions, meet the winemaker/owner and taste some of the finest wines and vintages in the world. I can imagine that right about now, most of you will be thinking about; Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Alsace, Tuscany and many other classic wine regions and Chateaux around the world.
But I think it important to remind each of us, that the opportunity to visit and taste one of the finest wines in the world is located here in our own backyard, on Waiheke Island.
Stonyridge-Larose is an outstanding achievement by Stephen White (owner/ chief winemaker) and the team at Stonyridge to have 27 years of world-class, benchmark quality Cabernet predominant wines here in New Zealand.

     

Stephen planted his vines and started producing these true varietal expressions of Bordeaux grapes, of a quality and with a personality that shows true respect for what one looks for and understands in each of these grapes from Bordeaux and other unique regions around the world. Stephen has embraced and taken on the challenge to express these sophisticated, classic varietals and produced wines of such quality and of interest to so many - we are able to pull the cork on 20 plus years of Stonyridge - and put them through their paces and score them as hard as you would any ‘First Growth’ or vintage wine at prices considerably higher.
It is a credit to Stephens’s foresight, kiwi ingenuity and his passion for excellence in the art and science of wine, and in the blending of ‘terroir’ and the Southern Hemisphere personality into each wine.

I had the pleasure to host a lunch with Hugh Johnson, his wife Judy, Stephen White, John Hawkesby and ‘Grahame Haggart’ at the winery sometime ago, and to have Stephen talk us through each growing season/ vintage and to have Hugh describe his thoughts on the finished wines in turn was another experience that will not be forgotten by all who shared that day for a very long time.
Wine is such a personal experience - it’s such a pleasure to know that we have a library of quality wines from Stonyridge that each of us and many other wine enthusiasts can go to and choose from, to make any occasion, cuisine and conversation with friends come alive.

Eau-de-vie

An 'eau de vie' is a French expression that means 'water of life,' it is a clear, colourless fruit brandy that is produced by means of fermentation and double distillation. The fruit flavour is typically very subtle.
Eau-de-vie are typically not aged in wooden barrels; hence they are clear in colour. Eau de vie production starts with harvesting then gently crushing the fruit, inoculating with yeast, and fermenting the must for several weeks. The resulting fruit wine is then heated in a still and the vaporized alcohol is cooled back down into a liquid. The spirit is placed in a neutral container (steel or glass) for a few months. Finally, the spirit is mixed with water to arrive at the desired alcohol percentage and quickly bottled in order to preserve the freshness and aroma of the chosen fruit, and then sold.

   
Although this is the usual practice, some variations do exist, and some distillers age their products before bottling.
Some regularly available flavours are eau-de-vie de poire (pear), eau-de-vie de pomme (apple), eau-de-vie de mirabelle (yellow plum), and eau-de-vie de peche (peach). When made from pomace, it is called pomace brandy or marc.
The French apple flavoured spirit 'Calvados' is made by aging it in wooden barrels before bottling. Although eau de vie is a French term, similar distilled beverages are produced in other countries, for example; German Schnaps, Balkan Rakia, Romanian Tuica, Hungarian Palinka, Sri Lankan Coconut Arrack, and Georgian Chacha.

Serving preferences vary by individual, but here are some general guidelines:

Temperature: Eau-de-vie are usually served chilled.
Serving size: Usually served as a digestive. The typical serving size is 30-60mls, owing to the high alcohol content of the spirit and to the fact that it is typically drunk after a meal.
Glassware: Some connoisseurs recommend a tulip-shaped glass; others recommend a snifter glass.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Limoncello

Limoncello - is an Italian lemon liqueur predominantly produced in Southern Italy, mainly in the region around the Gulf of Naples, the Sorrentine Peninsula and the coast of Amalfi and the islands of Procida, Ischia and Capri, but also in Sicily, Sardinia, Menton in France and the Maltese island of Gozo. It is made from lemon zest (traditionally from the Sorrento lemon, though most lemons will produce satisfactory limoncello), alcohol, water, and sugar. It is light to bright yellow in colour, sweet and lemony, but not sour in taste - since it contains no lemon juice.
Unlike many other liqueurs, limoncello is relatively easy and inexpensive to produce, requiring only sugar, water, lemon zest, alcohol, and time to mature. Limoncello is made by extracting the essential oils from the lemon zest by soaking them in high proof neutral spirit, then diluting the result with simple syrup. Small batch limoncello often has a stronger, more pronounced lemon flavour than many commercial brands.

 

Different varieties of lemon are used to produce different flavours. The variety of lemon used is usually dictated by the region. Various alcohols can be used to give distinct flavours. A higher proof alcohol maximizes extraction of the lemon flavour, whereas darker alcohols add complexity of flavour. Higher quality sugars used in the infusion process can also create a sweeter liqueur.
Limoncello is traditionally served chilled as an after dinner digestive. Along the Amalfi Coast, it is usually served in small ceramic glasses themselves often chilled, the Amalfi coast being a center of both ceramic and limoncello production. This tradition has been carried into other parts of Italy and around the world, in New Zealand it is served in small chilled dessert wine or liqueur glasses.
Limoncello is also delicious served direct from the freezer, poured over ice, or as a fresh ingredient in a range of new and specially crafted cocktails. It is a fresh, unique taste that is sure to inspire you.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Resveratrol

Resveratrol has been in the media a great deal over the past few years because it is a powerful antioxidant with unique health benefits we have only now been discovered.
Resveratrol is most densely found within red grape skins; and as red wine, is made from grape skin contact it offers a percentage of Resveratrol within its ingredients and consumers are taking advantage of Resveratrol in this way.
Plants naturally produce this antioxidant known as 'phytolexin', as an antibiotic to fight bacteria and fungus, found in: grapes for wines, raspberries, mulberries, blueberries and peanuts.

     

If you would like to consume natural amounts of Resveratrol, the best way to do so is through drinking red wine or eating peanuts. The problem is; you will have to drink 1,000 glasses of red wine per day or eat thousands of peanuts, to get the adequate amount to have any effect. This could be problematic for most people and have unwanted effects. Because of the studies completed on mice, Resveratrol has already been created into a natural supplement.
Resveratrol has the ability to clear your arteries by creating good cholesterol and eliminating many of those that clog your arteries. Resveratrol can also create a smoother flowing blood stream; reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Adults require 30-100mg of resveratrol, on a daily basis. Resveratrol supplements have up to 100mg of resveratrol. Thus it is prescribed to take only the required amount as an overdose can cause dizziness and some circulation disorders. Resveratrol, has been demonstrated to be a potent anti-oxidant (approx 20-50 times as effectively as vitamin C alone). The incidence of heart disease and cancer among populations who consume a lot of red wine is dramatically less than those that don't. Resveratrol has also been demonstrated to promote the formation of new dendrites in the brain.
There are many pros and cons to deciding which option is best for you and your health - please consult your health care professional first.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Stuck Fermentation

A stuck fermentation occurs in winemaking when the yeast becomes dormant before the fermentation has completed, fermentation has stopped before all the available sugar in the wine has been converted in to alcohol and CO2. If the winemaker was to give up on the wine at this point, it would taste semi-sweet and pretty bad. That would be a shame, and what's more, a waste of good juice!
Unlike an 'arrested fermentation' where the winemaker intentionally stops fermentation (such as in the production of fortified wines, like Port), a stuck fermentation is an unintentional and unwanted occurrence that can lead to the wine being spoiled by bacteria and oxidation.
There are several potential causes of a stuck fermentation; the most common are excessive temperatures killing off the yeast or a 'must' deficient in the nitrogen food source needed for the yeast to thrive. Plus if the sugar concentration level of the 'must' becomes too high at any given point, either at the beginning or during the fermentation, it starts to have an inhibiting effect on the yeast's ability to produce alcohol. Once the fermentation is stuck, it is very difficult to restart due to a chemical compound released by the dying yeast cells that inhibit the future growth of new yeast cells into the batch.
There are various techniques a winemaker can use to minimize the chances of a stuck fermentation happening, such as adding nitrogen to the must in the form diammonium phosphate or using cultured yeast strains with a high temperature and alcohol tolerance, coupled by diligent control of the fermentation temperature. These steps that winemakers may take to prevent a stuck fermentation will each have their own subtle or dramatic affect on the resulting flavours and quality of the wine produced.
Luckily, stuck fermentations don't occur very often - but when they do, it is important to make the right corrections straight away and get the fermentation going again.

 

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Delestage

Delestage is a great French word, meaning a specific fermentation process for red wine. It is also known as 'rack and return'. Originally aimed at shortening the time for red wine to reach the market, delestage certainly moves the wine in the right direction, but not all the way. However, extended maceration, in combination with delestage and standard fermentation practices to achieve not only a wine ready for the market early, but with high quality and aging potential.
Delestage means the process of fermenting red wine by labour-intensive treatments to the fermenting must to insure not only a complete fermentation, but to achieve a finished wine with good fruit, soft tannins and stable colour.
It consists of draining off the wine after fermentation has begun and straining out the seeds in the process. The removed wine is sprayed into a second tank to aerate it. After all the wine juice is removed from the first tank it is pumped back in over the top of the cap. This achieves a second aeration and helps ensure a complete fermentation.
Whether the delestage process is performed once a day, twice a day, or every other day, it can vary from winery to winery, style of wine being crafted and the vintage, fruit quality. The fermentation is normally completed in five to seven days.
Several benefits occur in this process: First, in any red fermentation the major reason for disturbing the fermenting must (grape pulp and skins) is to re-distribute the heat being produced by the yeast while it converts sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. That is what either punching down, or 'pigeage,' and the alternative processes, pumping over are all about.
Delestage does well to introduce oxygen into the early process to stabilize fruit and colour, and to encourage the joining up of harsh tannin molecules into softer ones, and minimizes the impact of seed tannins. It is felt that the mid-palate sensation, or body, is fuller, more mouth filling, than the other two methods can generate.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Blending wine...

Blending wine can be as simple as taking two separate wines (i.e. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) and mixing them together - right through to complicating things and taking multiple varietals from multiple vineyards and even multiple regions and blending them to make a new wine with a unique personality and flavour experience. It takes a lot of experience and a very refined palate to successfully blend wines for today's wine markets. A winemaker may blend wines for a variety of reasons: to adjust pH, acidity, residual sugar, alcohol levels, tannin content or to improve colour, aroma or flavour. As well as understanding all of the differences that exist from more than one vineyard, differences that develop from one fermentation tank to the next, different tannin levels between barrels, etc.
Wines, like Chateauneuf de Pape and Champagne, can be made from a blend of red and white grapes. Also Rose Champagne is often given its' pink colour, from the addition of red wine (Pinot Noir).

 
Other wines, like Bordeaux are blends of the same grape colour. In the case of Bordeaux, the grape varieties Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet-Franc and Petit Verdot are blended, in order to add the character of each grape to the final wine.
Even wines of a single variety are (can be) blended. In this case, wines that have been vinified separately (referred to as lots, batches, parcels etc...) are blended together. This blending may come about in order to create a specific style of wine unique to that vintage. At the highest quality level, individual vineyards are vinified separately, each adding their own character to the final blend.
Blending to make a Non-Vintage Champagne, the winemaker will taste all the different lots of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier to figure out what to blend together to make / keep the house style (their unique Champagne style year after year) consistent.
When blending - you are trying to achieve a result where the final blend should be great than the individual parts.