Every Wine is Unique. The quality and style of each depends on nature and nurture. Grape varieties are the basis of a wine’s character and fruit traits. The juice from these grapes becomes wine by a natural process but one that is controlled by the wine maker - vigneron.
Nature's effects, changing from vintage to vintage, on the following factors combined with the vigneron's decisions will determine the flavours, complexity and quality of the wine. It is a complex relationship of "terroir", regional traditions / laws and the wine makers skill.
Orangic - Biodynamic Vineyards and Wine In visiting the various wine regions you will come across organic vineyards, which is simply a natural philosophy of farming avoiding toxic pestices, synthetic fertilisers and herbicides. A natural ecosystem is encouraged with othe crops planted between vine rows. An extreme form of organic vineyard managment is biodynamics which is a philosophy and system that covers the entire wine making process. The aim is ot create a harmonious balance between the soil and the natural processes of the winemaking cycle.
This form of wine making does not guarantee quality but does go back to the traditions of tending vines naturally. The wines are worth tasting as they should be interesting and an honest reflection of the grape variety in the context of its terroir.
Terroir - French term for all aspects of environment that determine availability of sun, water and nutrients of grape vines - ground surface (stones, shells, flint, top soil, etc), subsoil, drainage, weather and geography. Terroir is an important factor for development of a grape’s natural qualities and can add further fruit, floral, vegetal, mineral or spice flavours. Below are three very different vineyards all producing excellent wine of different grape varieties. The first is in the Rhone valley, a Chateauneuf du Pape vineyard - a dry Mediterranean climate - note the large stones which collect heat during day, then warm the vines through the night. The second is typical of vineyards at the base of mountains or hills as in Burgundy. The third is an Alsace vineyard on the hilly, flinty soil of a river’s bank. Note that the vines are only planted on the sites with best exposure.
| Cultivation and Harvesting As the grapes are growing a myriad of decisions have to be made with regard to pruning and vine care. These are the result of science, the wine maker’s experience and “gut feelings”- in reaction to the variations of a growing season. For each vintage choosing the right time to harvest is essential. It depends on many factors including sugar ripeness, flavours, colour, ph levels and weather. Fermentation - is the process of yeast converting grape sugar to alcohol. Almost all reds and many white wines are dry, containing almost no sugar. If the wine maker chooses he can stop fermentation and have unfermented sugar that makes for sweeter, softer wines. This also effects the alcohol strength, which in turn affects wine body, high alcohol wines usually being full and rounded. Low alcohol wines are light, delicate.The yeast used in fermentation can be the natural yeast found in vineyard or the wine maker can add different strains of commerical yeast to create other flavours and qualities. Grape Skins -Pigments in red grapes produce the colour in red wines, also adding tannins. The longer skins are left on the juice pulp the more effect they have on colour and flavour. Most white wines are produced with no skin contact. Rose wines result if red grapes are fermented briefly with skins. |
Tannins -Occur naturally in wine from the skins and seeds of the grapes. Different to flavour, they have a puckery and dry mouth feel. They add structure and balance to wine. A certain level of tannins is pleasing while in your notes harsh and astringent would indicate too great a presence. They are most prominent in reds, softening with age. A number of studies show tannins are good for a healthy heart. Acidity -Present in all wines with whites generally having higher levels than reds. Low acid wines will be smooth, but too low will be flabby, flat. High acid wines taste crisp and lively, but in excess taste sharp, hot or sour. Oak Flavours -Some grape varieties are transformed in a positive way by being fermented and /or stored in oak barrels. French oak tends to give subtle, toasty and nutty flavours. American oak gives sweet coconut and vanilla flavours. The length of time for oak ageing varies. A Pinot Noir may soften after a year, a Cabernet may require two. Another variable is age of barrels used. Older barrels have less oak effect. Over oaked wines loose their varietal fruit flavours. Malolactic Fermentation (MLF)is the natural acid reduction by lactic acid bacteria. Often used for reds to increase stability, for whites and reds it enhances the body and flavour persistence. The result is rounder, softer and fuller wines, often with buttery or vanilla characteristics. If overdone, wines have diminished fruit flavours or worse taste of rancid butter or wet leather. Botrytised Wine - “Noble Rot”. A benevolent fungus that when present slowly shrivels and dehydrates the grapes as they ripen. This concentrates sugars and flavours, producing honey-coloured, sweet tasting wines served with desserts. Sauternes and sweet wines from Germany , Austria and Hungary are examples. In addition, New World regions like California also produce excellent sweet wines. “Sur Lees Ageing” Lees are yeast sediment, usually removed by racking, but for some grapes like Chardonnay and Muscadet, they are left in contact with the wine. As the wine ages lees add texture, richer flavours and aromas described as fresh bread, yeast or malt. When overdone the wine becomes excessively yeasty, which tastes foul with the fruit flavours masked.