In the Winery

Same vines, many wines

There are only two basic steps in production process, but flavours can vary widely.

By Gary Strachan I

couldn’t help but think of wine styles while I wrote about modifying berry composition in another article for this issue. Obviously, the fundamental flavours of a wine are set by the grape variety, but I’m often astonished at how much variation there is between different wines from the same grape variety.

I shouldn’t be surprised. There are so many factors that affect flavour development, that it’s almost a given that all wines from a given grape variety should be unique.

I have mentioned before that wine production has only two steps. Flavours are synthesized in the vineyard and extracted in the winery. Along the way we may add a few minor steps affect the process.

Everyone who works with wine is familiar with the French term terroir. If all wine were made by the same process, then terroir would always predict wine character and quality. According to the definition of terroir, each vineyard has an unique set of growing conditions and no other site can duplicate that vineyard’s performance.

This is less true for semi-arid regions. In semi-arid regions, the soils have less organic matter and grapes are typically not native to these regions. Growers rely less on the regional climate, rainfall and soils and have greater control over the inputs to grape production. Management strategies have a greater impact on berry flavour than in Old World regions with a long tradition of winemaking.

Let’s assume that you have chosen a wine style based on the composition and quality history of a vineyard. Immature and acidic grapes are appropriate for sparkling wine production. Be cautious

to not leave grapes for sparking wine hanging too long. If you are producing bottle-fermented or Charmat wines, the alcohol level will increase by a further one per cent while carbonation is being created. High alcohol is less of a problem if you are producing a Prosecco style carbonated wine or an Aste fumante style.

The traditional extraction of berries for sparklers is done

by pressing whole grapes to minimize tannin release. Sparklers can be produced from either white or red grapes, or a blend of both.

If you choose to depart from tradition and produce a fruitier wine style, you may elect to conduct a more efficient extraction by pressing destemmed grapes and/or using pectinase to assist with juice and flavour release. This strategy may require a slight tannin removal, depending on the grape variety and stage of maturity when you harvest.

Still white wines are typically extracted at the next, more advanced stage of berry maturity. Wines extracted from berries with Brix in the range of 20 to 22 typically have a low pH, refreshing acidity, and exhibit fruity character typical of the variety. At this stage of maturity, excess tannin is not usually a problem and requires little or no adjustment, even when juice is extracted with the aid of pectinase.

White wines produced from more mature berries usually differ significantly in character. A good examples of this is the difference between a fruity Pinot gris wine and a complex Pinot grigio style. These are the same grape variety, extracted at different stages of maturity to create different wine styles. The more mature berries of Pinot

The Two Processes of Winemaking (and a few details)

1. Flavour is created in the field - Soil

- Climate - Minerals - Water - Grape Variety - Season Length - Management

2. Flavour is extracted in the winery - Dessert Wine Strategies (optional) - Carbonic Maceration (optional) - Destem and Crush (optional) - Skin Extraction (optional) - Yeast Strain - Fermentation Temperature - Aeration (optional) - Fining - Filtration - Balance Adjustment - Condiments (oak, sweet reserve)

grigio release more tannin, have a higher pH, and lower acidity. The flavour is typically developed with a malolactic fermentation and oak aging to provide a level of

complexity not present in berries. The best examples, however, still retain a

detectable berry character such as strawberries or apples.

Red berries have a similar progression of maturity which can lead to different wine

styles under the appropriate extraction techniques.

The best known of these is Pinot noir. With a gentle extraction of immature berries, pinot noir produces an attractive blanc de noir or rosé style of wine. The difference between a rosé and blanc de noir may be as little as the pressure used during extraction, the use or non use of pectinase, or the separation of free run juice during red wine production.

Any of these styles can readily be made into a sparkler. The intensity of fruit which is retained varies with pH and oxygen contact during handling. A fruity Pinot noir extracted from slightly immature or overcropped grapes typically has intense berry character. As with white grapes, red fruit flavours change when the berries develop higher sugar levels. Raspberry flavours typically evolve into strawberry and then cherry Berries soften, tannins develop, and colour becomes more intense. Acidity declines and pH rises. Eventually berries dehydrate and shrivel. Extraction at this advanced stage of maturity produces a highly alcoholic, port-like wine with oxidized flavours.

In summary, I stand by my statement that winemaking has only two fundamental activities. The other operations are just details.

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Summer 2017 27

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