If ever there was Port weather in the Napa Valley, this is it. Highs in the 30s. Lows in the teens. It’s a bit warmer today – it’s supposed to wander up into the 40s. I know that this is nothing compared to what may happen in Nebraska or Niagra, but never the less I say “Brrrr…..”
Why does a glass of Port taste and feel so good on these very chilly nights?
Aside from tradition and romance, there’s actually a logical explanation for it. Port falls into a category of wines called “fortified” wine. What’s the fortification? Grape spirits, or brandy. As the wine ferments, the yeast gradually consumes the grape sugar and converts it to alcohol. The spirits are added before all the sugar is used up. The extra alcohol is too much for the yeast to tolerate so the fermentation ends, leaving a wine that’s typically between 18 and 22% alcohol and noticeably sweet. Continue reading →
As you’ve probably heard, crush in Napa Valley was early this year. And for most producers, it’s been over for at least a week or two. Exhale…
But, for red wine, the work isn’t over quite yet. There’s still a little pressing to do. the winemakers are greedily getting the last bit of color and flavor out of the grape skins for their reds before sending them off to the barrel cellar.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that there’s quite a lot of confusion about the difference between crushing and pressing, so let’s get it straightened out. Here goes…
This machine is first stop for most reds when they come in from the vineyard. It removes the stems and breaks the grape skins open. When you’re finished crushing, you’ve still got the skins and seeds,which go right into the fermentation tank with the juice. As you know, all of the color and most of the flavor in red wine comes from the skins.
The press leaves the winemaker with only liquid, however cloudy.
Think of the press as a giant strainer. Picture yourself dropping broken grapes into this strainer. Of course,some of the juice runs off. Then, you push down with your fist to squeeze more liquid out of the skins. That’s pressing. There are a few different styles of presses a winemaker can use, but I won’t bore you with that unless you ask. Continue reading →
Doesn’t sound very winey, does it? Is it about the proper way to arrange your chapeau or ?
Cap management is a term that’s used only during harvest, but it’s an important one.
As you know, all of the color and most of the flavor and tannin in red wine comes from the grape skins. With very few exceptions the juice of a dark variety runs clear.
TRIVIA! The few varieties with red juice and flesh are called teinturier (ten-toory-AY). The best-known example in the wine world is probably Alicante Bouschet, which is often part of a field blend and can also be used when the winemaker wants to ramp up the color.
Back to our regularly scheduled programming: The thing is that the darned skins keep going up to the top of the tank, buoyed by the carbon-dioxide gas produced by the fermentation. If the “cap” of skins is allowed to stay at the top, color and flavor extraction isn’t good and it also tends to get hot up there. You don’t want it to get so hot that it starts killing the yeast. Continue reading →
“Crush” has just begun in Napa Valley. Kind of early this year – at least two weeks, if not more.
The term is used as a synonym for the harvest. And, of course, it brings to mind images of Lucy, madly stomping away on the purple moosh in a large vat, and over-competing with her co-worker.
If you want to appear in the know you’d say “I go to Napa Valley every year for crush.” Or “Of course, the weather during crush is has a huge impact on the vintage.”
But, when it comes to actual winemaking, I find that people are a little confused as to what crushing actually means. It’s very often confused with pressing.
For winemaking, crushing is the first step , after the grapes are picked, for nearly all red wines and most whites. In most cases, the winemaker uses a stainless steel machine that first de-stems and then breaks the grapes open (crushes them.) The best producers will sort out the yucky stuff (don’t ask 😉 )before the clusters go into this machine. Continue reading →
I was tasting with a client today and noticed that they already had fermenting Sauvignon Blanc samples out on the tasting counter. That’s 2013 Sauvignon Blanc I’m referring to! And, the winemaker who handles the reds says they’ll bring in some Pinot Noir next week. All of this reconfirms that harvest is early this year. What does it mean in terms of quality? Who knows?
But it reminds me that the #1 topic at harvest time is “hang time.” The term is literal. It refers to the length of time the grapes hang on the vine before they’re harvested.
If you’ve grown tomatoes, you know that when the tomatoes first appear on the vine in early summer they’re hard, green and you don’t even think about tasting them because you know that they’re sour. As the summer goes on they plump out, soften up and begin to change color and you know that the sugar is on its way up and the tartness (acid) is on the way down. Well, it’s just the same with grapes. Continue reading →
Harvest started early and with a bang, on August 1st, and then slowed down dramatically with unseasonably cool weather in the early part of the month. It’s probably a good thing – it will give the grapes more “hangtime,” which translates into richer, riper flavors.
How do you feel about mechanical harvesting?
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