Monthly Archives: March 2013

Today’s Wine Word: Pruning

Cane_vs_spur_pruning

 

Hi! This is another golden-oldie post, but very timely. Growers who haven’t finished up their pruning need to shake a leg because the 2013 growing season is starting as we speak!

For those following my personal story, my husband has been transferred from the ICU to another floor in the hospital, which is a good sign. Thank you for the very nice emails and good wishes!

Now, for the post:

‘Tis the season. Now’s the time to get the vines pruned before they think about pushing out new growth. Pruning can be done any time during dormancy, which is usually from sometime in November unitl about mid March here.

Pruning is extremely important to yields and quality. It’s the biggest single tool the vineyard manager has to influence how many shoots will emerge in the coming weeks and approximately how many grape clusters will form. 

Its not hard. There’s actually sort of a mathematical formula for it. The grower has fairly specific numbers in mind for shoots and cluster based upon the variety, the spacing, the vigor or the situation, and his/her experience with the site. He instructs the pruners accordingly. 

The skeletal picture above tells you that, from all that lush green growth of summer, after the leaves drop in November and the bare shoots are exposed, almost nothing is left behind after pruning. 

The picture shows two common ways (among nearly countless ways) to train a grapevine. Let’s go with the top figure. See those little bumps on the horizontal “canes” or shoots? Those are buds, or growing points. When the vine wakes up, each bud is expected to push out a new shoot. And each shoot will produce two clusters, give or take. We know, from experience, that the clusters will emerge from the new shoots, but very close to the old shoot. Those two horizontal  canes were new growth the previous spring, so the clusters will hang just below the trellis wires.

As many a vineyard manager has reflected, the vines haven’t read the textbook so a bud may push out more than one shoot and a shoot may produce more or less than two clusters. There’s nothing to be done about less, of course, but if there are more shoots than anticipated they’re thinned out in April. Too many shoots cause overcroppping and crowding – which exacerbates mildew problems.

Later, after the vines flower, since too many clusters may lead to diluted flavors, any excess is cut off. So, at least among top-quality producers, the leaf canopy and the clusters will be monitored from the beginning until nearly the end of the growing season in an effort to make the season go smoothly and promote flavor intensity. 

Easy for me to say “It’s not hard.” Better to ask the pruner who won this year’s annual pruning competition! He walked away with $600.00 in cash plus a bunch of other goodies. Way to go!

And, from those bare “bones” a lush, green canopy will emerge again. Soon!

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What About Hazy Wine?

After the post on sediment in wine a few weeks ago, I got a question from Bob about haziness. Here goes: 

Do the tartrates bother you? What’s your threshold for unpretty wine?

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Why Swirl the Wine? And, I’m Still Here

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, this re-run of a golden oldie post is old news (I hope. Or maybe a refresher course isn’t such a bad idea.)

You also know that I don’t usually talk about personal things. But, the thing is that my blog posts have been a little spotty lately and I don’t want you to think I don’t care or have gotten lazy.

First, I want to thank you for reading – especially my subscribers. I put my heart and soul into my work and it makes my day when you take the time to comment or even just click “like.” 

My husband is seriously ill and that has been the absolute priority over the last few weeks and will probably continue to be over the next few. I believe he will come out of this okay. Please keep your fingers crossed.

The second priority is to keep the money flowing in so we can pay our bills, so when I’m not at the hospital I’m writing for my winery clients. I hope you don’t mind me sharing this info.

But, I’m still here. I’ll write new stuff when I can and try to keep those weekly videos up but I may go quiet for awhile or post another re-run here and there.

That said, here’s the actual post. I chose this one because it’s one of the most common questions of all. Thank you, again. Nancy

Why Swirl the Wine?

After Jim wrote, saying what a lot of people are afraid to say – that wine just smells like wine to him and he doesn’t often notice aromas like strawberry or spice –  I promised some wine-tasting lessons. It will help if you have a couple of tasting techniques under your belt first, so here we go with swirling.

With all the fru-fru associated with wine, you might wonder whether swirling is practical or pretentious. It’s not only fun – it’s very practical. I like to think of it as getting more for my money. The best way to find out why it’s smart to swirl your wine is to do an experiment. Get yourself a glass of wine. It shouldn’t be too cold – cold wine isn’t expressive, so if you’ve pulled the wine out of the fridge give it a 1/2 hour, or so, to warm up a bit.

Don’t fill your glass more than 1/3 – 1/2 full or you’ll end up wearing the wine (I wear wine on a daily basis – I’ve come to think of it as perfume). Put your nose in the glass and take a good whiff. Hope it smells good! Continue reading

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What is Organic Wine?

Emily wrote in wondering what is meant by “organic wine” and if organic is better. The term “organic” can mean two different things. Here’s a brief explanation:

Have any of you found organic wine that you’d recommend? Let us know!

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Why is There Sediment in my Wine?

Jess wrote in because there was some gunk on the cork and some little particles in the wine. He wondered if the wine was okay. The short answer? Most likely! In fact it may even be a good sign!

Does is worry you when you see solids in your wine?

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Storing wine on the Top of the Fridge

Dp

Question from Denis: I have had a bottle of Dom Perignon [Champagne] for almost 7 years. It has been stored over the refrigerator in a wine rack slightly tilted for the greatest part of that time.  Is it still good?  Should I continue to save for a special event( it was given to us by our daughter and son in law when our first grandson was born) ( we should have drunk it right away , it was a great day).  Or should we chill and drink soon because it will or is bad and there is no better way to find out?

Reply: Hi, Denis. Thanks for writing!

The good news is that top of the line bubblies like DP can age quite well, 20 to 30 years total, counting from the vintage.The bad news is that the top of the fridge is about the worst place to store wine because the temperature in the kitchen fluctuates a great deal and, of course, heat rises. The fluctuation is the hardest thing for wine to tolerate but heat, alone, can be damaging. There’s only one way to find out if it’s spoiled and that’s to open it.

There’s so much sentiment wrapped up in that special bottle – which is far more important than the actual wine – that I’d be inclined to open it with your daughter and son on a special occasion. But, have a back-up bottle chilled, too, in case the wine looks brown and smells funky.

FYI, spoiled wine can’t hurt you – unless you drink too much, of course 😉 So, there’s no risk in trying it. The worst that can happen is that you wrinkle your nose and are disappointed.

For me, even if the wine isn’t good anymore, I enjoy the experience of opening an older bottle that might be over the hill – the anticipation and even the wine, itself. It’s interesting if nothing else. But, I always have a back-up bottle.

Seven years is a long time when the wine isn’t stored properly, but I hope that you’re pleasantly surprised. Older bubblies that have aged well aren’t quite as fizzy as they were when they were young, but the complexity that comes with age is the trade off. I remember talking to Hugh Davies, the head of Schramsberg here in the Napa Valley, and he told me that his mom used to like to drink their older vintages out of a regular wine glass, just to enjoy the aroma and aged characteristics. Incidentally, if you want a special domestic bubbly as your back up, I’d highly recommend Schramsberg. I also love Roederer Estate in Anderson Valley, CA.

Proper storage conditions
If you have any other bottles that you’d like to age, try to find a cool, dark place in your home that doesn’t fluctuate too much. A basement is terrific. You could insulate a closet. Or under the stairs or the house. Or just on the floor in a closet and hope for the best. Ideal storage is 55 F degrees and slightly humid but for practical purposes between 45 and 65 should be fine. The less ideal the conditions, the less you should push the wine to its limit. Cork finished bottles kept should be kept sideways in a dark place. 

I hope it turns out to be wonderful! Let me know! Cheers!

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Is There a Correct Order to Serve the Wines?

Lotsawine

Question from Gina: I want to have a wine-tasting party. Is there a correct order to serve the wines?

Reply: Hi, Gina. Thanks for writing! How great – I know it will be really fun! Tasting order is pretty simple:

Whether it’s a party or a formal tasting, it’s smart to serve the wines from light to dark and dry to sweet. The wines with deeper color are usually “bigger”, or heavier, than the lighter colored ones. If you taste the big wine first, the lighter wine seems almost flavorless. It applies to white wines, too. If the Sauvignon Blanc is paler than the Chardonnay, unless it’s unusually assertive in flavor, serve it first. 

Dry is the opposite of sweet (it doesn’t mean sour, which is a sign of a spoiled wine. It just means there’s so little sugar in the wine that it’s unnoticeable). If you taste a sweet wine, followed by a dry one, the dry wine tastes sour.

TIP!  The same theory works with food and wine pairing.  If you pair sweet food with dry wine the wine will taste sour.  The wine should be at least as sweet as the food.

Speaking of pairings, you might want to serve a little something to complement each wine. If you prefer a low-impact evening, you could have each of your friends bring a favorite pairing, which could make for a really fun contest. Everyone could vote on the best pairing! If you want to evaluate the wines, you might have everyone taste the wines without any food first. You’ll be surprised by how much the food changes the wine and perhaps your preferences!  Continue reading

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