Monthly Archives: August 2013

Today’s Wine Word: Brix

What’s the word on every grower’s and winemaker’s lips right now? Brix!

How sweet is that? 😉

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Today’s Wine Word: Cap Management

Punchdown

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

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What’s the Difference Between Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot?

Checking the most common searches, lots of you seem to be wondering what the difference is between Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Let’s take a quick look:

Which do you reach for most often? Do you have a favorite brand?

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Today’s Wine Word: Crush

lucy

“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.

DeltaE2_2002For 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

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Today’s Wine Word: Hangtime

Picking

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

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Are the Grapes Harvested Mechanically?

Since I wrote about the beginning of harvest, some of you have asked if the grapes are picked by hand or machine. The short answer is yes:

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?

Visit A Million Cooks for more brief videos from experts on the food you eat: Where it comes from, where to buy it and how to prepare it.

Send me your wine question.  I’ll get back to you in a jiffy!

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Napa Valley Harvest has Begun!

44a86-boxes_Yes, indeed, and about two weeks ahead of “normal,” whatever that is.  It’s interesting that the Santa Rosa paper (Sonoma) reported this before the Napa papers – what’s up with that?

The first grapes were harvested on August first, destined for Mumm Napa Valley. It’s typical that the bubbly producers start ahead of still-wine producers because they pick the grapes at slightly lower sugars than everyone else – which is a discussion in itself.

What’s really interesting is that a friend, who was talking to one of the winemakers at Robert Mondavi Winery, said that they harvested some Sauvignon Blanc on the first. Now that’s early!! We think of Sauvignon Blanc as a late August/early September variety.

Why is crush early? Because of a really warm spring and early summer. It really pushed things along, just as it would the tomatoes in your back yard. Great year for tomatoes, here, by the way – they love the heat and are sweet as candy! Yum! Continue reading

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