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?

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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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Today’s Wine Word: Green Harvest

dyer_gr_harvest

“Drop crop”… “Green Thinning”… “Green Harvest”… Whatever you like to call it the term is literal and refers to removing green, immature clusters and dropping them on the ground. It may seem a bit obtuse to be removing perfectly viable fruit that isn’t even mature yet, but it’s often done in the name of flavor intensity and it can happen at several times during the growing season.

The first round may be just after flowering and fruitset, which typically happens in mid to late May. Winter pruning and springtime shoot thinning are done with certain yields in mind. If the vines are overly generous on any given year it’s smart to thin out the excess so the rest can ripen properly and be flavorful, not diluted in taste. Continue reading

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Most Wines Don’t Improve with Age

One of the greatest wine myths of all is that “older is better.” Here’s a brief explanation:

Do you like to bottle age your wine or is it “Down the hatch!” for you?

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A Little Wine-Grape Trivia

As we see the grapes turning from green to purple, how about a little grape trivia?

What’s your favorite bit of wine trivia?

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