Tag Archives: enology

What is Terroir?

Jerry wrote in to ask one of the most controversial questions of all: What is terroir? It’s a tricky question because different folks apply different meanings and some think it doesn’t exist at all! This short video will fill you in:

I know I’m going to get some push-back on this business of the soil not flavoring the wine directly, so let me go to a higher authority: Dr. Mark Matthews, Professor & Plant Physiologist for the Department of Viticulture and Enology at University of California at Davis (California’s best-known wine school.) Continue reading

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Today’s Wine Word: Malolactic Fermentation


Well, there’s a mouthful of a wine word! Not to worry – it’s easier to understand than it is to pronounce it. And, now seems like a good time to take a look because, even as we speak, lots and lots of wines being made in the northern hemisphere are bubbling their way through what’s often called the second fermentation – the malolactic fermentation, or ML for short.

For the microbiologists out there I’ll say that it’s not really a fermentation – it’s a conversion.

The real point? Do you like your Chardonnay buttery? If so, it’s very likely that the brands you prefer put their Chard through ML or partial ML.

The conversion normally follows the primary, alcoholic fermentation.

It’s routine for reds, for the sake of stability and to soften the acid. When it comes to whites, it’s more of a question mark and when the topic comes up it’s usually in reference Chardonnay. Here’s how it goes:

It may take the wine maker about three weeks to make his Chardonnay. Then, lactic-acid bacteria is added to the new wine. It causes the tart malic acid – the green apple acid, to convert to soft lactic acid – the milk acid. So the wine feels softer and rounder on your palate. ML also has a byproduct, called diacetyl, which adds a sort of viscous, oily sensation to the texture and smells and tastes buttery.

TRIVIA! Diacetyl is the substance they add to microwave popcorn to make it buttery! Continue reading

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So, You Want to Work in the Wine Industry


Question from Susan: What do I need to do if I want to work in the wine industry?

Reply: This is a broad question and the first thing is to figure out is what kind of work you want to do. If you want to work in production, these days, you really should get a degree in viticulture if you want to be a vineyard manager or enology if you want to be a winemaker. Many aspiring winemakers opt for a double major, or at least study in both areas, since it’s really hard to tell where one leaves off and the other begins. Here in the U.S. the best-known programs are offered at University of California at Davis, Fresno State University or Cornell. But there are lots of other options in and outside of the US. Just do a search on the appropriate degree.

If you’re interested in marketing or PR you should study those subjects at any good institution and build your wine knowledge simultaneously. For sales reps the opportunities are wide open even without any schooling in wine. But if you want a sales job that’s really wine oriented and not just an aside to selling beer and Jack Daniels, you’ll need some wine education. Continue reading

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Why is my wine Hazy?

Question from Stephen: I purchased a 2008 Pinot Noir from the bargain rack at a wine shop. They were selling the 2009 at full price for $66 got this for $45. Cork was in beautiful shape but wine is cloudy. What could the problem be?

Reply: I apologize for the delay in my reply. I figured the best source for the answer is the winery – but, after a few weeks, no reply from them. This is something I will never understand. A real, honest-to-goodness buyer of expensive wine wants an answer to his question and they can’t be bothered – in this market?! 

So, all I can do, since I didn’t see or taste the wine is give it my best guess. 

I hope it tasted good! Always remember that if it looks funky or tastes weird it can’t hurt you, so always give it a try. At this price, even though it was in the sale bin, I would have taken it back if it didn’t taste good. Of course, they won’t take it back if 3/4 of the wine is gone 😉
How hazy was it? If it was only slightly hazy and tasted good, it could be that the winemaker didn’t want to risk losing character by taking extra steps to clarify the wine. There are those who believe that fining and filtration take away from the wine and prefer bottling the wine hazy to further processing. Pinot Noir seems to be a variety that resists clarification – it’s not all that uncommon to come across a slightly cloudy bottle.

If it was big-time hazy it may have gotten too warm at some point. Protein can throw a haze when the wine warms up. It should still taste fine unless the heat was extreme or prolonged enough to damage it.  Continue reading

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