Tag Archives: fermentation

Today’s Wine Word: Crush Widow

Have you ever heard of a crush widow? Here’s the story:

Maybe you’d like to take a lonely crush widow – or widower – to lunch! Cheers!

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.

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September 5, 2013 · 7:50 pm

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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Today’s Wine Word: Cold Soak

Dry_ice

Lots of that going on in the wine world right now. If you’re picturing yourself in a bathtub full of cold water, you’re not too far off. The term is literal, but there’s no water involved.

The cold soak is a technique that delays the onset of fermentation by keeping the must (crushed grapes) cool (yeast likes it warm).

If the grapes come in at night or on a very chilly morning, it’s just a matter of keeping it that way and with stainless steel tanks, it’s very easily done.

When the grapes come in warm, the most common way to chill the must down is to blanket it with dry ice (the solid form of carbon-dioxide).

The cold soak usually applies to red wine. It’s a good way to get some color, flavor and tannin from the grape skins without extracting bitter seed tannin. There’s no avoiding seed tannin entirely because alcohol is a solvent, so as per a recent post, it’s important that the seeds are mature – not too bitter – before they’re harvested. Continue reading

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Today’s Wine Word: Extractive

Cap

Question from Jess: You used the word extractive in a recent post. What do you mean?

Reply: Hi, Jess. Thanks for writing! And shame on me for using wine jargon without taking the time to explain it.

As you know, all of the color and most of the flavor, texture and tannin in red wine comes from the grape skins. The juice of most any dark grape is clear. So, depending upon how long the juice and skins are in contact you can make white, rose or red wine!

TRIVIA! This great versatility served our wine pioneers well. In the early days of California’s wine history there was only one variety, the Mission grape, available. From the 1500s until the 1800s every style of wine – white, red, brandy and a dessert wine known as Angelica – was made from this one, dark variety.

Anyhoo, when a red wine is described as extractive it means that it’s extremely dense, probably nearly black in color and extremely concentrated in flavor. Often these extractive reds are also accompanied by high alcohol (alcohol is a solvent) and, in recent years, some can seem almost syrupy.

Depending upon who you’re talking to, “extractive” as a descriptor may be interpreted as a compliment or a slam. 

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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.

Which introduces two other wine words:

1. Pump over: The most common way to get the cap mixed in is to pump the wine from the bottom of the tank up over the top. The schedule might be anywhere from two to four times a day depending on how active the fermentation is. This is a great technique for tannic wines because the process has an aerating effect, which can soften the tannins. Some winemakers purposely augment the aeration during pump overs.  Continue reading

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What is Dry Wine?

Yeast

Busy little yeasty beasties

In my post a few days ago about the correct order for serving different styles of wine I wrote very briefly about what the term “dry” means. I think it’s worth taking a little more time to dig deeper because our perception of dryness can differ from what the numbers indicate. 

As I said, most of the world agrees that if the wine is about .5% sugar, no one can taste it. So, that, or less, is considered dry.

As a quick review, during the fermentation, yeast consumes the sugar in the grape juice and, as it does, the sugar’s converted to heat, carbon-dioxide gas and alcohol. To make dry wine, the winemaker just lets the yeast run amok and use up every last bit of fermentable sugar. To make sweet wine there are various ways of intervening before the wine goes dry, such as chilling the wine, adding sulfur dioxide, adding alcohol… Or, let the wine go dry and add back grape juice.

But there are other things to consider when it comes to our perception, as opposed to the lab report. Fruitiness can trick our palates into detecting sugar that isn’t there. This is especially true with intensely fruity varieties such as Muscat or Viognier. It just takes practice to be able to differentiate – that is most of the time. I think we all still get fooled from time to time – I know I do. Continue reading

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Is There More than One Kind of Zinfandel?

Question from Sarah: We were at a restaurant and I ordered a glass of Zinfandel. When the wine came it was dark red instead of pink. I decided to go ahead and try it and I didn’t like it at all. It was really bitter and not nice and sweet the way I like it. Luckily my boyfriend liked it okay. Is there more than one kind of Zinfandel? 

Reply: Hi, Sarah. Thanks for writing! I hope they suggested another wine you might enjoy. We don’t want to lose you as a wine lover! 

I guess you could say there’s more than one kind of Zinfandel. Zinfandel is the name of a grape with a dark, nearly black, skin and clear juice – almost every dark-skinned grape has colorless juice. This fact gives the grape great versatility. Depending upon how long the juice and grape skins are in contact, the winemaker can produce white, pink or red wine.

Making White Zinfandel
White Zinfandel, the wine you thought you had ordered, is, strangely enough, pink! Here’s how it works: The winemaker picks the whole cluster of Zinfandel and then runs it through a machine that removes the stems and breaks the grape skins open. Then he transfers this soupy mixture of juice and skins into a fermentation tank and waits awhile. 

At some point he’ll open a valve to see the color of the juice. When he sees something he likes, he drains all of the juice out of the tank and transfers it to another tank. This is very, very sweet juice – absolutely delicious!  Continue reading

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