Tag Archives: napa valley harvest update

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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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.

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Sugar, Acid, pH: Why you Care

Boxes_

So, we’ve established that it’s harvest time and talked about the importance of hangtime – getting the grapes in at the right time – but haven’t said too much about the role of the sugar, acid and pH in your glass of wine.  

I wrote a fairly detailed article about this for Snooth, so I’ll just go over it once, lightly here today. 

Sugar (Brix): As you know, the sugar converts to alcohol during fermentation so it’s pretty-darned important. The predictable outcome at the end of fermentation is that just over half the sugar converts to alcohol. So, if the winemaker picks grapes that are 24% sugar (or 24 degrees brix) he can expect to end with about 13 or 13.5% alcohol. 

Alcohol gives wine most of its body or weight. A Cabernet from a poor growing season that’s low in alcohol will probably feel rather thin and unsatisfying on the palate. On the other hand, if the alcohol is too high the heat may tickle your nose or feel really hot on your palate. It’s not supposed to draw attention to itself – it’s just supposed to be there. High alcohol also gives the wine a sense of sweetness. 

Acid: Maybe the term isn’t attractive to you. It makes you think of battery acid or something awful like that. But when it’s balanced with the other components it’s an incredible asset. It keeps the color bright, makes even a full-bodied style seem lively, helps the wine to age and makes it food friendly. In the vineyard, as the sugar goes up, the acid goes down. In a warm climate, like Napa Valley, we worry about not enough, which can make the wine flat tasting – doesn’t leave you wanting that next sip  – and short lived. No one talks about it, but wineries routinely adjust the acid in the cellar. Cool climates worry about painfully tart acidity. So, again, it’s a question of balance. Continue reading

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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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Are the Grapes Hand or Machine Harvested?

The short answer is “Yes.”

Are you planning to visit wine country this harvest? Where will you go?

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Today’s Wine Word: Green Harvest

Dyer_gr_harvest

I remember a story about Gil Nickel, the owner of Far Niente winery (sadly, now deceased) walking the vineyard with his vineyard manager, commenting “Pardon me while I step over my profits.”

There are all kinds of reasons to thin out clusters: For the sake of flavor intensity, to assure the grapes will get sweet enough or to prevent crowding… That’s why you see dried clusters on the ground along with the fresh ones that were just thinned. 
But the green harvest is thinning that’s focused on uniformity of ripening. The clusters don’t all ripen at precisely the same rate, so as veraison, the color change, progresses it’s important to get into the vineyard a few times to see if there are clusters lagging behind – not coloring up the way they should – and thin them out. Sometimes the clusters have small “wings” jutting out at the top and they may not ripen as quickly as the main part of the cluster. So, off they come. Continue reading

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