Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pinot Noir Winemaking 101 decision Chart from Oregon Pinot Camp

A few wine terms worth knowing

Saignée (the French word for the medieval medical process of bleeding) is used when a winemaker desires to impart more tannin and color to a red wine. The process involves the removal of some almost-colorless juice from the must in the fermenter at a very early stage – it is also known as “bleeding” the fermenter. The red wine is intensified as a result of the bleeding because the volume of juice in the must is reduced relative to the surface area of remaining grape skins. And in some senses, the must involved in the maceration is concentrated. (Typically, the removed juice is fermented separately, producing a rosé wine as a byproduct.)

The winemaker may choose to have some or all of the clusters go through a destemmer that removes the individual berries from the stem. Those clusters go into a destemmer or destemmer-crusher. This is simply a device that tumbles the entire clusters inside a perforated drum, allowing the berries to fall through the perforations and the stems to exit separately out the other end into a bin for disposal. In some machines, the berries then pass between two long, soft rotating cylinders with a variable slot that serves to “pop” varying percentages of the berries before exiting the bottom. Gentleness, capacity, and ease of cleaning are the primary differences in these machines. Some winemakers choose to use a percentage of un-destemmed whole clusters in their fermentation. This is achieved by bypassing the destemmer and simply dumping the chosen amount of clusters directly into the fermenter.

SO2 is added to almost every must and wine and is one of the most basic and important quality control measures available to the winemaker. SO2 acts as both an oxidase enzyme inhibitor and as a microbial growth inhibitor. SO2 is added to the must early (within minutes or hours) to prevent browning and to inhibit native flora. If the native bacteria and yeast grow out of control, the result can lead to higher volatile acidity (VA), off flavors and aromas, and possibly fermentations that stop with sugar still in the wine (stuck fermentation).

The impact of SO2 additions is strongly affected by the pH of the must. If tartaric acid additions have been made, the acidity and pH will change, affecting the activity of the SO2. Almost all of the SO2 added to the must will be bound up during the fermentation and eliminated at pressing. It is almost always added again at the end of malolactic fermentation to protect the young wine from oxidation during the aging process.

Yeast and Yeast nutrients
Once a suitable environment has been created in the fermenter, yeast can be added to start active fermentation, or yeast will not be added at all if the winemaker has decided to let the ferment go native. There are many types of commercial yeast available to winemakers, all with their own special characteristics, from aromatic enhancement to high alcohol tolerance. The timing and quantity of yeast additions affects how quickly the fermentation starts and how rapidly it progresses.

Yeasts require a wide variety of nutrients to grow and perform their job of converting sugar to alcohol. Acid, high temperatures, and alcohol stress the yeast and can lead to off aromas and yeast death. Grape musts can vary dramatically in the level of these nutrients and are often deficient in one or more essential elements. An analysis can be done to determine whether and by how much the must is deficient in the major nutrients required for yeast to grow and complete fermentation. Once fermentation begins, the required amounts of nutrients can be added to the must. This practice ensures healthy fermentations that go to dryness and produce low amounts of off aromas such as sulfides.

Roto-fermenters are horizontal, closed tanks that can be rotated to mix the cap with the must in a pre-programmed manner. They require minimal attention and are easy to empty, but are very expensive to purchase and can lead to over-extraction.

Pigeage (literally “by foot”). In a shallow tank this involves walking on the fermenting must to mix the cap. In larger tanks, it involves immersing most of your body in the wine and mixing in any way possible as you swim or crawl around. A very low-tech approach, it is the most personal cap management tool.

Fining and Filtration
Fining and filtration are tools for clarification and for tannin and flavor modification of wine. Wines can have a high volume of suspended solids that will not clarify by settling and need to be removed prior to bottling. Some wines have bitter and unpleasant tannins or other negative flavor compounds that need to be removed or modified. The decision to fine or filter a wine depends on the specific problem that needs to be addressed. The choice of what to do is often based on small experiments called bench trials. The winemaker takes small samples of wine and adds various fining agents or combinations of fining agents to determine their effectiveness in solving the problem. That information is then used to treat the entire lot. The most common fining agents are egg whites, gelatin, milk and whey, and isinglass (protein from the air bladder of a sturgeon). These are often effective in extremely small doses, measured in ounces per one thousand gallons.

Bitterness is one of the more common problems addressed by adding fining agents. As wines age and develop, tannin molecules connect into chains of varying lengths. Some of these are perceived as bitter or astringent and can be removed by adding specific proteins to the wine. Unfortunately, there is no laboratory test to analyze exactly what tannins are causing the problems or what treatments are most effective in their removal. Luckily there are a wide variety of fining agents and the best treatment can be determined by bench trials using specific agents at varying doses. Although effective in removing undesired tannins, fining a wine always removes some positive flavor components. The goal in fermenting, pressing and aging is to end up with all of the extracts and flavors that the winemaker wants and nothing extra. That way, nothing will have to be removed. In certain circumstances filtration is necessary. White wines are commonly filtered.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Corked: The movie

Because every once in a while you need to laugh at yourself.

This must see mocumentary was brought to my attention by

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Map of Napa Valley Wineries

A full list of the Napa sub-AVA descriptions from the Napa Vintners Association.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

John Cleese: Wine for the Confused

A fantastic video for the wine beginner or anyone who puts more trust in a narrator with an English accent. Click on the top right box on the screen to see a full screen view of this Cleese masterpiece.

Notice the gods in the beginning of the movie? The final man showed is a new world Pinot Noir maker who makes wines that are benchmark examples of what new world pinot can be. I'll give you another hint, he's a man who doesn't mince words when it comes to sharing his opinion on what it takes to make world class wine.

Any clue who he is?

Monday, July 20, 2009

2004 Burgundy Vintage

Here is a piece from the Burgundy report that I find interesting.

I must say that I've notice a more rustic edge to the 04's that seems to be showing itself more and more as the wines age however I've just assumed the wines were showing their age due to the vintage character. As a man of little money and less years of collecting burgundy under my belt this has been something that attracts me to the vintage. On the whole the wines of 2004 are showing more interesting layers right now than any other recent vintage since 2001 for the money.

What recent vintage do you prefer drinking?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

An interview with Hugh Johnson by Decanter Magazine

Find the original post here.

Johnson and Jancis Robinson's Wine Atlas is a must have book for any wine lover.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Map of Barolo DOCG


A link to a PDF of this document

A Video of Donnhoff's vineyards by Jaime Goode

Why is this interesting you may ask? Well, to quote one of my favorite people I've never met on the planet. "There are two kinds of people in the world, people who believe in terrior, and idiots"-TT

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Oregon's Willamette Valley Sub-AVA descriptions and a soil map from the Oregon Pinot Camp Manual

One of David Lett's original Pinot Noir plantings located in the Dundee Hills

Willamette Valley Sub-AVAs
[Descriptions provided by winemakers from each AVA, independently]

Dundee Hills
The first grapes in the Willamette Valley were planted in the Dundee Hills. It remains the most densely planted locale in the valley and state. Within the 6,500 acres of this almost exclusively basaltic land mass that runs north-south and overlooks the Willamette River to the south and the Chehalem Valley to the north, and which rises to 1,067 feet in elevation, more than 1,250 acres of
grapes are planted on approximately 50 vineyards. It is approximately 30 miles to the southwest of Portland and 40 miles east of the Pacific Ocean, with protection from the ocean climate provided by the higher Coast Range of mountains.

Dundee Hills soils are reddish, silt, clay, loam soils derived from Columbia River basalt flows and, as such, are easily decomposed to provide moderately rich, deep, and good water-holding soils. Soils and climate differentiate this AVA. The hillside planting regions above 200 feet provide good water and air drainage, good frost protection, moderate fertility, and moderate temperatures for adequate ripening, but with acid retention.

Pinot noirs from this AVA are characteristically red to black fruited, with raspberry to black cherry ranges, offering earth, truffle, cola, and perfume aromatics and flavors, with light spices and a core of sweetness on the palate.

Eola-Amity Hills
The name of this AVA is derived from a ridge of hills adjacent to the Willamette River. The ridge is actually composed of the Eola Hills, straddling the 45th latitude on the southern end, and the Amity Hills on the northern spur. The proposed minimum elevation for the AVA is 200 feet

Two of the predominant influences on the characteristics of wines from the Eola Hills are shallow soils and the Van Duzer corridor. The soils of the Eola Hills contain volcanic basalt from ancient lava flows. The basalt is combined with a preponderance of marine sedimentary rocks and/or alluvial deposits. These soils: Nekia, Woodburn, and Steiwer are generally much shallower and rockier relative to most other Oregon AVAs. These shallow well-drained soils tend to produce smaller grapes with greater concentration.

The Van Duzer Corridor essentially provides a break in the Coast Range that allows cool ocean winds to flow dropping temperatures dramatically, especially during late summer afternoons. These late afternoon and evening breezes help provide the cool nights that keep acids firm and are essential for optimal ripening

The wines tend to be bigger, more full-bodied wines. The fruit components tend towards blackberry, black cherry, and plum contrasted with raspberry, strawberry, and cherry flavors, which may predominate in wines from deeper soils. The mineral content of the terroir is often present both on the nose and on the palate. The wines often display considerable focus and clarity of fruit. They also favor primary fruit character over spice, tending toward the darker black fruit spectrum (black cherries and blueberries). Compared to other North Willamette Valley regions, the wines often exhibit brighter acidity and firmer structure, along with considerable longevity, this due to the cooling effect of the Van Duzer Corridor. Wines from lower elevations tend to lean more toward plum and bramble fruit, showing slightly more secondary flavors such as earthy, mineral and spice/herbal tones (e.g. white pepper and dried flowers).

Chehalem Mountains

The Chehalem Mountains AVA is a single uplifted land mass southwest of Portland in the northern Willamette Valley, extending 20 miles in length and 5 miles in breadth. These mountains stretch from the town of Wilsonville in the southeast, snake between Sherwood and Newberg, and reach almost to Forest Grove in the northwest. They include several discrete spurs, mountains, and ridges, such as Ribbon Ridge and Parrott Mountain. The highest point within the Willamette Valley is the Chehalem Mountains’ Bald Peak, at 1,633 feet, which effects weather for the AVA and helps to distinguish it from the adjoining grape-growing hillsides and surrounding lowlands, less appropriate for grapegrowing.

It is the geography and climate that largely differentiate this AVA from others. That notwith- standing, the variety of soils within the AVA helps to play host to different grape varieties. Soils on the southern and western slopes are basaltic (including Saum and Jory) and ocean sedimentary
(including Melbourne and Willakenzie). Soils on the north face of the mountains are wind-blown loess (Laurelwood). Inappropriate heavier alluvial soils are largely excluded from the AVA by virtue of its minimum elevation of 200 feet.

Within the almost 70,000 acres of this AVA are over 1100 acres of grapes, grown in more than 80 vineyards, and 15 or so wineries. The Ribbon Ridge AVA is a sub-AVA of the Chehalem Mountains.

A wide range of Pinot noirs can be produced in this AVA, from more lightly red-fruited, elegant and balanced stylings, to black-fruited, briery, earthy, and highly structured wines carrying brown spice and wood notes, plus most gradations in-between.

Yamhill-Carlton District
North of McMinnville the land slowly rises to the hamlets of Carlton and Yamhill. Low ridges surround the two communities in a horseshoe shape. The free-flowing North Yamhill River courses through the center of a lush patchwork quilt of nurseries, grain fields, and orchards. The neatly combed benchlands and hillsides of the Yamhill-Carlton District are home to some of the finest Pinot noir vineyards in the world.

Historically nourished by forestry and farming, this area is rapidly emerging as a global center of Pinot Noir production. This pastoral corner of Oregon’s northern Willamette Valley creates a unique set of growing conditions. The Coast Range to the west soars to nearly 3500 feet (1200m) establishing a rain shadow over the entire district. Additional protection is afforded by Chehalem Mountain to the north and the Dundee Hills to the east.

The coarse-grained, ancient marine sediments native to the area are the oldest soils in the valley. These soils drain quickly, establishing a natural deficit-irrigation effect. Thus, the vines stop vegetative growth earlier here than elsewhere, leading to more complete ripening, even in cooler growing seasons. This allows Pinot noir to develop deep ruby colors and broad, silky tannins. The mouth-filling wines exude powerful fruit aromas of raspberry, blackberry, and black cherries complexed by minerality reminiscent of pipe tobacco, espresso, clove, and dark chocolate and accented by scents of rose, violet, lavender, and sweet wood smoke. These are alluring, complex, supple gems of Pinot noir to sip and savor.

McMinnville District
The McMinnville AVA sits due west of Yamhill County’s wine country home, the city of McMinnville. It extends approximately 20 miles south-southwest toward the mouth of the Van Duzer Corridor, Oregon’s lowest Coast Range pass to the Pacific Ocean. The proposed AVA is a blend of geo-climatic factors that make it unique among Yamhill County’s proposed AVAs. Specifically, the appellation encompasses the land above 200 feet and below 1,000 feet in elevation on the east and southeast slopes of these foothills of the coast -range mountains. Geologically, this region is dramatically different in soil profile from other winegrowing areas in Yamhill County. The soils are primarily uplifted marine sedimentary loams and silts, with alluvial overlays. Beneath is a base of the uplifting basalt. Clay and silt loams average 20–40 inches in depth before reaching harder rock and compressed sediments, shot with basalt pebbles and stone. The uniqueness of the soils for winegrowing is in the 20–40 inch depth.

Climatically, this AVA is, again, in its own class. These primarily east and south facing slopes sit in a protected weather shadow of the Coast Range Mountains. Rainfall is lower (33 inches annually) than sites only 12 to 20 miles to the east. The foothills also provide protection from chilling winds in the unstable air conditions of spring and fall. Winegrowers also have the option of placing vineyards on more southerly facing sites to take advantage of the drying winds from the Van Duzer Corridor. There are presently approximately 600 acres planted in the AVA. Of greatest note is the flavor qualities of the Pinot noir wines from this area. Unlike the wines from hillsides to the east, the Pinot noirs from these soils are highly pigmented, with a strong backbone of tannin and acidity and a massive palate of black fruit and earthy flavors.

Ribbon Ridge
Ribbon Ridge is a very regular spur of ocean sediment uplift off the northwest end of the Chehalem Mountains, comprised of a relatively uniform five square miles (3,350 acres) of land in a breadloaf-like shape. In excess of 300 acres within 15 vineyards are currently planted on the ridge. The AVA is distinguished by uniform ocean sedimentary soils and a geography that shows it protected climatically by the larger and taller land masses surrounding it. Paucity of aquifers forces many vineyards to be dry farmed. The AVA’s elevation minimum is 200 feet, with its highest point 683 feet.

Pinot noir characteristics from Ribbon Ridge include predominantly black fruit (black cherry, blackberry, and black currant), moderate to high structure sometimes bordering on rustic, good acidity especially in higher elevations, and good extraction. Wines contain fine tannins, a range of brown and wood spices, fresh-turned earth and chocolate dependent on vintage. Wines are thought to ultimately age very well.