Wine Words Demystified: What Does “Veraison” Mean?

You know the deal; the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus - Wine Words Demystified!  This week’s word is Veraison..

According to Wikipedia:

Véraison is a viticulture (grape-growing) term meaning “the onset of ripening”. It is originally French, but has been adopted into English use. The official definition of veraison is “change of color of the grape berries.” Veraison represents the transition from berry growth to berry ripening, and many changes in berry development occurs at veraison.

In other words, veraison is the period when the grape berries become progressively soft and take on the colors characteristic of their specific varieties.

veraison in syrah lagier meredith

Veraison in Syrah- Image courtesy of Lagier Meredith

Veraison typically occurs 40-50 days after fruit set. In the Northern hemisphere that’s typically in late July/early August.  However here in Northern California, many wineries have already reported the onset of veraison. In fact, some are reporting it’s the earliest veraison in a decade or so.

As you can see from the photo above, the onset of veraison does not occur uniformly among all berries.

So what does this mean in terms of actual production of wine? With the onset of veraison, acidity begins to decrease, and sugar levels increase.  When sugar levels rise to the appropriate level (typically measured in brix) as deemed by the winemaker/grower then it is harvested, and the winemaking process begins.

And for wineries, it’s an exciting times because it means it’s time to start gearing up for harvest!

 

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Wine Words Demystified: Destemmer

You know the deal; the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus - Wine Words Demystified!  Since harvest is in full effect here in Northern California, I’ll be featuring harvest related terms the next several weeks!

This week’s word is Destemmer..

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

A machine that separates the stems from the grapes. When combined with a crusher, it is called a crusher-destemmer. juice that runs – freely – simply as the result of the weight  of the grapes, before any mechanical pressure is applied in a PRESS

Essentially, when grapes are placed in a destemmer, there are paddles that gently beat the grape making it jump off the stem. The stems are ejected from the machine. The used stems may be used for fertilizer in high pH soils.

With crusher-destemmer, the grapes are then dropped into a vessel where the crusher gently breaks the berry, but not the seed.

Here’s a cool video that shows a small scale crusher-destemmer in action:

A machine like the one above will set you back about $1,500.  A manual crusher-destemmer that operates via manual hand-cranking and can process up to 2,200 lbs of grapes an hour would set you back around $600.
The proper destemming and crushing of grapes is crucial to the winemaking process If the grapes are over-crushed the wine could end up excessively laced with bitter tannins because it will included crushed seeds which are very bitter.  The other potential downside of destemming and crushing grapes for making white wine is that the grapes can be bruised and exposed to oxygen, making oxidation (not a good thing) a risk.
On the other hand, some winemakers utilize whole cluster fermentation, whereby the whole grape cluster is fermented intact.  Whole cluster fermentation affects both aromatics and flavors in wine.

 

 Related posts:

Wine Of The Week – 2009 Bedrock Wine Co. Syrah T-Block Hudson Vineyard

My Wine of the Week (“WoW”) for July 28-Aug 4 is the 2009 Bedrock Wine Co. Syrah T Block Hudson Vineyard.

The Winery

I previously did a post on the winery entitled Bedrock Wine Co: Where Old Vine Love And Transcendent Wine Making Come Together back in January, wherein I focused on the sources of Bedrock’s grapes.   Morgan Twain-Peterson, the winemaker/owner of Bedrock.  You can check out his full bio here, but suffice it to say he’s been making wine since he was “knee-high to a bug”.  Here’s what the “About” section of the Bedrock website says about the winery…

Bedrock is an itsy-bitsy winery making wine in a converted chicken coop. Fruit from only the most excellent vineyard sites is hand pitch-forked into the destemmer, fermented in open top redwood and stainless vats using only native yeasts, and are manually basket pressed by winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson into the sexiest oak from the coldest French forests.

In terms of the wine making process itself at Bedrock, it’s surprisingly Ole Skool (or as Morgan might put it “Cro-magnum”).  Grapes are pitch-forked into a small Zambelli destemmer, the punch-downs are manual, after fermentation the wines are basket pressed in an Italian press that is manually operated.   It’s a very manual and time-consuming process, but I can vouch for the results.  Peterson is making some spectacular wines!

The Wine

The fruit for this wine is sourced from the Hudson Ranch Vineyard.  According to the Hudson Vineyard website…

Hudson Vineyards produces 10 different varietals of fruit, all of exceptional quality in the distinct Los Carneros AVA of Napa, California. With 160 acres planted, we sell fruit to over 30 wineries throughout Napa and Sonoma Counties. Of particular note are those wines that receive vineyard designation status. While Hudson Vineyards sells grapes to over 30 wineries, only a handful of producers have vineyard designation status.

This is not only a vineyard designate wine,  the grapes are from a specific “block” within the vineyard  which takes the concept of  terroir to the next level of varietal distinctiveness.

The wine was fermented on native yeast with 33% whole clusters.

 

My tasting notes follow:

Inky opaque purple color with very aromatic meaty, smoky, white pepper, dark fruit and violet aromas. On the palate, it medium-bodied, and round with a velvety texture, and beautifully balanced cassis, black raspberry, dark chocolate, and spice flavors. Long finish 92pts

 

Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Details:  14.8% alcohol.

Closure: Cork

AVA: Napa Carneros.

Varietal(s): 96% Syrah, 4% Viognier.

Production: 160 cases

Suggested Retail: $39 USD

Wine Words Demystified: Cap

You know the deal; the more some folks learn about a topic, the more shortcuts/slang/acronyms/initials/technical jargon can be tossed around.  I’m here to help you understand those sometimes mysterious words and phrases, thus - Wine Words Demystified!

This week’s word is Cap…

According to Karen MacNeil‘s The Wine Bible:

The crusty layer, up to two feet or more deep, of grape skins, pulp, stems, and seeds that rises and floats to the top of the juice during a red wine’s FERMENTATION.  The cap mus be kept in contact with the juice by one of several methods…Only if the cap is thoroughly in  contact with the ALCOHOL in the fermenting juice can COLOR, AROMAS, flavor and TANNINS be extracted

A cap is created when grape skins, pulp, etc. are  forced by rising carbon dioxide gas to the top of the fermentation vessel during fermentation.  Especially during the making of red wine, contact between juice and skins allows the wine to develop its rich color, aromas, flavors and enhances its tannin complexity.

Here’s a short vid of a wine cap…

There are two generally accepted methods for keeping the cap in contact with the juice during fermentation – “pumping over” and  ”punching down’.

Here’s a short clip of  what the “pumping over” process looks like…

Here’s a short clip of  what the “punching down” process looks like…

A third more modern and efficient method of keeping the cap in contact with the juice during maceration is called the “ pneumatage process” (click here for a video), in which compressed air or gas is sequentially injected into the juice.

Cheers!

Wine of the Week – 2011 Bedrock Wine Co Mourvedre Ode to Lulu Rosé

My Wine of the Week (“WoW”) for June 2-June 8 is the 2011 Bedrock Wine Co. Mourvedre Ode to Lulu Rosé

The Winery

I previously did a post on the winery entitled Bedrock Wine Co: Where Old Vine Love And Transcendent Wine Making Come Together back in January, wherein I focused on the sources of Bedrock’s grapes.   Morgan Twain-Peterson, the winemaker/owner of Bedrock.  You can check out his full bio here, but suffice it to say he’s been making wine since he was “knee-high to a bug”.  Here’s what the “About” section of the Bedrock website says about the winery…

Bedrock is an itsy-bitsy winery making wine in a converted chicken coop. Fruit from only the most excellent vineyard sites is hand pitch-forked into the destemmer, fermented in open top redwood and stainless vats using only native yeasts, and are manually basket pressed by winemaker Morgan Twain-Peterson into the sexiest oak from the coldest French forests.

In terms of the wine making process itself at Bedrock, it’s surprisingly Ole Skool (or as Morgan might put it “Cro-magnum”).  Grapes are pitch-forked into a small Zambelli destemmer, the punch-downs are manual, after fermentation the wines are basket pressed in an Italian press that is manually operated.   It’s a very manual and time-consuming process, but I can vouch for the results.  Peterson is making some spectacular wines!

The Wine

The wine is a blend of 91% Mourvedre sourced from the Bedrock, and Pagani RanchVineyards, along with 9% Grenache from the Annadel Vineyard. 

2011 Bedrock Wine Co. Ode To Lulu Rosé


My tasting notes follow:

Lovely eye of the partridge color with stone fruit, melon, and mineral aromas. On the palate it’s light-bodied, and nicely balanced with a wonderful crisp acidity, and white nectarine, melon, mineral, and a touch of strawberry flavors. Medium-long finish. 60% Mourvedre from Bedrock Vineyard planted in 1888! 31% Mourvedre from Pagani Ranch planted in 1922, and 9% Grenache from Annadel Vineyard. Whole cluster pressed. Fermented with native yeast.


Recommendation: Highly Recommended

Details:  12.3% alcohol.  Screwcap clousure.  AVA: Sonoma Valley. Varietal(s): 91% Mourvedre, 9% Grenache. Suggested Retail – $18 USD

How Wine Is Made – Sometimes Words Get In The Way

If you’ve ever wondered how wine is made, but for whatever reason haven’t picked up a book to read about it, then this one’s for you!  Here’s a visual guide, entitled “How Wine Is Made – An Illustrated Guide To The Wine Making Process by Jamie Goode.  A picture is worth a thousand words!