Posted on February 12th, 2008
Tonight was all about different factors covering style, quality and price of wine.
The following was covered:
- Grape type or “varietal”
- Conditions (soil, aspect, climate, weather, altitude)
- Viticulture (what happens in the vineyard)
- Vinification (what happens in the winery)
- Maturation (the ageing process)
Having recently read the Science of Wine I was familiar with most of what went on in this evening’s class, but some of it was new. What I found most interesting was the science behind fermentation.
Red versus white production
- Reds grapes are crushed, then fermented at between 25 and 30°C, then pressed.
- Whites are crushed, pressed, then fermented at between 15 and 20°C
Fermentation of white wines happens at a lower temperature to preserve the delicate fruityness and takes anything from two to four weeks.
Reds are red because of the contact with the skins during the fermentation process. In addition to colour, the skins also give the wine tannins.
Red wine fermentation happens at a higher temperature with the grape juice (“must”) in contact with the grape skins (“maceration”). During the process the alcohol produced by the yeasts acts as a solvent to extract colour, tannin and aroma from the skins.
The skins float to the top and form a crust. To keep the crust interacting with the wine juice there are a few techniques used.
- Remontage: pumps wine from the bottom of the vat over the top or “cap” of the wine. There’s also another technique, done from above which involves paddling down on top of the cap.
What about the wines tasted?
A Muscadet from Loire (white also called Melon de Bourgogne), a Rosé from Vin de Pays de Gasgogne, a Beaujolais and a Zinfadel (California) – all very different.
Marquis de Goulaine Appelation Muscadet Sevre et Maine “Sur Lie” 2006 (12%ABV)
- Look: Very pale, almost watery
- Sniffy-sniff: light, citrus, slight hint of “breadyness” – sur Lie means on its lees, i.e. let ferment on its dead yeast cells, not sure if it’s related, though.
- Taste: Very dry, high acidity, fresh and fruity and light to medium bodied
- Overall: decent quality and at €10.49 from SuperQuinn, not a bad buy
Domaine de Pellehaut Rosé, Vin de Pays de Gascogne (12.5%)
- Made from 75% Merlot, 25% Tannat, a screwcap “country wine’ (vin de pays)
- Look: Dark pink
- Smell: very like a strawberry jam
- Taste: Dry, low acidity and one dimensional
- Overall: Even at €6.99, I’m not sure if I’d buy it. Perhaps when the weather’s warmer and wine is colder!
Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages 2006 (12.5%ABV)
- Made from the Gamay grape, in southern Burgundy region
- Look: purple inky colour, medium intensity
- Sniffing it out: Light, with a slight hint of banana – characteristic of carbonic maceration – fermentation happens while juice is still in the grape, i.e. not crushed, though some crushing happens naturally under the weight of all the grapes (more on carbonic maceration on wikipedia).
- Taste: Very dry, good acidity and low tannins (again due to carbonic maceration). Light bodied.
- Overall: widely available for between €10 and €11, but not quite memorable. I’d fish out a Fleurie, Morgon or Pizay for a little bit extra – all three are Beaujolais of a higher quality.
Ravenswood Vintners Blend Zinfandel 2005
Getting a decent wine from the US is generally an expensive exercise so I didn’t hold much hope for this reasonably priced (€13.49 ) from California.
- On the eye: Purple, garnet
- Nose: Blackberry with a bit of spicey toast
- Past the lips: Dry, medium acidity and tannins. Blackberry with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a bit of clove action, and perhaps some prunes thrown into the mix. Full bodied, long length.
- Overall: pleasantly surprised and decent value, I’d buy it
So, the Muscadet was good and a bit of a bargain at just over 10 yoyos. The Ravenswood Zinfandel was also pretty decent. The other two? Forgettable.