And yes, it is not all to philosophize on the deep meaning of the subtle aromas of crushed blackberries and hemp of an old 1982 La Conseillante castle, it is still necessary to know the basis.
HOW DO YOU MAKE WINE?
For today, we will tackle the most precious theoretical basis: the transformation of grapes into wine. Before we talk about wine, we will already try to understand the grape. There are several thousand varieties of grape varieties but only one species (vitis vinifera), but I will not lie to you, I do not know them all! I know, it’s hard to admit. Unless you take advanced botany classes, you’ll never have to know them. In France alone, there are 210 grape varieties authorised for cultivation but only 10 represent 70% of the area planted.
Here are 6 grape varieties that you will often find in the elaboration of French wines. Each grape variety has its own aromatic structure.
MERLOT: Emblematic grape variety of Bordeaux. Easy to grow. it will give aromas of blackberry, prune and violet in its youth and leather and game as it ages. Gives rather low tannic and fruity wines.
GRENACHE: Generous southern grape variety with aromas of strawberry, cherry and fig. Gives superb roasting notes as you age. Very present in the south of France, it is often assembled with Syrah. It is also used to make natural sweet wines but that is another story…
SYRAH: I love this grape variety. It is found a lot in the Languedoc Roussillon, the Côtes du Rhône and in some countries like Chile, Argentina, Australia. It gives the wines sublime aromas of fresh pepper, nutmeg but also blackberry and chocolate. With time, it will give you notes of game and figs.
CHENIN: Very present on the banks of the Loire. This variety gives aromas of quince, mango, pear (dry wine). Fruit paste, honey, candied fruit (in sweet wine). Produces generous and aromatic wines, even if the dry ones can be very mineral.
CHARDONNAY: King grape variety of the great white wines of Burgundy. You will find him a little fresh lemon, lime and honeysuckle.
SAUVIGNON: We find this grape everywhere in the world and each time with different expressions. A real chameleon of perfumes: from lemon to pineapple, from jasmine to smoke or flint.
Feel free to let me know in comment if you would like to have a more complete article on grape varieties.
BUT THEN CORENTIN, HOW DO YOU GET GRAPES?
So first of all it’s not worth writing all the time in capital letters and secondly, I come to it.
First of all, you need a berry, a grape. To get it, it takes time. The vine grows everywhere, it is a vine and as long as it is not cut, it will climb where it can but will not produce or little grape. Once pruned, the vine stock will produce grapes worthy of making wine after 4 to 5 years.
Then, as with all plants, the vine will go through the same stages. First of all a pretty bud appears at the end of winter, beginning of spring. If it survives the last frost, the bud gives place to a flower…
… moment poetry: treat yourself once to the hallucinating spectacle of a quiet vineyard in full bloom in the coolness and calm of a May morning… Well, let’s resume!
Then the flower becomes a fruit: the grape. At this point, the excess plant material will be cut off in order to concentrate the plant’s energy in the bunch. Finally, WINE HARVEST (!!!)
by hand or by machine (today high-tech has also progressed in agriculture and the harvesting machine is more and more efficient).
The harvest will begin when the winegrower has found the right balance between sugar and acidity. Because a successful wine is above all a grape with balanced flavours and acidity.
THAT’S IT, THE HARVEST IS OVER!
Quickly! The freshly picked grapes are brought to the press. Each grain must arrive at the winery at its best. If the grains are damaged, accidental fermentation may occur and could lead to the development of disease and/or bad taste that could quickly affect the rest of the tank.
So first, we sort. Once sorted, the grapes can be pressed (once or twice for the good wines, three times for the bad wine that we will always call wine). Then for the red wines, it remains to be macerated with the skin so that the juice can take its color. Indeed, the red pigments of the wine are contained in the skin of the grape.
SO ROSÉ IS WHITE AND RED MIXED?
Lost! But partly won because in the wonderful article on CHAMPAGNE. I explained to you that only champenois can assemble white and red to make rosé. Everywhere else it’s forbidden!
At this stage of winemaking, here is what we must retain colors.
There are different types of grapes. To remember :
White grapes with white juice
Chardonnay, Muscat, Sauvignon
Red grapes with white juice
Pinot Noir, chasselas
Red grapes with red juice
Syrah, cabernet sauvignon, gamay
So in clear, to make white wine, you need white or red grapes with white juice. For red, it will require grapes with red skin and white and/or red juice that will be macerated in a vat with the skins to color the juice.
The longer the maceration, the more pronounced the colour will be. BUT if the maceration lasts too long, the risk is to extract too much tannins (also contained in the skin of the grapes).
AND ROSÉ IN ALL THIS?
For rosé, there are 2 techniques:
Direct pressing: The grapes are pressed step by step, stronger and stronger, according to the desired colour. This technique generally produces fairly light rosé wines.
Rosé de saignée: The principle is the same as for red wine. The maceration lasts less, which makes it possible to obtain very beautiful rather sustained pink. Depending on the desired colour, maceration will last between 8 and 48 hours.
FERMENTATION: THE BEST DISCOVERY SINCE THE FIRE!
We can say it, fermentation is everywhere: in wine (of course), beer, yoghurts, mustard, bread, butter, cheese… In this case, for wine, it is alcoholic fermentation.
I don’t give you the details of the chemical process, but I let you go to the fermentation page on Wikipedia: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermentation
The process is quite simple (at least in general terms). The enzymes naturally present in the grape, or added in the vat, will transform the sugars into alcohol.
That’s how simple it is. In certain cases, the winegrower can provoke a second fermentation, called malolactic fermentation (because it transforms malic acids into lactic acids). This second fermentation brings power and roundness.
Fermentation begins after a few hours and usually lasts about ten days.
AND NOW TASTING?
No, sorry! Not yet, there is one last important step: breeding.
The wine obtained can be transferred into vats or oak barrels (or large oak barrels) in order to stabilize. Eventually, this is followed by sulphiting, blending (of plots, grape varieties), fining and filtration (these two stages allow the wine to become clearer and more limpid).
ET ENFIN ! BOTTLING…
The wine is bottled and closed with a cork or cap.
Here the wine is ready to be tasted or to age quietly in your cellar…
Wine takes time. I really like the vision shared by Thierry LURTON, the producer of Château CAMARSAC in Bordeaux.
“If an office worker makes a mistake, the next day will be another chance to try again. For a winemaker, some mistakes must wait until the following year to be able to start again.”
Give me your desires for a next article in commentary…