|February 4th, 2003|
As I sit here perched on the eve of what will be the culmination of my intensive five week study of wine, I find myself quickly coming a part
(apart? I can't even SPELL anymore! The other day I was taking notes during a Sicily lecture and I forgot how to spell "firey" AND "orange"!) at the seams. I think I can day that we all pretty much looked forward to these five weeks. We expected to come away knowing more, seeing more, tasting more, and just loving more. Although those who went in knowing nothing might have actually broken even, I find myself coming away with a deficit in my Wine Knowledge Bank. Yes, my WKB account is over-drawn. It's in the red -- the "brick red," the "blue red," and the "brownish rim with purple streaks" definition of red.
It could have been our instructor who didn't teach so much as he read -- word-for-word -- the transparencies made from each pathetic "tip page" of our pathetic joke of a text: Wine 101. Yes, you're reading that correctly -- it IS a five dollar book. It could have been that the instructor was so deficient in the basic social skills any trilobite wallowing in primeval slime would consider par for the course that he managed to alienate half the class while the other half loathed him with more than a half-hearted passion. It could have been that the instructor treated us as though we were all current inmates of the Happy Pill Institution who had been briefly let out for a field trip. I mean really, who among us needed to have the Mediterranean so condescendingly pointed out to us? Or to be told that because we don't want to eat pickled herring or some off-smelling oysters that we're "picky" and that he "feels sorry for [our] husband[s]"?
Then, we were told we weren't allowed to swallow. What are we, college freshmen with visions of watered-down beer dancing in our heads? Okay, so some of us are, but more of us aren't. Plus, it's pretty nasty -- all that spitting. Bringing up white and red loogies in the same cup makes for some interesting art: "Phlegm in Pink Liquid Suspension." That is if the current definition of "interesting" is "incredibly repulsive and liable to make one want to bring up way more than saliva." And if you've just eaten, well, that just brings more texture to the whole piece.
He rushed us through Italy's wines -- a country whose wines I happen to adore since they're eminently gettable on our income -- as well as giving making short work of New Zealand, South Africa, and Germany. Of course France has the best wines, I don't dispute that but what in the world was up with his obvious animosity toward Australia? From what I could gather, they're too clean and have managed to raise the hygiene standards in all wine producing countries.
All and all, I think I would have learned a lot more from the guys at University Wine on Mass. Ave and they don't treat me like a single-brain-celled lifeform.
From now on, I drink what I like and swallow the rest.
2.10.03 UPDATE: I got an A on the exam but here are my notes anyway.
Vitis Vinifera: Grape species from which all classic wine-making grapes come from. This species yields the largest and sweetest fruits. Thousands of varieties exist.
The grape vine is a Mediterranean plant.
Drop of Wine History: Wine was cultivated as far back as 4000 B.C. Stronger glass, tighter stoppers, and Pasteur's research into fermentation in the 19th century enabled wine production to develop into the huge commercial industry it is today.
Wine is fermented grape juice with an alcohol content ranging from 5.5% - 14%. When grape spirit is added to make fortified wine, the alcohol content is raised to 15% - 22%.
Phylloxera vastarix: The vine louse, still to be found in most vineyard soils, devastated the European wine industry in the late 19th century. It resulted in the planting of more disease-resistent vines.
Anatomy of a Grape:
Stalks and seeds are removed during processing.
Skin color and thickness give the wine (especially red and rose) its color and many of its aromatic and tactile qualities. Tannins come from the skins.
Acid-Sugar ratio determines the wine's sweetness and level of alcohol. This component comes from the grape's flesh/pulp. Dry=absence of sugar.
Grape's Life Cycle: When dormant vines begin to weep sap, spring growth is about to start. Buds, foliage and flowers are produced. Vines are pruned twice a year. All pollinated and fertilized flowers become grapes. Harvesting takes place in the fall. For ice wine, harvesting takes place in the winter.
Topography: Slopes make for concentrated sunlight and better drainage. This is better for vines than flat and overly fertile land. South-facing slopes in the N. Hemisphere get more sun and are warmer. The opposite is true in the Southern Hemisphere. In hot areas, the cool slopes tend to be cultivated for grape growing. In higher cooler altitudes, grapes take longer to ripen.
Soil: Soil provides the medium for growing, contains what the vine needs. The poorer the soil, the better the wine. Vines need well-drained soil. If the soil is too fertile and wet, the vine will grow too many leaves and not enough fruit. The soil must be able to retain moisture without becoming water-logged. Warmer soils like gravel, sand, and loam retain heat, which speeds ripening. Cold soil, such as clay, retards it.
Two Schools of Thought on the Importance of Soil: Old World considers soil of the utmost importance. New World minimizes the importance of soil. Of course, that may be because the New World really doesn't have the EXACT soil the Old World (which is defined as Europe, but let's face it, when it comes to wine, we're talking about France) has.
Prime Climate for Grape Harvesting:
Avg. annual temp: 57-59 degrees, with a summer average of nothing lower than 66 degrees.
Rainfall of 28 inches annually -- too much rain is bad, causes grapes to mold.
A climate that isn't too hot or isn't too cold is ideal. Sun is needed for ripening heat.
Bad weather: Frost, strong winds, hail, and heavy rain. Wind machines can help prevent frost from settling on the grapes.
Noble Rot: Botrytis cinera is a fungus affecting grapes left on the vine in warm humid weather during the autumn harvest. The grapes become shriveled and dehydrated with a concentrated sweetness. It is a desired process when making dessert wines like Sauternes. The best botrytized wine comes from Bordeaux and Germany.
In Wino's Make-up Bag: Color
A well-made wine has a brilliant, clear color.
Viscosity: The "legs" or "tears" that cling to the side of the glass after the wine has been swirled around. If prominent traces are left, it indicates the wine has a high alcohol or sugar content -- or both. Or that you mistook your glass for your spit cup.
Looking at White Wines
Range: A nearly colorless, water-white to deep gold.
Most white wines are straw-yellow. The color will darken with age.
Climactic Affect on White Wine Color: Paler wines come from cooler regions, darker wines from warm areas.
Young whites from cooler climates are often tinged with green, but a brownish white wine could be "off." Aging in oak produces a deeper color as does the presence of noble rot.
Looking at White Wine in a Glass
In spite of watery color, a defined edge suggests a wine of quality.
"Old Gold" color suggests fullness and richness.
Intense color at the core correctly implies sweetness
Examples of color:
Yellow Gold: Gewurtraminer
Old Gold: Botrytized Sémillon
Water White: Riesling
Lemon Yellow: Chardonnay or Champagne
Looking at Red Wines
Range: Pink to red-black (due to grape variety).
Unlike white wine, red wines lighten with age. The browner and paler the rim, the more mature the wine.
Climactic Affect on Red Wine Color: Warm areas produce darker-colored wines, oak-aged wines lose more color than bottle-aged wines.
Looking at Red Wine in a Glass
If the color fades toward the rim, the wine is of medium quality.
A brick-red and watery edge indicates a Bordeaux. Intense color at the core hints at a hot climate.
Examples of color:
Almost Black: Syrah (Rhône)
Clear Garnet: Gamay (Beaujolais) with a purple rim
Brick Red: Bordeaux, watery edge
Light Orange: Grenache or Pinot noir
The Taste Test: Do You Spit or Swallow?
Tasting Dos and Don'ts
Spit. If you swallow, you will never be able to compare all the subtle nuances of each wine. (Yeah, right. Whatever, buddy.)
Perform your tasting in a well-lit environment. Natural light does not work as well as florescent.
Clear your palate by waiting between wines -- it takes time for the enzymes in saliva to return to normal. If you don't have time to wait, rinse with water. Water will clear away the residual tannins. Cheese will coat your tongue and the inside of your mouth and affect how the true flavor of the wines hits your tastebuds. Bread or crackers trigger saliva to produce sugar in order to breakdown the starch. Yeah -- don't go laying out your fancy bries and Carr's Table Water crackers and individual cheese knives call it "a wine tasting." If anything, it's a "Wine and Cheese Party," so let's just not get all hysterical about it.
Do make notes of impressions. And then promptly forget all noted impressions, never refer to the impressions again and stare blankly at a wine menu, pretending (with pursed mouth) that ANY of the wines sound familiar.
Don't wear perfumes or lotions. I'm thinking a wine tasting is not the best place for a date -- there's the spitting, the bad lighting, the starvation, and the B.O.
If doing a blind tasting, conceal clues. Because, of course, even the tiniest glimpse at the label's paper will ruin everything. EVERYTHING!
Wino's Chanel No. 5: Smell
Swirling the wine in the glass aerates the wine and spreads the surface area of the wine, enabling the taster to smell. Retro nasal passages in the mouth allow us to smell through our mouth when we hold the wine in our mouth. Apple is the dominant smell in wine.
Tasting: Balance, Weight & Body
Acid, alcohol, fruit and tannins should all be balanced.
Too much acid: sharp, raw
Too little acid: dull, flat, short
Too much tannin: bitter
Correct amount of tannin/acid = refreshing fruit and lingering flavors in the finish.
Weight = alcohol content
Body = Mixture of fruitiness and alcohol -- the "feel" of the wine in the mouth.
Full-bodied = Alcoholic and fruity
Light = Crisp with low alcohol content
When the favor lingers in the mouth after swallowing = long
The intensity and persistence of flavor reflect the quality of the wine.
The aroma and flavor continuing in the mouth after the wine has been swallowed.
The quality and enjoyment of a wine's aftertaste, combined with how long it lingers is called its "finish."
The finish can sometimes give an indication of how a wine might age. A poor wine has an unexciting end.
Red Wine Flavors
Banana/Pear: A Beaujolais fermented at a low temperature.
Raspberry: Syrah, inexpensive Rhones.
Black Pepper: Spicy reds from Syrah grape.
Green Pepper: Inexpensive red wine from Cabernet sauvignon or Cabernet franc.
Mint/Eucalyptus: Cabernet sauvignon from Australia, S. Africa, or California -- New World Cabs.
Chocolate: Full-bodied red wine, ripe, mature, low acid.
Soft Red Fruits (strawberries, red currants, cherries): Pinot noir grapes
White Wine Flavors
Hazelnut/Walnut: Mature white Burgundy
Toast: New oak barrels or bottle-aged Chardonnay and Sémillon.
Rose Petals: Gewurtztraminer or Muscat
Peach/Apricot: New World Chardonnay, Riesling, or Muscat.
Butter: Old and New World Chardonnay
Gooseberries: Sauvignon blanc
Lemon/Lime: Sémillon, Australian Riesling
Pineapple: New World Chardonnay
Vanilla: Aged in oak.
Banana/Pear: Inexpensive whites
Honeyed: Mature dessert wines, sign of noble rot.
And if you ever manage to spit out more than two flavors in each list, well, you're lying and everyone knows it.
Around the World in Eighty Bottles
Old World = Europe, stuff touching the Meditteranean
New World = Americas, Australia, New Zealand, and S. Africa
France is 2nd only to Italy in terms of quantity of wine produced. The wines of France are role models for the rest of the world.
AOC = Appelation d'Origine Controleé = French indication of good quality and conformation to minimum quality standards.
Petits chateaux = everyday wines
Cru bourgeois = between petits chateaux and crus classés
Crus classés = fine wines, there are five crus classés
Climate: Atlantic Ocean gives temperate climate. Med. Sea gives the area a Med. climate. Continental side of France gives higher highs and lower lows because there is no body of water to temper the climate.
Wine Regions of France
Alsace: Borders Germany, NE part of France. The only region of France to have built its reputation on varietal wines. This is because the wars have seen the possession of Alsace go back and forth between Germany and France and Germany does the whole varietal wines thing. Alsace is fertile because the mountains protect it from harsh weather. It is the second sunniest and driest place in France. Because of the warm sunshine and low rainfall, grapes can be harvested late. Lusciously sweet wines are a local speciality. The wines of Alsace are aromatic, dry and full-bodied. Aside from some Pinot noir, which makes light reds, all the wines of Alsace are white. Varieties of Alsace: Gewurtztraminer, Riesling, Muscat, Pinot gris, Pinot noir.
Bordeaux: On Atlantic, Southwestern France. World's finest wine region. Largest A.C. in E.U.
Districts of Bordeaux:
Médoc/Graves: Primary grape is Cabernet sauvignon and Cabernet franc.
Pomerol/St. Emilion: Merlot
Sauternes: Sauvignon blanc and Sémillon
Claret: British name for Bordeaux's reds dating back to when the British ruled France more than five hundred names ago. The name still exists.
Famous Bordeaux Chateaux: Lafite, Latour, Margaux, Mouton
Burgundy: Central-Eastern France. Continental climate. Region is fragmented because the clergy once owned vineyards in Middle Ages. Because of this fragmentation, classification is complex. It was the first of the French regions to achieve fame abroad and its wines are still in great demand.
Districts of Burgundy:
Côte d'Or: nobody seems to know
Mâconnais: nobody seems to know
Burgundy has quite possibly the best Chardonnay (Chablis), Pinot noir and Gamay.
Loire: N. of Bordeaux, Central Western France. White wines for early drinking. Muscadet (dry, fruity), Saumur (sparkling Chenin blanc), Rosé d'Anjou (Cab. franc), Pouilly Fumé (dry Sauvignon blanc), and Vouvray (Chenin blanc, both sparkling and sweet).
Chenin blanc is the most important grape of the Loire with Sauvignon blanc coming in second and Muscadet third.
Rhone: N. of Provence, Southeastern France. In the North, there's Syrah (Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage) and in the South, there's Grenache (Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Côte du Rhône, and Côte du Rhône-Villages). The difficult terrain in the upper reaches of the Northern Rhône makes wine expensive to produce in Côte-Rôtie.
South of France, Provence and Languedoc-Rousillon: Appellations are Fitou, Corbières, and Minèrvois. Was once France's main source of cheap, plentiful drinking wines (how can you be a source of "plentiful" drinking wines? I hate this book!), which are called vin de table. Now the wines have greatly improved -- particularly in Languedoc-Rousillon -- and Provence produces most of the country's rosé.
Largest wine-producing country in the world. Some fine wine is made in Italy but the majority is modest -- appropriate for drinking with the local food. Almost every imaginable style of wine is produced in Italy but it is almost impossible to discern regional styles. In great contrast to the very well-defined wine regions in France, vines of all varieties grow all over the place.
DOCG: Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita is the top quality of Italian.
DOC: is next
VT: Vino dei Tavola is table wine
The classification laws of Italy are being revised in order to standardized quality. Indicazioni Geografiche Tipiche, an equivalent of the French vin de pays has been introduced.
Wines of Italy: Barolo, Asti, Barbaresco, Soave, Chianti, Dolcetto.
Spain and Portugal
Spain is best known for Sherry, Rioja, and a sparkling white called Cava. Tempranillo and Garnacha (Grenache) are its more important grape varieties.
Portugal makes Port, Madeira, and a few red, white, and rosés. Quality has improved since joining the E.U. Other wines are Vihno Verde (white) and Dâo (red).
DOCA: Denominacion de Origen Calificada is the top quality grade of Spain.
DO: Denominacion de Origen is next
VdM: Vino de Mesa is table wine
Because Germany can be cool and damp during the growing season, grapes do not always ripen fully, resulting in high-acidity, low-alcohol white wines. Riesling wines from the Kabinett are their great strength. The Rhine and Mosel are the main wine regions. The slate in Germany's soil absorbs heat which results in high acidity/low alcohol.
Grades: 1. Kabinett (least sweet); 2. Spatlese 3. Auslese 4. Beerenauslese 5. Eiswein 6. Trockenbeerenauslese (sweetest, botrytized).
QmP: Qualitatswein mit Pradikat, top quality in Germany
QbA: Qualitatswein bestimmer Anbaugebriete, Landwein, Tafelwein (table wine)
The Rest of Europe
Switzerland: Expensive, clean white wine. Pinot noir, Gamay, and Merlot.
Hungary: Sweet white Tokaji
The Rest of the World
California is the most important region. The Pacific NW (Oregon, Washington State) as well as the Atlantic NE (NY and VA) are also important. Although, the wines out of New York are for bulk sale and are nasty. In Canada, the area around Lake Ontario is the wine region. However, I have had very nice wines in a Nova Scotia vineyard, so plbbbbbt!
In the U.S., the vines are a combination of native and exotic (European) grapes. Native grapes alone make lousy wine.
Washington State, like Alsace, is a protected area.
California accounts for 95% of the wine made in the U.S. It comes closest to French-type wines. Coastal areas cooled by fog and wind make fine wine (Napa and Sonoma). The hot Central Valley with its huge output of modest red "jug" wine makes up the bulk of CA production (Gallo).
AVA: Approved Viticultural Areas define region, not style or quality of wine in North America.
Quality Control: Must be present on European labels, they are enforced by law. There are no such laws in the U.S. Small surprise, since there are no laws governing our meat and fish standards, either.
The vine louse phylloxera is not found in Chile.
Certain climactic conditions and inhospitable terrain preclude much of the continent from producing wine but several (Argentina and Chile) have healthy trades.
Chile: Ideal conditions, skilled wine-makers, and excellent investment make for excellent red wine.
Argentina: They are way ahead of Chile in terms of quantity. Bulk methods of production do little to encourage good quality wine. Wine produced: Malbec, Torrontes, Chardonnay, Merlot.
New Zealand: Talented wine makers work well in the extremely variable climate. They produce well-balanced whites, some good reds, and sparkling wines from Chardonnay and Pinot noir grapes: Sancerre, Pouilly Fumé, Chardonnay, Sémillon for the whites. Pinot noir, Merlot, Cabernet sauvignon for the reds. An appellation system is being planned.
Australia: Makes some of the most exciting wines in the world (the book is from the British perspective, according to our instructor who doesn't seem to share their exuberance for Australian wines). Because it now trades with the E.U., Australia has an appellation control system. South Australia is the highest producer. They call Syrah, "Shiraz." They make Shiraz blends with Cabernet sauvignon, and Pinot noirs. They also produce Chardonnays, Rieslings, and Sémillons. According to Herr Instructor, Sémillons are hard to push in the U.S. this statement is contrary to an article I read in Wine Spectator a few years ago which said that Sémillons in Oregon and Washington State were very popular and worthy of that popularity.
South Africa: Night harvests minimizes heat damage. The Cape area produces most of the country's wines. South African wines span the spectrum: Chardonnay, Chenin blanc, Cabernet sauvignon, and Pinotage (their native red). They also call Syrah, "Shiraz." Their wines resemble California wines.
America has twenty-five, Europe only one. Don't ask me to explain that, Herr Instructor didn't and I don't have time before my test to look it up properly.
"Varietal" wines are made from one grape variety. A "blend" is a mix of two or more grape varieties. In the U.S., 75% of the wine has to be made from that particular grape in order to call it a "varietal."
Grape variety is, by far, the most important factor in influencing the style and flavor or a wine.
Gamay: This grape produces light, fruity reds intended to be drunk young and fresh. They have an intense pear aroma (result of production method) and a raspberry flavor. Beaujolais and Beaujolais nouveau are made from this grape and are of enormous commercial importance in Burgundy, where they account for more than half of all wine produced in that area. More serious Beaujolais can be aged.
Zinfandel: Although regarded as California's own grape variety, this grape actually originated in Europe. It can be light and elegant whites or rosés to massive tannic reds. Its fruit aroma and flavor is berrylike. This grape matures quickly and is at its peak after five years. Brief aging in oak is recommended but it doesn't take to oak as well as other varieties.
Syrah: In Australia, it is use as the base to make sparkling and fortified wines. This grape produces dark, full-bodied, strong reds, with spicy aromas that are best when they are paired with food. The vines are easy to grow, adaptable, and thrive in warm places. Wines have potential longevity particularly if they are oak-aged. Tannic when young, these wines could be kept for three years before drinking.
Cabernet sauvignon: Most well-known black grape variety in the world. The fruits are small, blue, and thick-skinned (makes them disease-resistant). These grapes are not very maleable -- they can be blended but they will maintain their strong personality. Unfussy vines, they can travel. Along with Merlot -- with which it is often blended, it is the most important Bordeaux variety. The grape is high in tannins so it ages well but needs time to mature. It has an earthy, bell peppery, blackcurrant flavor.
Grenache: This black grape makes warm, fruity-flavored wines with high alcohol content with aromas of ground black pepper. It is low in tannins (and acidity) so it is often blended with highly tannic grapes (Cab. sauv. and Syrah). Used extensively to blend when making red, rosé, and white wines in Spain and France. Australia, Southern France, California, and Spain are the main growing areas. It makes Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes du Rhone, and Rioja.
Merlot: This is the most widely-planted grape variety of the Bordeaux region. The grape is high in alcohol content with flavors of plum and fruitcake. Merlot grapes are early to fruit and are prolific. Unblended, they are soft and easy-drinking wines. When blended, it is usually paired with Cabernet sauvignon. Cab. sauv. gives a backbone to Merlot (which is lower in tannins and acidity) but Merlot can bring a richness and smoothness to wines that would be otherwise harsh.
Pinot noir: One of the main grape varieties used in Champagne and makes red Burgundy. The grape has low levels of tannins and color on skins. This is a picky grape that needs ideal conditions in order to thrive; it is extremely sensitive to climactic conditions and doesn't have high yields -- this makes Pinot noir a difficult and expensive grape to cultivate. Rarely blended, it makes pale-colored, light to medium-bodied reds with a strawberry or raspberry aroma. Blending destroys its singular personality. The best quality Pinot noirs are from Burgundy. Other regions include New Zealand and Oregon.
Riesling: The wood of this vine is very hard and frost-resistent. It is the classic German grape running from very dry to very sweet. The wines it produces are light in body, low in alcohol, strongly flavored, and very long-lived. Its high acidity balances richness. This grape is subject to noble rot. It has distinct aromas of green apple, citrus, peach, cut grass, and linden.
Sauvignon blanc: The acidity present makes this a good blending variety. It adds zest to bland wines and is most often blended with Sémillon. This grape produces dry, fresh whites, that should be drunk young. Aromas of green grass and gooseberries (cat pee, apparently). Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé from the Loire are made from Sauvignon blanc grapes. New Zealand also has good varieties.
Sémillon: This versatile grape makes a range of white wines that are dry to very sweet. It is most notable in Australia and Bordeaux and often blended with Chardonnay and Sauv. blanc. This grape is at its best when it is subjected to noble rot and makes Barsac and Sauternes. It is the most important grape in the sweet and dry whites of Bordeaux. Many of these wines improve with age but it is best when drunk young.
Chardonnay: The most popular white grape variety. It has an unfussy temperment and great versatility in making wine. Maleable, it can be made into many things, especially when blended. It responds well to oak aging and is the grape variety behind classic white Burgundy. It is one of the three varieties used to make Champagne. The grape can be dry and light with crisp, apple-like flavors or medium and full-bodied with buttery flavors, depending on how the wine is made. Pouilly Fuissé comes from this grape.
Gewurtztraminer: This spicy variety has distinctive pale pink grapes and produces highly aromatic, full-bodied wines that can be dry or sweet. With low acidity, Gewurtz can have a high alcohol content (often over 13%). Alsace produces the finest examples of this grape. Wines have an exotic perfume and litchi flavor and go well with spicy Asian food.
Chenin blanc: Grapes have thin skins with a high sugar content. Their high acidity means they need lots of sun to ripen in order to prevent tartness. It produces white wines from very dry to very sweet (some are botrytized) and sparkling varieties. Successful dry wines are fresh and fruity, sweet wines are well-balanced and honeyed. Aging improves good quality Chenin blanc by bringing out the fruit. Main regions for this grape are Loire, New Zealand, and South Africa.
Other Important Grape Varieties
Barbera: Light, fruity, Italian reds
Nebbiolo: The big red used for Italian (Piedmont) Barolo
Pinot blanc/gris: Makes whites in Italy, France, and Germany. Pinot blanc is similar to Chardonnay and Pinot gris is aromatic.
Sangiovese: Main grape in Chianti produced in Italy (Tuscany).
Tempranillo: Chief variety in Spanish-made Rioja
Cabernet franc: Always blended to make earthy, aromatic wines. Parent to Cab. sauvignon.
As grapes ripen, their acid levels reduce, while sugar, color, and tannins increase. The wine's need for acidity must be balanced with the desire for richness gained from ripeness. Red wine benefits from riper grapes but delaying harvest increases the risk of damage from rot, hail, and autumnal frosts.
Harvesting by hand is slow and labor intensive but it does allow pickers to choose the best grapes and allows them to focus only on the part of the vineyard that is ripe.
Rain at harvest time will cause the delicate grapes to mold.
Drying grapes reduces water content, concentrating their sweetness in way similar to noble rot. Dried grapes make dessert wine. Historically, grapes were dried because the wines they made were more alcoholic, thus more stable and longer-lasting. Italian Passito and French vins de paille ("wines of straw" are wines that are dried on straw/bamboo mats) continue the tradition today.
Stainless steel has become very important in wine production. It is suited to vigorous temperature control and preserves the wine's purity. Ribs on the stainless steel tanks are filled with coolant necessary for vital temperature control.
Pasteurization is a means of stabilizing. Speeded-up stabilization enables production of younger, fruitier, cheaper wine.
Vineyard: Grapes grown in this cool climate make acidic wines that form a good base for Champagne. Chalky soil is good for the grapes.
Grapes: Pinot noir, Chardonnay, Pinot meunier.
Champagne Method: Champagne is named for the region of origin in France. The process is a double fermentation that makes the tiny bubbles (mousse). After the first fermentation, the wine is blended and bottled. Second fermentation follows in the same bottles. Once yeasts and sugars have been added, the wine is then aged for one to three years. Riddling and disgorgement follows.
Aging: Flavor in champagne develops with aging. After second fermentation, the aging in bottles breaks down the yeast and gives the wine flavor.
Riddling: After the second fermentation the wine is aged for one to three years. The bottles are then tilted from the horizontal position up to a 90 degree angle. Every so often, they are twisted and shaken to move sediment into the neck. When done by hand, riddling can take eight weeks to complete. Using a gyropalette, riddling can take eight days. There is no difference in quality using the less laborious method of the machine.
Disgorgement: The plug of sediment (frozen yeast formed after riddling) in the neck is removed by disgorgement. The neck of the bottle is passed through a freezing solution. When the cap is removed, the sediment is forced out by internal pressure. The wine can then be topped off with additional wine and sugar.
Other ways to add bubbles:
Transfer method: No riddling takes place and following the second fermentation, the sediment is filtered under pressure in a vat, after which the wine is rebottled in a new bottle.
Charmat/Tank Method: Second fermentation takes place in a tank rather than in individual bottles.
Carbonation: Cheapest method where by wine is injected with CO2. It's the Coca Cola method. No aging. Less flavor. No second fermentation using yeast to produce carbon dioxide.