Monday, September 13, 2010

A Day in My Shoes

“What do you do?” asks a friend.

“I clean, while getting dirty and covered in wine,” I reply.

Wine is such a clean, high end product to be enjoyed out of spotless glasses with no influence of distracting smells. Yet, if many people could see how much work goes into creating that crystal clear ‘juice of the gods’ they would be amazed. Many people know the idea of wine making but so much is kept a secret. For those that may not know the basic steps, of wine making, please read below.

The grapes: Highest quality when possible.
Harvesting and destemming: Gentle hand harvesting when possible.
Crushing and primary fermentation: The best crushing is gentle, insuring very little of the harsh acids contained in the seeds pass into the ending juice. Primary fermentation starts with cultured yeast grown on a slant. (Natural fermentation for those who dare to be different.)
Cold and heat stabilization: People often question why deposits and hazes form in certain wines and not in others. Depending on how or if these processes are used the wine will or will not have a haziness in the finished product.
Secondary fermentation and bulk aging: Aging helps make the wine more palatable.
Malolactic fermentation: For non-aromatic white varieties like chardonnay, and most red wines secondary bacteria fermentation can benefit the end product. This affects the mouth feel, oak sensation, creaminess and weight of the wine.
Laboratory tests: In order to be sure your wine is stable, finished fermenting, or checking various levels of acids and alcohols: V.A., T.A., and SO2 and Ethanol.
Blending and fining: After results have been made, the winemakers’ skill of showcasing the fruit begins. Finings used can also affect that mouth feel, aromatics, and finish of a wine. Ingredients include anything from gelatin, and bulls blood, to Isinglass. (the air sac of a Sturgeon fish)
Preservatives: Natural byproducts of wine making are sulfites. Additional SO2 is usually used as a preservative, to ensure a shelf safe product.
Filtration: One of the last steps prior to bottling wine. Used to clarify wine, and reduce sediments.
Bottling: A step away from the glass. (If you saw the movie Bottle Shock it’s not like that!)
So my day starts with set up at 8:30 am. Laying down hose lines and setting up pumps are usually the first steps. Next is climbing in tanks and scrubbing with different chemicals to ensure they are fit to store wine. Then, I use lots and lots of water. After they are done dripping and all the water is drained we are ready for racking. (I sometimes feel like Mike Rowe climbing out of a 120-degree tank-dripping wet.)
Racking: A term for moving wine from one vessel to another. We do this usually three to four times per wine per year. Sometimes we rack wines away from the lees, sometimes we rack to clean the barrels, and other times we rack to filter the wines prior to bottling, or even to aerate the wine. Every time a wine moves from one place to another, we clean. Every time we bottle, we clean. Every time we do anything, we clean. Many think that everything is sterile that touches the wine, and for the most part it is. But I’ll be the first to tell you that bees, earwigs and even spiders often find themselves into the wine. But, as I’ve said, we clean. (All filtered out…refer to filtration step above) So even though this is just glorified grape juice, realize why you drink that juice out of those spotless clean glasses.

by, Tim Welly- Millbrook Cellar Master

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