Winemaking

Pinot Noir – One the most versatile wine grapes in the world!

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Pinot Noir is often hailed for being utterly delicious, but it also happens to be one of the most versatile wine grapes in the world. This single red grape variety can be transformed to create not just red wine, but white, rosé, and sparkling wine as well. How on earth is this possible? It all comes down to the winemaking methods and the production processes that determine this little grape’s fate.

 

White Pinot Noir

If you were to cut open a Pinot Noir grape, you’d see that the flesh (the pulpy part) is actually a pale greenish yellow color. It’s actually the skins of the grapes that dye the juice a beautiful red hue, so if you want to produce a white wine with red grapes – the skins have got to be removed ASAP. This is the secret to white Pinot Noir (aka “Vin Gris”)

Of course, the red skins of grapes start dying the juice really quickly so winemakers work extra fast, usually opting to harvest on a cool morning and get the grapes to the cellar and pressed as fast as possible. The wine press used to make white Pinot Noir is a special pneumatic press (this style of press is used for white wine making) which crushes the grapes but filters off the skins and seeds. The remaining juice typically has a lovely, deep golden color.

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How White Wine is Made

See how white wine is made differently than red wine.

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Red Pinot Noir

Red Pinot Noir uses the red winemaking process.

Grapes are collected and put into grape crushers which drop the entire contents of the crusher into a tank (skins, seeds, pulp, and all!). Because Pinot Noir is such a thin-skinned variety, it often gets extended time with its skins (before and after wine making), in order to soak up as much of the red pigment as possible. In case you were wondering, these two processes are cold-soaking (before fermentation) and extended maceration (after fermentation). Some winemakers will even add the Pinot Noir stems into the fermentation to increase color extraction (it adds some bitterness but you get a whole lot more color and age-worthiness too!). After this whole process is done, you have a wine with a pale to medium ruby red color.

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How Red Wine is Made

See how red wine is made differently than white wine.

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Rosé Pinot Noir

Making Rosé is all about timing. The longer the skins are in the juice, the darker they dye the wine.

For Pinot Noir, this process looks a little like a combination of red and white winemaking. The grapes get crushed into a tank with the skins and seeds. Then the juice is monitored by the winemaker who takes samples every hour or so to check the color extraction. The moment she thinks the color is perfect, the winemaker strains the juice from the skins into clean tanks where the wine completes its fermentation. I’ve spoken with winemakers in both California and Oregon who say they’ve made rosé wines with less than 7 hours of “skin contact” time!

 

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How Rosé Wine is Made

Learn about the different methods used to create rosé wine.

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Sparkling Pinot Noir aka Blanc de Noirs

Start with white Pinot Noir and then ferment it again to make blanc de noirs.

This is the specialty of Champagne, including Jay-Z’s brand, Armand de Brignac, whose “tete de cuvée” is a special edition bottling of 100% Pinot Noir in a Blanc de Noirs style. To make sparkling wine, you essentially take a specially formulated wine (using perfectly underripe grapes that produce more acidity) and ferment it again in bottles so that the carbon dioxide can’t escape and it pressurizes the bottle, carbonating the wine. You can find Blanc de Noirs made all over the world, and almost always, Pinot Noir is the grape used for this wine (the other is a Pinot variant called Pinot Meunier).

 

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How Sparkling Wine is Made

Learn about the different methods used to create sparkling wine.

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Bad Riesling and the smell of unleaded petrol?

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Bad Riesling and unleaded petrol

Dave March CWM
11 Jan 2017

Aged Riesling has long been associated with the smell of petrol. Some might call it kerosene or diesel, whatever, it sounds scary to new wine drinkers and heaven to many devotees.

For decades this has been explained as a natural occurrence during the aging process, and for many a desirable sign that the wine is mature and nicely displaying varietal characteristics. Suggestions are that it is a breaking down of certain molecules over time or that it is molecules which were masked during a wines youth by stronger molecules which have diminished. Or not….

Science has revealed it to be caused by TDN, a compound consisting of some 27 letters and many numbers i.e. not to be troubled with here, but there is no doubt it gives Riesling its 95 octane aromas. Exposed fruit develops more TDN.

What is debated, quite strenuously, is whether TDN is desirable or, in fact, a fault.

“It’s a fault, of course it’s a fault”, says Peter Barry, owner, proprietor and winemaker at Jim Barry in the Clare Valley, South Australia.

Peter is in no doubt that it is caused by sunburnt grapes.Peter is not one to argue with, when he says something, you listen and like his “best mate” Ken (Forrester) he has more wine knowledge than you can shake a stick at. Peter muttered that Ken’s ‘FMC’ is “a ******* good wine”. Peter’s language is as uncompromising as he is.

He doesn’t support the theory proposed five years ago by Michel Chapoutier that the petrol note was due to poor winemaking, Peter says it occurs in the vineyard.

“Riesling is ten times more susceptible to sunburn than other varieties”, so that is why we pick it up mostly in that variety. “We can detect it around 600ppm”, says Peter, “but even if it is around 200ppm people believe they can detect it, they are looking for it”. Good aged Riesling should offer honey, musk, burnt marmalade. Mitchell Wines in Clare agree, good old Riesling should be “toast and bitumen”, they say. No petrol.

A similar story in the Eden Valley, where iconic label Henschke’s owners Pru and Stephen have banned their staff from using the ‘d’, ‘k’ or ‘p’ words. “We look for buttered toast in older Riesling”, says brand ambassador

Barossa winemaker, ex-Cape winemaker, half of the Radford-Dale South African wine brand, and surfing buddy to many current SA winemakers, Ben Radford, at Rockford, agrees that petrol notes are a fault.

But why, I ask Peter, if it is caused by sunburn, does German Riesling often smell so, when summers may not be that hot?

“Because in order to expose the bunches to maximize the sun, leaves are stripped back, developing berries are exposed and the fruit has no time to develop any resistance – its own sunblock – so even in cool climates they are vulnerable”.

“I hate it, absolutely hate it”, (with some generous Aussie language), says Peter, “and us Clare winemakers have agreed to have none of it”. His 2008 Florita Riesling displays layered sherbet, burnt quince, orange peel, the classic smack of lime; again, no petrol.

“I take the tip off of canes, forcing the vines to produce lateral shoots to shade bunches”, this gives them double protection, a chance to develop their own sunblock and extra shade. There is still plenty of ripening, “we know the balance”. Fruit is only exposed if it needs to be and when it is able to cope with the stress.

Peter is a winemaking enigma, he believes “we’ve got nothing broke, so nothing to fix, but we chase progress and technology”. He has a winery section just for experimentation and has top staff; even his cellar door manager is a qualified winemaker. “They are free to make any suggestions to improve my methods, but it must improve, this is not a school debating society, don’t just disagree with my thirty years of experience, add something or **** off”.

Riesling has a three day window of ripeness, says Peter, outside of those three days you lose any chance of optimum fruit. Picking at the right hour, not just the right day, is vital. “That’s why I machine pick and have three harvesters of my own, I can say ‘go’ when I know the moment is right, hand picking, or worse, sharing a harvester, doesn’t allow you that precision”. He still selects rows and parcels and vineyards in their picking order and calls their very moment.

Ben Radford believes in harvesting by hand, but agrees with the small window of opportunity with Riesling and says that the modern machine harvesters are so much kinder to the berries and vines, and have effective sorters on board too.

It is official then, petrol notes are a fault on Riesling, unless you want to argue with Peter.

 

Via wine.co.za

Why Wood It?

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How long has this wine had wood contact? But why?

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Wooded wines are not only recognizable by the price difference when compaired to unwooded wines, but mostly by the different flavours that are enhanced by the wood component. WineFolly posted a very insightful blog about How Wine Barrels Affect the Taste of Wine, and we would like to highlight a few main points for you.

Be sure to read the full story here. Read the rest of this entry »

2016 Harvest Report

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We had a chat with our cellar master/winemaker/viticulturist, Magnus Kriel about this year’s harvest season:

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What was the total tonnages harvested for 2016?

17365 tons

What was the average tonnages per day?

395 t/day

Percentage red and white grapes?

32% red and 68% white

How does this year’s harvest totals compare to those of 2015?

The crop is almost 16% higher than the vintage of 2015,  2400 tons more.

What do you think is the reason for this?

Mostly due to new plantings coming in to bear. Also we had a terrible Colombar season in 2015 and alone on Colombar we picked 1000 tons more this year, this variety is actually back to normal now and contribute to almost 20% of the total production.

How does the white and red tonnages differ from last year?

Percentage wise it is more or less the same, no significant differences.

Were there any new cultivars harvested this year? If so, how did they perform and are you excited about the outcome?

No new ones, just a couple of cultivars only this year in full production and are showing some real potential, for example the Petit Shyrah.

Did the drought affect Merwida’s harvest?

We managed to irrigate all our vineyards right to the end of harvest. I would say the unknown continuous heat affected the flavours a lot more than in 2015. Drought played a minor role, although some farms and some blocks were affected more than others where the full irrigation cycle per week was cut into half due to low water levels in dams.

Merwida had a very good year in 2015 regarding awards. Do you think this year’s harvest is of the same quality, and which wines are standing out for you?

Personally I feel that 2015 was much better than 2016. The early 2016 varietals, like the Sauvignon blanc, first Chenin’s and Chardonnay looks promising as well as the reds, but the gross white looks pretty average. It was also a tough year in terms of vinification and the chemical composition of the grapes due to the abnormal weather phenomena – it really put our winemaking knowledge to the test.

What is your overall experience of the 2016 harvest and your predictions for the 2017 harvest?

All and all it was satisfactory enough. I have absolutely no idea what to expect for 2017! Only the weather conditions that lies ahead and time will tell…

For our 2015 harvest report, click here

Wine Acidity

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Via WineFolly

Understanding acidity in wine

Acids are one of 4 fundamental traits in wine (the others are tannin, alcohol and sweetness). Acidity gives wine its tart and sour taste. Fundamentally speaking, all wines lie on the acidic side of the pH spectrum and most range from 2.5 to about 4.5 pH (7 is neutral). There are several different types of acids found in wine which will affect how acidic a wine tastes. The most prevalent acids found in wine are tartaric acid, malic acid, and citric acid.

How to taste acidity in wine

Sit for a minute and imagine yourself tasting lemonade and pay attention to how your mouth puckers just from thinking about it. This sensation is how our mouths anticipate the acidity in lemonade. The next time you taste wine, pay attention to this specific puckering sensation. After tasting several wines, you’ll create a mental benchmark of where the acidity hits your palate and you’ll also begin to notice that some wines (such as Riesling) tend to have higher acidity than others.

Acidity in wine is important

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As much as modern health has demonized acidic foods, acidity is an essential trait in wine that’s necessary for quality. Great wines are in balance with their 4 fundamental traits (Acidity, tannin, alcoholand sweetness) and as wines age, the acidity acts as a buffer to preserve the wine longer. For example, ice wines which have both high acidity and sweetness will age several decades.

How climate plays into acidity in wine

Acidity is a perfect example of one of the fundamental taste traits that are affected by different climates(warm vs cool).

When wine grapes are still green they have very high acidity. As they ripen, the acidity tapers down and the sweetness increases. The perfect moment, of course, is when the grape is perfectly sweet, ripe, and still possessing enough acidity to make great wine. This is where climate comes in. A region that produces wines with naturally higher acidity will have either cooler nighttime temperatures or a shorter growing season. The cool nights and cold weather stops the grapes from losing their acidity. In a region with a shorter growing season, there’s also the possibility that the grapes never quite get ripe enough, which results in both more tart and more herbaceous tasting wines.

Read the full article here

Back to Basics: What is wine?

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Via WineFolly

What is Wine?

Wine is an alcoholic beverage made with the fermented juice of grapes. Technically, wine can be made with any fruit (i.e. apples, cranberries, plums, etc) but most wines are made with wine grapes (which are different than table grapes). Speaking of differences, the difference between wine and beer is that beer is made from fermenting brewed grains. So very simply, wine is made from fruit and beer is made from grains. Of course, there exceptions –that push the boundaries of beer,–but that story is for another time.

What are Wine Grapes?

Wine grapes are different than table grapes: they are smaller, sweeter and have lots of seeds. Most wines are made with a single species of grape that originated in Caucasus called Vitis vinifera. There are thousands of different varieties within the Vitis vinifera species–the most common is Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Origin of the term “Vintage”

Wine grapes take an entire season to ripen and thus, wine is produced just once a year. This is where the term vintage comes from: “Vint” stands for “Winemaking” and “age” implies the year it was made. So, when you see a vintage year listed on the label, that’s the year the grapes were picked and made into wine. The harvest season in the northern hemisphere (Europe, US) is from August–September and the harvest season in the southern hemisphere (Argentina, Australia) is from February–April.

Single-Varietal Wine

A single-varietal wine is made primarily with one type of grape. It’s common to see these wines labeled by the name of that grape variety. For example, a bottle of Riesling is made with Riesling grapes. It’s useful to note that each country has different rules for how much of the variety should be included in order to be labeled as a varietal wine.

Percentage Required to Label as a Single-Varietal Wine

  • 75% USA*, Chile, South Africa, Australia, Greece
  • 80% Argentina
  • 85% Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Portugal, Spain, New Zealand

*Oregon requires 90% of the varietal

The Taste of Wine

There are several facets that explain wine’s unique flavor: acidity, sweetness, alcohol, tannin, and aroma compounds produced in fermentation.

  • Acidity: Wine as a beverage lies on the acidic end of the pH scale ranging from as low as 2.5 (lemon) to as high as 4.5 (greek yoghurt). Wine tastes tart.
  • Sweetness: Depending on what style of wine you drink, sweetness in wine ranges from having no sugar at all to sweet like maple syrup. The term “dry” refers to a wine without sweetness. See the wine sweetness chart  
  • Alcohol: The taste of alcohol is spicy, palate-coating and warms the back of your throat. Wine’s average range of alcohol is about 10% ABV (alcohol by volume) to 15% ABV. Of course, there are a few exceptions: Moscato d’Asti is as low as 5.5% ABV and Port is fortified with neutral brandy upping it to 20% ABV. Look at a chart of the alcohol levels in wine
  • Tannin: Tannin is found in red wines and contributes to the astringent quality of red wine. Put a wet, black tea bag on your tongue for a great example of how tannin tastes. Read more about tannin in wine
  • Aroma Compounds: Within the tiny minutia of wine (the phenols, esters, higher alcohols, acids, etc) is where you’ll find the complexities to wine’s flavors and aromas. Each grape variety exhibits aroma compounds at different levels. This is why some wines smell like berries and others smell like flowers. Another contributing factor to wine’s aromas is aging. Nearly all red wines are aged in oak, which not only contributes an oak barrel’s flavor compounds (like vanillan) but also acts as a conduit to expose the wine to oxygen. Oxidation and aging produce a range of unique flavors to wine including nuttiness, and dried fruit/flower flavors. Find out where wine aromas come from

Conclusion

Your knowledge about wine and how you communicate it with others
Wine is a seemingly simple beverage that becomes more complex the more you study it. The good thing is, it doesn’t matter how much you know, nearly everyone can appreciate wine. In short, wine is good.

Read the full article on WineFolly.com

 

The Breedekloof Chenin Blanc Initiative

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We are proud to be part of the Breedekloof Chenin Blanc initiative. Our new wooded Chenin Blanc is making a name for itself and although it is a first time for us to add a Chenin to our wine list, the feedback has been amazing!

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Here are two articles that features the initiative:

wine.co.za

Over the years the Breedekloof Wine Valley has established itself as an area for slow ripening vines. Key to this is the late bud break and long hanging time on the vines.

The geography, climate, mountains, rivers and varied geology all contribute to a unique winemaking potential and this has essentially established the area as the home of South African Chenin Blanc.

Chenin Blanc represents 18% of all South Africa’s vineyards and the Breedekloof Wine Valley has 15% of all Chenin Blanc plantings and supplies 21% or one-fifth of all the wine made from Chenin in South Africa.

The varietal has found its true home in this region, with deep alluvial soils containing smooth river pebbles, which is ideally suited to Chenin Blanc. Chenin Blanc is probably the world’s most versatile variety, ideally suited to many wine styles. This has prompted the Breedekloof winemakers to produce small quantities of Chenin Blanc using innovative winemaking methods and expressing terroirs, especially old vineyards, which has resulted in the Breedekloof Chenin Blanc Initiative.

Nine wineries, all members of the Breedekloof Wine Route, form part of this exciting collaboration, and have all launched a 2014 vintage into the market:

  • Bergsig Estate: Chenin Blanc Reserve
  • Botha Cellar: Barrel Fermented Bush Vine Chenin Blanc
  • Breeland: Chenin Blanc
  • Deetlefs Estate: Reserve Chenin Blanc
  • Goudini Wines: Mirabilis Regis-filia Chenin Blanc
  • Lateganskop: Zahir Chenin Blanc
  • Merwida: Chenin Blanc
  • Opstal Estate: Carl Everson Chenin Blanc
  • uniWines Vineyards: Daschbosch Steen

Still in its infancy the initiative has already received positive feedback and support from industry influencers such as Ken Forrester and Tim Atkin MW.

“We’re thrilled about this initiative as we’ve found that by focusing on Chenin Blanc we are able to lift the image of the entire Breedekloof Wine Valley and the various styles of wines produced. Although each winery was left to use their own discretion, expertise and experience in producing a Chenin Blanc true to their nature, the initiative encouraged camaraderie and info sharing amongst the role-players. The round table discussions are imperative as they help raise the profile of the area as well as promote superb quality wines from the Breedekloof Wine Valley,” says Breedekloof Wine & Tourism CEO, Melody Botha.

For more information contact +27.23 349 1791 or visit www.breedekloof.com.

wineanorak.com

Before this tasting Breedekloof was totally off my radar. So it was great to catch up with three Breedekloof guys, Pieter Cronje, De Wet Lategan and Attie Loew to hear about a new Chenin Blanc initiative in the region.

Breedekloof is a relatively undiscovered area. You reach it by going through Paarl, through the tunnel in the mountain, and then it’s the first region you get to as the valley opens out, before you get to Worcester and Robertson. It has one-fifth of South Africa’s Chenin plantings. It’s a narrow part of the valley so the mountains have an influence. It also has more rain than neighbouring regions (twice that of Paarl, three times that of Robertson). Soils are washed out sand and sandstone with pebbles.

It’s an old agricultural area, with vineyards being planted here since 1840. It’s now pretty much dedicated to vines. 90% of the farms are farmed by the owners, and 80% of these are third generation or older. There’s late bud break after cold winters, and harvesting is quite late, in the later part of March, under moderate conditions.

This Breedekloof Chenin initiative started last year. Participating wineries were asked to do something different, to expess Chenin’s different personalities. The only rule was that they had to make at least three barrels, the minimum required by competitions. So they did things like use older blocks, play with wild ferments, use skin contact, lees work and so on.

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There are 25 wineries in the region, ranging from small producers to large co-ops. Nine took part, and these are their wines.

Deetleefs Reserve Chenin Blanc 2014 Breedekloof, South Africa
Old vines, 1300 bottles made. Textured and broad but still fresh with lovely white peach and pear fruit. Real finess here. Subtle creaminess and hints of cheese with nice texture and freshness. 92/100

Merwida Chenin Blanc 2014 Breedekloof, South Africa
Very taut and fresh with some tangerine and pear fruit, as well as some spiciness. Textured, and in need of some time for the oak to settle down. 91/100

Dasch Bosch Steen 2014 Breedekloof, South Africa
Lots of lees contact here, fermented and aged in old oak. Lovely complex marmalade, spice and pear aromatics. Has some nuts and honey on the palate. Real complexity here with some oxidative notes, and hints of cheese and herbs. 92/100

Goudini Cellar Mirabilis regis-filia Chenin Blanc 2014 Breedekloof, South Africa
Rich, bold and spicy with peach and pear fruit. Powerful and rich with some warmth from the alcohol (14.5% alcohol). A bit oily. 87/100

Botha Kelder Barrel Fermented Chenin Blanc Bush Vine 2014 Breedekloof, South Africa
Nice spiciness. Lovely supple broad pear and peach fruit with nice texture and depth. Bold with nice fruit quality. 90/100

Bergsig Chenin Blanc Reserve 2014 Breedekloof, South Africa
Lovely nose of grapefruit and tangerine with sweet spicy herby notes. Textural and quite fine with a nice spiciness. Warm nutty notes and lovely depth, as well as a hint of vanilla. 92/100

Breëland Chenin Blanc Royal 2014 Breedekloof, South Africa
Complex and lively with tangerine, spice, lemon and apricot notes. Fresh and complex with nice pear and ripe apple fruit. Complex, lively and focused. 93/100

Opstal Estate Carl Everson Chenin Blanc 2014 Breedekloof, South Africa
30 year old vines, wild ferment, old French oak. Lively and complex with nice pear and peach fruit showing some spiciness. Lovely density: warm but fresh with nice complexity and depth. 92/100

Lateganskop The Zahir 2014 Breedekloof, South Africa
From 21 year old bush vines. Very complex with a herby, cabbagey edge and fresh tangerines and spice, as well as some lemon fruit. Complex, distinctive and bright with a vivid personality. 91/100

Find these wines with wine-searcher.com

Have you tried the Chenin’s in the area yet and what are your thoughts?

The pink drink: Rosé

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So, you’ve grown fond of the Merwida Pinotage Rosé, but have you ever wondered how it was made? WineFolly sums it up beautifully: Via WineFolly

Pink wine happily spans the colorspace between red and white wine, in a way, rosé is more like a state of mind.

Have you tried our new 2015 Pinotage Rosé? Let us know what you think!

What makes a wine “heavy”?

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HEAVY WINE

We’ve all made the comment “this is a very heavy wine”, but what does it actually mean and what causes it?

Wine Body Definition: In wine talking about body is not a discussion of shapeliness, but instead an analysis of the way a wine feels inside our mouth.

Wine body breaks down into three categories: light body, medium body and full body, and a good way to think about the difference between them is the way skim milk, whole milk and cream feel in your mouth.

Full-bodied wines are big and powerful. In contrast, light-bodied wines are more delicate and lean. Medium-bodied wines fall somewhere in between. There is no legal definition of where the cut-offs occur and many wines fall into the medium-to-high or light-to-medium body categories.

Alcohol is typically the primary determinant of body. Alcohol contributes to the viscosity of a wine. The higher the alcohol in a wine, the weightier the mouth-feel, and the fuller the body. Wines with alcohol levels above 13.5% are typically considered full-bodied.

Extract is another important factor that contributes to body. Extract includes all the non-volatile solids in a wine such as the phenolics (e.g. tannins), glycerol, sugars, and acids.

In general red wines are more full bodied than white wines. If the wine is fermented or matured in oak, it adds further weight and body to a wine.

What Winemakers Do To Make Full-Bodied Wines (via WineFolly)

Winemakers are more like alchemists than ninjas. They guide grapes into wine and only intervene when necessary. Still the winemaker’s choice of yeast will greatly affect the mouth feel and taste of the resulting wine. Additionally, what they do after the wine is fermented also affects the flavor.

  • Malolactic Fermentation: After the wine is fermented, an additional fermentation called Malo-lactic fermentation (MLF) will increase the texture. MLF is basically just altering the type of acid in a wine. Malic acid is the same acid that is in apples. Lactic acid is smooth, like the creaminess of whole milk. Starting a malolactic fermentation involves a different kind of yeast that gobbles up malic acid and poops out lactic acid. If you want a rounder more creamy feeling wine, look for a wine that has undergone what winemakers sometimes call “Full malolactic conversion.”
  • Oak Aging: Oak aging not only adds tannin but it adds aroma compounds to wine including vanillin. Oak esters and tannin help balance out the harshness of a wine and add body. The newer the oak, the more it affects the wine. New oak barrels will often be ‘toasted’, which actually means torched with a fire. The torching caramelizes the oak and in some instances turns some of the oak to charcoal. All of the chemical changes in toasted oak add different esters to a wine. How long the wine sits in oak also affects the resulting flavor and over a long time in oak wine will have a slightly increased alcohol level. If you like the bigger, bolder wines look for oak aging at 12+ months.
  • Believe it or not it is common to leave a hint of residual sugar (RS) in a full-bodied dry red wine. Sugar, like alcohol, increases the viscosity of a wine. We’re not talking about a lot of sugar though, only up to about 3-4 grams per liter. In order to leave sugar in a wine the winemaker doesn’t add it, they simply stop the fermentation a little early by cooling down the yeasts and putting them to ‘sleep.’

So what are the biggest full-bodied red wines out there? Pay attention to a wine’s color and you’ll notice darker wines tend to be bolder. This is because a large portion of the flavor comes from the skins of the grapes. As you may already know, some grapes have thicker skins than others. Click here to learn the Top 10 Darkest Full-Bodied Red Wines in the World.

Sources:

WineFolly: Defining Full Bodied Red Wines

VinePair: Wine Body Guide – Light, Medium & Heavy Body!

TheKitchn: Wine Words – Body

10 Questions with Magnus Kriel

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We had a chat with our cellar master/winemaker/viticulturist, Magnus Kriel about this year’s harvest season:

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This year’s harvest season started earlier compared to other years. What is the main reason for this and do you think it will have an effect on the 2015 vintages?

Normally a lighter yield is the main reason for earlier harvests, but this year it is probably a combination of weather related factors which caused earlier budding, flowering and eventually 14 – 18 days earlier harvesting.

We had quite a strange weather pattern at the end of last year, with very hot temperatures for a few days, and rain the next. What effect did this have on the vines?

It all worked together creating earlier ripening of the grapes. We had efficient water supply for irrigation so the vines was under no stress at any time, creating optimal conditions for high quality grapes. The rain was also too early to cause significant botrytis infections on the grapes.

How does this year’s harvest totals compare to those of 2014?

Some of our major white varieties is down by almost 20% while others were more or less the same. Reds was the same a 2014 with almost no exceptions throughout the cultivar spectrum. Our total crop is about 3.5% up from 2014, mainly due to new plantings.

How does the white and red tonnages differ from last year?

2014’s composition was about 37% red and 63% white. This year is about 41% red and 59% white

Do you only pick grapes during daytime or at night as well? If so, why and what is the effect?

We pick about 85% of our crop by machine and do this mainly by night. There is a significant difference between night and day time temperatures during February/March and it is always better, quality-wise, to get grapes in as cold as possible. It also helps the winery’s cooling plant cope better, with less heat exchange necessary.

Apart from the power cuts, what other factor was a major concern for you during this year’s harvest?

We are a little short on white wine fermentation space, but we will address this issue hopefully this year, otherwise in 2016.

Were there any new cultivars harvested this year? If so, how did they perform and are you excited about the outcome?

We picked some Durif (Petit Sirah) and some Ugni blanc for the first time. The Ugni is blended with some Colombar because the volume was too small to keep separate, but we are quite excited about the Durif!

Any new cultivars on the horizon for bottling?

Maybe some Pinot Gris, but we will make a final decision a bit later this year on the wines’ performance at comparative tastings.

What do you plan on changing in preparation for next year’s harvest?

Nothing major, all our new 2015 additions performed as expected and even better in some cases. We will concentrate on managing current resources as best as possible.

What is your overall experience of the 2015 harvest and your predictions for the 2016 harvest?

2015 from a wine-making point of view, was probably the best in 15 years’ time! The healthy grapes made the whole process smooth and effortless. The average quality of the wine is also about a 50% improvement on 2014. I expected a bit more from the top quality wines, but it is still early days – the wines need a bit more time to develop than in 2014. Overall we look back on a fantastic harvest season at Merwida, with many highlights and after action satisfaction! It is too early to give comments on 2016’s harvest but one thing I can say is that it would be very tough to improve on 2015.

With that great news, we are even more excited for the 2015 vintages! Look out for our Cuveé Brut and 2015 Pinotage Rosé which will be bottled soon!