The End Game
Late September here in Oregon signifies the final stages of ripening. The red grapes have turned black (perhaps thats why the French call it Pinot black!) and the white grapes are starting to gain a yellow hue. These are sun-induced changes that protect the grapes from sun-burning which is essentially solar oxidation.
In red grapes these protective compounds are called anthocyanins and they absorb light in different parts of the spectrum. Pinot noir in particular tends to produce anthocyanins that absorb predominantly in the blue part of the spectrum (short wavelength) and therefore make wines that are very red in color (that is, they bounce back to your eyes that part of the spectrum which they do not absorb).
White grapes and particularly Chardonnay produce quercitin as an antioxidant. Quercetin is responsible for the yellow hue in the wine. These compounds that the grapes are currently synthesizing to protect themselves from oxidation will extract into the wines and will also protect you from oxidants in your environment.
Other changes are also afoot in the grapes. Components which the yeast will turn into volatile flavor components are being synthesized. Phenolic components, in addition to the anthocyanins, are being synthesized as further antioxidants. Acidity is starting to drop though it is still quite high at this point.
And of course sucrose (what we call table sugar) is cascading down the vascular system from the leaf canopy. When it arrives at the berry, the grapes have devised a very clever system for pushing it into the berry against an increasing concentration of sugar within. It simply breaks the sucrose into 2 pieces (“hydrolysis”) as it enters the berry, thus effectively producing a different looking substance than what is outside. It thus essentially maintains a gradient for sucrose to flow into the berry.
I like to think at this time of year that the grapes are truly working for me, synthesizing things that will smell good and taste good, once the yeasts enter into the equation.
Recent News & Rants
I am a bit perplexed by the popularity of a relatively new genre of wine: “Natural Wines”. In my opinion, this is a narrow and arbitrary classification meant to suit the marketing needs of whoever is using it. When I see a cloudy wine and am told “Oh this is a natural wine”, I am compelled to retort “I can’t think of anything more natural than gravity…maybe the winemaker should have waited to rack his wine for bottling!” And when one encounters a wine which is either oxidized or smells of fingernail polish remover or has been brutalized by a lactic acid bacteria infection, sure these are “natural processes” but they also emanate from poor winemaking practices.There’s More... >
2016 was an extremely dry and warm vintage. Because of water stress, the berries were smaller and crop smaller than usual. However, a beneficient rain in early September re-hydrated the fruit and the result is a cellar of very concentrated and wonderfully balanced wines. Get ready for a brilliant 2016 vintage of small production down the road!There’s More... >
Guido, our 18 year old Tuxedoed cat, quietly passed away on August 18. For 17 vintages, Guido was our constant companion in the cellar, in the vineyard, in the yurt.There’s More... >