Whats in your glass?
Wine is a simple natural pleasure. Made from perfectly formed grapes that are carefully de-stemmed and crushed, releasing the flavorful liquid that will be naturally fermented, placed in oak barrels or stainless steel tanks, and bottled for our enjoyment. A natural beverage for us to enjoy or is it? Winemakers have been adding ingredients to wine to improve flavor, cover a flaw or to create a look, taste, aroma and mouth-feel they want to achieve from that grape juice.Modern technology has created many additives and techniques a winemaker may choose to employ to create better color, flavors and aromas in their wine. These include manufactured yeasts, bacteria, tannin enzymes and oak components.Enzymes are used to break down grape skins, for color extraction, or to break down flavor and aromatic components which can improve the quality of the grape juice. These enzymes can be manufactured compounds, or natural based enzymes such as a powdered pomace of grape skin and seeds. To balance out the grape juice, many winemakers will add an acid which improves the depth and intensity of color, in combination with an enzyme. These seed and skin tannins are also added to wines that lack structure. Manufactured yeasts are added to create a certain flavor, or to add a rich full mouth-feel to the wine. Natural malic and citric acid from fruit sources, and additional grape acids may be used to enhance flavors. Most wineries regularly use freeze-dried malolactic bacteria to speed up malolactic fermentation, stabilize the wine and to prevent oxidation.
Many wines will have the distinct flavors and aromas achieved by time spent aging in oak barrels, without ever being in a barrel. This is achieved by adding oak wood chips, oak blocks or oak staves to wine in stainless steel vats. A powdered form of oak can be added to the juice prior to fermentation and after de-stemming to aide in color extraction and to impart oak essence to the finished products.They will also employ micro-oxygenation, pumping small amounts of oxygen into the juice during fermentation and during the aging period in the steel vat to speed up aging of red wines. Finally most wines receive a dose of sulfur dioxide to curtail the growth of undesirable bacteria which can cause unwanted characteristics in the wine, while preserving desirable yeasts. Sulfur dioxide occurs naturally in wine, but most winemakers use additional amounts to help preserve the wine and to help keep the color bright.Many winemakers use some additives, be it enzymes, or additional preservatives, or manufactured yeasts trying to improve on the final product. Other winemakers manipulate the wines to produce the same flavor profiles of their wines year after year. Most winemakers want to create a finished product that is true to its varietal character, with little manipulation by additives.
A local wine event is scheduled for this Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Village at Squaw Valley. Its the annual Art Bark Fest, which features fantastic art, jewelry and ceramics for viewing and purchasing, great wines to sample and dogs. What better way to spend a sunny weekend, with the proceeds going to the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe and the Squaw Valley Rescue Dogs. Admission is free, wine tasting with a logo glass will cost $30.
Janice Jones is a Truckee resident, and a wine consultant. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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