A winemakers tool box Part 1
Purists argue that "great wine is made in the vineyard," not concocted in the laboratory.
Wine is fermented grape juice. In most cases the wine has been "manipulated" by the use of certain additives. There are several things a winemaker can do in order to enhance a wine. I had no idea about all these additives that were available to a winemaker and just how much a wine can be altered. When I started reading and researching I couldn’t stop. I am by no means against additives in wine however I want to know what the winemakers are doing and why.
Winemakers will harvest their grapes based on the pH level and other factors eg. weather conditions.
Note: The higher the pH the lower the acid.
The pH level of wine will range between 3.0-3.6
Here are the desired pH levels
White wine 3.3 (white wines are better with a lower pH level, more acidity is needed)
Red wine 3.4
Sweet wine 3.4
Dessert wine 3.6
Here are several examples of how a wine can be altered.
Acidification -decrease pH-(warm growing regions eg Australia, California)
The natural acidity of grapes in warmer regions tends to be lower. Winemakers can add tartaric acid pre-fermentation decreasing the pH level and improving the flavour, colour and balance.
Citric acid - increase a wine's stability
De-acidification -increases pH- (bad years in cool climate regions eg German)
Calcium carbonate will reduce the acidity of the clarified must before alcoholic fermentation begins.
Chaptalisation (cool climate regions) this technique is used to increase the alcohol levels through the addition of sugar during the wine making process
Malolactic Fermentation (MLF) Second fermentation, converting the harsh malic acid (green apple) to softer lactic acid (milk) by the action of lactic and acid bacteria. Most red wine undergo MLF, white wine is dependant on the style of wine desired by the wine maker.
Powdered Tannin - Tannin is found in the grape skins, pips and stalks. New oak barrels will also imparts tannin into the wine. However some winemakers will add powered tannin to the wine in to fix the colour and/or add grip and stablise the structure. This additive is used around the world in regions like Burgundy, California, Bordeaux, Australia and more. The Chief winemaker at Penfolds John Duval adds powered tannin to the legendary Penfolds Grange.
Mega purple is used to enhance colour, aroma and taste. A few drops of mega purple will change the colour of a wine dramaticaly, a salmon colour wine can become an appealing deep ruby red.
Mega purple is the brand name of a food additive made from grapes by Canandaigua Concentrates of Madera, California a division of Constellation Brands
Few examples of how the processes and additives can be put to use.
Bad year in the vineyard and your grapes are lacking sugar? - Chaptalisation
Chardonnay is too tart? - Malolactic fermentation
Chardonnay is not tart enough? - Tartaric acid
Is your Pinot Noir lacking tannin structure? - Powered tannin
Searing high acidity in your Riesling from a cool vintage? - Calcium carbonate
Syrah lacking colour after fermentation? - Mega purple