After 12/7/2011, this blog will no longer be updated, although content will remain. Please visit my new blog at Hidden Latitudes.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

In Vino Veritas, redux.

On August 15 of last year, I wrote about a visit to a old high-school friend who has a vineyard and bottles wine near Crossville, Tennessee. I was fascinated by the process of making wine and, although the descriptions and processes came fast and were clouded by my almost constant enjoyment of the finished product, I wanted to write about it.

My friend, Tim, recently got high-speed internet (he lives waaaay out on the Cumberland Plateau, not near any cable or DSL service). Finally able to load large sites in less than a half-hour, he checked out Words of Wayne and my comments on my visit to his home. Being the consummate professional in all things wine-related, he felt he should correct some of my previous comments. I am passing some of his email comments along to redeem myself and further show his pride of work. My original comments are in italics.

I did not know that red wine gets its color from those seeds and skin, since all grape juice is white. Most red grapes have white juice so the red wine produced from these grapes extracts its color from the skins. However there are some red grapes that also have red juice. The Marquette I have in the vineyard is an example of that. It would make a rose’ colored wine if fermented off of the skins, but fermenting on the skins gives the wine a much deeper color and extracts many goodies like tannins that give the wine a bigger body. 
Then it is strained and put into oaken casks, where it ages. My red wines are in barrels, not casks. Casks are much larger than traditional wine barrels. 
Tim is a winemaker, and a vintner. A vintner is a winemaker. 
And every one of his wines has won awards—many firsts, many blue ribbons. The only prize to elude him is Best of Show. But it is only a matter of time. I have received three Best of Shows for my wines. Two in the Florida International Competition and one here in Tennessee. The one that has eluded me is the Indiana (Indy) International Amateur Wine Competition. Wines are scored on their on merits such as clarity, aroma, taste, mouth feel, varietal character, etc. You can make a great wine that scores very high, receiving a gold medal from all judges (usually five), as can several other competitors. The Best of Show compares all the best to determine the best of the best. So since Indy is the largest amateur competition (outside of CA) it is the most competitive and the most coveted of the awards. Regarding California: all the competitions out there only seem to be open to CA residents. Snobby bastards! 
White grapes are pressed immediately and the juice is left to ferment in large bins. Red grapes are crushed along with their seeds, skin and stems, and go through primary fermentation as a mush. The concoction of juice, seeds, and skins during fermentation is “mushy” but it is referred to as “must.” This is made in reference to the grapes from the time they are crushed until they are pressed, separating the liquid from the solids. For a white wine this is usually a matter of hours and for a red, it could be weeks depending on the desires of the winemaker. 
Tim continues with these general comments:
Reading books on grape growing over the last several years has been interesting, as it seems they all are about the way things are done in the great wine regions of the world. Well, TN is not one of those regions. I was told long ago by a TN grape grower that you need to take it all with a grain of salt. The books all seemed to indicate that the fruit flowers should be cut from the vine until the 4th season when you would allow your first crop to mature. Here in TN (and probably most of the US) we allow the crop to mature in the 3rd season. What I have found on my own, that I had never read, was the importance of the training in the second season. I didn’t do a very good job in 2010 with the vines planted the previous year so I will pay for it in 2011. 
I am truly looking forward to the upcoming season as every year I get a little smarter and a little more familiar with what it is that I am supposed to do. 2011 will bring fruit from the entire vineyard, and the varietals I have coming in for the first time have got me excited about the potential for some really good wine… Lord willing. I have left about 6-8 weeks before I need to start pruning. At that point my days will be centered on producing some award winning wines. 
Thanks, Tim, for the clarifications. Like a great cookbook, just reading about it makes my mouth water. See you soon!
—W. S.

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