Archive for January, 2006

Enology: Monitoring Brettanomyces

Monday, January 23rd, 2006

The best way to assay for Brett is probably with your nose, but checking every single barrel each time you top can be daunting. Monitoring acetic acid levels in your wines can be a good indicator for general spoilage or O2 exposure. It should be recalled however that Brettanomyces will only produce acetic acid if it is exposed to O2. So if your barrels are anaerobic, monitoring acetic acid will not tell you if you have Brett., you have to stick your nose in it or put a sample under a scope. There is a good article in J. Sci Food Agric (1997, 75, 489-495) on the subject that was the impetus for this reminder.

Tasting: International Reds

Friday, January 13th, 2006

The idea for this one was to get a snapshot of some red wine from places in the world besides Australia, France, Italy, or California. So our host assigned each of us a country. New Zealand, South Africa, Argentina, Spain, USA (but not CA), and Chile. Unlike last week, there was more differentiation among the scores. To paraphrase the negative description of the night: “its as if someone in Virgina had some vines in their backyard and after reading about all these successful wineries that use copious amounts of oak they decided, ‘hey, I can do this,’ and through together some unripe fruit in a bunch of new oak.” Uh…he was wrong, no VA represented. Average score followed by low and high. Enjoy.

Glen Carlo, South Africa, ‘Grand Classic’, $19 (Avg: 6.5+; 6 and 8 ). This wine did not receive a score below 6 and is only $19, I’d definately buy it again. I forgot to note the vintage of this Bordeaux varietal blend, probably 2002. A great example of the amount of Brettanomyces character that is acceptable. A little closed aromatically with some spice, but fruity in the mouth with nice meddling of oak and a peppery finish. Great mouthfeel!

Susan Balboa, Mendoza, Malbec,2002 $23 (Avg: 6; 3 and 8 - RH strikes again). Juan Gil, Spain, 2003 $14 (Avg: 5; 4 and 7). Col Solare ‘Red Wine’, whoops, forgot vintage again - $58 (Avg: 5; 2 and 9 - this wine was contrversial). Araucnao, Valle de Calchagua, Carmenere 2003 $9 (Avg: 4; 3 and 6). Zenith Vineyards, Marlborough, Reserve Pinot noir 2000 $ 20 (Avg: 3.5; 2 and 6 - the 6 was later revised to a lower score, JD rated it based on the assumption it was Greanche).

Enology: Sulfide update

Wednesday, January 11th, 2006

In a recent aritcle in Practical Winery and Vineyard, Angela Lee Linderholm and Linda F. Bisson of UC Davis do a nice job summarizing the current research into sulfide production by yeast. As I have seen in other research papers, a clear cut answer into sulfide production remains elusive. Winemakers who throw copious amounts of nutrients at their fermentations take note: “Our research has shown that there is significant strain variation in sulfide production and that while nitrogen supplementation does tend to reduce sulfide levels, even with high nitrogen supplementation, some strains will still produce sulfide at an order of magnitude over the threshold of detection…”

A recently published paper that I cannot locate corroborates the idea that nutrient supplication will NOT solve all your sulfide problems. I think many people know that later in fermentation any nutrient additions are placebic, but even early additions can have limited impact. The Bisson lab is headed toward isolating specific enzymes involved in conferring low-sulfide production, and if sulfide is a problem for you then strain selection seems the future answer for reducing sulfide. Until then, I guess we can contine to aerate, add nutirents, and use copper.

Prego Wino

Monday, January 9th, 2006

This article at Women Wine Critics Board wonderfully summarizes the debate about alcohol and fetal alcohol sydrome. Excellent references are given. My wife is currently prego with our 2nd child and when she mentioned to a social worker at our hospital that she occasionally has a drink (literally ONE drink, OCCASIONALLY) she was accosted and frightened into thinking she was an aweful mother. Who are these people and why do they refuse to keep current with medical research? It reminds me of my mother telling me how doctors keep revising what “high” cholesterol is so she needn’t be worried that although once considered in the normal range, she is currently in the high range. Nevermind that further research may have indicated that the current level for high is really the high. By the way, there is a whole other discussion here about knowledge and science, but I won’t go epistemological today.

Settling the Salty debate

Friday, January 6th, 2006

I am not ashamed to admit that when tasting we can beat a topic to death as long as it has something to do with wine. I think all can agree that detecting odors falls into this category, even if this odor is salt (NaCl). Although the vapor pressure of NaCl is extremely low and the ’salt’ smell of the ocean is likely due to a number of other compounds wisking about in the breeze; unbelieveably (because who really is going to waste time studying this) there is recent evidence that common ‘tastants’ such as NaCl and Aspartamate can be detected as an odor by certain individuals. So I guess in some way we were all correct. Ahh…the pedantic ramblings of people who care way too much about tastes and smells are so interesting aren’t they?

Tasting: Cabernet Sauvignon

Thursday, January 5th, 2006

Cabernet Sauvignon from anywhere. SS admitted after the tasting that he felt silly for two reasons: 1) he scheduled the tasting during the Rose Bowl, and 2) who really wants to taste 6 Cabernet’s in less than two hours. It was exhausting, perhaps we should just taste 3-4 next time we attempt Cab. The wines were, generally speaking, slightly above average though without our Pinotphile and low scorer RH in attendance, perhaps there is a little inflation in the average. As usual average score is reported with low and high scores following.

White Oak, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2001, ~$28 (Avg: 6.5; 4 and 8 ). Hints of Brett characters (medicinal) did not ruin this wine but enhanced its complexity. Lots of fruit, intense aroma and decent sized finish (perhaps a little too much tannin). Classic CA Cab, I’d buy it again for $28.

The White Oak was the only notable for me (cheapest), on average the other wines scored similarly (excpet for an old Trefethen that was slightly corked). Here are the others: Maboroshi, Napa Valley Merlot (whoops!), 2001, $?? (Avg: 6.5; 4 and 8 ). Michel-Schlumberger, Dry Creek Valley, Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2000, ~$35 (Avg: 6.5; 5 and 7). Robert Mondavi, Margie’s Vineyard, 1998 (lab sample; Avg: 6; 6 and 7). Hall Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003, ~$35 (Avg: 6; 3 and 9). Trefethen, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 1993, $?? (Avg: 4; 2 and 5).