Tag Archives: Winemaking

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Italy beats France as wine producer

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source: EU Commission

source: EU Commission

Italy has surpassed France to take to crown of world largest wine producer in 2015, according to European Union data. This year’s benign weather conditions have resulted in an abundant grape harvest across the Mediterranean peninsula, as opposed to that reaped on the other side of the Alps.

The figures submitted to the European Commission in mid-September show total output approaching 50 million hectolitres, while in France production declined by one percent. The Burgundy and Beaujolais regions were worst affected, but it’s thought that both areas could see price rises in the coming months.

One reason for the rise in Italian output is simply that the 2014 harvest was particularly bad due to the weather.

Despite this year’s overall good conditions some vineyards were forced to use emergency irrigation in the July heat.

But thanks to a cooler September, the 2015 Italian harvest is set to yield what one producer described as a “pretty good vintage”.

source: euronews


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Quantity vs. Quality: where is the intersection?

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Quantity vs. Quality: where is the intersection?

Quantity vs. Quality: where is the intersection?

I have a particular interest in fine wine. Not those of exorbitant prices, but more the artisan ones, which sometimes might be priced as well.

Artisan wines are those which winemaking tries to avoid automation and machinery to the fullest! Some artisan practices are hand-picked grapes, sorting tables to sort grapes for quality, removing rotten and unsuitable grapes along with leaves and petioles (which doesn’t happen in machinery harvest). Then the grapes might be foot-trodden, and the fermentation begins naturally; mixing grape skins and juice by hand, many times a day, among other very labour intensive processes.

I was reading about such interesting subject, and I came across several articles discussing how it is becoming increasingly harder to find fine wines. Apart from the labour related added-value, it seems that you cannot easily find artisan fine wines at reasonable prices any more. But why?

In contrast to fine wine, the world is awash with an alcoholic beverage made from fermented grape juice in mass market quantities, usually blended from bulk wines from various sources, where questionable winemaking practices are largely used, under the regulatory myopia of governments. Although they are also called “wines”, such beverages end up subverting artisan wine making, altering consumer tastes, and sabotaging the future of fine wine.

But… Does anybody care?

What usually drives regular wine consumers when buying their bottle of wine is price, eventually. Sometimes a pinch of knowledge, for consciousness’ sake, which might be as vague as a grape (“I like my Merlots”) , or a country (“I love Australian wines”).

How to change this tendency, when increasingly brand burning in the supermarkets works favourably to a government willing to tax minimum prices for wine (and alcohol in general) regardless its quality, in a misguided attempt to solve abusive alcohol consumption?

I don’t know the answer. I don’t know a better answer than awareness!

When tax regulation, and industry association policies conspire to eliminate the characteristics of a product with the intention of make them insipid, burden them with punitive costs and undermine the provenance on which their individual brands stand, then we can aggrieve.

So, is there an intersection, or should we just avoid the large chain retailers who treat wine as a loss leading inducement for filling grocery carts, and buy only wines made truly from winemakers’ heart?

I don’t know a better answer than awareness! If this trend continues unabated, in the near future we might have nothing left but an illusion of choices, engulfed in an ever-rising ocean of wine-like beverage, on display in the crowded soulless supermarkets shelves!


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XVIII Fira Del VI de Falset

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Just arrived from Spain where I travelled for the XVIII Fira Del VI de Falset – Priorat AND for the F1 Grand Prix de Catalunya, I bring good and bad news for the wine market in general – the “normal” people!

The good news is that Priorat and Montsant wines are good as always – lots of interesting wines, winemakers exploring different vinification methods as never, and wines which bring all the potential of Garnatxa and Samsò, the most powerful grapes of the region! Some wines I particularly liked was from bodegas Mas de l’Abundància, Joan Simó, Vendrell I Rived, Celler Mas de les Vinyes, Pascona, Vermunver, Cellers Capafons-Ossó, Cellers San Rafel, Ficària Vins, among others… and there are a lot!

Now the bad news: the price, that thing that puts a lot of people off stuff. I’m not saying Priorat wines are not expensive to produce, but there’s more than a mite of ballyhoo, too, part of it fuelled by wine journalists, but part generated by emerging consumers from emerging markets, as China and Russia, not forgetting the king of consumption USA! Basic demand and supply, and the winemakers, as everybody else, have to survive!

Bad for us, the normal, regular consumer.

But don’t give it up, my winelover reader… you always can find good prices, it’s just a matter of digging deeper… and when you find the wine which fits your pocket, buy it with no hesitation! It will surely be a good wine!


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Spanish Wines – The Use of Oak Barrels

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The use of oak plays a significant role in winemaking for Spanish wines, and can have a profound effect on the resulting wine, affecting color, flavor, texture and quality. The use of oak barrels can impart other qualities to wine through the processes of evaporation and low level exposure to oxygen.

The porous nature of an oak barrel allows some levels of evaporation and oxygenation to occur in wine. This evaporation (of mostly alcohol and water) allows the wine to concentrate its flavor and aroma compounds. The chemical properties of oak itself can have a profound effect on the wine, interacting with the wine to produce different flavors. Flavor notes that are common descriptions of wines exposed to oak include caramel, cream, smoke, spice and vanilla. Chardonnay is a variety that has very distinct flavor profiles when fermented in oak that include coconut, cinnamon and cloves notes. The “toastiness” of the barrel can bring out varying degrees of mocha and toffee notes.

The length of time that a wine spends in the barrel is dependent on the varietal and style of wine that the winemaker wishes to make. The majority of oak flavoring is imparted in the first few months that the wine is in contact with oak but a longer term exposure can affect the wine through the light aeration that the barrel which quickens the aging process of the wine.

New World Pinot noir may spend less than a year in oak. Premium Cabernet Sauvignon may spend two years. The very tannic Nebbiolo grape may spend four or more years in oak. High end Rioja producers will sometimes age their wines up to ten years in American oak to get a desired earthy cedar and herbal character.

In Spain, they classify the wines by the time they spend in barrels.

Young Wines are wines that have not seen any barrels, and are better consumed within 1-3 years from released.

Young Crianza Wines are wines that have staged in barrels for a short period, usually less then 6 months.

Crianza Wines are quality wines that are subject to an aging process of at least 24 months, from which at least six in oak barrels. For white and rosé the period is 18 months.

Reserva Wines have a minimum aging period of 36 months, from which at least 12 in oak barrels, and the rest in the bottle. For white and rosé wines, it must be at least 24 months.

Grand Reserva Wines have at least 18 months in oak barrels and 42 in bottles, reaching 5 years in total. For white and rosé wines, the minimum aging period is 48 months in wood and bottle.


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