Sunday, November 07, 2004

Making our own wine: update 2

We went back to Crushpad the following week. The fermentation was over, the Brix number having reached the desired value of -1/-2, and it was time to press the grapes.

The press.

First, we had to choose a barrel in which the wine will spend the next 12 to 18 months of its life. We were proposed a 1 year old oak barrel from Burgundy which should add subtle yet complex flavors to the wine, in line with our original goal of producing an elegant and balanced wine.

Our barrel.

We pumped the wine into the press and filled our barrel with the free run, which is the liquid that freely runs off the press without pressing. We also tasted the free run. The wine had some additional character since the week before. It was less sweet and a step closer to being a wine.

The free run coming out of the press.

Then, using buckets, we added the remaining must into the press and started pressing the wine. The hard press which is the result of pressing the must, was put in another barrel and will be used for topping off our barrel. We tasted the press wine and found it much more tannic and strong than the free run.

There is no wine left to press.

At some point, no more wine could be extracted from the must. We then left our wine resting in its barrel that will be its home for many months. The current plan is to bottle it around January 2006. In the meantime, we'll have opportunities to taste it in the barrel and monitor the aging process.

Our barrel is now full.

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Saturday, October 30, 2004

Making our own wine!

With a group of wine enthusiasts, we decided to make our own wine with the help and support of Crushpad, a San Francisco based winery providing the complete materials, facility and services for new (or experienced) winemakers to create their own wines.

Our winemaker Scott Shapley.

First, we needed to define which wine we wanted to make and choose a varietal. Cabernet Sauvignon was not available anymore so we chose Syrah. The type of wine you want usually determines the vineyard selection. We wanted a Syrah in the Northern Rhône Valley style, spicy and complex but not too big and fruit-forward. With that goal in mind, Crushpad selected fruits from the Clary Ranch Vineyard, a cool area in the Sonoma Coast appellation, just a few miles west of Petaluma, California.

We decided to remove the stems before starting fermentation but keep the whole berries to give the wine a fruitier character.
Luckily, we did not need to add any cultured yeast to the must as it startedits fermentationn process with its own native yeast. We came during the fermentation time to punch down the "cap" which is the solid mass of grape skins, stems, and seeds that floats to the top of the fermenting vessel.
Punching down is important because it helps mix the yeast into the must, ensures that color, flavor and tannins and other phenolic compounds are added to the wine, helps dissipate heat that naturally occurs during fermentation and keeps harmful bacteria from forming.
It is usually done two times a day.

Brix is a measurement of the amount of sugar in a liquid. The sugar converts to alcohol during fermentation. As Brix numbers decrease, the amount of alcohol in the liquid increases

Then, we measured the amount of sugar remaining in the wine. This is measured in Brix with a refractometer. As the sugar converts into alcohol during fermentation, the Brix number decreases. Our goal was to reach a desired Brix number of -1 or -2 for an optimum dryness.

Measuring the Brix.

We tasted the wine of course. The juice had a deep purple/garnet color and was deliciously simple but good. There was still some sweetness in this baby wine and also some lively acidity.

We are now waiting for the fermentation to complete and plan to come next week for the pressing.

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Wednesday, October 27, 2004

The 12 predictions of Robert Parker

Robert Parker, the famous wine guru is predicting the future of wine in the October 2004 issue of Food & Wine.

1. Distribution will be revolutionized: I believe this one will eventually happened but latter than sooner.

2. The wine Web will go mainstream: easy, this has already started.

3. World biding wars will begin for top wines: I've read China is now a strong market for fine wines. It is going to be harder to find/buy collectors wines and they will be reserved for speculative wine investors.

4. France will feel a squeeze: easy, this has already started.

5. Corks will come out: I am not so sure that corks will completely disappear. Screw cap closures usage will increase for sure. It could eventually be used for the 95% of the wine production that does not need aging. But I also read somewhere that the cork industry is working on new techniques to prevent cork contamination.

6. Spain will be the start: Spain is definitively enjoying a new birth. But also Southern Italy, Southern France, South Africa, etc.

7: Malbec will make it big: again Malbec in Argentina but also Carmenère in Chile, Nero d'Avola in Sicily, etc.

8. California's Central Coast will rule America: that's the Sideways effect!

9. Southern Italy will ascend: see #6 and #7

10. Unoaked wine will find a wider audience: the popularity of the new Morgan Metallico Chardonnay is an example of a new trend looking for fresher wines showing their fruit and terroir. There is also a worldwide trend to grow grapes in cooler sites.

11. Value will be valued: I believe that wine consumers are getting increasingly educated and are looking for better wines at better prices. But I am also surprised to see prices to continue going up.

12. Diversity will be the word: I think that we'll see more and more wines made of local varietals on the market. Do you know Vernaccia, Torrontés, Counoise or Frappato?

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Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Launching a new site for wine collectors

I have been working on it for a year now, and after 6 month of "beta testing", I am finally launching my site: It is an online wine cellar software for wine collectors. I am just starting a Google AdWords campaign to get visitors and hopefully users.

There are still a lot of things that I need to work on but one has to start at some point....

I want to make it very easy to use because maintaining your wine collection up-to-date is very time consuming. It is also important to have a large wine database so that people do not have to enter all the wine information when they add new wines to their cellars.

Visit - Online Wine Cellar Software

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Poème sur le vin

I found this poem beautiful and it let us dream about all these all aged bottles that you wish you had in your cellar....

Le Vin

Longtemps, dans l'atmosphère humide des caveaux
Sous la voûte profonde et de nitre imprégnée !
Sous la poussière et sous les toiles d'araignée
Le jeune vin vieillit dans des flacons nouveaux.

Il faut que dans le calme et l'ombre des tombeaux
La sublime liqueur dure plus d'une année,
Avant que d'accomplir la noble destinée
D'exalter un instant nos coeurs et nos cerveaux.

Ainsi, Chaze, il en est de la pensée humaine,
C'est par un très secret et très lent phénomène
Qu'elle se plie enfin au rythme harmonieux.

Un doux sonnet mûrit comme un bordeaux suave
Et tu fais bien, ami, qui né dans une cave,
De lire des beaux vers en buvant tes vins vieux.

François Coppée 1842 - 1908


About me

I don't remember exactly when I really started enjoying wine, maybe during one of my college year that I spent in Bordeaux. I didn't know much about wine at that time and I remember buying wines based on the label design rather than on the name of the château.

I realized how ignorant I was when I got invited to a wine tasting weekend at a friend's family house near Chablis. Each guest was asked to bring a wine and hide its identity by pouring it into a different bottle. I had no clue about the differences between a Bordeaux and a Bourgogne or any other appellation for that matter, and I could not guess any of these wines.

I don't know whether I could, even today, blindly identify a wine from Bordeaux from a wine from Burgundy, but for sure, I am still amazed at how much there is to know about wine.