|Posted on August 16, 2017 at 5:10 PM||comments (5)|
What is sparkling wine, most commonly (and incorrectly) referred to as champagne? What causes the bubbles in wine?
There are several reasons and/or methods for having bubbles in wine. Bubbles may occur in wine by accident or on purpose. Bubbles in wine are a result of sugar in the bottle beginning to ferment and the resulting carbon dioxide being "trapped". A byproduct of fermentation is the emission of carbon dioxide gas (CO2). Typically during fermentation this gas is allowed to escape through an open container. The buildup of carbon dioxide in the bottle with no way to escape creates a buildup of gas pressure, generally 60+ pounds per square inch. This build up of pressure creates gas bubbles, or sparkle. There are variances in the amount of atmospheric pressure in a bottle of sparkling wine depending on region and style, prossecco vs. Champagne for example, but we'll stick with general statements and averages for this discussion.
The accidental sparkling of wine is usually a result of a wine that was not fermented to dryness being put in a bottle in which there are still active yeast. The yeast may be active because they were a)not filtered out using a sterile filter and b)not killed/made dormant by dramatically cooling the wine and keeping it cool or c)not killed/made dormant by use of (any or enough) sanitizing agents, most commonly sulfites. This is problematic because when bubbles occur without being planned for the wines are typically in traditional bottles with no protection to keep the cork in place. These bottles may explode or the corks may be expelled from the bottle. These results are dangerous and messy, particularly if they occur in the cellar or kitchen of an unknowing customer. A cork may be expelled from a bottle of sparkling wine at 40+ miles an hour. Would it kill you? Not likely. Could it damage an eye beyond repair, go through a window or cause damage to other bottles of wine? Certainly.
Accidental sparkling wine is a result of error and/or lack of a sterile environment in production. It is a flaw. It is not dangerous and it doesn't mean the wine is ruined. There are a few options. Dump the wine back into a fermentation safe container and let this accidental fermentation run its course. Rebottle a still wine once the process is complete. Or, the "errors" may be covered up - pretend it was intentional - and the wine rebottled into a safe container and marketed as a sparkling wine. Bubbles in wine are very popular and there would most likely be a market for this, particularly if the wine is white or pink.
A wine may be carbonated intentionally through multiple avenues. The "traditional method," often referred to as méthode champenoise, is the oldest and most authentic way to create a sparkling wine. It is also the most expensive and time consuming. A méthode champenoise sparkling wine refers to sparkling wine "made in the method of Champagne" for a wine may only be called champagne if it hails from the Champagne region of France. See "a history of sparkling wine" below for some other common names of sparkling wine.
To make a méthode champenoise sparkling wine one first makes a sound dry white table wine (or pink!) This first fermentation which turns grape juice into wine is called cuvée fermentation. The wine is then racked and filtered to remove any sediment and fragments which may be present in the wine. The wine is bottled with an added amount of sugar and yeast and sealed to allow for a second fermentation to take place in the bottle, the tirage fermentation. After the wine completes the tirage fermentation it may be aged on the lees for as long as a winemaker chooses. The lees refers to the dead yeast and other particles resulting from the fermentation process. Longer aging on the lees is generally considered better for this is where the sparkling wine derives a great deal of character and depth.
Following the triage fermentation and aging the bottles are "riddled." Riddling refers to a complex process of calculated sharp twists of the bottle at regular intervals to systematically gather the lees into the neck of the bottle without agitating the wine; at which point the bottle is disgorged. To disgorge the bottle the neck is typically frozen to trap the lees in a frozen state and remove it from the bottle cleanly and in entirety. The sediment with freeze before the wine. This may be done without freezing the neck and simply removing the cork quickly with the bottle angled down expelling the lees and then up righting the bottle. Some of the product is lost this way, but less equipment is involved. The sparkling wine is now ready for final bottling and will be added to a new bottle and topped up with other sparkling wine either from the same batch or another. Sugar may be added if more sweetness is desired of the finished product.
The results of méthode champenoise sparkling wine are small elegant bubbles that typically rise uniformly from the bottom of a glass to the surface of the wine. These bubbles generally yield a pleasant tickle across the palate and play to the elegance and festiveness which surrounds sparkling wine. This process may take anywhere from many months to years and is labor intensive. Thus, a reason for the elevated cost of small batch traditional method sparkling wines.
Here at Pomeroy Cellars we have been crafting our own méthode champenoise sparkling wine using rose wine we have made of Pinot Noir from White Dog Farm, La Center, Washington. Our test batches have been successful. At our recent Dinner in the Vineyard (August 5th, 2017) we poured our 2015 sparkling rose test batch to high praise. One of our guests went home with the very last bottle in existence! Our 2016 traditional method sparkling rose will be released in 2018. We also plan to use our estate pinot noir grapes in future sparkling wine endeavors.
Bubbles may also be added to wine by way of forced carbonation. Forced carbonation refers to adding CO2 to wine at high pressure to effectively mix the gas and the wine together. The wine may then be bottled and dubbed a sparkling wine. Carbonation drops may also be added to a still wine during the bottling process which will create a similar effect. The drops are a combination of glucose and sucrose and create a forced carbonation by way of reintroducing sugar to the wine bottle. These methods are not "traditional," but they are simple and cost effective. The result is a wine that may be fermented and sold in a matter of a few short months. These wines generally have large gas bubbles in the wine that rise speedily and irregularly in the glass due to the rapidity at which the pressure inside the bottle increases. These bubbles may somtimes be described as overpowering or unpleasant and may often mask the flavors of a wine. They're still fun and perfect to mix with orange or grapefruit juice.
A (we'll try to be) brief history of sparkling wine...
The creation of sparkling wine is often credited to the French monk Dom Pérignon (1638-1715), but more accurately he devised methods of blending and winemaking which improved quality and value of wine, particularly champagne. The first documented sparkling wine is 1531 by other Benedictine monks in the abbey of Saint-Hilaire. It was quite common that churches produce wine both for their sacramental use and to help support the church and population. In 1662 English scientist and physician Christopher Merret experimented with intentionally sparkling apple cider and creating a glass bottle to safely contain it.
Through the early 1800s sparkling wine was generally an accident discovered when bottles exploded and corks were expelled from bottles. It was dubbed "the devil's wine" by some. In 1844 Adolphe Jaquesson invented the muselet, or wire cage, to prevent the corks from blowing out. What truly helped turned the corner for wines of the Champaign region in competition with their Burgundian neighbors, whom had a long history of producing sought after wine, was an increase in British interest in and purchase of the bubbly wines.
Advances in the growing and blending grapes, the development of sturdy bottles and a safe method for keeping the cork in the bottled followed by developments by Veuve Clicquot in affordably mass producing champagne led to a rise in Champagne houses between 1830 and 1860. Even after beginning to intentionally sparkle their wines, champagne was usually made by bottling the wine before the initial fermentation was complete thus leaving sugar in the bottle (méthode rurale). It wouldn't be until the 19th century that méthode champenoise was the primary and preferred method of producing sparkling wine - nearly 200 years after Merret was documenting his methods and practices.
Champagne France has a average temperature of 50 degrees F. The cooler climate turns out to be ideal for growing grapes for sparkling wine- lower sugar levels and higher acid levels. The grapes grown in the Champagne region and thus used in champagne wine or other sparkling wines are: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, and sometimes Arbanne and Petit Meslier. Outside of the Champagne region any number of grape varietals are used in sparkling wine: riesling, syrah, sauvignon blanc, and many more. The same general practice is used when planning a méthode champenoise wine- pick earlier (or from cooler climates) with lower sugar levels and maintain acidity.
Sparkling wine appears across the globe in any number of wine regions and goes by numerous names. To name a few:
Spumante - Italian sparkling wine. Prosecco is a white grape varietal grown in Vento Italy and often used in spumante. Prosecco is not made in the méthode champenoise, but rather undergoes a second fermentation in a large pressurized tank rather than in the bottle.
Cava - Spanish sparkling wine. Legally required to age on the lees for nine months, hailing from a climate converse to Champagne, warm and dry, and is designed to be a "comfort wine" reachable by all.
Crément - French sparkling wine (outside of Champagne). Most commonly Crément Loire, a sparkling wine from the Loire region which is France's second largest sparkling wine region. May be white or rose. One may find a sparkling Vouvray, also.
Sekt - German sparkling wine. Bargain sekt is made in the same fashion as Prosecco and consumed in vast quantities by the locals. Fine German sekt, or sekte, is only 5% of the total production and made in small lots of riesling, pinot blanc, or pinot gris from quality vineyards.
Sparkling wine is often thought to be just for special occassions, but like all quality wines- the day you open a special bottle becomes the special occassion. We believe wine is meant to be enjoyed, meant to be experienced. Just like life...don't put it off, experience it.
|Posted on June 15, 2017 at 1:25 PM||comments (1)|
Why do we use corks for bottle stoppers?
Cork is a wonderful natural and renewable resource. Cork as we know it is a layer of the bark on a Quercus Suber, more commonly called the Cork Oak tree. The Cork Oak tree is an evergreen oak tree predominantly located in Southwest Europe and Northwest Africa and may commonly live to more than 200 years old. Of the Cork Oak forests worldwide, 34% are found in Portugal and 27% in Spain. The majority of the cork used in everyday life is derived from these two countries- 50% coming from Portugal.
Cork is used in numerous capacities because of its unique qualities. Cork is impermeable to moisture, buoyant, fire retardant, and elastic. Cork is most commonly associated as a bottle stopper in the form of a wine cork, but it is also used as insulation, fishing floats, gaskets, flooring, bulletin boards, in woodwind instruments and a sundry of other small, but never underrated capacities. Most importantly cork is a renewable and environmentally friendly product.
The harvesting of the bark of the cork oak, the material that is cork, is done without harming the tree in any capacity. The first bark is harvested when the cork oat is 25 years old and then harvested only every 10-12 years following. The bark may be harvested from a cork oak tree about 12 times in the tree's lifetime. The process is done without any machinery and usually requires the manual labor of five skilled individuals in order to avoid harm to the tree and maximize the quality of the cork/bark harvested.
There are numerous closures for wine bottles, corks being the oldest and perhaps still most common. There are also aluminum screw-off caps, poly-seal (plastic) screw-off caps, various caps with cork or synthetic plugs that plug and cap the wine bottle, synthetic "corks" that appear as a cork in the bottle but are plastic or rubber material, and more. All of these different closures range in price and purpose. How much does one want to spend on the closure? What are the goals- some oxygen contact through the closure or none? At what rate and percentage should the oxygen contact the wine through the aging process? How long is the closure meant to last- 2 years? 5 years? 20+ years? What is the desired feeling to be generated in the customer opening the bottle? Will the wine be stored upright or on its side? These are all questions producers ask themselves when selecting wine bottle closures.
Currently we use cork exclusively for our wine bottle closures. We primarily use two different cork stoppers. For our red wines that we intend to be age worthy and last well beyond the ten year mark we use a solid cork stopper. These wine corks are from some of the highest quality cork bark harvested and are made by making a solid punch (similar to a hold punch) through the bark to create a solid piece of cork. The corks are then "rated" by cork density- the more dense and compact the rings of the cork bark the higher the rating of the solid cork. The higher the rating of the cork, the more durable, lasting, and effective the cork will be. For age worthy wines that will be in the bottle with this cork for an extended duration of time the quality of the wine cork is crucial. The cork will not only keep the wine in the bottle, but will keep bacteria, yeast and other microorganisms out all while allowing oxygen to permeate the cork at a slow, but steady rate aging the wine to beautiful maturity for 30 + years. If one intends to age wine for an even longer period of time, the cork should be changed because it will deteriorate over time.
The second most common wine cork we use is still 100% cork, but it is made from the cork bark which may have flaws and is not suitable to make the high quality, solid corks. These corks are made from crushed pieces of cork that are then compressed under high pressure and adhere together. These wine corks then have a disc of solid cork glued to each end to provide an extra layer of protection since the wine cork itself is not one solid piece. We use these corks for our white and rosé wines and other wines made to be consumed within five years. These wines do not need to the long term protection of the solid wine cork, but the wine still gets the benefit of the cork permeability to oxygen and protection provided by the unique cork characteristics.
It is our desire that our wines experience managed oxygen exposure once in the bottle and during the aging process, whether that aging is one year or 20. We don't want the wine to "oxidize" or turn to vinegar (those often sharp and astringent characteristics of "next day" wine), but some oxygen is crucial to the continued growth and development of the wine. Wine is a living organism that changes and evolves with time and controlled oxygen exposure is key to that evolution.
There are closures other than cork that allow for controlled oxygen contact with the wine. Many screw-off tops are theoretically designed to allow a certain number of parts per million of oxygen through the cap and in contact with the wine. There are numerous studies comparing various types of closures and the benefit of oxygen contact with wine in the bottle. Like anything else, one may find research to support whichever closure they prefer as the studies are still somewhat mixed and thus, to us, inconclusive. We choose cork because it is an organic substance, it is a renewable resource, it is also completely recyclable. Not to be understated, there is still something so romantic and traditional about pulling the cork from a bottle of wine.
What about "cork taint"?
"Cork taint" or a "corked" wine bottle refers to TCA, 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, a compound resulting from the interaction of plant phenols, mold, and chlorine. It can grow on tree bark, but it may also be the result of environmental conditions being "just so" to facilitate the growth of this destructive compound. Currently the number two reason that producers use alternate closures is to avoid "cork taint." Although, this is closely linked to the number one reason, cost, because damaged wine equates to an increase in costs.
"Cork taint," TCA, is identified by wet cardboard, wet dog, musty, moldy smells and flavors in the wine. As of 2012 a study conducted by Wine Spectator found TCA existed in 3.5% of wines. Most individuals do not have a sensitive enough palate to notice small levels of TCA. If the same characteristics are found in a multitude of wines by a given producer or even across the same vintage, it is likely not a result of TCA, but rather some other flaw.
TCA is a risk when using wine corks as bottle stoppers. There are several precautions to take: sanitize the corks prior to use, sanitize all bottles and related equipment, keep the production facility clean and free of spores and microorganisms that may wreak havoc if allowed to "feed" and multiply (don't get them wet or feed them after midnight, that sort of thing) and verify the seal after inserting each cork into the bottle to be sure it is evenly inserted and was not damaged in any way during the process.
In our opinion there is no "right" or "wrong" to wine bottle closures, there are simply choices and various reasoning supporting those choices. There may be a multitude of quantifiable reasons for one choice or another, one preference over another, but at the end of the day is it any more complicated than, "do you prefer white or red?" Do you prefer a cork or a screwoff-cap?
"Wine can of their wits the wise beguile, make the sage frolic and the serious smile." -Homer
Written by Destiny
|Posted on May 20, 2017 at 12:25 AM||comments (14)|
We have about 500 vines planted around our tasting room. Upon entering our tasting room grounds you will see one acre of vineyard to the North of the parking lot and one acre of vineyard to the West of the tasting room with a few rows of vines here and there. We have mostly pinot noir and siegerrebe (see-geh-RAY-buh), which is a German varietal made from a cross of gewurztraminer and madeleine angevine grapes.
Depending upon growing conditions and pruning techniques one vine will yield between 30 and 40 clusters of grapes. There are approximately four grape clusters in one pound and it takes approximately 2.5 pounds of grapes to make one bottle of wine. So, the vineyard around our tasting room will make 1500 bottles, or 125 cases, in a good year. We currently produce between 500 and 1000 cases of wine each year. WIth the size of our vineyard relative to the size of our production, we must use grapes sources elsewhere to satisfy our production needs.
Where do our grapes come from? We source fruit strictly from the state of Washington. We desire to showcase the optimum growing conditions and unique character elicited from Washington vineyard sites. In 1825 the first wine grapes were planted in Washington by the Hudson’s Bay Company at Fort Vancouver in Vancouver, WA. The big planting boom came later in the 1960s. Most of the Washington vineyards are located in the rain shadow of the Cascade Mountains, in Eastern WA. A dry, warm climate with excellent growing conditions.
Washington wine production is primarily a result of smaller wineries focusing on craft wines sourcing fruit from larger vineyards. There are presently 900 wineries in Washington and only 350 vineyards. People stay focused on what they are good at– either making wine or growing high quality grapes. Washington produces approximately 16 million cases of wine per year and has the highest percentage of 90+ rated wines than any other wine region of the United States.
Our primary sources of grapes are two vineyards in the Yakima Valley American Viticulture Area in Eastern Washington. The Yakima Valley AVA is one of Washington's most diverse growing regions. The climate is a dry, arid, continental climate averaging a meager 8" of rainfall per year. The soil of the Yakima Valley boasts nutrient rich ash deposits from the Mt. St. Helens eruption of 1980 (the 36th anniversary was May 18th). Even more unique are the soil, mineral and other nutrient rich deposits left behind by the Missoula Floods which resulted when glaciations began to thaw and runoff flooded the surrounding areas. These unique conditions lead to wonderfully rich flavors and complexities within the grapes.
DuBrul Vineyard Sunnyside, WA - Planted in 1992, DuBrul Vineyard was Washington Vineyard of the year in 2007 and 2009. Comprised of 45 acres on a steep South facing slope, there are multiple soil compositions and microclimates and each are catered to uniquely. DuBrul vineyard is known for small clusters and low yields, meaning a delicious flavor packed grape and a unique DuBrul Vineyard terroir signature. The list of wineries producing from DuBrul Vineyard fruit is small and we are extremely blessed to be among them. You will find DuBrul vineyard represented in our Lucia No. 47 red blend, our 2013 Reserve Cabernet, the newly released 2015 Late Harvest Riesling and more.
Inland Desert Benton City, WA - Inland Desert Nursery has been a family owned and operated farm for more than 40 years specializing in Washington Certified Grapevines- inspected regularly by WSU and WSDA scientists. To perfect their craft of grafting and growing some of the top vinifera vines in the state they began planting and nurturing vines in Benton City, WA just a stones throw from the highly renowned Red Mountain AVA. Recognizing what a gem of a vineyard site they had, Inland Desert began selling fruit from these hand crafted vines rather than leaving it for bird fodder. For that we are thankful! A great representation of Inland Desert may be found in our Farm Hand's Red red wine blend.
In the 2015 and 2016 seasons we have sourced fruit from White Dog Farm in La Center, Washington. Planted in 1983 and formerly known as La Center Vineyards, White Dog Farm grows Pinot Noir. At 34 years old, White Dog Farm boasts some of the oldest vines in the state as well as the area-including vineyards in the Willamette Valley. The vineyard was derelict for many years before Kevin and Kristi Kotrous took over and dubbed it White Dog Farm. The fruit is showing marvelous potential and resilience. It will be a few more years before the vines fully recover and really begin to tell their story and share the wisdom of roots going 34 years deep. We will not be releasing Pinot Noir from White Dog Farm fruit for some time, but we have our 2015 Blanc de Noir available. Blanc de Noir, literally translated to white of black, is a white wine made from pinot noir grapes.
We have previously, and do still occasionally, source fruit from other vineyards, but we really enjoy the care and uniqueness provided by the aforementioned vineyards. We tend to be quite loyal.
Writen by Destiny