Welcome to Wine.by.Alex, the show to watch to take your wine game to the next level!
Today you’re watching a brand-new episode of #Askwinebyalex and I’ve got a question from Elizabeth of @beadrinksgrapes:
What techniques are used in winemaking? What are their results on the products?🍷
So here we go to discover the main 7 winemaking methods you absolutely want to know now, and their effect on the resulting wines!
WINEMAKING METHOD N°1: USE OF DIFFERENT FERMENTATION YEAST
Fermentation is the process during which sugar from the grapes is converted into alcohol, transforming grapes into wine. The yeast that are responsible of this conversion in wine are called Saccharomyces Cerevisiae. Winemakers have to choose between ambient yeast and cultured yeast for fermentation, each of them having a different impact on the wine.
Ambient yeast are present on the grapes and the winery equipment. What’s good with them is that they add complexity with special aroma compounds and typicity because they come from their own terroir. They’re also free to use. But they have different problems: fermentation may be difficult to start and slow. Plus, they aren’t consistent so winemakers can’t make the same style of wine every year.
That’s why winemakers can also use cultured yeast. These are added to the wine before the start of the fermentation and take the place of the ambient yeast. They always produce the same style of wine, which is perfect for producers’ consistency. Cultured yeast increase the speed of fermentation and some of them are specially designed to promote certain types of aromas in the wines. The downside is that they cost money and the wines produced are seen as industrial wines.
WINEMAKING METHOD N°2: TEMPERATURE OF FERMENTATION
Temperatures of fermentation have a great impact on the styles of the wines produced. The cooler the temperature, the fresher and fruitier the wine is. The warmer the temperature, the bolder and more mature the wine is.
Cool temperatures are mainly used for light white wines and rosé. Mid-range temperatures are used for easy-drinking red wines, making them fruity and low in tannins, and bolder white wines, typically less fruity and oaked. Warm temperatures are used to make powerful red wines, maximising colour and tannin extraction.
WINEMAKING METHOD N°3: CHOICE OF FERMENTATION VESSEL
There’s a lot of different vessels winemakers can use for fermentation.
Stainless steel tanks are the most modern of them. It’s widely used because it’s super easy to clean and temperatures of fermentation can be perfectly controlled. They’re called neutral vessels in the sense that they impart no aromas to wine and protect it from oxygen.
Concrete vats were widely used before but replaced by stainless steel vats, which are way more easy to clean. They’re quite making a comeback the past few years thanks to their thick walls which makes it easy to control temperatures.
Wood can also be used is fermentation but is quite rare. They’re hard to manage because heat build up fast and winemakers can’t look after the cap in red wines. However, some white wines are fermented in wood. Its aromas are better integrated in the wines and small amounts of oxygen can improve them.
WINEMAKING METHOD N°4: MALOLACTIC CONVERSION
Malolactic conversion is the conversion of malic acid into lactic acid, right after the end of fermentation. To give you an idea, malic acid is similar to what you find green apple and lactic acid is similar to what you find in yoghurt. It typically lowers the acidity of the wine and add aromas of butter, cream and yoghurt. This makes a softer and smoother wine.
Malolactic conversion will always happen if winemakers let it do its thing. It typically always happen in red winemaking but it isn’t noticeable when you taste it. However, in white wines, there are different approaches. Some winemakers let it happen to have its characteristics and add more complexity to their wines. Some prevent it to happen because they want their wines to remain fruity and aromatic.
WINEMAKING METHOD N°5: LEES CONTACT
First of all, what are lees? Less are mainly dead yeast. Yes, yeast die right after fermentation because they have nothing left to feed from since all sugars have been converted into alcohol. So they die and fall at the bottom of the vessel. They start to break down and release some compounds in the wine if they’re left in contact with it.
Again it generally always happens in red winemaking but isn’t noticeable. However it’s highly noticeable in white wines. Lees add body and texture to the wine, kind of a unctuous feeling. They also impart aromas of bread, pastry or biscuit. To increase the influence even more, winemakers can do lees stirring, also called batonnage. They use a rod and stir the lees into the vessels, enhancing their contact with the wine and the effect they have on it. Again some winemakers use it and some prevent it to happen to keep their wines fruity and aromatic.
WINEMAKING METHOD N°6: MATURATION
After fermentation and malolactic conversion or lees ageing if they’re allowed to happen, winemakers again have a choice whether to mature or release their wines and in which vessel.
Fruity and aromatic wines will generally be stored in stainless steel tanks and bottled quickly.
However, more complex wines will often be matured before being bottled. Again winemakers have different choices offered. They’ll mainly use wood to mature their wines. This allows oxygen to enter in contact with the wine, making it evolve. Fruity aromas will develop into dried fruit and nuts and tannins will soften with time. Wood also have a different impact on the wines if it’s new or old. New wood adds aromas of toast, vanilla, clove, coconut or coffee. Whereas old wood will only micro-oxygenation. Finally the size of wood vessels has a different impact on the wine: the smaller the vessel, the greater the impact on the wine.
WINEMAKING METHOD N°7: BOTTLE AGEING
The vast majority of wines will be released on the market as soon as they’re bottled. They’re made to be consumed within a year on their fruitiness.
But many wines can develop with time and become more complex and interesting. There are even some appellations that specify a minimum period of bottle ageing before the wines are released on the market. For example Rioja DOCa Reserva and Gran Reserva, or Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG.
Of course as the producers have to keep the bottle at their place and they have no return on investment during that time, the bottles will be more expensive when they’ll finally be released on the market. But what’s happening during that time? Fruity aromas will develop into more mature ones, the tannins will soften in red wines and colour will change towards brown.
Well, that’s all for today! I hope this helped! Now you know the 7 winemaking methods mostly used by winemakers and their effects on the wines you taste 😉
Now, I’d love to hear from you.
Did you know these 7 winemaking methods? Have you already tried wines from one of these 7 winemaking methods?
Leave a comment and let me know!
Thank you so much for watching this episode and I’ll see you soon on Wine.by.Alex!
P.S.: Share the questions you ask yourself all the time. I’ll answer in the next videos!
P.P.S.: Watch the previous video to finally get the vine cycle by clicking here!