The Sneaky Tricks Most Winemakers Don't Want You to Know

Posted April 27, 2015

Stephen Fahy DWS


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The Winemaker is in charge

In the world of wine, the winemaker, beyond all else, is the heart and soul of this business. They are catapulted (rightly so, for the most part) to heights that capture both the imagination and artistry of this beloved profession. But in the end, boxes must be moved: this is wine business, not wine hobby, so things like marketing, packaging are critical parts to the game. Beyond those is another, less-glamorous facet of winemaking that many people don’t think about: Managing the actual science behind the winemaking in order to produce a marketable style of wine.

So what do they do?

First things first - winemaking is sort of like raising a wildly rambunctious child who is growing exponentially every day. Winemaking requires rapid-fire decision making, constant oversight, and ‘corrective action’ at every turn. Adjustments must be made, period. Acidifying is common, especially in warmer climate growing regions, while adding sugar (chapitalization) is commonplace in the cooler/marginal zones.  Clarifying (fining) enzymes ranging from egg whites, to bentonite (clay particulate), to dried blood powders are only a few of the agents used to brighten your wine, and your day. And for the oak-bomb lover in all of us, a ‘tea-bag’ of oak chips provides a low impact converter to the juice that is not only cheaper, but gets the job done (at least on the surface).

Another crazier strategy involves the use of centrifuge and reverse osmosis to not only clarify the juice, but to boost flavor, a common practice that is rarely discussed by winemakers but, as easily discovered as Googling the words “wine centrifuge”.

But there's hope

Technology has given the “science of art” a run for its money, with Gods in different sectors supplanting Mother Nature’s role in wine production all too often. Thankfully, many producers who eschew these methods are finding increasingly viable ways to get their wines into the right hands. Whether by better restaurant/retail placements or with the correct media attention, the market’s impression of “real wine” is slowly being corrected. In the end, the consumer will cast the ultimate vote. Until then, it’s up to us to keep raising the bar and drinking the wine that makes us the happiest.

Here are some of the best examples of wines of purity:  

2011 Clos Du Serres La Blaca Terrasses Du Larzac - Blueberries, violets, spices, and huge structure. Everything you want from a southern red.

2013 Casta Salvajes Famas Malbec - Juicy, and fruit-driven, expect gobs of red fruit set off by bright, rich acidiy. 

2005 Marques Del Puerto Bentus Rioja - Leather, spice, lemonpeel, and dried fruit. Classic, pure Rioja.

2014 Josep Foraster Trepat Rose - Made from the Trepat, this wine brings flowers, minerals, berries, and a ton of complexity for a wine of its type.

Les Rocailles Boniface Brut De Savoie - You don't need to spend Champagne money to get a complex, authentic bottle of bubbles. Look for lemon zest, flowers, green apple, and pear.

Product Label.

Les Rocailles Boniface Brut De...

91 Robert Parker - Robert Par...

Item: 84106

750 mL

Retail: $24.99

$12.50 per btl

Product Label.

Casta Salvajes Famas Malbec

91 Luis Gutierrez - Robert Pa...

Item: 85894

750 mL

Retail: $40.00

$12.74 per btl

Product Label.

Marques Del Puerto Bentus Rioja

92 Wine Enthusiast

Item: 86739

750 mL

Retail: $60.00

$17.50 per btl

Product Label.

Clos Du Serres La Blaca...

92 Jeb Dunnuck - Robert Parke...

Item: 87701

750 mL

Retail: $27.99

$16.49 per btl

Product Label.

Josep Foraster Trepat Rose

90 Ian Dorin - Wine Library

Item: 87973

750 mL

Retail: $16.99

$12.98 per btl