October 26, 2008 |
This year, I am making a little bit of whole-cluster grenache to put into the 2008 Bright Red blend. Basically, instead of crushing and de-stemming all of it, I have saved a portion to make in this most old-school of methods.
1. The toe-jam does not add complexity, but the stems do. Keeping stems in the fermentation has been (mostly) shunned in the new world because they can add a green or herbaceous flavor. Next time you have a bunch of grapes from the store, try chewing on the stem. They are packed full of tannins and can make some pretty hard and angular wine.
2. *BUT* The stems can add some really interesting aromatic characters like exotic spices and tobacco leaves and black pepper.
3. The whole bunches create a large "cap" of grape skins with pathways created by the stems that allows juice to flow more evenly through caps, increasing the levels of skin contact or maceration.
4. The stems also protect quite a few of the berries from being broken open, and fermentation actually happens inside these grapes - a process called carbonic maceration which creates very fruity, almost candied characters.
Some of the greatest wines of the Rhone and Burgundy are made this way. It is the most basic and traditional of techniques - pick grapes, put them in a box and step on them until it is wine. Check back for updates, but just keep in the back of your mind that you should be very excited about this stuff. Should be interesting!