Around the Winery: We are continuing to monitor the 2010 wines for completion of the secondary malolactic fermentation (MLF). Most barrels are done and the laggards will certainly complete the process as the weather warms up. The bacteria responsible for MLF are notoriously finicky about temperature and it often takes the first warming days of spring to coax that reluctant barrel towards completion. This is also the time when the personality of the different wines really starts to develop. A wine that a few weeks ago just seemed clean but uninteresting begins to show some of its varietal characteristics and hints of future potential.
In the Vineyard: Working around and sometimes in the weather, Joel and Augustin managed to complete all the vine pruning and row mowing last month. The vineyard is now ready for the next phase on the path towards the 2011 harvest and crush. In the absence of sunlight, a grapevine shows negative gravitropism or a tendency to grow away from the ground. However, with the interjection of light, the vine becomes positively phototropic, and it will grow towards light. As a climber, the vine never supports itself, so no effort is wasted on developing girth. Each cane on the lateral vine has been pruned to 2 buds. As these buds begin to develop into new canes, they will form nodes at regular intervals. Each node produces a leaf on one side and either a tendril or flower bud on the other. Thus, vegetative and reproductive mechanisms are created simultaneously, giving the vine all the potential it needs to produce next fall’s harvest. The warmth and sunlight of April will start that process with bud-break typically occurring late in the month. The object now will be to assist and direct the new growth in a manner most beneficial for each varietal.
Events: Despite the rainy weather, March’s “Behind the Cellar Door” festival was an enjoyable event, and we hope you had the opportunity to visit. Now we have our sights set on May 19th when we will celebrate Bray Vineyard’s 10th Anniversary and our new wine club release with a little get together. Save the date and details will be forthcoming in a special newsletter.
On the Web: The tax man approaches and to help ease the pain we are offering a special “Tax Time Trio”. Three specially priced wines with the potential to brighten up your day: two big aged reds, the ’06 Alicante Bouchet and ’06 Petite Sirah, and a fresh young white, the ’08 Viogner. Visit our website brayvineyards.com and click on the link at the bottom of the home page. While you’re there, if you like to participate in consumer generated awards, KCRA TV 3 is running their annual “A List” competition. Clicking on the KCRA link will take you to their voting site where amongst other categories you can vote for your favorite winery (Bray Vineyards, of course!!).
Wine Trivia: Before we start to discuss the sensory input of tannins, a little digression is in order. The taste of a glass of wine is a mix of three separate sensory inputs: taste, smell, and touch. The receptors for taste are spread evenly across the tongue and when detected, the three inputs associated with wine (sweet, bitter, sour) are processed by the brain separately from the thousands of volatile compounds that are sensed as aromas when you sniff the wine (orthonasal) and when the wine is in your mouth (retronasal). Our brains then combine these sensory inputs with the tactile sensation provided by the tannins to create the sensation of flavor. This is a complex process and there is no simple linear pathway between primary sensations and the final perceived flavor. It is one of the reasons two tasters can often find completely different tastes in the same glass of wine. Neuroscientists will tell you this complex process evolved to help our primitive ancestors to differentiate between nutritious foods and dangerous substances. The brain accomplishes this goal with a reward stimulus – it smells or tastes good. Interestingly, the whole process is further complicated by our past experiences. Your brain’s memory of those pleasurable aspects of a previous glass of Primitivo influences the perception of the current glass of Primitivo.
The flavor profile and taste of a glass of wine is supported by the underlying structure. For a moment, imagine that structure as a table top supported by 4 legs - Sugar, Acid (think quantity), pH (think concentration), and Phenolics. Without balance in the legs, you will have a rather wobbly table, and while the interactions are a bit more complex, the result is much the same in a wine. The phenolic structure of a grape includes the pigments, tannins, flavonoids, and all the other polyphenols and anti-oxidants. At the completion of fermentation, these compounds compose less than 1% of the substances in a glass of our favorite liquid, wine. However, they are an important component as the various phenolic contributors are responsible for both the aromas and several of the tactile sensations of wine. The best known of these are tannins. These complex and aversive tasting plant chemicals are reactive and in simple terms, tend to combine with other aromatic compounds and from long polymer chains. Their impact is dependent on both the length of the chain and the individual subunits. These chains are constantly breaking and reforming which accounts for the changing flavors as a wine develops. Wine chemists used to think that the chain length increased with age and these polymers eventually formed the precipitates in the bottom of the bottle; but current research indicates that the pH of a wine may actually be responsible for the chains getting smaller.
Our understanding of the role that tannins play in the chemical interactions of wine is incomplete, but we do know that our appreciation of some wine varietals is less than satisfying without that tannic component. Tannins bind with the saliva in your mouth coagulating the proteins which deteriorates their normal lubricating properties. This allows the tannin levels to influence the feel or texture of a wine in your mouth. They are easily recognized by the dry astringent mouth feel that results, but as long as the perceived puckering sensation is not excessive it is not a fault. Excessive tannins can contribute a perception of bitterness to the wine’s finish. These characteristics are more pronounced in young wines but will lessen with age. The astringency of tannins is softened and masked by the sweetness of sugar and alcohol, but is accentuated by a wine’s acidity. Finally, the perception of tannins is cumulative with the tannic level of one wine hanging around to impact the taste of the next. Rinsing with water and waiting two minutes between tasting different wines alleviates this problem.
Next month we’ll look at the contributions of residual sugar and total acidity on the sensory profile of wine. Remember, if you have a question that is looking for an answer, e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tasting Room: Our Tasting Room is open Wednesday through Monday from until In April, we will be pouring the ’10 Brayzin Hussy Blonde,’09 Barbera Rosato, ’08 Brayzin Hussy Red, ’08 Barbera, ’07 Vinho Tinto, ’08 Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre Blend, and the ’07 Port made from Alicante Bouschet grapes. April is a great time for a visit and we look forward to seeing you soon!