Remember when wine used to be made by stomping on the grapes with your bare feet? I am certainly glad those days are over, but what you might not realize is that winemaking does not start with the grapes being pressed. It starts way before that. Let us take a walk through the vines themselves where the delicious grapes are grown…
Jason Robideaux, our expert winemaker here at Clos LaChance, let me in on a few special gems of information about the grapes on the vines. Here is what he had to say:
Winemaking starts in the vineyard. If as a winemaker, you are not in tune with what is happening in the vineyard then you are already behind. A lot of early decisions can be made by just walking through the vineyard and popping a couple of grapes in your mouth.
Processing decisions, like whole cluster pressing or destemming a white grape first can be determined by the look of the stems, the thickness of the skins and the health of the overall cluster.
Fermentation and aging decisions start in the vineyard as well, whether the grapes are very small and will have low juice to skin ratios, or things like sunburn or mold that may affect the health of the fermentation. Grapes with thicker skins than usual may be too tannic or astringent, so managing the fermentation and aging regimen can start right there in the vineyard.
Sometimes winemakers will have clusters of grapes removed during the ripening process so that the vine can re-focus its energy on helping the remaining clusters produce the best, most fruitful, juice there can be. Jason has more to say on this subject too. I’ll let him take it away:
Yes, there are certain times where we have to drop some grapes on the ground. There are a variety of reasons we would do this, the crop load is too heavy to guarantee ripeness, sometimes we do this in better blocks to really increase the quality and have the vines focus on a smaller load and sometimes we do what’s called a “color drop”, where we go through right at the end of Veraison and drop all of the clusters that are still majority green when most of the clusters are already purple. This gives us an even ripening of the whole crop.
We do not anticipate dropping any clusters this year unless we see a drastic uneven ripening at Veraison. Mainly the reason for the excellent crop is the great weather last spring giving us very fruitful renewal buds that gave us a lot of clusters this year. We also had perfect weather at bloom, so the set was great with little to no shatter.