Archive for January, 2012

Winter Pruning

January 24th, 2012 by Nicolette Bailey

Much talk and excitement take place regarding the vineyard during harvest time. Yet it is pruning in the dead of winter that is the most important vineyard work of the entire season. Pruning takes place during the dormant months of the vines; December, January, and February when the vines will not bleed excessively when the cane is cut off. Pruning vines is similar to pruning roses, cutting off the past year’s growth in order for the vine to grow new shoots to develop an appropriate canopy and fruit.

There is much more to pruning than just cutting off old growth. We are also “training” the vine in the shape of a “Y” that will provide balance, maximum energy flow, and strength to the vine. We do this by the selection of two of last year’s shoots to be the current year’s fruiting cane. These two shoots make up the top part of the “Y”; the stock is the bottom. The right shoots must be kept to provide the optimal energy flow through the vine and into the fruit.

The fruiting cane is that from which the new shoots grow that develop the fruit. Not only are we pruning for the current year’s crop, we are also pruning to leave spurs for the next year as well. In doing so, we are continuing to train the shape of the vine as it grows from year to year.

Wine Racking 101

January 16th, 2012 by Nicolette Bailey

The term “racking” means moving wine from one vessel to another.   Sometimes that is from tank to barrel, sometimes barrel to barrel, and sometimes barrel to tank. Racking serves several purposes at different times during the wine making process. The first racking is usually done shortly after initial fermentation of sugar to alcohol is complete.  This separates the wine from the skins, seeds, dead yeast cells, and other particles that settle to the bottom of the tank.  Red wine typically goes into barrel at this racking.

Red wines typically will be racked on other occasions during wine aging depending on the preferences of the winemaker and the grape varietal.  After wine has finished secondary (Malolactic) fermentation converting malo acid to lactic acid, wines may be racked again to further clarify the wine by taking the wine out of barrel, cleaning the barrel of the lees, and then putting the wine back into barrel.  (Lees are the sediment in the wine left over from the first racking and may contain attributes that may improve or not improve wine quality.) This is the point at which the artisan hand of the winemaker comes into play.  Knowledge of the  fruit from a particular vineyard, knowing the age of the vines and impacts of terrior, understanding the specific nuances of that vintage, and how the wine is aging in barrel; all play in the decision of whether to rack or not.

Then there is the final racking, moving the wine from barrel into tank for settling before bottling. To learn more about racking and how it translates into the development of the wine, come to Youngberg Hill.

Decant or Aerate? That is the question

January 10th, 2012 by Nicolette Bailey













We are often asked whether wines should be decanted or aerated before drinking. My answer is that it depends on the age of the wine, the vintage, the wine-making style, the varietal, etc. etc. etc. So let’s discuss some criteria for treating wine to a little air and the benefit of doing it different ways.

While air (oxygen really is our interest here) exposure during the wine-making process is typically not encouraged, a minimal amount of air exposure while the wine is in the bottle helps the wine to age. I won’t go into all the details here, but the important thing is that a little air goes a long way. That is why cork (and now screw caps) are preferred over other enclosures. They let in just enough air for the wines to age gracefully.

While we are on the subject of older/aged wines, let’s address the need to decant. As the wine ages, the tannins soften and become more integrated through the wine, the fruit characteristics become more subtle and become more integrated with the more earth based characteristics. Over a period of 10 to 20 years, this process takes place slowly and at different times depending on the vintage, the varietal, and the oak. After the first 10 years or so, the wine has been isolated from any extremes (hopefully) and is fairly quiet, as in being asleep, although still alive. When opening it up and taking that first sip, the wine may seem wanting and not revealing itself. If you wait several hours, the wine will begin to wake up and begin to reveal its characteristics; to come alive. That is where decanting can be beneficial. By decanting, the wine is exposed to more air, more quickly, so what may take several hours setting in the bottle now only takes an hour.

Why not use an aerator for the same task? While the two process accomplish the same thing, they do it in very different ways. Decanting is relatively delicate and allows the wine to take in air at its own rate. Aerating is much more aggitative and forces air interaction with the wine much faster. That kind of aeration can be beneficial to a young bottle of wine. When young wine, not yet laid down to age, but made to age, is opened; it too may seem quite unrevealing and hard to express itself. While leaving the bottle open for a while or decanting will help, aerating will open up the wine much faster. The caution with a young wine is this; if it is a good quality wine that has some age-ability to it, it will benefit from the aeration and the wine will be good throughout the bottle. If it is a lessor quality wine intended to drink now, then aerating might tend to cause the wine to lose its liveliness before the wine is drank.

Leave us a comment to let us know your thoughts on whether you think it’s right “To Air or not to Air”.