Monday, February 24, 2014
The HoseMaster's Comprehensive Guide to Wine 2
Why waste your money on all of those Introductory Wine Guides written for Complete Idiots, Dummies, the Addlepated, the Thunderstruck and the WSET candidate when you have the HoseMaster's Comprehensive Guide to Wine? Here's Part Two. You're welcome.
CHAPTER THREE: HOW WINE IS MADE
You often hear the phrase, “Wine is made in the vineyard.” Really? Then why’d you build a fucking winery? I suppose you make T-Bone steaks in the pasture. There are endless little aphorisms about wine that you’ll have to learn to ignore. Another one: “Wine is proof that God loves us, and wants us to be happy.” God does not want us to be happy. That’s not what wine proves. Wine is proof that God loves us, and hates Mormons. Man, who makes up these stupid sayings?
Wine is made from grapes, and only grapes. Yes, there is a category called “Fruit Wines.” Don’t be fooled. Fruit wines are not wine. They’re basically spiked juice boxes. And they’re perfect for children! Some people also make wines from vegetables, like rhubarb. These are not wines. Fermenting vegetable juice to make wine is like grinding rose hips to make coffee. Just plain stupid. Grinding hips, everyone knows, is to make lap dances. Lap dances, in fact, are proof that God loves us, and wants us to be happy.
After the grapes are harvested (a fancy word for “picked”), they are brought to the winery where they are crushed. Many are crushed because they’ve been brought to such a shitty winery. Grapes have dreams, too. Once the grapes have been crushed, tiny little organisms go to work on them. These are called “cellar rats.” Yeast is also present, and the yeast go to work converting the sugar in the grape juice to alcohol. Yeast eat all the sugar until they die, much like we do to inner city children. Now the grape juice is officially wine! How easy is that? It begs the question, why do we put winemakers on pedestals? I guess because we’re too polite to say no when they ask us to.
Many wines are then placed in vessels to age. Most of the vessels are made of wood, like they were in the days of Columbus. Well, wood floats--all you need is a couple scoops of ice cream. And wood also breathes, though its breathing is rather labored because the barrels are smoky. Most of the barrels are made from French oak. The oak from France is preferable to, say, American oak because when it comes to nuance and flavor, as with everything else, France surrenders easily. France has many large oak forests that are devoted to wine barrel production, the most famous of which are Limousin, Nevers, Alliers, and, the most popular for winemaking these days, Chips. Chips is located near a nuclear power plant, the famous Fission Chips.
In barrel, red wines go through a secondary fermentation called malolactic fermentation, or ML, for short. During malolactic fermentation, bacteria convert malic acid to Euros, charging a small fee. This is why ML adds richness to wine. In recent times, ML was also introduced to some white wines, most notably Chardonnay, in order to make it more expensive. The result of ML is that the white wines often taste “buttery,” or “creamy,” or “overpriced.”
Some wines go through a third fermentation in the bottle, and are referred to as Wine-of-the-Month Club wines.
A QUICK ASIDE ON CORKS
Corks are made from the bark of an oak tree, Quercus suber. No one knows who first discovered the properties of cork, but it’s believed to be a farmer who observed dead beavers floating.
Corks that aren’t sterilized properly can cause a wine to have off-notes. The same is true for members of the Vienna Boys Choir.
CHAPTER FOUR: WINE GRAPES
There are thousands of varieties of grapes from the species Vitis vinifera that are used to make wine. The exact number is not known. Only about eight really matter. This has many parallels with wine blogs. Yours isn’t one that does.
Vitis vinifera is native to the Mediterranean region. Many of the finest wines in the world come from the Mediterranean crus, though I had some good ones on an Alaskan crus once. Vitis vinifera is now cultivated worldwide, and also in New Zealand. There are about 60 species of Vitis, but it is vinifera that makes the best and most important wines. Wines made from other grape species will get you equally drunk, but, really, is it worth it? Have you had those wines?
A QUICK ASIDE ON NATIVE AMERICAN GRAPES
These don’t make the best wines, and are usually found only in Native American casinos.
The botanical cycle of a wine grape is fairly simple. The vines are dormant all winter, and spend most of their time in Florida. When spring arrives, the vines awaken and begin to bud. The older and smarter vines bud a bit later, which is helpful in avoiding frost. This is why you’ll often see vineyard workers enjoying the frosty bud wiser.
Next, the vines will flower. Flowers are self-pollinating, like Lesbian couples. When the flowers pollinate they form the new grapes. This time of the grape’s cycle is called “set.” You want a good set. This is one of life’s truisms. Once the grapes have set they begin the job of accumulating sugar and forming clusters. Before long, the grapes turn color. The grapes have reached veraison. Depending on how the grapes are trellised, it could be regular veraison, or, if head-pruned, it could be veraison wireless.
Once the grapes have then reached the winemaker’s desired level of maturity and ripeness, they are harvested. Great attention is paid to the level of sugar the grapes have accumulated, which is measured in degrees Brix. Brix measures the sugar content of a solution. The origins of degrees Brix is shrouded in some mystery, but most experts believe it was conceived by the great French chemist, Dr. Francois Shitta.