E Wine of the Week
By Bruce Cochran
This week instead of an offical eWine of the Week we’ll have an “unofficial eWine mini-wine lesson” and examine some of the striking parallels between winemakers and chefs.
Let’s Get Ready for that Cold Weather!
Winemakers and Chefs
Have you ever noticed how we sometimes see the same words applied to winemaking as we do to cooking?
The flavors of a classic French sauce, or for that matter one from deglazing a sauté pan, are concentrated by cooking it down to reduce the volume.
Winemakers achieve concentration of flavors, too, in a couple of ways. First, in the vineyard, the best vineyards are severely pruned during the winter. This allows fewer grapes to develop. During the summer, as many as half of the grape bunches may be dropped to the ground, a process called the ‘green harvest.’ It’s all about less but better.
Few dishes are cooked without seasoning. A chef without spices might have a lot of time on his or her hands. Winemakers consider how their wines might benefit from subtle seasoning. First, some vineyards are established on stony, mineral-laden soil. These minerals are drawn up into the plant from the roots, winding up in the grapes and flavoring the juice. This is a defining feature of many famous regions, from Germany’s Mosel to Napa’s Rutherford Bench.
And why does a French oak barrel cost $800, when it holds only 300 bottles of wine? Wouldn’t plastic hold the wine just as well?
There are ten different oak forests for French wines and each is considered to by slightly different from the rest. And there’s a bigger difference between French oak and American oak. In broad terms, French oak barrels give wines a somewhat sweeter tasted, and American oak more spice. Oak barrels are even charred or toasted on the inside to adjust the amount of oak flavor imparted to the wines. The length of time spent in a barrel is another factor.
And during the last decade, it seemed that nearly every California chardonnay was put through a process called malolactic fermentation. The back labels proudly made this claim, though far fewer stimulate this natural process today. Crisp, apply malic acid (found in green apples as well as grapes), is transformed into the rich, butter-textured lactic acid (found in milk and grapes), to add a richer texture to the wine. Sort of like swirling butter into your béchamel just before serving.
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