Aromatized wine? Flavoured yeast? Luxury wines without oak?
On our trip to the southern Rhone Valley last week we tasted the unfermented grape juice from freshly harvested Grenache. It was delicious and sweet. But it didn’t taste like a wine, of course. A wine’s flavour is developed during the fermentation.
Aromas that are already present in the unfermented must are enhanced and new aromas appear. After the fermentation a wine has a variety of aromas reminiscent of fruits, berries, flowers and spices.
The yeast in itself does not add any aromas. Producers do talk about “neutral” yeast which would suggest that there is yeast that is not neutral. But the opposite of neutral yeast is not aromatic yeast. It is yeast that can reinforce a certain flavour that occurs naturally in the must.
A wine needs no added flavours and you are not allowed to add any. With one single exception.
Ageing a wine in oak barrels will bring oaky aromas to the wine (or by using other oak products like chips or staves). To get these aromas can be a reason to use oak.
But the producer can also use oak barrels because he wants to give the wine a slight oxidation, which facilitates the maturation process. The aromas are a “by-product”. Skilled winemakers can, however, avoid getting too evident oak aromas in the wine. They carefully choose their coopers and the toasting of their barrels.
More and more, we discover great red wines without any ageing in oak at all. It takes certain courage to make top wines without oak. Many consumers associate oak with quality wine. As if it were necessary for top-quality wines to be aged in oak. But if you have a wine with the original fruit intact in the glass, without any “flavouring”, the road between the grape juice and the finished wine doesn’t seem so long any-more. Oak is not sine qua non for top wines, although it sometimes can contribute.
Well, on to other things. The Brief this month will be a bit shorter than usual. It is peak season for wine tours so we have been very busy travelling in the vineyards (and with the finishing touches on a new manuscript on Champagne). So this month we have a bit fewer items in the Brief.
We have also finalised the last details on the winter and spring wine tours, South America, South Africa and of course Bordeaux. Take a look! Spring is a wonderful time to travel in the vineyards.
Britt & Per
PS: Recommend to your friends to read the Brief !
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