Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Did You Know?... About Wine Manipulation

The world of cocktails is just as interesting as the world of wine. While trying some artisanal bitters, we learned that it's a seemingly simple process of adding additives to an alcohol to infuse it with flavors. In this case, Hella Bitters steeps flavor packets of citrus or aromatic spices in neutral spirit. This struck a chord with us, because while this is the accepted and only way to make the bitters we use in cocktails, the same type of manipulation is frowned upon in the world of wine.

Adding flavor packets is probably the biggest offense. It's possible for a winemaker to add powdered tannin to a wine to give it some more backbone. They can also add acid to help a flabby wine. They can even add oak chips instead of letting it age in expensive barrels. These are all seen as cheating by many, the ways we compensate for weak grapes through artificial means.

A little more common is adding concentrates, specifically what is known as "Mega Purple." This is a concentrate of grapes that adds color and fruitiness to red wines. Its use isn't something winemakers will admit to, but some claim it shows up in everything from mass produced to higher quality wines.

Chaptalization is the process of boosting the alcohol content of wine by adding sugars during fermentation. It's the easiest manipulation, but is actually illegal in some wine regions like Bordeaux.

These are the hidden "secrets" of the wine industry. Most of this doesn't mean much to the average consumer--if you like a wine, what's the difference how it came to be? If you are looking for an expression of the skill and craftsmanship of the wine grower as much as the winemaker, however, it's worth keeping an eye out for those who keep their wine making natural, and leave the manipulation to those beverages where it's required or expected.

No comments:

Post a Comment