Winemaking: How To Make Wine Better

When I taste a finished wine, I am coming to terms with a number of important quality characteristics that inevitably lead me back to the wine’s elevage – its creation in the cellar. When I taste a young wine in the cellar, I am reading the wine’s health and potential – how it will taste the best many months or years in the future.   

view counter

Off-the-clock, I enjoy certain winemaking styles and varieties more than others. But knowing and making wine are two entirely different things. The flashpoint of any decision in the cellar is not when a wine is treated or blended with another, but when the wine reaches the consumer.

Every day – from the first buds of spring to the glass – a wine is moving, growing, changing. There are ways a winemaker can react to a grape and a wine, but the best winemakers guide a wine toward greatness.

Knowing the anatomy of the grape is important, as is understanding tannin, pectins, pH, temperature, oxygen, and sulfur management. But these should be background elements in the bigger picture.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.

Having many different options is the key. For example, if I were to purchase one ton of grapes, I might have 180 gallons of must after the grapes are processed. If I had two containers, I might consider putting one hundred gallons in each; using two different cultured yeasts for the ferment; three different storage containers for the ageing process – new and neutral oak, stainless steel. 

During and after the fermentation process, frequent tasting of the containers would reveal subtle variations. Eventually, maybe one of the wines appears to have a lot of body, where another is lacking body.

If the two were blended together, you hypothesize, they might make a better wine. This is the basis for the elevation of your wine. A simple bench trial can be helpful in determining which direction to direct the wine.