Dr. Dave Miller Michigan Wine Blog
From the time we prune the vines in March until the last fermenters are racked, the vineyard and winery are busy…. Very busy places. The vines require regular attention during summer as do the new must and wine following harvest. But winter is a time to slow down and recharge. It is a time of rest for all – the vines, the wines and the people involved. During this time in the wine cellar, it may not look like much is happening but it is really a magical time.
The wines cold stabilize with the drop in temperature. This simply means they won’t develop a tartrate sediment in the bottle when you chill them in your fridge but there is also a drop in acidity which softens the wine and takes off some of the sharp acidity of the new wine. Carbon dioxide from the fermentation comes out of solution during storage which further softens the new wine. The wines also clear as particulate matter slowly drops out of the wines during the months of rest. Other things are happening in the wine now that can’t be seen but can be tasted and felt on the palate. There is a chemical change in the wine as new flavors develop from the interaction of various wine components and the alcohol that developed during fermentation. The changes produce aromas and flavors that begin to make the wine more complex and interesting. In red wines there is a change in the pigments and tannins (compounds that contribute to astringency on the palate) that softens the wines and enhances the color. Wines aging in barrels extract flavor from the wood that also interacts chemically with flavors, aromas and pigments in the wines, further contributing to the complexity in aroma and on the palate.
As we taste the wines from tanks and barrels we can begin to gain a better understanding of what is to come and what the wine might be like when it “grows up”. It’s an exciting time because some of the wines are really good! There is not much to be done by the winemaker at this point, just make sure tanks and barrels are topped and that there is no activity by unwanted spoilage bacteria or oxidation due to headspace in a tank. If we did a good job in the vineyard, had a bit of luck with weather during the fall, and paid attention to winemaking fundamentals, then we know the wines will be special when they are bottled and will only improve over the next couple of years or more, depending on the wine. It really does seem magical to observe the changes occurring to the tasted and feel of the wine.
Then there is the natural beauty of our winter wonderland! Come see for yourself. We'll have some wine to share.