Article - RareWine Academy

The 5 Factors That Are Important For The Development Of Wine

Have you ever considered what factors determine how your wine tastes? This article makes you wiser on the 5 primary factors that affect your wine experience.

Have you ever considered what factors that determine how your wine tastes? Different likes and dislikes are, as you know, different and even small details such as the atmosphere, the company or even the wine glass can have an impact on how you experience the wine. Even before the wine lands in your glass, many processes have preceded this. Winemaking is an endless chain of factors that can influence the end product you put in the glass. To create an overview, you will find a review of the 5 overall factors that are crucial to the final taste experience in the below.

Grapes

First of all, there is the grape. The selected grape variety significantly affects the taste of the wine. It sounds simple, but it is more complex for the winemaker than that. The first big decision to be made is which grape variety to choose for the specific field - or whether several different grape varieties should be planted.

Next, the winemaker must choose which clones he wants to use. A clone is a further development of a specific variety. When choosing a clone, you can choose, among other things, whether you want a high yield, high concentration of tropical fruits in the wine, or something completely different. The clone itself is essential in terms of quality and quantity. In many cases, the grape variety, or varieties, will be decided in advance due to historical traditions and rules of the specific area. In Europe, there will often be rules for what can be planted and where.

Example: If you choose to plant Chardonnay, you will have the opportunity to produce white wine. The grape offers many opportunities in both the vineyard and the cellar. It can work with both high and low yields, and in the wine cellar you can let it be affected by barrel storage or not. If, on the other hand, you choose an aromatic grape variety such as Riesling, it requires more work in the vineyard to preserve the freshness of the grape - and in the cellar, barrel storage will not be an option as you must preserve as much grape character as possible.

 Vitis vinifera is the most widespread species in wine production Vitis vinifera is the most widespread species in wine production

Origin

As if the choice of grape was not enough, then the origin itself is a whole chapter for the winemaker. Here, sub-areas, soil, altitude, slope and terroir also play a role.

Especially, the soil is a key factor, as this affects how the vine grows and develops. There is much discussion about whether the soil can directly affect taste. Most importantly, however, the soil must have the right composition of rock, gravel and sand. The right composition allows the soil to hold on to the water when it is dry, as well as drain it away when it rains too much. In addition to this function, there must be smaller amounts of nutrients in the soil for the vine.

The placement of the vineyard on a slope allows better sun exposure, which gives better ripeness in the grapes. The higher up the slope vineyard is placed, the cooler the temperature will be.

Usually, vineyards will lie in a belt around the earth, which goes from 30 - 50 degrees latitude. Here the climate is generally well suited to viticulture. There may be exceptions to this if there are warm currents or anything else that comes into play. Colder temperature results in more acid and less sugar in the grapes. The warmer the vineyard, the more color and tannin there will often be in the wine.

Terroir is a collective term that roughly takes everything into account, which has an impact on how the wine is grown. This includes hours of sunshine, temperatures, minerals and nutrients in the soil, as well as many other small things. Especially in France, terroir as a term is a bit diffuse. Some will also think that the winemaker belongs under the terroir.

Example: If a vineyard is located in the northern hemisphere, then the winemaker should look for a place with a southeast facing slope. This will ensure the vines optimal angle to the sun in the morning, so that the grapes can achieve optimal ripening.

Climate And Weather

If climate is what you as a winegrower expect, then the weather is what the season gives to the winegrower - that is, what Mother Nature generously gives to the individual. No two grape varieties are the same, and therefore they also require different climatic conditions to thrive optimally.

As a rule of thumb, the optimal place to grow grapes is between 30- and 50-degrees latitude. Within this range, wine regions are roughly divided into three different climate zones: cold, moderate and hot. Certain grapes, such as Riesling and Pinot Noir, do best in relatively cold climates, while other grapes such as Grenache and Primitivo need a warm climate. And in moderate climates, grapes such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon will ripen optimally.

Every single grape variety needs to grow in a climate zone where they receive enough heat - but not too much either. Often the winemaker will work in the marginal zone of where possible. Therefore, the weather ends up playing a big role in the development of the wine.

The years when the weather is perfect from winter, over spring and until summer, you get a good harvest with optimally ripe grapes. In the old classic wine regions of Europe, there is far greater vintage variation. In the “new world”, there are less instabilities, but far more stable weather. It also makes the wines from Chile, California and Australia range more from good to excellent vintages. In Europe, we are moving from enormously bad vintages with unripe grapes to the heavenly vintages, where Mother Nature is in her generous corner and sun, moon and stars are right.

Example: Vintages 2014 and 2015 in Burgundy, for example, are very different. 2014 offered a lower average temperature than 2015, and today the wines from 2014 appear lean, elegant and without the large mouthfeel. 2015 was warmer and the wines are fuller and darker. Some like the sleek version, others will prefer the denser and more powerful vintage - and this will always be the case with taste and pleasure.

The Vineyard

The vineyard, and in particular the work in the vineyard, is the most important throughout the year. Most winemakers can agree on the fact that good wine is made in the field. A vineyard is a living organism where many considerations must be taken into account, and extensive decisions must be made all the time. Often a change in the vineyard will take up to 10 years before it can be measured in the final wine.

One of the major decisions that the winemaker must consider is whether he wants to cultivate his vineyard according to conventional, organic, biodynamic or other sustainable principles. Such a decision takes many years to incorporate into the vineyard and has a direct impact on both the amount of harvest, as well as the location of the wine in the market. In the years when there is a lot of rain, it may be necessary to spray so that you can ensure a decent harvest. For the best producers, however, they want to spray as little as possible and ensure as healthy and clean grapes as possible.

Especially the yield in the end is crucial. Already when winter announces its arrival, a decision must be made on the pruning of the vines. The pruning both helps to determine the quantity of the year, but certainly also the quality.

Throughout the growing season, many things happen in the vineyard, and the winegrower is dependent on having the right people hired to prune and tie up. Only this ensures that the grapes get the optimal ripening.

By its very nature, the harvest itself - and the timing of this - is also crucial. It is often heard that hand-harvesting is the best, but in areas where there is a shortage of labor, a picking machine can ensure that the grapes gets picked at the right time. When using a picking machine, the grapes must be sorted a little more on arrival at the winery. Getting the grapes in house when there is optimal maturity is crucial to the quality of the wine in the end. At this point, reliable weather forecasts are an important tool that the winemaker often looks at.

Example: In 2016, the season in Burgundy started with both frost and hail. This caused a high degree of moisture in the vineyards, causing a wave of mildew that thrives in humid climates, which destroyed the grapes. The organic wine producers had to choose here whether they wanted to spray and remove the disease, or not to spray and therefore keep their certification as being organic. Even though several producers chose to spray, it meant for many that over 50% of the harvest was lost in the worst infested fields.

The Wine Cellar

The wine cellar itself is where the magic happens, but you can still not raise the quality of bad grapes. However, you can express good grapes in the most optimal way - and this creates the “magic”. The winemaker must make many choices once the worst grapes are sorted out. One of the most important things in this process is both fermentation and storage of the wine.

During fermentation, the winemaker can either choose to use nature's own yeast that grows on the grapes or choose to use a pure yeast culture. Nature's own yeast will be the obvious choice for many, but it can cause problems with skewed fermentations that result in wrong aromas in the wine. In the best case, however, the natural yeast can handle all the fermentation, and can therefore create an optimal wine with perfect complexity. To use this method, the winemaker must know his grapes and his cellar to the smallest detail.

The cultural yeast, which is also natural, has some other benefits. Cultural yeast is not only one single thing but can be one of many solutions. The winemaker may have selected one of his own yeast strains and had it refined. In this way, he knows exactly what is happening in the fermentation tank. He also has the option to choose from a large file of yeast strains, each with their own attributes. In this way, the winemaker can get a yeast that behaves exactly as he wants and pulls out the aromas that he wants from the grapes.

The use of oak barrels is another significant factor. Fermentation on cask immediately gives most of the cask flavor to the wine. If the wine is stored in casks, younger casks will give off more flavor and tannin than an older cask. However, both young and old casks will expose the wine to a micro-oxidation that helps to round off the tannin and acid in the wine.

In the end, it remains only to decide when the wine should be sent to the market. For the very quality-conscious producer, it is a question of when it tastes best. For others, it is less important, as the consumer knows that the wine must be stored for many years before it can be opened.

Example: If the winemaker would like to make a powerful white wine based Chardonnay grapes, with lots of notes from the oak you can do the following: get the grapes fully ripe for the winery, make a fermentation on cask at relatively high temperature, which draws lots of flavor out of the grapes and gives fatness to the wine. Then a storage on cask for 12 months to add additional complexity. The wine will then be ready to come on the market when it has calmed down in the bottle after bottling.

Overall

The 5 above factors are crucial for how the wine develops, and therefore also of crucial importance for the wine that you have in the glass. In addition, there are several external factors that also play a small (but not insignificant) role in the perception of the individual wine. It is a known fact that the full sensory experience of enjoying a glass of wine is enhanced if, for example, you are in good company, have tasted a wine on a holiday in a relaxing environment or just get it served in the right glass with the right temperature, which can enhance the taste notes of the wine.

Finally, we must not forget that likes and dislikes are different, and that is exactly what is so amazing about the wine that we all love and admire. Therefore, your experience of a wine can be just as true as everyone else's perception of the same wine. But before the wine gets this far, there are just the 5 above factors, as well as many more that have influenced the wine's development and therefore your experience.

Wine Barrels from Bordeaux Wine Barrels from Bordeaux

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