The term “wine growing” is probably confusing to most people when you first encounter it. Corn is grown, beans are grown and, of course, grapes are grown and then turned into wine. But you have to first understand something about our capabilities as sensory creatures. We can smell certain odors at the parts per trillion level. To use our location as an example, Seneca Lake, which our winery overlooks, is a 38-mile long, 618- foot deep lake that holds 4.2 trillion gallons of water. If you were to put less than a gallon of certain chemical constituents found in grapes (if they would remain stable, that is) into the lake, you would be able to smell them anywhere on the lake. While my example might not be perfect, I hope you simply appreciate the impact of the scale and the amazing ramifications of this impact on what is traditionally thought of as wine making. If you understand this impact, than the necessity of “growing wine’’ (i.e., growing the grapes to produce certain characteristics) becomes apparent. Small changes in composition can shift characteristics into the range of perception and if this shift happens to the point that undesirable constituents are the dominant characteristic then that can be a problem for the resulting wine. It all depends on whether or not those characteristics, which are preferable, dominate those that are not preferable. This is why the emphasis has to be on wine growing, looking at the end product being not the grapes, but rather the wine. Vine yield, vine variability, disease management, cultural practices, (i.e leaf pulling) and water management all contribute to wine quality and have to be managed to ensure quality wine.
A balanced vineyard is a goal of winegrowing and generally it is more an ideal to strive for and approximate. The conditions that can lead to imbalance in a vineyard, an important one being the weather, are variable from year to year. Unlike some regions, the Finger Lakes has rainfall during the growing season and we have to contend with harsh winters. A grapevine wants to do one thing, make other grapevines and it does this by making seeds that are surrounded by soft edible fruit which is desirable to birds and other animals. I am amazed when I see when birds start eating grapes because to my taste they are almost inedible. Birds start eating them when they aren’t very sweet and are quite acidic. Birds don’t care it seems about sugar/acid balance or supple tannins. Those are demands that we make on the grapes. An unbalanced grapevine will still pass on its genetic material to another generation because the fruit from an unbalanced vine will still entice a bird but it won’t entice you and I. do will consume however much energy(in the form of heat and light), water and nutrients Too much rain can lead to excess vigor The Finger Lakes, unlike other major wine growing regions, has to deal with harsh winters.
In the vineyard we treat red grapes pretty much the same as we do white grapes other than we’re more apt to limit yields and hand harvest rather than machine pick. In the cellar the grapes are treated much differently.
To make white wines the fruit is picked and then crushed first in the stemmer crusher. Here the fruit is separated from the stems and then it is crushed between rollers and then it is pumped into the press where a bag is filled with air squeezing the juice from the grapes. The tank is channeled and the juice is pumped to a tank. This can take some time depending on the amount we have picked or have to pick. The juice is then settled overnight and the clearer juice is then pumped into another tank where it is inoculated with yeast.
Red wines are different because the color in red wine come from the skins and so the wines have to be fermented on the skins. The fruit is crushed and instead of going to the press the must is pumped directly to a tank where it is inoculated with yeast. The CO2 that the fermentation produces forces the grapes up to the top of the tank and this cap must be punched or pumped down in order for there to be maximum flavor and color extraction. There is also a difference in the fermentation temperature. Three by products of wine fermentations are alcohol, CO2 and heat and a large fermenter can get quite warm. To extract color and flavor it is good for a fermenter to heat up to at least 90 to 95 degrees that is easily achievable with a large fermenter. A white wine fermenter will also become as warm if we let it but in that case we turn on our refrigeration and maintain a temperature in the 60 to 70 degree range.
Both white and red wines see barrel time but the length of time is different with reds, usually spending more time in barrels. Whites and red also both go through malo-lactic fermentation but the difference is that all our reds go through malo-lactic.
Winegrowing & Winemaking