TASTE Winter 2022-23

Winter in the Winery

H ave you ever wondered what goes on in the cellar of your favourite BC winery once the grapes have all been picked, the leaves fallen from the vines and the chill of winter sets in? The answer is, lots! After the commotion of crush is over, the winemaking team is still busy managing fermenting tanks and barrels. There is also a lot of thinking and planning going on and decisions being made that will shape the wines we eventually crack open and pour in the coming months or years. Unlike many of their European counterparts, BC winemakers are not burdened by excessive rules and therefore have the freedom to explore and play. The old adage is true in wine: you can’t make great wine without great grapes. The quality of the fruit is the key in making something delicious for our table. Then the decision-making starts. Dry or some sweetness? It’s all about balance. When making a wine like the Nk’Mip Dreamcatcher, one of the key decisions for winemaker Justin Hall is when to stop the fermentation. Do you want a fruity white with some residual sugar, or something dry and savoury? To retain fruity and floral aromas, fermentation temperatures need to be kept low. And to preserve some sweetness, Hall must

be diligent, chilling the wine to stop fermentation at the exact moment when it hits that optimum balance of sugar and alcohol. Dry wines are left to go their course, the yeast eating all the sugar until the wine is dry and all of it converted to alcohol and carbon dioxide. Going wild? There are yeast everywhere—on the skins of grapes, in the winery—all ready to jump into action and feed on the sugars the BC sun has instilled into the grapes. A winemaker must decide whether to go wild with the fermentation, letting the natural yeast on the grapes and in the winery do their thing, or whether to add a selected cultured yeast strain that will overpower the wild yeast to produce a more predictable, but perhaps less complex, outcome. How much time on lees? Lees, which are the spent yeast that fall to the bottom of a wine vessel after fermentation, are also a useful tool in the winemaker’s playbook. “I like to leave my Chardonnay to age on the lees, as it adds a lovely savoury note and richer texture and mouthfeel to the wine,” says Mission Hill Family Estates winemaker Corrie Krehbiel. Lees can even help protect a wine

from oxidation, an added bonus that can mean less sulfur needs to be used, something every winemaker embraces. To oak, or not to oak? One of the main options a winemaker has in shaping the style of a wine is whether or not to use oak. Sometimes, when consumers hear “oak” plus “wine,” they turn and run in the other direction, a hangover from days of excessive oak use two decades ago. Nowadays, oak use often adds a subtle background note of complexity with understated flavours that complement the fruitiness of the grape. “I use oak to build texture and weight on the palate while highlighting the purity of our fruit. The oak that we use needs to support the fruit characteristics rather than overwhelming them,” says Krehbiel of Mission Hill. Different age of barrels, different sizes and length of time all give a winemaker the control to season a wine’s complexity. Making Contact We know it is the deep reddish-purple skins of the grape that leach their colour into a wine, making for all the ruby to blue hues we see in red wines. Winemakers control how long this skin contact lasts, extracting not only colour from the skins, but also flavour


Powered by