In keeping with the secrets theme of our podcast, this episode’s wine note focuses on secrets of the wine industry. Enjoy!
In each podcast episode, we bring you a note about wine because wine is a main form of sustenance for vampires when they’re not drinking, you know, blood. It also happens that Deborah Harkness, Renaissance woman that she is, is an award-winning wine blogger and wine enthusiast. If you’ve never read Deborah’s wine blog, “Good Wine Under $20,” you should have a look. While she doesn’t write it now, it is a reminder that apparently there’s nothing this woman can’t do.
We have two more reasons we like to include a wine note in each episode. We really like wine; we like it a lot. We also happen to have our own personal sommelier, Bayard. This man knows his wine and he loves sharing his knowledge and making wine accessible to everyone. Bayard is a founding partner at Crafted Brands and we love learning from him.
This week, to go with our Secrets in the All Souls Trilogy podcast, we are talking about secrets of the wine industry. That’s right—some of the little known stuff that goes on behind closed doors that consumers may not know.
Take it away, Bayard….
What’s Actually in That Bottle? The first thing isn’t necessarily a secret; it is a federal law. When you pick up a bottle of Chardonnay or Cabernet or Merlot, by law the winemaker is only required to put 75 percent of that grape in the bottle. Sometimes they use 100 percent and it is 100 percent varietally pure. However, they may blend in a few other things, usually in order to create a certain taste profile. If you were to pick up a bottle of Cabernet, it could be 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. However, usually it is blended in with other grapes, so you’ll have a bottle of Cabernet, but you’ll also have a little bit of Merlot and maybe a little bit of Malbec blended in, as well to create a certain flavor profile.
The same goes for white wines. You could have some Chardonnay or some Sauvignon Blanc that may have a touch of VNA blended in or Chenin Blanc in order to create a certain flavor profile.
What About Those Casks? In keeping with creating a certain flavor profile, especially in red wines, you want to be able to have some oak aging. You want to be able to have that wine rest and barrel for a certain amount of time. That’s expensive. Barrels are expensive. So what do winemakers do in order to cut corners? Sometimes they put in extracts that tastes like wood or they will put in a very, very fine wood dust that dissolves in the wine that makes it taste as though it’s rested in barrel.
The Secret of Steeping: The third technique is steeping chips. Just as you you would steep a tea bag in hot water, some winemakers will take a lot of oak chips and literally steep them in red wine for many weeks at a time. As that infuses into the wine, it makes it taste as though it has been put in a barrel. These are some of the corners that the wine industry will cut in order to sell more wine, get wine to market quicker, and make more profit
The Story of Mega Purple: Mega purple is a concentrate that is used in a lot of mass produced wines. It is high in sugar, high in alcohol, and when you blend it with actual grapes that have come right out of the vineyard, it gives a certain flavor profile that can be very, very attractive. It also helps winemakers to take an average of say a gallon of wine and stretch that out to be maybe a gallon and a half or two gallons by adding concentrate to it. Yes, you’re watering it down, but you’re creating a certain flavor profile by adding this concentrate to the natural line in order to get that certain flavor profile that you’re going for.
All that said, there’s a sea of really, really good wine out there. Don’t let any of what I’ve said deter you from going out and trying new wines and new labels and just enjoying wine all around. Cheers!