by Fred McMillin
Fermentation comes from the Latin word fervere, to boil. When yeast contacts sugar-containing juice from ripe grapes it gives off bubbles of carbon dioxide. Thus, the first winemakers were awed by this boiling without heating. In the fall yeast coats the grape and the juice within the skin of the grape has sugar ready to ferment. To mix the yeast and the juice, the grape is crushed and fermentation starts.
But something else can be found beneath its skin: carbonic maceration. This refers to the fact that the ripe grape can ferment without crushing, i.e. without yeast. Author Jancis Robinson tells us that the resultant wines are light and fruity, with a distinctive aroma. Gallo of Sonoma Frei Ranch Vineyard makes a Zinfandel which is "not crushed to retain the grape's varietal essence. It is aged in oak barrels to complete Malolactic Fermentation."
Also, they have made an uncrushed Sauvignon Blanc in order to "minimize harshness and to maximize the fruit's varietal characteristics and citrus flavors." However, in California and Oregon the uncrushed grapes are usually Pinot Noir. If you wish to try one of them here are some of the producers.
In the 1849 Gold Rush, the '49ers drank Zinfandel and needed clothing and other supplies. A businessman from the east, Levi Strauss, sensed the sales opportunity and was a big success, which is not suprising...it was in his jeans!
Tasting: Edgar Vogt
Statistics: Ophelia Mercado & Rubella Dequis
Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He was voted one of the U.S.A's 22 Best wine writers by the Academy of Wine Communications. For information about the wine courses he teaches every month at San Francisco City College (Fort Mason Division), please fax him at (415) 567-4468.
Copyright © 2009, Fred McMillin. All rights reserved.
This page created August 2009
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