I’ve been thinking about the scariest thing I could possibly post for Halloween that was in some way moderately wine related.
Pictures of Malborough Sauv Blanc and/ or Hunter Verdelho were a little too easy and nothing was really coming to me.
Then I remembered this gem posted on Cory Cartwright’s now defunct Saignee wine blog a couple of years ago.
It’s a reply from Jason Lett of Oregon’s Eyrie Vineyards, to the question of what is the easiest way to make a smooth, generic, high-powered red wine when you have every trick in the industrial handbook at your disposal.
It’s a recipe as much as a guide and unfortunately it how much of the red wine in the world is made today. Everything inside the quotation marks is taken verbatim:
"So here is how to make plush, succulent, easy drinking reds:
* Grow it in a climate where the variety hits 25 -30 reliably every year. This would be a climate far warmer than where the variety naturally evolved. (This will cause the natural acids in the grape to metabolize away, so add some acid in the winery. Not too much - the commercial palate likes reds in the pH 3.7 to 3.9 range.)
* Ripening grapes this far increases the risk of rot, so spray a lot of fungicide in the vineyard.
* When you bring the grapes into the winery, you could reduce potential alcohol to 16% by adding water to the dehydrated fruit - or you could use a super-yeast tolerant to up to 18% alcohol.
* Add tannins selected for smoothness. They come from a bag and will help plush out the texture of the wine.
* Use enzymes and cryoextraction to decompose the cell structures in the skin and completely extract the wine. Don't worry if you release harsh components in the process; these can be removed later.
* Don't ferment all the way to dryness. This will limit the amount of tannins the wine extracts, and 1 - 3% residual sugar will mask all kinds of harshness. It also limits the alcohol a bit. And it leaves in a lot of tutti frutti esters for juicy aroma.
* Now you have a high alcohol, sweet, low acid wine which is in great danger of going bacterial - a biological and fungal timebomb waiting to happen. So sterile filter on the way to barrel. This reduces the tannins further.
* Go into new oak barrels (or use oak chips) which are specifically heat treated to reduce harsh tannin and increase wood-sugars, vanillins, and lactones for even more smoooooth sweetness.
* Use a malolactic strain selected for smoothness. Immediately after malic is complete, add 100 - 150 parts per million SO2 to prevent bacteriological takeover. Continue to add more SO2 on a regular basis.
* Further reduce tannins by fining. Add any number of soluable proteins which bind to tannins and settle them to the bottom of the barrel.
* Rack the wine from barrel, blend in tank
* Filter so tightly that all living organisms are stripped away. Or add the chemical DMDC (dimethyl dicarbonate) to kill all populations of bacteria and yeasts and proclaim "unfiltered."
* Use a spinning cone apparatus or reverse osmosis filter, to bring the alcohol down from 16-18% to 14.5% or less
* Add gum arabic, which is allowed as a "wine stabilizer" but which actually serves the purpose of bulking the mid-palate and increasing the perception of sweetness.
* Add yet more SO2
* Bottle it, label it, and send it out for scoring"
This is the absolute best way of making a high scoring commerically successful wine. The second best way is fantastic terroir, a bit of luck with vintage conditions and a lot of hard work.