Monday, September 13, 2010

Carrying our Sparkling Wine Forward

Bread dough. Mushrooms. Toast. Hazelnuts. Wine makers and (especially) wine writers tend to exploit an almost limitless collection of terms to describe the aroma and flavors of wine, but those four are singularly rare compared to words like berries, spice and tree fruits – except when it comes to sparkling wine.

Champagne and its derivatives owe their immense appeal to their almost ethereal delicacy. Suggestions of flavors, wisps of specific scents, and mouth-cleansing acidity are the hallmarks of a good sparkling wine (bolder styles, like Spumante, are really in a different category altogether).

But sometimes too much austerity can be a bad thing. Grapes that are pressed as whole clusters, rather than being crushed first, yield a very soft juice that in turn makes an extremely delicate base wine. So far so good – but clever winemakers often use the early stage of the process to build in tiny hits of complexing flavors that make the base wine taste like more than green apples.

Complexing our Sparkling Base Wine
Transferring our sparkling base wine into neutral oak barrels, see below.

At Fox Run, we customarily ferment our Chardonnay for sparkling wine in barrels rather than stainless steel tanks for that express purpose. The short contact time – a week or two at most – plus the use of barrels that are a few years old means that there’s no danger of making an overtly oaky base wine. Instead, the wine picks up some very subtle ‘biscuity’ or ‘toasty’ notes that will eventually enhance the finished wine’s come-hither qualities.

Our current-release Blanc de Blancs, for sale online and at the winery, was 100% barrel-fermented, and offers all the engaging flavor notes we are looking for.

By: Peter Bell, Winemaker

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