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...the most important blog with regard to food-and-wine connoisseurship for Chilean wines.
The sommelier Guglielmo Rocchiccioli invites you to share the tasting notes of the wines and analyse the parameters by which it is possible to combine, to match or pairing wines with typical recipes and international cuisine.
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Making red wine

The primary characteristic of red wine vinification is that the must ferments in contact with the solid parts of the bunch: the skin and pips. It is during this period of contact, a true maceration of the different solid parts of the grape, that the colorants, tannins, and mineral and aromatic matter transfer to the must to make a red wine. In order to obtain the wine and encourage the maceration and fermentation, the grapes first undergo some mechanical treatments – crush and destemming – prior to being sent to the fermentation tank.

The crush consists of breaking the grape berries to blend their various parts, liberate the juice, and aerate the must before alcoholic fementation. This achieves a good maceration of the entire mass and helps distribute the yeasts attached to the skins. The stems are usually separated out; otherwise the wine would have more astringent tannins and a herbaceous taste. The crushing machines separate the stems and then the must is pumped to the fermentation tanks. This is the vatting process, which lasts from the moment that the must reaches the tank until alcoholic fermentation has completed, when the wine is then devatted. Important physical and chemical phenomena take place during this period:

  • Transformation of sugar into alcohol, CO₂ and other byproducts;
  • CO₂ is released;
  • Rapid rise in temperature of the fermenting must;
  • Skin and pomace dissolve. Maceration is a fractioned extraction; it is necessary to extract all of the grape’s useful components, which is to say those with good aroma and good flavour. Maceration contributes its specific characteristics to the wine such as colour, tannins, extracted compounds, and aroma;
  • Formation of a cap at the surface of the tank due to the rising CO₂ that carries solid matter to the top. During alcoholic fermentation, the must is submitted to the following practices:
  • Control of density and temperature: as the alcoholic fermentation progresses, the amount of sugar in the must decreases and the alcohol increases; the density therefore decreases progressively, and faster still if the fermentation is more active. This drop in density and the more or less rapid rise in temperature make it possible to follow the progress of the alcoholic fermentation and to intervene when necessary. During the entire fermentation process, density and temperature should be measured below the cap 2-3 times per day and recorded on the vinification sheet. Temperatures may vary between 77° and 88° F.
  • Pumpovers are used to aerate the must. The first is always done after filling the tank in order to homogenize the mass. Selected yeasts are normally added at the end of this first pumpover.
  • Punch down: this operation consists of breaking the cap formed at the top of the fermenting mass and sinking it into the liquid as a way of renewing the contact of the skins with the fermenting liquid. Facilitating the solubilization of the substances contained in the skins.
  • Chilling: daily temperature controls make it possible to determine the time to cool the must if it exceeds the temperature established for vinifying each type of wine.
  • Devatting: consists of separating the pomace or solids from the wine in the tank or fermentation vat by racking the wine to another container where the alcoholic fermentation will finish and the wine will be conserved. The wine racked from the fermentation tank is called “free run wine”. The duration of the vat time should be adapted to the type of wine desired and will depend upon the year’s harvest conditions (ripeness and health of the grapes) and the variety. The total vat time influences the body, the amount of tannins, astringency, evolution, and longevity of the wine. There are three specific moments that determine the end of the vat time.

  1. 1. Before finalizing the alcoholic fermentation, when the wine still contains sugar. This method of using a short, 3-4 day maceration is generally used for wines made for quick consumption. The wine is devatted with densities around 1010 when the wine has extracted enough colour but not a lot of tannins. This is the “early devatting”
  2. 2. Immediately after the alcoholic fermentation, with a density between 995 and 994, the wine is dry, meaning it has no remaining fermentable sugars. This is referred to as a “hot devatting”. This method is used for quality wines to avoid excessive harshness and favoring a rapid commercialization. It is also used for wines that will be aged.
  3. 3. If the maceration is prolonged for several days after the alcoholic fermentation has finished, it is referred to as a “cold devatting”. This method is used for wines with great colour and rich tannins that will be aged. In this case the post fermentation maceration usually lasts 4 to 20 days. After devatting, which is usually aerated, the wine will finish its alcoholic fermentation if it is still sweet and begin a secondary or malolactic fermentation that takes place via specific microorganisms call lactic bacteria. Malolactic fermentation adds softness to the taste, aromatic complexity, and improves the stability of the wine by turning malic acid, which is unstable and has a harsh green taste, into lactic acid, which is stable and has a delicate flavour, thereby increasing the product´s harmony and approachability. This is why it is said that malolactic fermentation deacidifies and softens new wines, which benefit from the process and increase in quality. After racking and obtaining the free run wine, the drained pomace is removed from the tank and pressed to extract the wine contained in the pomace. This is called press wine and it has different physical-chemical and gustatory characteristics than free run wine. Press wine is usually darker, harsher, and more astringent, and its aromas are usually unpleasant. Press wines obtained from a pneumatic or bladder press do not usually have these negative characteristics and can be used with the free run wine.

 

Profesor Alejandro Hernández – “Chile Vitivinícola. Un país andino con vista al mar” – Quebecor World Chile S.A. – Chile – 2006

 

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Vinification

Vinification consists of using a series of mechanical and physical-chemical processes to turn the juice from the crushed grapes into wine. In the case of white wine, the clusters are crushed and pressed, the juice is decanted, and the wine is made directly from the clean juice without any solid parts. In the case of red wine, it is the crushed fruit, minus the stems, that generates the wine.

Because there are different types of red and white wines, there are different vinification procedures that basically differ in the way and time the solids are separated from the bunch. This transformation of a sweet liquid (must) into an alcoholic liquid (wine) is a biological phenomenon called alcoholic fermentation. It was not until 1866 that the research of L. Pasteur showed that alcoholic yeasts (microscopic fungi) turned grape sugars into ethyl alcohol, carbon dioxide, and several dozen other components.

Glucose →Alcoholic Fermentation: Ethanol + Carbon Dioxide + Byproducts + Heat

Profesor Alejandro Hernández – “Chile Vitivinícola. Un país andino con vista al mar” – Quebecor World Chile S.A. – Chile – 2006

 

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www.botalcura.cl

BOTALCURA – CABERNET SAUVIGNON EL DELIRIO – D.O. VALLE DEL MAULE – VINO DE CHILE VINO TINTO – PRODUCTO CHILENO – PRODUCIDO Y EMBOTELLADO POR VIÑA Y BODEGA BOTALCURA S.A. – FUNDO EL DELIRIO LOTE 1-A – BOTALCURA – PENCAHUE – TALCA   2009   14%

VISUAL: de color rojo rubí intenso y con el justo cuerpo.

NARIZ: fresas, frambuesas, humus, hojas verdes, leño dulce y pot-pourri de flores rojas.

BOCA: grande estructura y una destacada armonía entre todas las sensaciones gustativas; el final de boca refleja una mezcla entre fruta de bosque, humus y leño; la persistencia aromática intensa del vino pivotea alrededor de 5 y 6 segundos.

MARIDAJE: guiso de verdura condimentado con aceite de oliva

  • La suculencia del guiso contrarresta la sequedad alcohólica del vino
  • La untuosidad del aceite sirve de contrapeso a la astringencia tánica del vino
  • La estructura del plato se compara con la estructura del vino
  • La persistencia gusto-olfativa de la receta iguala la persistencia aromática intensa del vino

OPINIÓN PERSONAL: maridar este vino es como conversar con una persona que quiere salirse con la suya, pero tiene que rendirse frente a argumentaciones válidas y reconocidas como demuestra tener este guiso de verdura.

 

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The grape cluster

The degree of ripeness and health of the grape condition the quality and type of wine. If the grape is not perfectly ripe, the resulting wine will not be of the best quality.

The years of a “good harvest” that lead to quality wine, are only achieved when the grape clusters develop over a summer with excellent climatic conditions. It is in this period that the grape berry grows, changes colour, and ripens. Harvest begins when the grapes reach optimum ripeness.

The grape cluster or bunch has two parts, the woody stem and the grape berry. Each berry is made up of skin and the pulp that contains seeds or pips. The pulp is the fragile, sweet, and watery tissue that yields juice or must when broken open. The juice that results from crushing or pressing the bunches is a cloudy liquid that contains lees, which are suspended solids such as cellulose and pectic matter from the cell walls of the skin, coagulated protoplasm, protein substances, and bits of skin.

The pomace is the solid part of the grape, made up of the skin and pips after pressing the grapes after the crush. Generally, a bunch is 4-5% stems and 95-96% grape berries. The skin represents 8-9% of each berry, the pips, 3%, and the pulp, 84-85%. The grape cluster forms during fruit set or fertilization, which normally occurs in late November. Over the course of the next approximately two months it acts as a green organ that grows every day. This phonological period, called the herbaceous period, ends with veraison, when the grape changes colour. During, this short period of just 10-12 days the berries become elastic and swell. White grapes turn greenish-yellow and black grapes turn reddish-violet. During those few days, the grapes lose acidity and gain sweetness.

The ripening period follows and lasts for 40-60 days from late January to late March. The grapes continue to grow and become sweeter and less acidic. Colour increases and the varietal aromas appear that will later be present in the wine. Meanwhile, the polyphenols, especially the tannins, stop forming.

This ripening period that ends with “harvest maturity” defines the composition of the bunch and largely conditions the quality of the wine to be produced.

Profesor Alejandro Hernández – “Chile Vitivinícola. Un país andino con vista al mar” – Quebecor World Chile S.A. – Chile – 2006

 

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Vineyard health

How is it that a small country at the tip of South America has always enjoyed the privilege of producing good wines? There are clear historical reasons that established Chile early on as a country with a vitivinicultural tradition. The Spanish planted the vine in all of their colonies. The crop did not prosper in Central America and the Caribbean, but was more successful in the viceroyalties of the Southern Cone, especially in Chile. Therefore by the 18th century, Chile was already the primary wine exporter to all the Spanish colonies.

The country’s social habit during the 19th century were very influenced by the “French spirit” and therefore the idea of producing wines with French varieties and technology was readily accepted and developed very quickly throughout the country from mid-century on.

The varieties that exist in Chile today arrived during this time: Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Merlot, Malbec or Cot, Pinot Noir, Petit Verdot, and the white varieties Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Riesling.

Furthermore, as a product of the phylloxera crisis that destroyed the European vineyards beginning in the 1870s, French techniques and winemakers arrived in Chile to plant new vineyards and make fine wines. The real reasons are nevertheless found in the Chilean territory’s remarkable geoclimatic advantages for winegrowing, the climate in the central zone is characterized as Mediterranean, with rainfall concentrated in the winter and a long dry season from late spring through late summer. In the Central Valley, the strip adjacent to the Coastal Range presents maximum temperatures that top 86°F during the warmest month, and summer temperatures can vary as much as 27° to 32°F in a single day, thereby presenting both a luminous atmosphere and a relative humidity of 55 to 60% in the summer. In the strip of piedmont along the Andes Mountains, the summer is somewhat cooler and the relative humidity is slightly higher. In this zone, the nocturnal temperatures tend to be very low due to the drainage of cold air from the Andes, which creates an even greater diurnal temperature differential that can exceed 36°F. within this happy combination of factors is the origin of the vine’s intense photosynthetic activity that results from the strong solar radiation along with its nocturnal repose due to the abrupt change in temperature; the combination produces a constitution and accumulation of colour and aroma in the grape plus a perfect maturation seldom found elsewhere. South of the Central Valley, in the Maule and Bío Bío regions, grapes are grown in the central part and on hills in the Coastal Range. The maritime influence in this area creates greater thermal accumulation, less luminosity, and increased relative humidity in the air.

From south to north, as a result of the high summer temperatures, the vineyard’s potential evapotranspiration fluctuates between 43,000 and 91,500 ft² per hectare. Average annual precipitation also oscillates between 39 inches in the south to 12 inches in the north. Most of this water does not fall during the vine’s growth period, and irrigation therefore becomes necessary by late spring. Countless irrigation canals distribute the water provided by the torrents of Andean runoff in the spring and summer. The Andes Mountains are the great irrigation reserve for Chilean agriculture. Paradoxically, irrigation water in Chile is more plentiful duting the driest months than it is during the rainy season because the mountain runoffs are provoked by high temperatures.

The dry summer is also the specific reason that Chilean vineyards are the healthiest in the world.

The lack of rain during the vine’s active growth period is a privilege of the Chilean vineyard, the consequence of which is that disease is rare. Downy mildew, for example, is nonexistent, so the grapes normally reach the vinification process free of any toxic residues. Added to this condition is the geographic isolation of the Chilean territory that acts as a barrier against the migration of disease and that has historically protected our country from the dreaded phylloxera.

Flanked to east by the Andes Mountains, to the west by the Pacific Ocean, to the north by the Atacama Desert, and to the south by the Drake Sea and Antarctica, the Chilean territory has natural sanitary barriers. It is also necessary to mention that the Agricultural and Livestock Service of the Ministry of Agriculture maintains strict control over this area. These naturally healthy conditions allow us to produce nearly organic wine free of all toxic residues. Unfortunately we have still not found the best way to take advantage of this enormous advantage.

Profesor Alejandro Hernández – “Chile Vitivinícola. Un país andino con vista al mar” – Quebecor World Chile S.A. – Chile – 2006

 

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www.viawine.cl

OVEJA NEGRA – ESTATE BOTTLED – VALLE DEL MAULE – CABERNET SAUVIGNON/SYRAH RESERVA – PRODUCTO DE CHILE – PRODUCIDO Y EMBOTELLADO POR VIÑA SAN RAFAEL (VIA WINES) – FUNDO LA ESPERANZA S/N RUTA K-409 – SAN RAFAEL – REGIÓN DEL MAULE – CHILE   2009   14%

VISUAL: de color rojo rubí y con su relativo cuerpo.

NARIZ: frutilla, cereza, vainilla y geranio.

BOCA: estructura, taninos y suavidad repartidos en la justa medida; la sequedad alcohólica tiende a dominar las sensaciones de paladar; el pequeño toque amarguillo al final completa el análisis gustativo; la persistencia aromática intensa es de 5 segundos.

MARIDAJE: filete mignon

  • La tendencia dulce de la carne contrarresta la tendencia amarguilla del vino
  • La suculencia de la carne sirve de contrapeso a la sequedad alcohólica del vino
  • La estructura del vino iguala la estructura del plato
  • La persistencia aromática intensa del vino compensa la persistencia gusto-olfativa del preparado alimenticio

OPINIÓN PERSONAL: a la nariz el impacto olfativo es bastante reducido mientras que en la boca se rellenan los parámetros gustativos; el maridaje otorga un instante enogastronómico importante.

 

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Mechanical harvesting

A mechanical grape harvester is a self-propelled machine that circulates over the top of the rows of vines and has a system of beaters that shake the vines and vine support structures (poles and wires). This intense shaking (vibration) or beating causes the grapes to separate from their stems and fall into a transporter that accumulates them in a 400-500 gallon hopper. The harvested matter passes through a strong current of air that eliminates the leaves and shoots and allows the grapes to drop into the hopper.

In the beginning, some 15 years ago, these mechanical harvesters worked imperfectly and the grapes were so mistreated that it was believed that they were not fir for making quality wine. Today, 70% of Bordeaux harvests by machine; the same is true of California and Australia. Mechanical harvesting requires the vineyard to have a sturdy structure, upright vines, longer rows, and a relatively flat space at the end of each row. The presence of irrigation or drainage ditches is a big problem for harvester mobility.

In practice, a slow-working harvesting machine can pick 0,5 hectare per hour, or 4 hectares in 8 hours. The machines usually operate 20 hours, or 10 hectares per day. Considering an 8-hour work day harvesting 4 hectares at 12 tons/ha., the result is a harvest of 48,000 kg. per day. This same quantity would require 60 human pickers plus complementary personnel, or a staff of 65 people. At today’s prices, the cost a a manual harvest is the same as machine harvest.

Working with a mechanical harvester implies having special hoppers to transport the destemmed grapes to the winery. Some bunches break open, and this system usually releases more juice than a manual harvest using plastic boxes or bins, but it is no more destructive than transporting grapes in bulk. Working with containers of at least 3,300 pounds, the winery needs to have a mechanized unloading system or use transporters with automatic dumping.

Finally, we insist again that machine harvesting requires a more solid and very well-aligned vineyard. Most industrialized companies design their new vineyards for mechanical harvesting in the future. Mechanical harvesters can be rented for approximately 280 USD per hectare. The harvest is a complicated and expensive process that must be planned for and carried out with much rigor in order to obtain a quality wine. Furthermore, this is the final stage of a long process of work in the vineyard and the cellar. Great hopes are based upon the harvest and so it therefore seems natural to celebrate it with the traditional “Harvest Festival”.

 

Profesor Alejandro Hernández – “Chile Vitivinícola. Un país andino con vista al mar” – Quebecor World Chile S.A. – Chile – 2006

 

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Grape sampling technique

This refers to sampling grapes that represent the average level of maturity. The evolution varies within a single bunch and within the the bunches of a single vine; the degree of ripeness differs among the berries of the same bunch and among the bunches of the same vine. The best way to obtain a realistic idea of overall maturity is by randomly sampling 250 grapes from 250 vines from a homogenous parcel or sector. These 250 grapes should be weighed to follow the progress of the weight. They are then crushed and pressed hard to extract all the juice; the pips and skins are separated, and the clean juice is used to measure the sugar, acidity, and pH. The colour of the juice and pips is also observed. Of course the sampled grapes are also used to taste the juice and test its aroma.

Considerably rigor is required in all of these measurements and observations, and vineyard management and climatic conditions must also be considered. Results vary widely following irrigation, 2 or 3 days of high heat, a very windy day, or 2 or 3 cool or cloudy days. Irrigation and rain provoke an increase in total acidity and berry weight and a decrease in the percentage of sugar. This dilution phenomenon is overcome after 4 to 6 days, depending on the sun and the temperature. With the records of the measurements and knowing the grape maturity level needed for a given type of wine, the harvest date can be determined with a certain degree of precision.

White grapes must be picked and transported at low temperatures and red grapes at normal temperatures (64°-77° F). it should be born in mind that the riper the grapes, the more fragile the bunch, which means the grapes break more easily and more must is lost.

Necessary considerations in the vineyard include the condition of the roads, bridges, and ditches, as well as parking places for the trucks or trailers and shade for the area where the grapes will be loaded. Transportation considerations include the use of one or more tractors or trailers, harvesting boxes, shears for cutting the bunches, plastic bins or boxes for transporting the grapes and a way to clean them between uses, and weighing the grapes. Keeping the harvesting boxes or bins clean is a bothersome, time-consuming, and expensive process that requires special implementation, but it is absolutely crucial that the boxes or bins be kept clean at all times.

A problem-free harvest implies careful planning prior to each step. Manual picking is not only a delicate operation, but an expensive one as well. Grape pickers earn a minimum of 50% more than a normal salary. Furthermore, the winery must provide their lunch or at least bread, and transportation is usually included as well. A suitable place for the workers to eat lunch and clean up must also be provided. Because grape harvest coincides with other fruit harvests (pears, apples, table grapes) and some crops such as corn, sugar beets, and others, there is a high demand for labor during this period, and it is therefore very important to organize the harvest well in advance.

All thes circumstances, along with the problems that can arise due to rain or an extended harvest, plus the need to quickly pick as many grapes as possible at their peak, led to the use of mechanical harvesting more than 20 years ago.

 

Profesor Alejandro Hernández – “Chile Vitivinícola. Un país andino con vista al mar” – Quebecor World Chile S.A. – Chile – 2006

 

 

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www.viawines.cl

Una oveja negra es alguien especial, alguien que se destaca en el rebaño y sigue su propio camino. Una persona ùnica, original y fuera de lo común. Alguien que llama la atención. Los vinos OVEJA NEGRA son las “ovejas negras” de Chile. Vinos con carácter y personalidad. Fascinantes. Vinos que te desafían a ser tú mismo.

OVEJA NEGRA – ESTATE BOTTLED – VALLE DEL MAULE – CHARDONNAY/VIOGNIER RESERVA – PRODUCTO DE CHILE – PRODUCIDO Y EMBOTELLADO POR VIÑA SAN RAFAEL (VIA WINES) – FUNDO LA ESPERANZA S/N RUTA K-409 – SAN RAFAEL – REGIÓN DEL MAULE – CHILE   2008   13,5%

VISUAL: petillant, amarillo pajizo intenso y con un buen cuerpo.

NARIZ: pera, chirimoya, yerba de montaña, margarita y jazmín.

BOCA: suave y amable al primer contacto con el paladar con capacidad de generar una buena salivación casi enseguida; el cierre de boca tiene sabores de fruta tropical y la persistencia es de 4 segundos.

MARIDAJE: carpaccio de pulpo con puré de habas

  • La crasitud de la comida se contrapone a la salivación del vino
  • La tendencia amarguilla de las habas se confronta con el cierre dulce del vino
  • La suculencia del preparado alimenticio se opone a la sequedad alcohólica del vino

OPINIÓN PERSONAL: un experimento enogastronómico que invita como protagonista un sencillo vino blanco para acompañar una entrada de mar con legumbres.

 

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Relative order of maturity by variety

The general harvest date for each variety is known because its biological cycle and behavior over the years in a particular zone are known. In Chile, grapes reach their relative maturity in the following order:

White varieties: sauvignon blanc – chardonnay – riesling – gewürztraminer – semillón – chenin blanc – muscats – torontel

Red varieties: pinot noir – merlot – malbec – cabernet franc – cabernet sauvignon – syrah – carmenere – país

The difference in time between the first and last variety of each list can be as much as two months. Depending on the vegetative cycle of each variety, there are approximately 40 days between veraison and maturity (in chardonnay, for example), and 60 days for others (such as cabernet sauvignon). We also add that the harvest is usually accelerated when:

  • The yield is large
  • It is a wet year or there is a risk of rain
  • The year is very hot and the grapes mature early
  • There is a risk of a labor shortage

If everything seems normal, it is best to begin the harvest as late as possible, especially in the case of red wines, while bearing in mind that it is always necessary to begin before the grapes are perfectly ripe, or to begin slowly, with few pickers, and then fully activate the harvest when the grapes reach their peak maturity.

It is one thing, however, to pinpoint the precise moment to begin harvesting and another to be able to logistically manage the process of picking the grapes, transporting them to the winery, and beginning vinification. The period of ideal maturity is short; it can last several days, 6-8 for cabernet sauvignon and syrah, or just 2-4 for merlot and pinot noir. The harvest is a period of tremendous activity, and the only way to handle it efficiently is to prepare for it very carefully ahead of time. If not, there will certainly be a degree of deterioration in the quality of the grapes that will be transmitted to the wine.

This is a matter of programming the harvest activities to guarantee that as many grapes as possible are gathered at their peak of quality and then transported to the winery as fast as possible for vinification. Once picked, the grapes cannot wait in the vineyard or in the winery. The winery itself should be organized, equipped, and technically directed to be ready for the very uncertain process of alcoholic fermentation. Problems with slow or stuck fermentations occur every year in many wineries around the world. The decision of when to harvest is the irreversible stage that joins enology with viticulture.

 

Profesor Alejandro Hernández – “Chile Vitivinícola. Un país andino con vista al mar” – Quebecor World Chile S.A. – Chile – 2006

 

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