July 24, 2012
My name is Paul Warren Frankel, and I’m the winemaker at Sculpterra Winery. My last blog I mentioned that we’d look at my plan of attack for the 2012 harvest. Each year I start a spreadsheet where I map out every batch of wine I plan to make. Now…you’re going to find these next subjects riveting (tongue firmly planted in cheek). They are however a crucial and essential part of the plan. I’ve got 2 words for you-Yeast & Oak.
As we begin to see some early seasonal hints of veraison (coloring of the fruit), I start to think about when to pick the fruit, and at what degree of ripeness. Then I get to choose which yeast to pair with which fruit. There are literally hundreds of yeast strains, each with it’s own characteristics and signature. Fruit and yeast pairings has really become one of my greatest interests in winemaking. I have my choices made and my purchases done for this upcoming harvest.
The yearly planned use of existing oak barrels, and the purchase of new barrels is a true adventure. We buy barrels with different oak sourced from France, Hungary, Bulgaria, and the United States (Appalachian, Pennsylvania, and Missouri oak). The parade of oak salesman – cooperage representatives – is quite a sight. They run the gamut from our own domestic, razor pressed, Dockers clad sales guys to the slightly rumpled rep selling Acacia wood barrels, to the scarf clad French rep with his smoldering “assistant”/interpreter. These barrels are not cheap, running from $800-$1,600 for French oak, and I am NOT an easy sale. I ask the hard questions, one of which is, “How will your oak improve my product?” I love a knowledgeable salesman, prepared to try my wines and understand where our winemaking goal and his product intersect.
I love experimenting with oak. It is part gamble, part science, and all fun. The influence of the oak and the “toast” can make or break a wine. The toast is the buffer between wine and wood. Without the toast, wine would be in direct contact with fresh cut wood, overpowering the wine. Oak derived influences are tannic, resin, herbaceous, or “woody” (those scents of fresh cut wood, cedar, sawdust, or pencil shavings). The toast influence (the degree that the inside of the barrel has been fired – light to heavy “toast”) brings the scents we love to pinpoint when tasting – spicy (pepper), sweet (from caramel to honey to cotton candy), vanilla (graham crackers & waffles), and toasty/smokey (coffee, mocha, burnt sugar, bacon).
We’re getting closer to harvest, and are we excited about this year. Our next blog will look at the progress of certain varietals on the property that comprise the backbone of our products line. Until then, enjoy this beautiful summer…..and drink Sculpterra wines!