A glass of wine can serve as a relaxation tool at the end of a long day, or as an elegant supplement to a fine meal. The ways in which wine is used throughout the world are as diverse and varied as the wines themselves.
Wineries utilize complex chemical and mechanical processes to produce wine, and it can be challenging for a novice wine enthusiast to understand the relationship between these processes and the ultimate body and flavor of the wine. There are two factors that affect flavor and are fairly easy for a novice to understand: ripeness and climate.
Wineries spend a significant amount of time evaluating the growth of their grapes and determining exactly when the grapes should be picked for maximum flavor. The acidity of the grapes themselves is essential in creating a quality wine, and some of this acidity is lost as grapes ripen. Wineries try to balance sweetness and acidity by picking grapes at optimal times.
Grapes that are picked early in the growing season are less ripe. These grapes tend to produce wines that have a tart finish and a fruity flavor. You can look for terms like "elegant" or "balanced" on the bottle to help you identify wines made from grapes picked early.
Grapes that are allowed to ripen and are picked toward the end of the growing season produce wines that have a sweeter flavor. These wines will feature descriptive terms like "ripe" or "sweet tannins" on the label. Many red wines are made using ripe grapes, while white wines are produced using less-ripe grapes.
The region in which a grape is grown can also affect the overall flavor profile of the wine. Wines originate in one of two climates, a warm climate (like California, Southern Italy, or Southern France) or a cool climate (like Oregon, Washington, Northern Italy, and Northern France). Warm climate grapes can ripen longer because they are exposed to more constant temperatures throughout the growing season. Temperatures will slowly begin to cool toward the end of the growing season, allowing wineries to produce wines with a sweet and fruity flavor.
The growing season in cool climates is shorter. Temperatures will suddenly decline at the end of the growing season, limiting the amount of time grapes can remain on the vine. Wines that originate in cooler regions are typically more tart and acidic. By understanding how ripeness and climate can affect the way a wine tastes, you will be able to more easily discover wines that feature flavor profiles you enjoy in the future.
For more information, contact your local Anderson Valley wineries.