I am writing this while overlooking our Vineyard on the south-facing slope of the Shuswap Lake. Below me are several acres of vines showing their new shoots of spring. I'm reflecting on the relationship of the grape and next year's wine.
Fantastic wine is made in the vineyard as much as it is made in the winery. While visitors will find it fun to understand how to taste wine and how the wine is made by the seller master, of significance are the steps taken by the vineyard crew in the grape growing process, a yearly cycle that begins in February.
To help you make the most of your next visit to a winery here is a brief summary of how berries are grown from season start to finish. Just a reminder, this year's new wines are fermented from last year's grape crop or in many cases the wine has been aged for several years to enhance quality.
February to March is pruning time and when the vines are prepped for the growing season. One of the main goals is to ensure there is enough potential vegetative growth to ripen the crops and enough fruitful buds to provide an adequate crop load.
April to May is bud break time and dead-looking trunks are waiting to be reborn with new green flesh. Vines come alive and shoots emerge from latent buds. The new growth creates the grapes, develops them over this summer and finishes its work with sugar and perfume. Shoot thinning is undertaken to adjust crop loads and improve light penetration into the canopy later in the season.
June to July is blossom time when small clusters form on young shoots and flower. Grapevines are self-pollinating and as such are not dependant on bees. Fruit set follows immediately after blossoming and the fertilized flower develop great berries.
August is veraison time, signifying the start of ripening when the hard green berries begin to change colour, soften and develop sugar and flavour.
September to October is harvest time when grapes reach peak ripeness, and when appropriate brixs (sugar) levels are reached grape clusters are picked. Then, after crush, the grapes go through a remarkable transcendent change from grape juice into luscious, aromatic wines. Wine is truly a collaboration of vines and grapes and the meshing of a human ritual of wine making. As it has been done for hundreds of years the cycle of the grape growing season is repeated all over again.
October to November is late harvest time. Grapes are left to hang to maximize sugar levels and when picked are fermented into dessert wines.
From the Shuswap Wine Journal - by Jake Ootes, 2014
It is not necessary to squint, swirl, swish and gurgle to enjoy wine. But using the following low key steps will help you appreciate the wine you drink. A glass of wine can bring a lot of pleasure to life. Here is a simple strategy to enjoy the taste of wine and put your senses to full use.
Look at the wine - grasp the glass by the stem you want to see the wine clearly and you don't want to warm it up by letting the bowl of glass sit in the palm of your hand. Some wine geeks hold the glass by the base I think it's a bit much hold the glass up to the light so you can see the wines colour. Whites can vary from colorless to straw-coloured. Reds can range from deep ruby to pinkish. Colour is an important aesthetic impression wine can make - just like appetizing food taste better than a poorly presented dish as an example: a deep ruby-coloured wine can seem richer and more flavorful than a pale one.
Smell the wine - Just as every rose has its own scent, so does almost every wine. Good wine smells wonderful. Its fragrance is called the bouquet or nose. With a little bit of experience you may find hints of plum, apple, strawberries, pepper or chocolate to name just a few. After you have inspected the wine swirl it around in the glass. This brings the wine in contact with the air which releases the esters - liquids that contain the wine aromatic qualities. More air means more bouquet.
Taste the wine - take a sip and swirl it around in your mouth, over your tongue, around the sides of your mouth. Suck some air and gurgle (don't do this at the dinner table) This seems silly but it puts more of the wine in contact with the air and brings out delicious flavors and sends flavors up towards your olfactory bulb, which is behind the top of your nose. It's the spot where you get a headache when you eat ice cream too fast. You will likely recognize sensations of sweetness and acidity. Is the wine crisp, with acidity balancing out the sweetness or fruitiness? How does the wine feel in your mouth? Do you like the taste and feel of this wine? Try to describe it to yourself. Then swallow.
The Finish - Don't tune out the moment you swallow. Some sensations remain in the mouth for a relatively long time which creates the pleasure of drinking them. Some wines have very little finish which doesn't mean they aren't good wines, just that a long finish isn't their style. But the finished should be pleasant and clean tasting. Turn on your senses. As you drink wine over time your senses will become more attuned to the subtle aromas and taste, and you'll become more confident about deciding what you like.
Winemakers aren't satisfied to simply make wonderful wines and have them sit in bottles. Winemakers are only truly fulfilled when appreciative people open the bottles and savor a glass or two.