Great wine cannot be made without great grapes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard winemakers utter those or similar words.
I was thinking about that over the weekend, and that led to thinking about winegrapes in general. Don’t ask — that’s how this crazy mind of mine works.
So, I thought that on this 7th day of April, I’d share seven fascinating facts about winegrapes…
1. Flavor and aroma are difficult properties to measure in any food product. In grape berries, there are literally hundreds of compounds contributing to flavor and aroma.
2. Wine flavor and aroma are the result of a complex mixture of compounds that change a great deal during the transition from berry to wine.
3. Grape-derived flavor compounds are produced during berry development, with the final mixture depending on variables that include the grape variety, environmental conditions during the growing season, management of the vineyard and harvest date.
4. With winegrapes, flowering and fruit development determine yield and fruit quality.
5. The Chardonnay variety is a classic white wine grape. Its original fame comes from its success in the Burgundy and Champagne regions of France. Chardonnay takes oak well, and many higher priced bottlings are typically fermented and/or aged in oak barrels. When Chardonnay is aged in oak, it may pick up vanilla overtones in its aromas and flavor.
6. Cabernet Sauvignon is a small, dark, thick-skinned grape that needs slightly warmer growing conditions than many other varieties in order to achieve maturity. DNA testing shows that it is descended from Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc.
7. Tannins, which provide mouthfeel and astringency to fruit and wine, are polymers of compounds similar to anthocyanins, though they are not normally colored. Research has shown that a controlling gene, which is similar to the regulators of color, regulates the synthesis of tannins. This knowledge could one day be used to produce grapes and wines with a better balance of these antioxidant compounds.