We are a full week into my favorite season of the year: fall.
It’s the season when I drink my one and only pumpkin spice latte of the year.
It’s the season when we enjoy a movie in front of the fireplace with a bowl of popcorn.
It’s the season when comfort food returns to the menu following a summer of lighter fare.
And it’s the season when most of the wine grapes grown in the Northern Hemisphere are harvested.
Harvest season is in full swing in various growing regions. It’s an elongated period because different grape varieties attain full ripeness at different times, and that’s a good thing because there simply aren’t enough picking crews to bring in all the grapes at one time.
A full year’s worth of work in the vineyard will come to fruition during this period, as growers have carefully tended the vines to ensure they’ve received just the right amount of sunshine (through methods such as canopy management).
Once the grapes are harvested, brought to the winery and crushed, the winemaker must make a number of decisions — most pre-planned, some on the fly — that ultimately will determine the style of the finished wine.
Some are more important than others, but each plays a role in helping the winemaker attain his or her vision. Among them:
* Will the wine be made from grapes grown in a single vineyard, a mix of vineyards on a single estate, several vineyards within the same appellation, or multiple vineyards from multiple regions?
* Will the wine be made from a single variety, or a mix of two or more varieties?
* Will the wine be aged in “neutral” stainless steel tanks or in oak barrels?
* If aged in oak barrels, what type (French, American, etc.) will be used, and what level of “charring” will be selected?
* How long will the wine be aged before bottling?
* What type of closure — cork or screwcap — will be used to seal the bottles?
* How long will the wine remain in bottles in the cellar before being released?
And those are just some of the decisions that need to be made, with many of the others more scientifically based.
It’s a process that the winemaker goes through with each and every wine an estate produces. That’s why it’s such an exciting time of the year.
That’s why this is my favorite season of the year.