Some say that wine is made in the vineyard and, well, we tend to subscribe to that…mostly. Certainly by the time the grapes make it to the barrels you see here they carry with them all of the most important components that will make up the finished product. With the addition of time, fermented grape juice will become interesting and complex – wine. So, if mostly left alone in the winery, we can say that all of the wine’s precursors are made in the vineyard. However, we all know that “keeping it simple” is actually a difficult thing to do. So, it is here that a winemaker can greatly influence or alter the direction the wine would otherwise have gone.
Science comes in to play a bit here as well. While the wine is aging in these barrels, there is important chemistry going on. Various components merge together to form compounds that will give the wine those characteristics that we all like to talk about – structure, complexity, ageability, etc. And, the barrels can help facilitate this process. But, they can also overwhelm the process and leave behind their own taste signature on the wine. We believe oak is a tool, not a spice. Our biggest challenge in the winery was knowing how to use the oak barrels to facilitate the natural process and not to overwhelm it.
So, how did we decide? And, most importantly, WHAT did we decide? We knew we didn’t want to overwhelm the malbec with oak so we initially only used new oak for two-thirds of the wine. We used neutral barrels (meaning they have been used previously and so the oak effect is more neutral) for the remaining wine. When we tasted the wine after five months, it felt that the new oak wine was a bit overpowering and the neutral oak wine was understated. However, when blended together our 2012 malbec spoke loud and clear to us. From this point on, the wine will be blended together across all of the barrels in an effort to achieve what we set out to do. We’ll take what we’ve learned and apply it to our 2013 malbec as well.
The journey continues!