Posts Tagged ‘technology & wine’

How Red Wine is Made, Today

December 6th, 2011 No comments

Today, most red wines are produced using a process similar to this one…

First, a vintner decides when the grapes are ripe.  This is done by taste, concurrent with today’s technology of taking accurate sugar readings.  The grapes are then harvested and placed into a machine that removes their stems.  The machine also crushes them (without pressing them) so that A) the grapes become exposed to yeast and B) the skins will color the wine.  The yeast then transforms the grape’s sugar into CO2, heat, and alcohol; this is fermentation.  The crushed grapes and liquid then sit (macerate) until it is decided that the taste is ideal.  During this process, the grape skins often float above the liquid.  Since these skins must remain submerged, for best results, they are repeatedly pushed back into the liquid, or the liquid is mechanically pumped over them to continually submerge them.  If the grapes sit for too long in this state, the wine will taste bitter.  If they do not sit long enough, the wine will taste too weak.  The vintner determines when enough time has elapsed.  Once the decision has been made, the liquid is removed and the solids are sent to the press.

Mechanical Wine Press

A Mechanical Wine Press (image from Wikipedia)

A mechanical press squeezes out the remaining juices in the solids.  This, too, is a delicate process; pressing too firmly or too frequently produces a poor quality wine.  After this, the wine needs to settle; transferring the wine from barrel to barrel after settling helps to separate/filter out solid matter and other particles that may cloud the wine.  Following this, a malolactic fermentation stage is often the next step in red winemaking.  Here, a wine’s malic acid is converted into CO2 and lactic acid.  Basically, the process reduces a wine’s acidity by organic rather than chemical means.  (Certain wines like Gewurztraminers, Reislings, Ehrenfelsers, and others that depend upon malic acid to enhance their flavors do not go through this step.)

After an aging process, the length of which is determined by the type of wine, fining and filtering processes remove sediments from the wine.  The wine is then bottled carefully to avoid contact with the air. (And, as we know, many of the best bottled wines are stored for several years before they are released to us!)  For more fascinating information about winemaking and wine technology, check out Vintage Cellar’s Wine Storage Education Center.  There, you’ll find more tantalizing trivia and wine storage tips to think about.  Cheers!

Wine Bottle History

November 24th, 2011 No comments

When we talk about aging wine, rarely do we realize just how recent a phenomenon wine aging actually is.  As mentioned in a previous post (Fun Wine Trivia), wine was not originally stored in bottles.  And when wine was not transported in animal wineskins, it was stored in large clay containers and secured with sealants called terracotta amphorae.

ancient clay jugs

Ancient Clay Jugs (Photo by Thomas Reichart)

While these 7000+ year-old clay jugs were kept in cool places, evidence suggests the wine inside was not aged nearly as long as most bottled wine is today.  In fact, when wine was later stored in wooden barrels for the first time, it was “aged” for a possibly shorter period of time.  Depending on the barrel’s construction, sometimes a wine’s barrel life was just long enough to transport it to its final trade destination before spoiling.  It was only when glass blowing technology was re-perfected (c.a. the 18th century) that glass bottles with smaller bottlenecks allowed for airtight wine storage.  This is when it finally became possible to age wine in the tradition we follow, today. Interestingly, while the English were the first to seal wine bottles with cork, wine bottles were not the first bottles to be corked.  Medicines, beer, and bottled beauty products benefited from corks long before wine!  Since aging wine is a recent development (relatively speaking), it’s amazing that the art of wine aging has been perfected to such a fine degree so rapidly.

Climadiff Diva 265 Bottle Multi-Temperature Wine Cabinet

Climadiff Diva 265 Bottle Multi-Temperature Wine Cabinet

We now know so much about optimal temperature control, humidity levels, and harmful UV rays, that custom wine cellars can be designed to optimally age any collection of wine.  And many wine storage units, like the Climadiff Diva 265 Bottle Multi-Temperature wine cabinet, even have UV-resistant doors.  Perhaps the most exciting thing about aging wine is that, just when we think we know all there is to know about it, some new discovery or innovation makes us think again: a new way to preserve wine, a new way to seal bottles, or new scientific information that allows for even greater precision when aging wine for optimal taste.  For more fascinating information about the history of wine aging, check out Vintage Cellars’ The Science of Wine Aging.  Enjoy!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! If you’re busy cooking today, check out our post from earlier this week on red & white wine sauces to go with your turkey and choosing wine for your Thanksgiving meal, or run through the wine & turkey or holiday tags for even more ideas!

French & American Oaks for Aging Wine

November 10th, 2011 No comments

Aging wine in oak barrels is expensive.  A single, 55-gallon barrel can easily cost more than $1,600.  Barrels made from oak found in the forests of Allier, Nevers, Limousin, and central France are worth even more.  What makes these barrels so costly?  Are wineries paying for the quality of wood, craftsmanship, or both?  The answer is: both; wineries pay for exquisite craftsmanship plus the flavor-enriching properties of good wood.  Because every forest (Allier, Nevers, Limousin, etc.) produces wood of unique, variable density, oaks from a given forest impart a wine’s flavor and aroma with that forest’s distinct nuances.

Oak leaves and acorns

Over 600 Species of Oak Trees Exist (image from Wikipedia)

Because French oaks tend to have a tighter grain and a less watertight nature, coopers split the wood along the grain.  American oak is often serrated, allowing more of the tree to be used (thus, it’s better for eco-conscious folks).  American oak also provides quick oxidation–relatively speaking–which allows wines to soften faster.  It produces wines rich with tannins and textures that are sometimes considered to be a bit too “raw.”  French oak, on the other hand, produces wines containing more refined tannins, and with slightly sweeter fruit-like flavors.  Sometimes, however, wines from French oak can be a little too subtle.  Scents of peach and rose are often present in wine because of French oak, while stronger fragrances like vanilla are more common in wines from American oak because the wood contains up to four times the number of lactones.

What is very exciting is the growing trend of blending wines aged in both American and French oak.  Is there really such a noticeable difference from blending the two oaks?  Actually, there is, and wine produced from this dual incubation is curiously impressive because of what each oak offers.  The aging and combining of wine from both barrels is an attempt to literally capture the “best of both worlds.”  Has it been successful? According to numerous tasters, it certainly has!  If you’re curious, the next time you’re out and about, keep an eye open for wine aged in both French and American oaks.  Have a sip, and see if you can taste the unique result!  Cheers!

WineToMatch: an App for Android and iPhone

October 25th, 2011 No comments

WineToMatch App IconWineToMatch, an app available for both Android and iPhone, features a streamlined process that allows you to select your meal’s main ingredient, type of cuisine, additional traits, and other flavors.  From there, WineToMatch offers recommendations of wines that will best accompany your meal.  And for lovers of sweets, WineToMatch even suggests pairings for dessert items, too!  Overseen by Master Sommelier Jesse Becker, the app’s patent pending engine determines how agreeable portions of your meal are with the wines in WineToMatch’s database.  The information you provide about your meal is weighted, and composite scores are generated for each wine.  Wines that pair the best with your meal are displayed in large letters.  Wines that make the cut, but that have smaller letters, also pair well, but perhaps not as “ideally” as those with larger letters.  (This is similar to a web page’s “cloud” feature, and quickly conveys which wines are a better fit, relative to others, for your food.)

The app’s creators believe that the algorithms used to generate recommendations are “the most sophisticated ever designed for pairing wine with food.”  Originally programmed to produce more than 75 billion unique pairings, WineToMatch continually adds wines to its database, making this number even larger!  Give this easy-to-use, helpful app a try, and see if you agree with its designers’ claims.  The current Apple version, 1.1.2, is available for $2.99. It is compatible with iPhone, iPod touch (2nd, 3rd, and 4th generation), and iPad.  It requires iOS 2.2.1 or later.  The cost is the same ($2.99) for the Android version, 1.0.WineToMatch iPhone Screenshots

WineStein Pro: a Wine-Pairing App

October 6th, 2011 No comments
icon for winestein pro app

WineStein Pro Icon

Ever have questions when pairing food and wine?  With WineStein Pro, a “genius” application for your iPhone, you can select the perfect wine for every meal.  It’s like having a sommelier in your pocket, on call to offer advice.

Simply enter your meal’s main ingredients, sauces and sides, and WineStein is ready to help!  Using cutting-edge artificial intelligence, the app creates a “meal DNA” used to determine the best wine pairings.  A scored list of wines, each with a full description, is produced for every dish you enter, and you can refine the results by choosing appropriate filters that range from color to price.

The WineStein database currently contains over 2,000 ingredients, dozens of sauces, and over 600 wine types for use when scoring.  With this information being constantly added to, the app can suggest a suitable wine for just about any meal.  (Try something really unusual; you’ll be surprised!)

WineStein Pro is available for iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.  It requires an internet connection, and an iOS of 4.2 or later.  And did we mention that the app is currently free?

image from winestein pro appimage from winestein pro app

Winery Quest Pro: an Awesome Wine Travel App

September 27th, 2011 No comments

Winery Quest Pro

It’s travel time!  Remember Jake Austad’s trek through California’s wine country?  Here’s a handy, travel app specifically made so that you can enjoy such an adventure: Winery Quest Pro.  Designed for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, this informative winery reference tool gives you everything you need to plan your California wine trip.  With 20 regional maps, filters for your favorite wine interests, detailed winery profiles, and a GPS navigated trip log, you’ve got everything necessary to embark on your own journey through California’s wine country. With Winery Quest Pro, planning your trip is easy!  And with the freshest wine and winery data updated daily, you’ll be kept in the loop with current information. Winery Quest Pro requires an iOS of 3.0 or later.  Available from iTunes with rave reviews, its current price is $7.99. 

Have a favorite wine app? Tell us about it in the comments and maybe we will review it!

Vivino: a Free Wine App

September 5th, 2011 No comments

Happy Labor Day! Hope you’re all enjoying your day off. We’ll be sipping some wine and enjoying the remaining summer sun. Right now, though, we’re reviewing an app that will let you keep a few notes on the bottle you’re enjoying without taking up a lot of time.

Vivino v1.1

If you want a quick, simple way to remember a good wine on the go, Vivino, a free app, is for you!  Simply use your smartphone to take a picture of your wine, and give it a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” for future reference. You can go into greater detail, too, and rate and review your wine, if desired.  You can even share your wine experiences on Facebook and Twitter.  With a growing database of 400,000 wines, the application utilizes the latest image mapping technology to auto-match the picture of your wine bottle, instantly providing you with the wine’s facts, ratings, pairings, and more!  These at-a-glance “stats” will even help you make better informed decisions at your favorite wine store.  While not a massive, all-in-one app, this easy-to-use wine tool is extremely convenient.  (When viewing a wine’s statistics, the app is almost like a digital “baseball card” of the wine.)  Plus, it’s free.  Vivino is compatible with the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.  (It requires iOS 3.2 or later.)  It’s also available for Android, BlackBerry, and Windows 7.  Check it out!

Corkbin Version 2.0.2

August 19th, 2011 No comments

Almost a year ago, we wrote a blurb about Corkbin, an easy-to-use app that lets you make tasting notes and share them with your friends.  Originally for the iPhone, the app now works with all iPhones, iPod Touches (iOS 3.0 or later), and Android phones. The latest version supports new features for friending: “share your wines with your friends and see what they think.” 

If you’ve ever had a really good wine, but later on forgot what it was, Corkbin is for you!  With Corkbin, simply take a picture of a wine you want to remember, jot down a note about it, and (if desired) share it with your friends!  Copies of your wine images and notes remain in your mobile device, so you’ll be creating an ever growing visual record of all the wines you’ve tried.

The latest Corkbin versions boast improved graphics (with support for the Retina display), improved usability and consistency of the user interface, new privacy features, stability, and more.  At the time of this blog, the current version is 2.0.2.  For 99 cents, Corkbin v.2.0.2  is available in both Apple’s App Store and the Android Market.  Cheers to that!


Corkbin Screenshots

Drink Wine, Prevent Sunburn?

August 15th, 2011 No comments

According to a recent study conducted by the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Barcelona, a compound found in grapes (and grape products) may actually help protect skin cells from harmful UV rays.  Researchers “evaluated the in vitro capacity of several antioxidant polyphenolic fractions from grape, which differ in their degree of polymerization and percentage of galloylation, to protect HaCaT human keratinocytes against UV-induced oxidative damage.”

The result?  Flavonoids in the grapes helped stop the harmful reaction that destroys skin cells triggered by exposure to sunlight.  When exposed to UV rays, the skin activates “reactive oxygen species”  which then oxidize larger molecules.  Like a chain reaction, this eventually activates enzymes that destroy skin cells.  The flavoniods in the grapes, however, reduce the amount of reactive oxygen species in skin cells exposed to the sun’s harmful rays, thus preserving the skin.  “These encouraging in vitro results support further research and should be taken into consideration into the clinical pharmacology of plant-derived polyphenolic extracts as novel agents for skin photoprotection.”  Here is yet another miraculous property of our beloved grapes!  The study can be found in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

drinking wine on the sunny beach

Image courtesy of

Natalie MacLean Wine Picks & Pairings: Recently Improved!

August 5th, 2011 2 comments

Natalie MacLean holding a glass of wineAlthough we’ve already given this app our stamp of approval back in May, its continued popularity and recent improvements have made it emerge as one of the most practical wine and food apps ever.  Renamed from Nat Decants to Natalie MacLean Wine Picks & Pairings, and updated to version 2.2 on July 19th, the app’s already convenient barcode scanning logic was vastly improved.  This means it’s even easier to use your smartphone to scan a picture of a bottle’s barcode.  You’ll then get instant tasting notes, wine scores, recipes and pairing recommendations.  What is more, you can also see how many bottles of the wine in question are available at nearby stores, better helping you decide whether to buy a bottle now, or later!

Natalie comically describes how her app can assist during a common wine-buying situation: “You’re in the liquor store wondering if you should buy the bottle with the castle on its label or the one with the fluffy squirrel.  Now you just point and click to find out if that shiraz actually is a good wine to go with your pepper steak, or if the sauvignon blanc would work with your grilled veggies. No more guesswork based on castles and critters.”

In terms of publicity, Natalie compares having an app featured on Apple’s App Store Homepage “almost as good as being interviewed by Oprah for your book.”  If this is truly the case for app developers, Natalie certainly made quite the splash; Nat Decants is also the only wine app to make appearances in both Apple’s top 10 “Food & Wine” apps and “Date Night” categories.

In summary, Natalie MacLean Wine Picks & Pairings is a free app that provides thousands of wine reviews, wine articles, and winery listings.  It also possesses the miraculous ability to recommend some of the most perfect wine and food pairings this blogger has ever tried.  In addition, all of Natalie’s pairings were personally tested.  No automated, computer-driven approximations or “tricks!”  For more food for thought, the app contains thousands of original recipes with matching wine recommendations, and you can easily keep track of your own wine cellar inventory with a simple-to-use, intuitive interface that has even won over wine lovers who sometimes feel “technologically-challenged.” (And may I mention, again, that this app is absolutely free?)

Natalie MacLean Wine Picks & Pairings is available for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad devices with iOS 4.0 or later.  It is also available for Android, and BlackBerry devices with an OS of 4.3.0 or later.

App shot from Natalie MacLean's wine app