Join winemaker Olivier Humbrecht MW, of famed estate Zind Humbrecht in Alsace, for a deep dive into these key components of winemaking: yeast and fermentation!
Presenter: Olivier Humbrecht, MW
Olivier Humbrecht studied wine together with wine marketing and wine business for five years in Toulouse, and then got the chance to do his ‘military service’ working for Sopexa in London. He learned about and enrolled on the MW course, becoming France’s first ever Master of Wine in 1989. He began to work with his father, and converted the family domaine to biodynamics in the early 1990s. His father had painstakingly built up a unique collection of hill-site vineyards over the decades, notably clearing and replanting a quarter of the great historic Grand Cru of Rangen de Thann with Olivier in his later school years. Olivier has continued to build on this, notably with the recent acquisition of a parcel of Sommerberg to complement the family’s Grand Cru holdings in Brand, Hengst and Goldert, and to complement its other holdings of Rotenberg, Clos Hauserer, Clos Jebsal, Heimbourg, Herrenweg and Clos Windsbuhl.
Olivier’s respectful, non-interventionist winemaking, combined with his and his father’s fastidious viticulture, has given the world vintage after vintage of magnificently differentiated, nuanced bottlings: global white-wine references. He has never stopped experimenting and improving on his work, using biodynamic practices, changed row orientations and re-thought canopies recently to produce a much greater percentage of dry wines than before.
Have you read all about winemaking from books but some concepts are style confusing? Have you ever wanted to dive deeper into a particular winemaking topic but didn't know anyone to ask? Join winemaker and Master of Wine, Nova Cadamatre for the first of a three part series which will pull back the curtain on different styles of winemaking. The first part will cover White and Rose styles of wine. Red, Dessert, Sparkling, and Fortified winemaking will be covered over parts 2 and 3 later this year.
A winemaker with a wide and diverse background, Cadamatre started in wine on the East Coast as a winemaking apprentice with Stargazers Vineyard in 2003. After graduating from Cornell University in 2006 with a Bachelor’s in Viticulture, Nova moved to California. During her time in California, she worked with fruit from all over the state eventually settling in Napa and focusing on Bordeaux and Burgundian varieties from some of the top vineyards in the area including To Kalon, Vine Hill Ranch, MacDonald, Detert, and Hyde Vineyard. In 2015, she started her brand Trestle Thirty One in the Finger Lakes of NY. In 2020 added Snowshell Vineyards for Naked Wines and in 2022 will be launching Fiadh Ruadh, a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Stags Leap AVA in Napa. She currently goes back and forth between Napa and the Finger Lakes to manage both her CA projects and her projects in NY.
In 2017, Nova was the first female winemaker in the US to achieve the title of Master of Wine. She has been named to Wine Enthusiast’s Top 40 under 40 list and has numerous 90+ scoring wines to her credit from both coasts.
Finally, we have reached the end of the winemaking year.
In the vineyard, soil health is a common topic of discussion now that the vines are dormant. This is a great time to dig soil pits and send samples off to discover more about the composition of the soil layers around the root system of the vines.
Soil pH plays a large part in the health of a vineyard as it controls nutrient uptake. Even if the soil contains plenty of a particular nutrient, if soil pH is wrong, that nutrient might not be available in a form that the plant can use. This can lead to micronutrient deficiencies or toxicities. For this reason, it is very important to manage the soil pH.
At the start of November, areas with long growing seasons are still wrapping up harvest, but most wineries in the northern hemisphere have brought their grapes into the winery. An exception to this rule is any fruit being left out for ice wine production.
Ice Wine Production
Grapes destined for ice wine production must hang on the vine until temperatures reach a consistent 20°F/-7°C or below. Only at this point, can the frozen berries be harvested.
November begins with a lot of activity in the winery and ends with everyone taking a collective sigh of relief. The growing season is at an end and most wine production professionals can take a moment to reconnect with their families and friends and take a well-deserved vacation.
In October, most areas of the northern hemisphere are in harvest and going full out!
Many white varieties finish in early October. Although some reds (particularly early-ripening Pinot Noir) may have started harvest in September, generally, October is the month when most red varieties are picked.
In September’s post, we explored the harvest parameters for white grapes. The factors that a winemaker considers when picking red grapes are similar… flavor, acid, sugar, etc. However, there are two key harvest parameters that are more important (and impactful) for reds than whites: tannin ripeness and anthocyanin accumulation (color).
Now that fall has arrived, winemakers turn their attention to the harvest. In most of the northern hemisphere, harvest usually begins by the middle of this month, if not earlier. It is an exciting time. The culmination of all the hard work in the vineyards is realized in the moments the grapes are picked. Vineyard managers can relax now, but the winemaker’s job is just getting started.
August is the calm before the harvest storm. Vegetative growth has slowed considerably and, in some climates, stopped completely due to water stress. The vine now turns its efforts to ripening the fruit that it has developed earlier in the season. Although the berries are close to their final size, the skins will begin to thin, change color, and gain considerably more weight as they fill with sugar produced by the leaves. In climates that experience rain during this period, splitting becomes a risk.
By July, the period of rapid shoot growth is over. The vine has now created all the leaves needed to ripen its fruit. In wet climates, shoot growth may continue but at a much slower pace. In dry climates, shoot growth stops completely. In very dry areas, the tendrils on the shoot can even dry out completely!