This will be the last post in my WSET Exam-Type Questions series. At least as far as my D1 is concerned. By the time you read this, I’ll have already sat the D1 exam—hope I did ok. Stay tuned, though. D2, 3, 4, and 5 are still ahead of me.
For this last piece, I created two separate winemaking scenarios. To be fair, I pulled certain situations—climactic and soil conditions, wine style type, and even North or South Hemisphere—out of a hat in order to formulate these scenarios. (You know, so I wouldn’t cheat and just ask a question about Sonoma’s Los Carneros AVA and look out my window for the answer.) My goal with these scenarios is to walk through as many steps of the viticultural and winemaking process to prove (to myself) I can talk about all the applicable factors.
First let’s define tartrates. You may have heard them called “wine diamonds.” You can find them on your cork, in the neck of the bottle, and in extreme cases floating in the wine itself (or sunk to the bottom). It’s not bad. It’s just not pretty. Some consumers think it’s a “fault.” It’s not. But to prevent any misconceptions or unhappy conversations, many winemakers will stabilize against them.
What these crystals actually are are deposits of potassium and calcium tartrates. It often happens when a wine (that hasn’t been stabilized against tartrates) sees a dip in temperature—tartrates are less soluble at cold temperatures.
There are certain adjustments winemakers can make to a must wine, pre or post-fermentation. The goal is always to make a more balanced wine, so any and all adjustments should be monitored and measured carefully. Also note that, in many regions, the amount of adjustment(s) that can be made are strictly regulated.
I find I get the pre- and post-fermentation adjustments confused, so thought I’d create a little study guide here. Enjoy.
I have to say that studying oxidative versus reductive winemaking methods has really put into perspective some of the aromas I pick up when tasting. I distinctly remember sitting around a table at work, tasting through wines with my colleagues, and it was quite obvious one of them was off. I knew it smelled, I knew it tasted funny. But I couldn’t tell you why. And then one (industry veteran) piped up to say that this wine had undergone reductive winemaking and the winemaker took it just a tad too far.
Well, studying this bit, I now understand how he came to that conclusion.