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.
Here we go.
Scenario One: You are creating high volume, inexpensive red wine in the Southern Hemisphere. The region has a Mediterranean climate and the soils are fertile, nutrient rich, with good water holding capacity.
The region has a Mediterranean climate, which means that there is low climactic differentiations (low continentality) from season to season. The overall growing season, which here in the Southern Hemisphere, spans from October through to April, is warm to hot. Mediterranean climates also typically have good diurnal range (temperature variation between day and night temperatures), which will help keep grapes cool at night and help preserve acidity.
Mediterranean climates are typically dry regions, though moderating bodies of water may be within proximity. Rains typically come in the winter months, but a major risk is certainly excessive water stress and drought. I will most likely need to utilize some form of irrigation, assuming it’s legal where I am. Example regions where I could be are South Eastern Australia or South Africa.
It’s a good thing that the soils are fertile and nutrient rich with good water holding capacity. This means that, when rain does occur, the soils will be able to hold onto that water for the vine to utilize when needed. But, again, supplementing the vineyard with an irrigation system will help in case of years with excessive drought. To ensure that my vines are able to take in the needed nutrients I would, most likely, plant on either the valley floor (where the land would probably be most fertile) or a low grade slope (probably for the more vigorous grapes), as an excessive slope would mean a depletion of nutrients through natural erosion.
I’m trying to create a high volume red wine, and because the soils are fertile, I could plant my vines fairly close together in order to maximize the space in the vineyard without worrying about the competition for nutrients between the vines. However, I would need to make sure that the vine rows are wide enough apart to accommodate mechanical harvesting, as that will be more efficient in regards to time, labor, and cost. Because the vines are fairly close together and because I’m using mechanical harvesting, I’d train my vines in a traditional VSP to make sure the canopies don’t overcrowd each other. To avoid sunburn, I’d orient my vineyard away from the maximum heat and light exposure to the north, instead, facing vines toward the south. If the planting acreage includes any hills or mountains, I may want to establish the vineyard blocks in such a way that they are to the south-west of those hills to use them for shading during the warmest part of the day.
Regarding grape choice, I’d opt for something that is both drought tolerant and vigorous, like Grenache or Mourvédre, since my goal is maximum volume. But, I’d establish those vines on a rootstock that could control vine vigor, such as 420A or 3309C.
I would plan on using conventional farming methods, as this would be the most efficient way to get the volume of grapes I need without excessive cost. Given the environmental factors, I don’t think there would be much disease or pest pressure—although spider mites do like warm and dusty conditions, so I may need to be wary of that and use insecticides when/where needed. If there are animals about (kangaroos in Australia, baboons in South Africa), I may also need to think about fencing around my vineyard, which I would have implemented during vineyard establishment.
As a part of my vineyard management, my pruning and canopy management would also be mechanized when/where possible. Probably the most important components of my canopy management would be shoot trimming and positioning (both to avoid over-crowding of the vines, but also in order to use those shoots as shade where possible to eliminate the possibility of sunburn to the fruit zone), leaf thinning and removal (for the same reasons). If I am planted to a vigorous variety like Grenache, I’d want to ensure that vegetative growth is in balance with the reproductive growth to avoid a vegetative cycle. Even though I’m making high volume, inexpensive wine, the fruit still needs to develop sufficiently.
Harvest would take place at night with a mechanical harvester for speed, efficiency, and cost effectiveness.
Grape transportation would take place in the harvester. Assuming I had the budget, I’d want a harvester that could simultaneously sort out any MOG, as there will be no hand sorting at the winery to save time and labor costs. I’d also want a machine that could flush the freshly picked grapes with SO2 to prevent oxidation and microbial spoilage during transport. This is important because, in transporting grapes in such a large volume, means that some of those grapes will most likely get crushed and thus be more susceptible to both oxygen and bacteria.
Grape reception would be a limited process for my high-volume production. We wouldn’t have the time or labor to sort through the grapes by hand, so our harvested grapes would most likely get crushed immediately upon reception. If for some reason there wasn’t tank space, we’d keep the grapes in a cool storage area until ready.
Adjustments to the must would most likely include acidification, since we’re working in such a warm, dry region and total acidity would be quite low. Depending on the Brix the grapes were picked at, potential alcohol may be quite high, and I may even need to add water to the must. Conversely, I could reduce alcohol post-fermentation via reverse osmosis or spinning cone—assuming I had the budget for that equipment.
Extraction would take place either through thermovinification or flash détante because it’s quicker. It would also showcase the fresh, fruitier characteristics of the wine as well as quickly extract color without a lot of tannin, which would be preferable for my consumers—those looking for an economically priced red wine they could drink now.
Yeast used would be a commercial yeast. It’s more reliable and will ensure consistency across batches and vintages.
Alcoholic Fermentation would most likely take place in large, closed top tanks that would include the ability for micro-oxygenation as well as automatic pumpovers. The micro-ox ability would mimic the oxidation process typically seen after a long period of time in barrel, something I would not have the time to include for the style of wine being produced. Further, I would include oak staves inside the tanks to allow for some integration of oak flavors into the wine. The automatic pumpovers would allow me to efficiently time the speed, pressure, and intervals of the cap management in order to get the right amount extraction during fermentation. The tanks would also have glycol jackets to adjust temperature as needed throughout the fermentation process and further aid with tannin extraction.
Malolactic conversion would be allowed to take place during the fermentation process, again for efficiency as well as better integration of the lactic acid into the resulting wine. As I already acidified the wine previously, that would have taken into account the reduction of acid and increase in pH that occurs during MLF. However, I’d want to continue to monitor these levels in case there needs to be any post-fermentation adjustments.
Press would take place in either a pneumatic press, which can accommodate large volumes more efficiently, or a continuous (screw) press, which can accommodate large volumes at a higher speed. Press batches would immediately be integrated together back into a storage tank.
Blend procedures, as mentioned above, would include integrating all press factions together into tank. Further blending may include additional vineyard sources outside of my estate winery in order to increase volume. More likely than not, I’m probably also growing more than one or two varieties. These varieties would also be blended together, again for volume as well as balance and consistency between vintages.
Maturation would not likely be a component to the winemaking process here, as we’re producing a wine for immediate consumption. However, the final blended wine can be stored in storage tanks until ready for bottling or shipping.
Finishing would include tartrate stabilization (as consumers would most likely think that tartrate crystals are a fault) utilizing either the contact process or metartaric acid, as these are quicker. I would then sterile filter to ensure against any faults or spoilage that may occur in bottle or transport. The wine would most likely go through DE filters, as they can accommodate a large amount of wine and filter out large particles. The filtered wine would then go through a membrane filter to sieve out any remaining particles.
Packaging could be in many forms—bottle, can, bag-in-box, PET. It would depend on who my audience is. If in bottle, it would most likely be closed with a screw cap or a cork conglomerate.
Scenario Two: You are creating a small batch, premium white wine in the Northern Hemisphere. The region has a Continental climate where the soils are dry with poor water and nutrient holding capacity.
The region has a Continental climate, meaning that there is an extreme differentiation between the summer and winter months (high continentality) and very little transition between the extremes. Summer months can be very hot, while winter months can be extremely cold. Frosts are a major hazard both at the beginning and at the end of the growing season in this environment. The overall growing season, which spans from about February/March until October here in Northern Hemisphere, is quite short. Continental regions are typically distanced from any major bodies of water. Example regions of where I could be are Alsace, Champagne, and Chablis.
Because I’m in a region with an overall short growing season, I would want to plant a variety that buds early, like Chardonnay. However, knowing that this variety buds early also means that there’s a chance it could be affected by spring frosts. When establishing my vineyard, I’d want to make sure that I’ve put a sprinkler system in place to act as protection against frost when it becomes a threat. Chardonnay is also an early ripener, which means it has a higher chance of reaching full ripeness before extreme cold temperatures kick in late autumn/early winter.
Riesling could be another good choice, as it is a late budder and so would miss spring frosts, and it is also winter hardy, so could withstand the extreme temperatures late in the season if needed.
I would most likely want to choose a rootstock like 110R or 140R, as they are root quickly and deeply and thus my vine roots can search for water more efficiently in the poor vineyard soils.
To further extend the hours of ripening each day, I’d want to maximize light exposure to the vine to increase photosynthesis. I would orient my vines facing south or south east. Furthermore, I’d want to plant my vineyard at altitude in order to receive more direct sunlight, and on a slope (about mid-slope) so that sunlight can uniformly reach each vineyard row.
My soils are dry and infertile, so I would need to make sure that I increase the space between each vine, so the roots have room to dig deep into the soils in search for water and nutrients and also to decrease the competition between vines for those resources. I would also have to use irrigation in my vineyard, as the soil does not have the capacity on its own to hold onto the winter rains. However, I would outfit it with regulated deficit irrigation technology to ensure that the water is used efficiently block to block.
As a small vineyard, I could probably take the time to farm organically or biodynamically—the cost for that time, labor, needed supplies and certifications would certainly play into the cost of the resulting wines.
Although I wouldn’t want to use cover crops, as those would compete with my vines for resources, I would want to use humus to increase the water holding capacity of my soils. The humus would also increase the biomass of the soil, encourage biodiversity, and even provide nutrients to my poor soil.
I may also think about using mulch throughout the vineyard. Mulch would impede evaporation from the soil, thus helping to conserve some water, and could also be broken down into nutrients for the soil as well.
As mentioned above, I would probably take the time to farm organically or biodynamically. I would most likely train my grapes in a traditional VSP trellising system in order to make the manual labor easier for my crew. This would also allow for better exposure of the fruit zone. The pruning and canopy management I’d definitely want to take care of would include disbudding (to keep total yields in check), shoot thinning (to eliminate any excessive shoots and manage total vegetative growth), shoot positioning (VSP), pinching (again, to manage fruit yields), shoot and leaf removal (humidity could be another risk, so keeping an open canopy and open fruit zone—especially with Chardonnay, which can form tight clusters—will be important to prevent fungus like downy mildew or grey rot), and green harvest (again to moderate yields and concentrate flavors to the remaining fruit).
Pre-harvest, I would have my crew walk the vineyard and examine all fruit clusters, dropping any that may have not ripened evenly or had any other kind of damage to them. This would hopefully ease hand picking at harvest.
Harvest would be done by hand, with grapes put into small bins, gently, so as to avoid crushing the grapes and exposing juices to oxygen early. Clusters would be selectively picked to ensure optimal ripeness and health. I would still flush the grapes with SO2 to further minimize chances of microbial spoilage or oxidation. Hopefully, I’d be able to get my crew out there at night or very early morning to ensure the grapes are cold, which will further guard against oxidation and spoilage.
Reception at the winery would come with a few options. For my Chardonnay, I may choose to leave the grapes whole cluster and go directly to press. Pressing whole cluster will encourage maximum juice from the berries (stems work as little channels for the juice); pressing cold will ensure preservation of the fresher, fruitier aromatics. I would most likely use a pneumatic press, as they can be programmed to be quite gentle.
Direct to press is common for non-aromatic grape varieties like Chardonnay, but a more aromatic variety, like Riesling, may benefit from skin contact to incorporate thiols and terpenes into the grape must. In this case, the Riesling would be crushed, chilled, and sit in contact with its skins before undergoing a gentle press regime, also in the pneumatic press.
Must clarification (for the crushed Riesling) would most likely be carried out via sedimentation, as this is the most natural form of clarification. In the cases of both my grapes, I may want to include the fine lees during fermentation to add richness, complexity, and flavor.
Hyperoxidation is an option I have at this point, which would further filter out any compounds that could most readily oxidize, thus preventing unwanted oxidation later on.
Adjustments to the must may include chapitilzation if the grapes were too acidic having grown in a cool, continental climate. However, for a premium winery like mine, I would have ensured balanced fruit before harvest, so hopefully would not need to make that adjustment.
Fermentation would be carried out at a cool temperature (between 63 and 77°F), typical of white wines. With my Chardonnay, I would have a portion of the wine ferment in oak barrel, with a small percentage of new oak. Fermenting in barrel will help slowly integrate oxygen during the fermentation process. Where new oak is used, those flavors will also be incorporated into the resulting wine. I’d use minimal new oak so as not to overwhelm the natural flavors of the grape, although a neutral variety like Chardonnay can handle that integration well. The rest of the wine I’d ferment in stainless steel to retain the fresh, fruity flavors of the Chardonnay. These three different fermentations will give me blending options.
My Riesling I would most likely opt to ferment in stainless steel only, so as to retain the fresh, floral, and fruit flavors innate to the aromatic grape variety.
Yeast for fermentation is another area where I’d have options. I may choose to use native yeast—especially if I’m continuing the organic or biodynamic practices I used in the vineyard. This would give my wines a unique flavor profile—not just from other winemakers, but also from previous vintages. This could act as a selling point to my customers who would probably expect unique expressions each year. However, if there’s trouble during the fermentation—stuck fermentation, low levels of nitrogen and other nutrients the yeast need—I may want to opt for commercial yeast. Furthermore, specific yeast strains can be chosen to enhance aromatics of the grape, which may be beneficial to my Riesling.
MLF would be allowed to take place in my Chardonnays fermenting in barrel. Allowing MLF to take place during fermentation and in barrel would help further integrate those flavor compounds as well. With my Chardonnay and Riesling, which are both in stainless steel (outfitted with glycol temperature-controlling jackets), I would ensure the temperature is cool enough (around 63°F) in order to inhibit MLF and keep the fresher, fruitier flavors of those wines. I may also need to flush with SO2, which also helps inhibit MLF.
Blending post-fermentation, I would have all the different fermentation styles of my Chardonnay to work with, as mentioned above, as well as those batches that went through MLF and those that did not. Furthermore, with both my Chardonnay and my Riesling, I imagine that all vineyard lots have been kept separate up until this point. I could choose to age them separately as well, or, at this point, blend the best lots together to create my premium wines. I would not, however, blend the Riesling and Chardonnay together.
Maturation would take place in neutral oak barrels so the wines could see some limited oxygen, but not be overwhelmed by new oak flavors—especially the Chardonnay, which already saw some new oak during the fermentation process. The purpose of this maturation time would be to ensure that the various lots (and in regards to the Chardonnay, the winemaking techniques) are fully integrated before bottling.
Because I chose to leave the fine lees, this will also affect the resulting wines. If I decided to agitate the lees in order to better integrate those textures and flavors, I would do so by keeping my barrels on rollers. This way, I can roll the barrels, stir the lees, but not open the bung and expose my wines to more oxygen.
Final blending may be an extra step needed if any remaining lots remained separate during the maturation process that would need to be blended together to make the final wine.
Finishing the wine may include tartrate stabilization via cold stabilization. Since my wine aged on the lees, I would need to leave barrels untouched for a time in order to remove those lees via sedimentation.
Packaging would take place in house with either my own or a rented bottling line. I would package my wine in a traditional glass bottle with a traditional cork closure.
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