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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Why Every Wine Tastes Different

Pretty much every wine tastes different from another even if it's the same wine from the same winery from a different year. I mean, Budweiser tastes like Bud year-after-year. Why the inconsistency? First, Bud is a manufactured product that starts in the lab. And some big production wines are done the same way. These usually strive to taste the same every year. If you want this you can't leave it up to Mother Nature -- you'll need chemistry.

But most premium wines fall into more the "handcrafted" production technique.

Consider the multiple factors that influence how the wine tastes.

The grape type is the key one, of course. But all Chardonnay or Cabernet or Pinot Noir doesn't taste the same. Let's look at just some of the variables.

Where it's grown. There are so many factors here no one really has it all figured out.
  • Latitude of the vineyard. The farther north (in the Northern Hemisphere) the longer the days are during the growing season.
  • Altitude. The elevation changes the wine. For instance, valley floor vs. a vineyard on a nearby hillside will be different. There are differences in soil and climate plus there are usually slopes to deal with.
  • Climate of the vineyard. Cool, warm, hot, wet, dry, windy, cloudy, sunny, etc.
  • Weather. The seasonal variation. When were any cool, hot or rainy times in relation to the growing cycle? After any summer rain was it mild and breezy to dry out the clusters or calm and humid (possibly leading to mold)?
  • The slope, if any, and the direction it faces. An east-facing vineyard will make different wine than a west-facing or south-facing one. (South and west will be hotter).
The vines.
  • Which clone? 
  • Which rootstock? 
  • What trellising? 
  • Age and health of the vines.
Cultivation
  • Leaving lots of fruit for max profit or dropping some for better quaility (yield)? 
  • Irrigation. Do you irrigate at all? Just mid-summer or closer in to the harvest time?
  • Pruning decisions during the winter and during the growing season
Winemaking
  • What numbers were the grapes harvested at (sugars, acids)? Some will harvest more by taste than the numbers.
  • Fermentation techniques. Pressing, cold soaking, and type of yeast are just a few of the decisions. There are additives. How much sulfur to add? Do you add acid or tannins?
  • Aging. Stainless steel or barrels. For oak barrels where are they from, what kind of toast, size of barrels, how long is the wine kept in them are a few of the aging decisions.
Bottled wine
  • How well was it stored once bottled? Even at the store where you bought it along with the conditions in transit to the store.
  • How long has it been in the bottle?

These aren't anywhere close to all of the variables in making a wine. So you can guess there are pretty much countless things that can make it different from another.