After having harvested all the juicy grapes rich in fruit sugar with high Oechsle levels, then selected and pressed them, and now transferred them to barrels and tanks, the exciting time of waiting and observing begins. Vineyard work is over and cellar work begins in the depths of a dark and dim environment where nearly all human senses are engaged in a very special way, writes Ariff Jamal.
The observant winemaker is constantly watching out for sediment particles, while his nose differentiates the typical musty smell of the cellar which is a mix of fine yeast aromas and a discreet pungent smell of carbon dioxide. The cellar which has been illuminated the whole year round, all of a sudden turns into a gloomy laboratory where even a candle has difficulty in staying lit. Then comes the big signboard – Carbon Dioxide Danger – but the winemaker’s hearing sense is at its peak as he listens to the bubbling symphony, a music he is so accustomed to.
This process of converting fruit sugar into alcohol referred to as alcoholic fermentation is also the commencement of a battle against oxidization and the risk of micro-organism contamination. The higher the Oechsle level, the more fruit sugar in the Must and the higher the potential of alcohol in the wine. The higher the sugar levels the higher the winemaker’s flexibility. So it is at this point that the winemaker decides depending on alcohol content, residual sugar, acidity and minerality, which style of wine it will be: dry, off-dry or sweet. The harmony and balance of all these components are most important when it comes to the quality of a wine.
The selection of yeasts is the first part of the process where the winemaker decides whether his fermentation will be “planned” or “spontaneous”. If he goes for the planned method he will opt for cultured yeasts. The advantage here is a well-directed and perfectly planned fermentation course with a precise development of selected aromas. Here the risk of stuck fermentation or discord of aromas is limited.
In spontaneous fermentation only wild yeasts, naturally found in the vineyard, on the grapes and in the surrounding atmosphere of the cellar, are utilized. Due to this inimitable wines are created, which reflect the typical taste of the grape variety in combination with the soil, the micro climatical conditions in the vineyard and the work of the winemaker – wines that reflect the “terroir” and a centuries-old culture of winemaking.
Now for the final decision: Will the style of the wine be dry, off-dry or sweet. Accordingly he winemaker stops the fermentation process on reaching the desired alcohol and residual sugar (unfermented grape sugar) levels in the wine. Here also he can choose to use sulfur or go the natural away and arrest fermentation with lowered temperatures.
A German wine may only be marketed with a minimum alcohol level of 7.0% vol, except for the sweet wines which are allowed to be sold with a minimum alcohol
level of 5.5% vol. The Mosel valley is a unique cold climate region known for its low alcohol Rieslings with harmony and balance between fruit sugar, acid and minerality, resulting in punchy, pure, stress less and pleasant wines.
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