Do grape SKINS provide complexity or is it the pulp/juice?

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Do grape SKINS provide complexity or is it the pulp/juice?

Postby Jeff B » Mon Dec 10, 2012 10:14 pm

Does the "character" of a red grape come from the juice or a combination of the juice with the skins?

I ask this sincerely for I find it fascinating and, not being a wine scientist, I don't know the precise answer.

For instance, it is generally said that "more is going on in a glass of red wine". And I have to believe that the inclusion of the skins/tannins is what accounts for the "more". But is the "more" just a statement about texture only (the tannins)?

Surely tannin-free white wines attain great complexity, potentially.

But if skins are integral to a wine's complexity, is my beloved champagne at an inherent "complexity disadvantage" because only the grape's juice is used? (I know that virtually un-discernible amounts of tannin are present).

It seems that age and acidity are most responsible for turning it into something "deep" and complex. So how much of the Pinot's grape character is being "unused" by not including the skins? (Roses excluded)

Speaking of roses, it actually seems that many of them are considered to be a notch below "blonde champagnes" when it comes to gaining complexity with age (though surely not all). Which leads me to believe that the character of the grape doesn't come from the skins.

Am I making any sense here? :)

Jeff
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Re: Do grape SKINS provide complexity or is it the pulp/juice?

Postby Victorwine » Mon Dec 10, 2012 10:55 pm

Hi Jeff,
There is a lot more to grape skins than tannin and color. The whole idea behind skin contact (even if it is for only a “short time”) and pressing is to extract as much as possible of the “good stuff” without the “undesirable” and “harsher” components.
Take Muscat for instance, 90 % of the aromatic compounds or precursors (responsible for the floral notes) exist in the grape skins.

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Re: Do grape SKINS provide complexity or is it the pulp/juice?

Postby Howie Hart » Tue Dec 11, 2012 3:45 am

The contact with skins and seeds does indeed add a lot more than color. I have a friend, who owns a winery and sells me grapes. In 2011 I picked up several boxes of Pinot Noir from him. While there he asked me "Howie, what am I going to do with all this Pinot Noir?". He had a small trailer attached to his tractor piled high with Pinot Noir and all his open top fermentation vessels were full. I suggested that he do a whole cluster press on the grapes and use it to make bubbly. His jaw dropped as he pondered the idea and decided to do it. However, a few months later, he changed his mind about turning it into bubbly and simply bottled it as a white wine. Very light color, almost water like, with very little hue, pleasant nose with fruity character, and bone dry, medium long finish and good balance. I recently compared it with my Pinot Noir, side by side, which I fermented on the skins for 2 weeks, innoculated with malo-lactic culture and aged on oak. One would never guess they were the same grapes, from the same vineyard and vintage. Often, white grapes are crushed and given limited skin contact of 8-48 hours to extract flavors and aromas from the skins.
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Re: Do grape SKINS provide complexity or is it the pulp/juice?

Postby David M. Bueker » Tue Dec 11, 2012 9:39 am

Stems...do I hear stems?
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Re: Do grape SKINS provide complexity or is it the pulp/juice?

Postby Victorwine » Tue Dec 11, 2012 10:57 am

Just to expand on what Howie wrote during white wine production, while standing at the press and sampling the juice as it drips from the press, is a great learning experience. Exerting no pressure free- run juice (less skin-contact time) falls freely from the press. For the most part the free-run juice (to me anyway) basically is “undistinguishable” and lusciously sweet (this is where the bulk of the sugar is). As pressure is increased second-run juice (slightly more skin-contact time) falls from the press. While sampling the second-run juice things now become a little more “interesting and complex”, for me the juice even becomes more “distinguishable”. Exerting even more pressure (again slightly more skin contact time) third-run juice now falls from the press. So on and so on. These “different” fractions may be eventually be” reunited” and fermented into wine (or fermented separately and blended later).

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Re: Do grape SKINS provide complexity or is it the pulp/juice?

Postby Howie Hart » Tue Dec 11, 2012 12:49 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:Stems...do I hear stems?
I have a crusher/de-stemmer, which removes most of the stems. Stems that have become brown during the ripening process can be used in a limited amount in reds, but green stems should be avoided.
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Well...

Postby TomHill » Tue Dec 11, 2012 8:37 pm

Well...my take on the subject. The skins are an important component in the wine's character, red or white.
Reds are normally made w/ skin contact. So we learn to recogniize their varietal character because (mostly) of the skins contribution.
When you take out the skins...make a white wine as Howie describes w/ the Pinot.. it sorta distorts the varietal character beyond
recognition. If I could taste enough White Pinot, maybe I could learn to recognize that varietal character that comes solely from the juice.
Same story w/ White Cabernet or White Zin I'd say.
Whites are normally made w/o skin contact. So what we recognize as varietal character in white wines comes entirely from the juice.
When you make a white wine w/ extended skin contact (throughout the fermentation...and beyond); it also results in a white (or orange)
wine w/ little/no varietal character..as I recognize it. It has a character that sorta transcends any varietal character....at least as I recognize
it. When I have enough of FloridaJim's skin-contact SauvBlanc...maybe I'll learn to recognize SB varietal character that comes from the skins.
NB: I'm not a winemaker....I only play one on the HowdyDoodyShow.
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Re: Do grape SKINS provide complexity or is it the pulp/juice?

Postby Florida Jim » Tue Dec 11, 2012 9:05 pm

Howie Hart wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:Stems...do I hear stems?
I have a crusher/de-stemmer, which removes most of the stems. Stems that have become brown during the ripening process can be used in a limited amount in reds, but green stems should be avoided.

I used to think this way, too, until I saw all the bright green stems in a Dujac ferment.
How can they do that?
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Re: Do grape SKINS provide complexity or is it the pulp/juice?

Postby Mark Lipton » Wed Dec 12, 2012 1:50 am

Florida Jim wrote:
Howie Hart wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:Stems...do I hear stems?
I have a crusher/de-stemmer, which removes most of the stems. Stems that have become brown during the ripening process can be used in a limited amount in reds, but green stems should be avoided.

I used to think this way, too, until I saw all the bright green stems in a Dujac ferment.
How can they do that?
Best, Jim


Jim,
I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that Dujac is sui generis. They seemingly get away with things that in another producer would be anathema. Is there any other producer that I consciously seek out who uses as much new oak as they do? Doubtful. Or maybe the Seysses clan practice black magic in their spare time. Dunno.

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Re: Do grape SKINS provide complexity or is it the pulp/juice?

Postby Ben Rotter » Wed Dec 12, 2012 8:27 am

Jeff B wrote:Does the "character" of a red grape come from the juice or a combination of the juice with the skins?


A combination, although it might be fair to say that in red wines the character is predominantly controlled by the skin (and seed) contact (and therefore, potentially, the skins and seeds).

Jeff B wrote:But is the "more" just a statement about texture only (the tannins)?


It's more than just texture, it's aroma ("flavour") too.

Jeff B wrote:But if skins are integral to a wine's complexity, is my beloved champagne at an inherent "complexity disadvantage" because only the grape's juice is used?


I don't think it's fair to say that a wine is more complex just because it's been made using skins - it's just not that simple.

Florida Jim wrote:
Howie Hart wrote:
David M. Bueker wrote:Stems...do I hear stems?
I have a crusher/de-stemmer, which removes most of the stems. Stems that have become brown during the ripening process can be used in a limited amount in reds, but green stems should be avoided.

I used to think this way, too, until I saw all the bright green stems in a Dujac ferment.


I've been increasingly thinking over the years that the lignified ("brown") stems-only mantra is a New World-centric viewpoint, possibly even a (originally?) California-centric viewpoint. In any case, it seems one of those rules-of-thumb that certainly isn't universal (perhaps unsurprisingly, because the wine world is full of them).
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Re: Do grape SKINS provide complexity or is it the pulp/juice?

Postby Victorwine » Wed Dec 12, 2012 7:36 pm

We say white and rose wines are “made without skins”, and red wines are “made with skins”. But I believe these statements themselves are a little misleading. First of all, we are neglected a big step in the winemaking process and that is “preparing the must or juice, prior to or for, fermentation”. A better way of putting it would be saying white and rose wines are generally “fermented without skins” and red wines are generally “fermented with skins”.
“Skin contact” (better yet “maceration”) involves extracting components or constituents from the fruit (as David, Howie and Ben stated this may include seeds, skins, flesh, pulp/juice and possible stems) usually following “crushing” and prior to “pressing” (or just separating the juice (liquid) from the solid matter). The process of maceration is facilitated by the release and activation of enzymes from “damaged” or “crushed” fruit cells. It is very much dependent on things like temperature, duration, presence and activity of microbes etc.
In making any type of wine “crushing and pressing” (or some other method or separating the liquid from the solid matter) is involved so therefore some variant or form of “maceration” may take place. In white and rose wine production maceration is “minimized”. In red wine (or “orange wine”) production maceration is “maximized”. If it were totally eliminated surely you would see a reduction in “varietal character” possible making the wine “undistinguishable”. If maceration were “overdone” surely you would see a much higher concentrations of bitter and harsher components also possible making the wine “undistinguishable”.

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Re: Do grape SKINS provide complexity or is it the pulp/juice?

Postby Howie Hart » Wed Dec 12, 2012 8:15 pm

WRT stems - they vary by variety. For the grapes I am familiar with, Pinot Noir is one extreme, with small, thin stems that are usually browning, because the grapes are small and in tight, compact bunches. At the other extreme is Vidal, with long, thick green stems and the grapes are larger, with loose bunches. In fact, Vidal are difficult to run through my crusher/destemmer as the stems are so long and tough, that they wrap themselves around the shaft and paddle and often clog up the machine. It is because of these features and the fact that the skins are tough that Vidal is used to make ice wine and late harvest wines. That being said, often parts of the stems break apart into small pieces and pass through with the grapes. These are referred to as "Jacks", as in the kids sidewalk game with a rubber ball. So, when all is said and done, I'd say that about 5 -10% of the stems actually end up in my must.
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Re: Do grape SKINS provide complexity or is it the pulp/juice?

Postby Victorwine » Thu Dec 13, 2012 1:43 pm

In regards to white wine production when the grapes are going to be crushed and pressed “immediately” upon arrival at the “crush pad”, sometimes it’s beneficial to press with the stems. The stems act as drains and they “speed-up” the dripping of the juice from the press. In regards to stems and red wine production, here I find myself agreeing with Alice Feiring (maybe not in the same exact proportions).

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Re: Do grape SKINS provide complexity or is it the pulp/juice?

Postby Jeff B » Thu Dec 13, 2012 5:23 pm

Thanks everyone for the replies.

Jeff
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Re: Do grape SKINS provide complexity or is it the pulp/juice?

Postby Dan Smothergill » Fri Dec 14, 2012 2:59 pm

Excellent discussion. I buy juice rather than grapes so usually don't pay much attention to these sorts of things. But this was very informative.
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