Why Wines Taste Different from Year to Year

Have you ever wondered why you might love a particular Pinot Noir from 2013, but may not be as fond of the 2014? If so, you’re not alone.

The answer is complex, just like the winemaking industry. Having an understanding of these variations will give you a greater appreciation of just how much goes into making that 2013 vintage that you love so much.

vineyards2

Why does a wine differ in taste from year to year?
There are an endless number of variables that can have an effect on how a particular year’s yield will taste. However, there are two main factors that winemakers can confidently rely on being ever-changing.

  1. Weather and climate
  2. Winemaker’s growing, harvesting and aging process

How Weather & Climate Affect Wine
There are countless variables in nature that can have a major impact on the outcome of grapes. There are a few main factors that winemakers must pay close attention to.

  • Precipitation. The amount and timing of rainfall directly impacts a winemaker’s end product. If there is too much rainfall around harvest time, vines will absorb water, diluting the grape and causing an imbalance in flavor. Growers are looking for just the right amount of precipitation before harvest.
  • The land the grapes are grown in (soil). The soil that grapes are grown in can have an astounding impact on wine. For example, grapes that are planted in rich, fertile soil with lots of moisture will often produce light and fruity wine. However, the same grapes planted on a hill-side with broken up, dry soil cause the vines to work harder to get nutrients. This produces a more robust wine with higher tannins.
  • Temperature. The temperature that grapes are grown greatly impacts what kinds of varietals should be grown in a given region. Some grapes flourish in moderate temperatures, while others grow best with warm days and cooler nights. And some grapes grow best in extreme heat (for example, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel).


How Winemaking Process Affects Wine
To make great wine, it’s crucial to have quality grapes. But, how the grapes are harvested and processed also has a considerable impact on the end product. Among many factors, three of the most important that winemakers must consider include:

  • The date of harvest. The exact time that grapes are picked has a much higher impact on the overall taste of a wine than you might think. If grapes are harvested earlier, the wine they produce will have a lower alcohol content and higher acidity. Conversely, if grapes are picked later in the season, there will be more sugar present, which translates to a higher alcohol content and less acidity in the wine. The goal is to pick grapes when acidity and sweetness levels are balanced.
  • Aging process. Wine is aged in either oak or steel. The result? Oak-aged wine is more traditional and produces natural aromas like nutmeg, vanilla, and cinnamon. Steel barrels produce a zestier, more refreshing wine, like Pinot Gris. Wine aged in steel barrels has become more common in recent years due to its value proposition (reuse of barrels, easier cleaning, more control over oxygen exposure).
  • When it was bottled and how it was stored. What might sound like a very simple step in the winemaking process is another critical phase that demands a winemaker’s planning and expertise. Exposure to oxygen can make or break a wine during this important step. Winemakers must walk a fine line between aging (good) and oxidizing (bad) wine. This means wine must be stored at the right temperature in properly sealed bottles. Other factors include keeping the wine in a dark, consistently cool space, minimizing movement and knowledge of what wines usually improve with age.

 

These, among many other factors, all contribute to why that 2013 Pinot Noir was so outstanding!

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Past, Present, & Future Pinot Noir

 

The winery celebrated our 5th Anniversary this month, with a tasting of different vintages of our Estate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to showcase the past, present and future of Regale.  It was definitely a time to reflect on how much the winery has changed over the years, and how far we have come since we began pouring tastings in the “gardens” back when it was less garden and really just more… dirt.

98front building through olivesIMG_1053


 

 

From a wine standpoint, it was great to see the progression of our Estate Pinot Noir vineyard as we tasted the 2008 Estate Pinot Noir which was the first real production vintage, the 2012 which is our current vintage, and the 2014 straight from the barrel which will be bottled later this year.  The 2008 vintage, of which we were lucky enough to have a few cases left, has aged beautifully and is definitely coming into its own – a rare treat for anyone who was able to keep from drinking it over the last five years since its release. As with people, we often see when wines age they become more of what they have always been.  A mediocre wine will only stand to disappoint, while a wine with structure, complexity, and pedigree stands to become so much more.

As a few people noticed in the tasting notes, only 188 cases were produced in the 2008 vintage, while in the 2012 current vintage, there were 433 cases produced.  When talking about our Estate vineyard this is one of the most common questions that comes up – how much wine does our vineyard produce? While this should seem like an easy formula, it is in fact anything but. On average a vineyard can produce between 1 and 4+ tons of grapes per acre under vine.  Many things affect this production level including the age of the vineyard, growing conditions, pruning style, and winemaking choices.

Our Estate Pinot Noir vineyard is all hillside with 3.5 acres densely planted – about 4,000 Pinot vines in total, which are a mix of Dijon clones 115 and 777, and Pommard clone 5.  The vineyard was originally planted back in 2006 from 2 year old rootstocks which were grafted and grown in a nursery. When a vineyard is first planted, the production is limited and will increase each year until the 4th or 5th harvest when the vines reach their full potential. For example in 2007 we only harvested 1 ton for the “test” vintage, while in 2008 we were up to 4 tons and since 2010 we have been at full capacity with around 12 tons per year from the 3.5 acres under vine.  As we ponder the wines in progress, the 2013 and 2014 vintages were both stellar in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and the wines are showcasing those great growing years.

190

IMG_0814

 

 

 

Looking at where the winery has come from and where we are headed, we could not be more excited to see what the next 5 years hold for the winery and for the wines still to come. The past 5 years have brought dozens of amazing wines, an Estate vineyard at full production, a gorgeous winery building with manicured gardens, and myriad celebrations of all kinds. The fond memories are not only ours, but shared with our guests and extended Regale family who have, over the past five years, celebrated birthdays, marriage proposals, weddings, babies, and new friends while sipping a glass of Regale wine or relaxing in our gardens.  So here’s to our guests- for giving us a reason to make wine, and a reason to celebrate!