Wednesday, April 01, 2009

No cold stabilization on red wines

I was reading an article this morning by Dan Berger and I thought it was a little vague on the point of cold stabilizing red wines. (The article is carried by the Press Demo from Creators Syndicate, so I don't have a link to post...)
What Dan reports is that on a recent trip to the Paso Robles area to taste wines from Justin Winery, the winemaker there (Fred Holloway) stated "I don't cold stabilize my reds". Bully for him. 

Cold stabilization is the process of super-chilling a wine down so that it is unable to hold any extra acid, and then adding a very small amount of potassium bitartrate (cream of tartar) to force the excess acid to drop out of the wine and deposit on the bottom of the tank. This is usually done for white wines, which a consumer can look into the bottle and see the crystals inside if they exist. Frequently, the crystals form after a customer puts the bottle just purchased into the freezer to quick chill for use that same day/night. It's common to then get busy with other things and forget the wine, allowing it to sit there for hours in the freezing cold. At this time, excess acid can naturally form crystals and drop to the bottom of the bottle. Many people, uninformed of the true nature of these harmless particles assume from their appearance that they are really particles of glass, and either don't purchase the wine in the first place, or worse yet, if it "pitches" or "throws" tartrates after spending some time in their freezer or fridge - pour it down the sink or return it to the store they brought it from. That consumer then usually avoids the brand of wine in the future...
In the end, wineries use the technique because it is easier to do this than to mount a huge consumer education program to let people know that these crystals are natural and harmless.
Frankly, as I recall I've never met anyone in the California wine biz who DID cold stabilize their reds. White wines are commonly put through the process for the reasons stated above, but reds are fairly opaque, the green tint of the bottles helps combine with the red color of the wine itself making it harder to see into the bottles, and let's face it - not too many people are throwing their red wines into the freezer. So the issue rarely comes up, and when it does the consumer can usually tell the crystals in red wine aren't glass due to the reddish color of the crystals (some of the wine is trapped within the crystals as they form), which white wine crystals don't have (these are usually slightly off-white).

On another note.....

This is also one of the main acids in wine which is responsible for the crystals left over when the wine is poured into a petri dish and evaporated (the other main players are malic, lactic and citric acids). This experimental process, usually used for what is euphemistically called "sensitive crystallization", which purportedly tells one everything they need to know about how the wine is balanced, integrated and "wholesomeness".

Frederic Koeppel [is this really necessary?]  blogs about one of Bonny Doon's labels (similar to the one on the right) that...

"...[t]he strange objects on these labels, which look like condoms wearing little fur coats, depict the “sensitive crysallization”[sic] of the individual wines. The press materials don’t reveal how these “sensitive crystallizations” occur, but when Grahm writes, of the Muscat 2007, “well-defined vacuoles reflect the powerful aromatic potential” and “finely textured crystals reach out to the end of the periphery reflecting the vine’s connection to the soil,” I cannot help thinking that “sensitive crystallization” is a synonym for “smoke and mirrors.”

Ha! Condoms wearing little fur coats! 
Sounds like something stolen from the Playboy mansion....and is about as informative to why the wine will taste like it does as the back-label drivel that Randall Graham throws onto it!
It's also simmilar to the comment on one of my posts deriding sensitive crystallization where someone suggected the photo towards the top of this post looked like a "pecan pie"....
Do they really expect anyone but an April Fool to believe this sort of thing?

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