We have featured a number of outstanding wines from Midnight Cellars over the years and we are lucky to have a few more making an appearance in our Gold Wine Club! Can you answer a few of these Wine Wizard questions from past newsletters?
1) Does wine color vary in young wines versus older wines?
The quick answer is yes, the color of young wines (for both reds and whites) is different than the color of older wines. Young red wines are at their darkest, showing a deep purplish hue that will transition into to a lighter reddish brick brown color as it ages. White wines go in the opposite direction on the color spectrum, starting out pale and straw yellow in color and transitioning to a deeper amber-gold color with age. The change in color is also dependent on the particular grape variety, the length of time the grape skins are in contact with the juice during and after fermentation, and the amount of time the wine spends aging in oak barrels.
2) How do sugar content and degrees Brix relate?
Viticulturalists use the Brix scale to measure the sugar content in ripening grapes, and monitoring this scale allows vineyard managers and winemakers to determine the optimal time to initiate harvest. The Brix scale measures the percentage of sugar in grapes by weight, so at 25 degrees Brix, a wine grape would have approximately 25 grams of sugar. This number also relates to alcohol content, which is roughly half the number of grams of sugar. In this case, the wine would be approximately 12.5% alcohol.
3) When is a sparkling wine legally allowed to be termed Champagne?
Although there are many sparkling wines produced around the world, the only bottlings legally allowed to be termed “Champagne” are those produced in the Champagne region of France. Sparkling wines produced in the United States are only permitted to use the term “Champagne” if the winery had sought approval before 2006, and can only continue using the term if it is accompanied by the wine’s origin (California, for example). Most countries use the generic “sparkling wine” term on their bottlings today.
1) Midnight Cellars' Chardonnay was aged sur lie. What are "lees" and what does "sur lie" mean?
After fermentation is complete, yeast cells settle out and form sediment at the bottom of the tank. This sediment is called lees. Typically, the wine is transferred off the lees into another tank where clarification and stabilization are begun. A common practice with Chardonnay, however, is to add a yeast character by allowing the wine to remain in contact with the yeast for weeks or months—this is called sur lie aging. Winemakers who use this method add aroma, flavor and body complexity to their wines.
2) Midnight Cellars' Chardonnay is "whole cluster pressed". What does this mean?
As you might guess, whole cluster pressing is a winemaking technique whereby intact bunches of grapes are pressed whole. The stems are intact and act as conduits for what can often be particularly viscous juice. It is almost universal in the production of sparkling wines and most other white wines made from dark-skinned grapes. Quality conscious producers tend to use this method since the resulting juice is low in phenolics (compounds which sometimes impart an astringent or bitter flavor) and high in quality.
3) Midnight Cellars uses a majority of new oak barrels to age their red wines. What significance does this have?
New oak barrels are used systematically for good vintages of classed growth red Bordeaux and, therefore, for a high proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon made by ambitious and well-funded winemakers in newer wine regions. The newer the barrel, the more wood flavor it’s capable of imparting, and in most regions, new barrels command a premium price. For instance, 1-year-old barrels sell for 70% of new barrels; 50% for 2-year-old barrels; 10% for 5-year-old barrels. Older barrels are important for wines where the winemaker seeks slow oxygenation of the wine but no perceptible wood flavor, such as making Port, Sherry and Rioja.
There are so many styles of Chardonnay! Light and delicate, ripe and fruity, and rich and oaky - just to name a few. What are the rules on pairing foods with each style of Chardonnay?
While Chardonnay can enhance many dishes, there are some important Don’ts to follow to ensure your wine isn’t destroyed by the food it’s served with. In general, DON’T pair Chardonnay with aggressively seasoned food (avoid super spicy dishes), bitter foods (bitter greens, vegetables, and spices like turmeric), acidic foods (raw tomatoes, olives, and tangy vinaigrettes), or pungent cheeses (avoid aged goat and sheep’s cheeses). Also, serving Chardonnay too cold can dull it’s pairing potential. Crisp, delicate Chardonnays pair best with lighter dishes like baked fish or poultry with butter and herbs. Ripe, fruity Chardonnays pair best with richer foods like creamy pastas or lighter proteins with fruit, and rich, oaky Chardonnays pair best with foods that have toasty flavors - think toasted nuts, pastry crust, and grilled or smoked fish and poultry. For all Chardonnays, creamy, mild cheeses (brie or fontina), risottos and cream-enhanced soups, sauces and pastas are all good food pairing choices.
What does a secondary fermentation (malolactic) do for Chardonnay?
Malolactic fermentation is a process in winemaking that converts malic acid to lactic acid. It is a standard process for all red wines, but it is a stylistic choice for white wines - most commonly for Chardonnay. This secondary fermentation tends to create a rounder, fuller mouthfeel and buttery flavors in Chardonnay. Chardonnays that do not go through malolactic will retain their leaner style, tart acidity and fresh green apple flavors. Some winemakers opt to combine methods to find a happy medium in the finished product.
Enjoy your spectacular wines from our Gold Wine Club featured winery!