So in most wine-making schools, they’re quick to talk about the fact that acid and tannin are on the opposite side of the spectrum as alcohol, sugars and polysaccharides. (Whoa, that was a lot of big words! Ok, Tannin is mouth-drying and acid is the tingling on your mouth. Together they make up the astringency of a wine. Poly-saccharides, on the other hand, are super-huge sugar molecules that are not as sweet as other sugars, but still kinda sweet. Don’t worry, this is the longest parenthesis in article) However, I as a winemaker didn’t fully understand how huge, how colossal, how hulk after he got big and green because you wouldn’t share your In-and-Out detrimental and consequential the alcohol and acid balance of a wine is.
I work at Mazzocco winery, which plies it lively-hood on high-alcohol wines that provide a massive mid-palate (more cork-head words? This one is described at the bottom of the article) It’s become pretty apparent to me that A) this amount of mid-palate is rare and B) that said mid-palate and body is very much the result of alcohol and more alcohol. So what is the take-away here? Manipulating the alcohol of the wine is crucial to the way the wine tastes on your palate. Unfortunately, legally, most winemakers can’t manipulate the wine’s alcohol, but as a home-winemaker, I can do whatever I want. So today we’re spiking the wine with vodka. The question is how much?
Like any other major wine-making decision, I set up a bench-trial. I kept it simple. I kept a control and spiked my wine up to 13.5% and 14.0% alcohol. Normally, I would tell you guys the play-by-play of what each wine tasted like, but I’ll just tell you the decision right now: the 13.5% was the easy favorite. The 13.1% (control) was tart, but had great flavor. The 14.0% had a hint of burn to it. The 13.5% had a wonderful round-ness to it. The wine was softer because it was more in balance (see balancing above) and it still had it’s characteristic flavor. If you go back to my previous article Blending Time, the wine needs some oak, and well, the oak is working it’s way in, but it’s not quite there yet. I’m giving it time. Either way, the 13.5% is what I want.
So what did I do? What do you think? I dumped .4% worth of vodka into the wine. (264 milliliters to be specific) Hopefully the wine will be as in balance and as nuanced as the bench trial. This wine is starting to look really really good. I’m excited to see what happens next. It’s funny, because as the wine-maker, you’d think the wine would be a product of what I wanted it to be, but in reality, every time I make an adjustment, it surprises me. Something happens to the flavor that I didn’t quite expect. The only thing that is constant is that the wine keeps on getting better. I can’t wait to see where this goes.
(Mid-palate is exactly what it sounds like: some wines have more presence than others in the middle of the tongue when you taste them.)