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Pinot Noir & the tricks of the commercial wineries - ie. Meomi

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Rocktop

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So Crushday's experience with Pinot Noir was perfect timing for the questions and thoughts I had.
While my pinot pressed out deeper color, I still found it very thin tasting in comparison to those commercial wines I have liked.
I recently had a bottle of Meomi and thought how can they get that much color and depth of flavour in a young pinot.
A few google searches led me down a very disappointing road. I have been chasing the craft of creating the best wine possible from the grapes I can lay my hands on. I like others here have been frustrated by my gap to commercial wines, even cheaper ones. I chalked this up to their ability to source premium grapes.
Then once following the Meomi back story I found out about megapurple and similar additives and the purported overwhelming use of these additives to shore up commercial inferior and young wines.
My question is , is the use of these additives as common as the internet would have me believe.
And if so, how does a consumer know the split between wineries using them and those that are not....

RT
 

salcoco

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in a lot of cases the commercial wine can be a blend. only 75% of the stated label must be in the bottle so they have 25% to play, with possible adding a wine with more body and color. an option you also have
 

crushday

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I like others here have been frustrated by my gap to commercial wines, even cheaper ones. I chalked this up to their ability to source premium grapes.
How would you define premium grapes? Perfect balance of brix, pH, TA, YAN? Appearance?

I can't imagine ever using a color adjunct like megapurple. I would rather blend another wine with a darker hue. On the PN I have right now, although the decision doesn't need to be made today, I'll likely keep some 100% varietal and blend some with Petit Sirah. We will see...

Very interested in the answer to "premium grapes".
 

winemaker81

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Unless the wineries publicly report their wine making process, I don't know any way to discover it.

FWIW, it makes more sense to look at the techniques available to home wine makers, as we can't easily do some things that commercial wineries do.

Use of cold soaking, enzymes, fermentation oak, etc., to extract more from the grapes. There is also the technique of draining off juice pre-fermentation, to produce a smaller batch of wine from the pomace (ferment the drained juice as white or rose).
 

stickman

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I have heard about heated debates on the topic of wine additives and manipulation etc.; often it gets philosophical very quickly. It seems that most wineries don't like to discuss their processing and additives, because they know, or at least fear, they will be beaten severely by the public and media. Wine really is a complicated biochemical process that can be viewed on the surface as being very simple regarding crushing and fermenting grapes, but we all know there is a lot more going on than that. Someone might argue they don't want "additives", yet they will accept an uninoculated fermentation on the basis that it is a hands off approach. What they don't realize is that by not properly inoculating with a known yeast and ML bacteria, an analysis of the resulting wine on average will show significantly higher levels of various chemicals including biogenic amines. So it seems, if "we" decide to tweak with a lab culture or chemicals it's a problem, but if the microbes decide to add chemicals it's accepted.

I'm not at all a proponent of adding chemicals haphazardly, but I don't oppose additions to compensate for certain must deficiencies.
 

Boatboy24

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I agree with blending other wines in. A fruity Merlot might be just the ticket to darken up the PN and add some interest. As little as a couple % in the blend can have a surprising impact. Regarding Meiomi, it should be noted that there is likely residual sugar in there - either from the MP or some other source. That sugar certainly won't impact the color, but can definitely change the perception of mouthfeel, body and flavor.
 

Booty Juice

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My $0.02: Continue to learn, refine and improve your winemaking practices and then just enjoy them and either don’t worry about comparing your wine to a $20 bottle, or use some additives to make them taste similar.

From what I’ve learned over the years from vineyard and winery owners in El Dorado county and San Luis Obispo county, Megapurple (or RO, which occurs regularly in very expensive wines here in CA) is used in almost every sub $25 commercial wine, and for good reason: It economically (2,000 to 1 concentrate) adds texture, body, color and flavor to sub optimal grapes or processes, and many people love the results.

MP (from concentrated RubiRed) and MegaRed (from vinefera I believe) are widely used and massive amounts of it are harvested here in CA (in the central valley) every year. I know more than a few wineries that use it (or RO). It’s so concentrated and dark it will stain the container and it’s something like 68 brix - hence the tiny amount needed to affect the wine. There are also around 30 other flavor-concentrate variations used in the market. Widely used.

Additives and processes are a hotly debated topic that some people feel strongly about – I say just make your wines your way and then enjoy them. As far as the commercial guys – what they do, don’t do, and the rightness or wrongness of it – I’m interested only for the knowledge and have no other opinions.

Although I DO occasionally enjoy a full bodied, inky, flavor bomb, $7.99 Pinot or Cab from Costco!

There are many other additives and advanced process that are widely used, most of which are not advertised:
Flash Détente
Spinning cone
Room temp evap
Sweetspot analysis
Velcorin
Gum Arabic
Liquid oak
Oak tea bags
Etc., etc., etc. on and on

Hope this doesn’t open a can of worms – it wasn’t meant too!
 

Rocktop

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Booty that is what I read too, just the prevalence of this flavour additives is concerning. In my mind I have this romantic idea that one day I will open my winery and sell my wines. I like to try a variety of commercial wines to understand what I like and friends like so that I can i start to make wines like those in hopes that one day i can match or exceed the commercial wines I and we like. But when you read about the prevalence of flavour enhancing additives that many of the commercial wines use it gives me pause. If I am trying to emulate those wines, then will I too need to use those techniques to achieve the same goal?

Crushday, on the premium grapes point, I would say all those metrics you listed. My point was more that I assumed to be able to mass produce that level and consistency of wine that their source of grapes must be beyond what the average joe would have access to, but instead I learn now that it may be a median quality of grape they use and it is the additions of Mega purple etc. that give it its flavour, color, sweetness etc. and this can be done consistently as it is done after the fact with additives.
 

sjjan

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I have been to many wineries in the Bourgogne that produce the grand cru wines and do not believe they add in any flavour or colour additives to their wines, so somehow it should be possible to create a Pinot Noir of top quality. On some hills in the Côte d’Or the middle layer on the hill is for the best wines as the soil is different there due to less corrosion. So, maybe terroir is having a significant influence. I don’t know.
 

CDrew

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I know of at least one premium winery using reverse osmosis to increase complexity and mouth feel. That doesn't sit right with me but maybe that's the reality. The gum arabic or added glycerine does not sound like something that should be in wine. Rather than an additive it seems like a manipulation. But the thing that annoys me most, is the trend to back sweetening of red wines. Just a little so it doesn't taste sweet. Many of the currently trendy wines like Carnivore and similar do that as a cheap trick to get young people (I think) to buy it. The whole megapurple thing also seems like a cheap trick to hide mediocre wine.

But we all use additives too-Carefully selected yeast, GoFerm, tannins, OptiRed, yeast nutrients, Oak cubes, so where do you draw the line? I draw the line at Megapurple and added sugar at the end of fermentation. Not going there except for Port, lol. I guess I am going there.

But this is why Europe has all these laws. To prevent the food scientists from just making wine out of the constituent chemicals. So if you can have a burger without a cow, you can have a wine without a grape vine. Watch out, it's coming and it isn't a good thing.
 

winemaker81

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But we all use additives too-Carefully selected yeast, GoFerm, tannins, OptiRed, yeast nutrients, Oak cubes, so where do you draw the line? I draw the line at Megapurple and added sugar at the end of fermentation.
While I agree with you on Megapurple, the dividing line is arbitrary and depends on personal preference. I tried justifying things to myself and lost the argument. For instance:

Selecting yeast ensures the natural process will produce a desired result. Using enzymes simply makes better use of what is already in the grape. Nutrients provide a better environment for the yeast, enabling it to better do its job using what is already in the grape.

Megapurple is adding a concentrate, muddying the "purity" of the wine. So we strike this one.

Oak adds flavor ... that isn't in the grape. Chaptalizing increases the potential alcohol above what nature provided. Backsweetening changes the flavor tremendously. How are these really different from Megapurple? Hence my comment that the dividing line is arbitrary and personal.

Now look at the other side of the coin -- so ya own a winery. You've invested tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in the business (maybe more) and a lot of sweat and tears. Ya gotta sell wine to make things work. Are you going to gamble with what nature gives you, or are you going to protect your investment (and your future) by using all available tools to ensure your wine sells?

One answer, for the USA, is to mandate that all constituents be listed on the label. Consumers can make an informed choice. In addition, wineries could form an association similar in nature to the Meritage Alliance, and members would be allowed to label their wines with a copyright protected name (like "Meritage") which indicates the wine contains only permitted additives.
 

stickman

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Wine already contains glycerine, so it happens to be one of those chemicals that falls into the category of, is it ok as an additive, or is it ok to use a cultured yeast known to produce glycerine at several g/L above average?

I'm ok with plastic tanks, but would I include the plastic tank storage area on the winery tour?.......................

Technology is always evolving and affecting everything; it often takes time for people to accept something new. Does anyone use a microwave oven? Are there any professional photos that haven't been Photoshopped? Are there any professional music recordings today that haven't been digitally corrected for tone and timing?

Well that was my point, it's very easy to go off the deep end.
 

stickman

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I know of at least one premium winery using reverse osmosis to increase complexity and mouth feel.
I also have heard about various applications for RO in the wine industry, in fact one of these referred to Pinot Noir color improvement. The sparkling wine producers that use Pinot will collect a very hard press fraction from their unfermented fresh "discarded" skins, which ultimately gets shipped to local Pinot producers where RO is used to concentrate and seperate the copigmentation cofactors. This cofactor concentrate is added to the Pinot primary fermentation to aid color extraction and retention. What was interesting is that the cofactors are not anthocyanins, but they are compounds that cause the anthocyanin pigments to exhibit far greater color than would be expected from their concentration alone.

The following was reported by Roger Boulton in American Society for Enology and Viticulture 2001:

"Wines made from grapes low in cofactors will not be able to form much copigmentation and will have low pigment contents. This seems to be the case for Pinot noir and Sangiovese and is why sometimes poorly colored wines result from darkly colored berries. Such wines are generally cherry-red when young and show no sign of purpleness. Other wines, from grapes richer in cofactors, will form more copigmentation, capture more pigment, and have deeper color with the blue and purple tones characteristic of significant copigmentation."
 

sour_grapes

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I also have heard about various applications for RO in the wine industry, in fact one of these referred to Pinot Noir color improvement. The sparkling wine producers that use Pinot will collect a very hard press fraction from their unfermented fresh "discarded" skins, which ultimately gets shipped to local Pinot producers where RO is used to concentrate and seperate the copigmentation cofactors. This cofactor concentrate is added to the Pinot primary fermentation to aid color extraction and retention.
Whoa! So after they make Blanc de noirs they make Noir de noirs? :)
 
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Booty Juice

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All of the processes and additives used by US wine makers originated and were perfected in France. BDX is by no means "pure".

My experience with the EU is "the Italians propose the laws, the French write them up, and the Germans obey them."

More regulation (labeling laws) is a tough one - Megapurple is grapes, so "grapes" would be on the label.

In the wine business, there is a vast difference between making wine and selling wine. If I were counsel a friend or relative about entering that business, I would recommend he or she understand and master the selling side first.
 

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