A Look At French Wine Laws

Chapter Sixteen, Part Two.
Donald eyeballing wineFrance has hundreds of wine appellations that are broken down into three quality levels; Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AC or AOC), Vin de Pays (VdP), and Vin de Table (VdT). These designations are controlled by the Minister of Agriculture, under the auspices of the Institut National de l’Origine et de la Qualité. Rather than adopt the logical acronym INOQ, the organization retained an earlier acronym INAO (for Institut National des Appellations d’Origine) so they wouldn’t have to replace the stationary.

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When it Comes to Wood, Size Matters

Chapter Thirteen, Parts Three, Seven & Eight.

Surrounded by botti with Filippo Fedriani at Marchesato degli Aleramici in Montalcino.

Surrounded by botti with Filippo Fedriani at Marchesato degli Aleramici in Montalcino.

Different wine regions use barrels of varying size to fit their needs (and maybe their warehouses). The volume of the popular Hogshead barrel seems to vary with every industry, but for wine it has come to mean a 63-gallon barrel, while the uniquely named butt barrel holds two Hogsheads or 126 gallons. The winemakers of Bordeaux find a barrel holding 59.4 gallons is perfectly suited for Cabernet and Merlot based wines. In Montalcino, where tradition dictates that Brunello di Montalcino be aged in cask for three years, wine is matured in large Slovenian casks called botte, or the plural botti, a term presumably derived from butt (those are 6 words I never imagined myself writing). Smaller barrels have a stronger impact on wine, so most Brunello producers use botti because they feel three years aging in small casks would produce overpowering oak flavors in the finished product.

The winery owner said to his winemaker, “This wine is completely over-oaked! It tastes like vanilla extract, it’s too sweet, and lacks any sense of terroir! Congratulations, it will be a huge success!”
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Pass The Toast – The Maillard Reaction in Wine Barrel Toasting.

Chapter Thirteen, Part Four.
Dog stealing food.Not long after Kikunae Ikeda discovered umami, a French physician by the name of Louis Maillard (pronounced my-ARD) described the chemical reaction that takes place when amino acids combined with sugar are exposed to heat. This transformation, once known simply as browning, is now called the Maillard reaction. (It is rumored the original name, browning, was named after Maillard’s cook, Dorothea Brown.)¹

The Maillard reaction is what turns toasted bread a golden brown and creates the seared crust on protein rich foods like steak or chicken. I think my neighbor was grilling some protein rich food last night because I heard him say, “Hey Carter. Get your dog out of Maillard!”

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Can’t See The Forest For The Lees – Of Oak, Wine & Bacon.

Chapter Thirteen, Part Two.

“Oak is here and it will be with us for at least the remainder of the current generation—a generation that has been carefully taught that if a little oak is a good thing, a lumber factory is wonderful.” Dan Berger

2009 Chateau Margaux barrels copy

Wood barrels have been used by the wine trade for over two thousand years, but just over a century ago astute winemakers recognized the transformative effect that oak has on wine and they began to look at barrels as more than storage vessels. Over time, patient old-world vignerons learned that the species of oak, outdoor seasoning, the degree of toasting over fire and the time spent in barrel all bear heavily on how oak “flavors” wine. They learned that one type of oak may add spicy allspice and cinnamon nuances while another may add a smoky bacon flavor. I don’t know about you but I’d eat my left foot if it had a smoky bacon flavor.

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Let Me Make This Clear; Racking, Fining & Filtering.

Chapter Twelve, Part Seven.
The Racking Cane Is Lowered Into The BarrelOnce wine has fermented in a barrel, or been transferred into a barrel for aging from a fermentation vessel made of stainless steel, cement, or your bathtub, sediment will gradually form and settle to the bottom. If this thick, burgundy-hued sludge isn’t separated from the wine it could end up in your wine glass. Then it would only be a matter of time until Riedel introduced a line of spoons to go with their stemware.

To get rid of sediment and other unwanted byproducts, most wine is racked, fined and filtered before bottling.

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