The Mountain Times

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Winemaking requires patience and vision

Making wine is a little like predicting the future. It takes years for the vines to mature and bear fruit after planting. And once the wine is made and the vintage completed, that's it! Whatever the harvest, however many bottles, whatever happens, there is no making more, and there is no re-doing it. If demand exceeds production, little can be done to satisfy those looking for more. If production exceeds demand, the winery has trouble selling its wine, looses necessary revenue, and may have to lower prices starting a downward spiral that may ultimately dooms it's reputation.

For the winemaker once the juice is in the barrel, the quantity is concluded, the quality is predetermined by choice of grape and weather conditions throughout the year. It's more like steering a cruise ship. It takes time to change direction.

The wine business is a slow moving process. It takes years for the vines to mature and generate the grapes expressing the character of the location and soil (what the French call 'terroir'). It takes another year or two to actually make the wine from harvesting to crushing, fermentation, ageing in oak barrels, bottling and ageing again before releasing the wine to the marketplace.

Vermont's winemakers feeling the pinch of their own success right now, as yields are relatively slow and demand has overtaken production. Many turn to buying grapes from out of state, and are scolded for not making wine exclusively from Vermont-grown grapes. There is talk about legislation to define the difference between Vermont-made wine and Vermont-grown grapes.

The winery had to predict all this years ago when planning the vineyard, purchasing the equipment, and making those immense investments to get the winery off the ground.

Just to start a little vineyard, you'll need about $7,500 to plant an acre with grapevines. Then you'll need to sit back and wait some five years, tending the young plants and hoping Mother Nature plays no tricks.

If all goes well, you might see enough fruit to make about 3,000 bottles of wines from that acre. Figuring in all the cost of producing wine, maybe you'll see a couple of bucks profit, but it takes years to get there.

If you pay attention to the vintage of the wine you purchase, you will notice that most red wines will be a few years old, the vintages for now commonly range from 2008 to 2010. If you take Pinot Noir for example, most that is available now was made in 2008 or 2009, which is actually a little too young for most, but since the wine world got turned sideways and Pinot Noir became all the rage, there is too much demand to wait. Older vintages are hard to find these days. Pinot Noir is actually a very low yielding, finicky' grape that only grows in special places and is, thus, rather limited to begin with. It takes a lot of effort these days to find a matured, good quality Pinot Noir. And by the time the grape growers can catch up, the demand might have changed direction again.

If you're looking for a nicely aged wine, look for a Merlot these days. Since the grape fell out of favor after being all the rage for years, sales have plummeted, and the wine has been ageing nicely on the shelves of wine stores and wineries alike. For some good deals buck the trend and try a Merlot!

Tagged: Wine Experiments, Gerd Hirschmann, wine