Red Wine Processing:
Cabernet   large product photo

The maxim good wine mostly makes itself applies better to white wine than red. The inherent complexity of red wines makes the winemaker's job an engineering as well as a sensory challenge. Temperature of the must during primary fermentation must be carefully regulated to prevent the destruction by heat of the long organoleptic compounds that infiltrate from the skins.

The factors of tannin and acidity are often more difficult to regulate than temperature and the timing of first racking off the must is therefore critical to prevent too much tannin from infiltrating the wine making it harsh; too little tannin and the wine will lack body and aging capability.

Acidity is generally regulated by introducing malolactic bacteria which converts the brighter malic acid into the more muted lactic acid. Too much tannin, too much acid or too much oak all will mask the more subtle flavors in the finished wine.

Demystifying Red Wine

Any "expert" that tastes a one year old Cab and starts waxing poetical about "apple, pear and melon" and traces of burnt rubber is just full of crap. The whole secret is that the wine requires time to 'unfold' and if you are lucky these flavors will start appearing in a good red wine in the second year. In a young wine they are present but indistinguishable, like a fast moving freight train, they pass by too quickly to register on any but the most sensitive palate. The real difference between the 'amateur' and the 'professional' is mostly knowing in what wines to look for complexity and which not. It is similar to a good marriage where it all depends on knowing when you should pay attention and when not.

Not to take away all the mystery, somehow it seems that red wine reflects the character of the winemaker than whites. Who knew!