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In barrel wine tasting

Cata de vino tinto Montecillo

Merche’s Diary – Day 5

Work here never ends! Of course, the harvest has given us a lot to do this year. Well, as it always does! But you understand that the wine from the recently harvested grapes is not the only one that we have here, right? The wine from last year’s vintage is in barrels now, and the wine from previous years may be completing its ageing in oak, or may already be rounding itself off in bottle… And I need to keep a close eye on each of the vintages at their particular stage of development, observing how they evolve and making decisions constantly.
Today I went along a section of barrels that contain the 2015 vintage to check how they are evolving. We need to know if the oak is influencing them correctly and the ageing process is progressing as it should. To do so it is vital to check the barrel levels, as, being new, they always produce more losses, and we have to fill them up to the right level. Although I know that wine is not an animal, in Bodegas Montecillo, sometimes we find wines that enter the barrel like fighting bulls in a pen. They have huge potential, but they need to be tamed to extract the elegance and nobility that they hold inside.
Cata de vino tinto Montecillo
This “taming” takes place in oak barrels, which, as I have commented already, also add their own tannins to the wine. The barrels are responsible for adding enriching notes to the taste profile: vanilla, cocoa, coffee, eucalyptus… The wine, in contact with the barrel, acquires all the properties that the wood contains. But, take care, these nuances do not just occur spontaneously or at whim: they depend on the demanding processes of drying and toasting of the wood, which, from the moment it is cut, undergoes a complex series of treatments to harness the natural elements that will help us in the ageing process.  
The natural drying in the open air, which is guaranteed to take place for at least 24 months, is of great importance, as if this did not occur, the wood would be green and give very unpleasant compounds to the wine.  As you will see, it is absolutely fundamental to have a close relationship with the cooper and his good work.
On the other hand, the toasting is also decisive.  For example, in the case of American oak, a light or delicate toasting preserves lots of coconut aromas, a medium toast will remove coconut and increase the vanilla component, with medium-plus we lose all the coconut, but gain intense vanilla and roasted coffee and toast notes start to be added; finally, with a high toast, the toasted and roasted coffee notes predominate.  

This red wine from the 2015 vintage is in a batch of French oak barrels with medium-plus toast, and we have to taste it to know if the wood is overpowering the wine, which would give it an excess of tannins, or if, on the contrary, the wine is still dominant.  Yes, you did hear me correctly, we carry out a tasting similar to what we do with a finished wine, as we also want to assess its aromatic and flavour profile.
The first thing is the visual check. Once we take this wine out of the barrel and serve it in a glass, we see that it maintains its great depth of colour, as it was a wine with a lot of colouring material (one trick is to hold the stem of the glass with your fingers and try to see your fingers through the widest part of the glass), in this case I can hardly see my fingers.  But we should look above all at the rim, which still has bluish tones that demonstrate its youth and health, if it were not this colour, it would mean that the wine is oxidised and that there is a problem with its ageing.  To do so, we tilt the glass over a white background and look at the rim, the part that is touching the glass.  
Merche haciendo la cata del vino tinto Montecillo
Next, we check the nose, to do so, before swirling the glass (with a still glass), we should sniff first to check the intensity (which in this case is very high!), before moving the glass to release the aromas and aerate the contents.  This will show us how clean the nose is, here, we are looking above all for defects.  We are very demanding at this stage; there must not be any discordant notes! After all this we can feel a little more relaxed, as with the flavours of the wine itself and wood mixing with the fruit for the first time, we can concentrate on looking at its quality and virtues… all very pleasurable.
Lastly, comes the tasting part, checking the effect of the wine on the palate. In this case, I can see that the wine is still over-dominant, so it needs more ageing time for the oak to provide a greater contribution. I’m noting down all these checks that I’m carrying out in my office, while I write in my diary. Because, of course, I have lots of paperwork too.  And I must get on with it, if I want to finish on time.
See you next time!


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