Thursday, October 29, 2015

Bodegas Paniza

Bodegas Paniza is a cooperative venture of three hundred grape growers in northeast/central Spain made possible by new world capital investment in proven European terroir.  Here's the story...

 In 1932 the Spanish government granted the wine production area, Carinena, one of its first DO's (Denominacion de Origen) or guarantee of production quality in line with historical standards. Ancient history tells us that the Roman Empire founded the city of Carae halfway between Barcelona and Madrid in the province of Zaragoza in 50 BC.  The region had concentrated on mead production since at least the third century BC but by the Middle Ages Roman Catholic monks had done what they always do and wine grape viticulture became the norm.  By the 16th century half of all arable land in Carinena was in vines.

Carinena has a number of advantages that lend itself to grape production.  The central Aragon region is actually home to Campo de Borja and Calatayud along with Carinena with all three grape venues lying in the high elevation Ebro River valley.  This venue provides rocky clay and slate soils and strong winds to keep pests off the vines.  Its continental climate of hot summers and cold winters along with the always desirable diurnal effect of hot days and cold nights completes the picture for optimal vineyard production. Terroir like this creates intense flavors in wine grapes.

Carinena is the home of the Carignan grape, known locally as Mazuelo.  Traditionally Spaniards enjoy Carignan as a strong and robust, high alcohol red and that is still the kind of wine enjoyed by the locals.  Today however, Carignan is one of the most widely planted, prolific red grapes worldwide and it fills a much needed slot in red blends everywhere.  Knowing that, along with the quality of Grenache and Tempranillo grown there, the new world capital investment mentioned above  makes a lot of sense.

By 1990 a more mature wine appreciation had taken hold in America and the popular palate appreciated fresher and lighter, more balanced and elegant red wines.  Spain couldn't have been a better fit for the needs of American consumers if modern wine making and mass production could be adapted to old world ways.  Bodegas Paniza demonstrates just how successful such a merger can be.

Using grapes from vines up to a hundred years old, the co-op night harvests its grapes, cold stabilizes its juice, and then uses malolactic fermentation and either stainless steel or French/American oak barrel aging to create the modern international wine styles of today.  Fifteen million kilos of grapes are grown annually with at least fifteen million liters of wine being cellared on-site at any given time.  The modern Paniza winery produces thirteen million bottles of wine a year in a bottling line that generates 8,000 per hour.  Ninety-five percent of the production of Bodegas Paniza is exported to forty different countries.

The 2013 Garnacha Vinas Viejas de Sinello is our $10 Paniza example stacked currently in the store.  Stop in today to learn just how good everyday wine can be.

Tommy Basham joins us here this afternoon, Thursday the 29th 5:30-6:30, with a tasting of Lincourt Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir and Chardonnay along with Uppercut Napa Cabernet Sauvignon and Baron Fini Trentino Merlot.  We ask for ten dollars to taste which is applicable to a six bottle purchase of Tommy's wines.

Monday, October 5, 2015

SPME GC-MS and Steam Distillation

Lettie Teague gives us our jumping off point again in a Wall Street Journal article dated September 12-13, 2015.  Her article was about cork, both natural and synthetic, along with the other modern alternative bottle closures.  The well-known problem with cork (since 1980) is TCA or 2,4,6-trichloroanisole, the musty/moldy off-odor affecting 6% of all wines with natural corks.  In her article Teagues reports that the cork industry has spent more than two hundred million dollars in the last twelve years improving the cork-making process in order to remedy the TCA problem.

In the Teague article what caught my eye was the concept of "steam distillation" as a treatment for TCA in cork.  On September 15th of '12 we wrote here about Flash Detente which is modern winery technology which flash steams grapes in order to reduce methoxypyrazine, the vegetal odor and taste in certain wines.  Using the water in the juice of the grapes themselves in a vacuum chamber, the machine flash steams the berries to 160 degrees expelling the methoxypyrazine and other contaminants in the process.

In the steam distillation process, temperature sensitive aromatic compounds are removed from organic material.  Cork, of course, is dry material so its "juice" couldn't be used like grapes in Detente but the question remains, could steam distillation be a corollary to Flash Detente applied to cork treatment?

SPME GC-MS stands for solid-phase microextraction for gas chromatography-mass spectometry. Whereas cork used to be cleansed with a chlorine bath, a treatment which is now believed to increase TCA, SPME GC-MS is a high tech wash that causes impurities to exit the cork and adhere to attractant material in the treatment.  It draws TCA and other impurities away from the cork and to the treated material in the bath.

Advocates for SPME GC-MS and Steam Distillation believe TCA and other contaminants are reduced by 80%.  Other treatments in use include supercritical carbon dioxide, microwave radiation, ozone treatment, and hydrogen peroxide washes, all of which will  probably never be taken up here in the V&C blog.

Cork is still the closure of choice for the vast majority of winemakers around the world as it has been since the sixth century BC.  It is also "green", releasing a quarter of the carbon dioxide in its production that screw cap production does.  Cork also supports working families in a half dozen countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa.  It is also frankly an everyday cultural touchstone for us in this industry so bully for the cork industry for tackling TCA!

This Thursday, October 8th between 5 and 7pm, Dmitry Paladino joins us with a tasting of fine wines from Argentina, California, Spain, and Italy.  Dmitry brings an extensive wine knowledge packed into his ten year career to our tasting table so please join us for the event.  We ask for a ten dollar donation which is applicable to a fifty dollar purchase.