Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

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Scott Fitzgerald
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Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#1 Post by Scott Fitzgerald » November 20th, 2018, 4:51 pm

Sitting here drinking a glass of 2013 Littorai Les Larmes Anderson Valley PN, and got to thinking about stems and whole cluster fermentation. From time to time, I find that stems bother me in a wine, even if I've had the same wine before and not really noticed it. Tonight, the stems in this wine are noticeable...positively in the sense that the aromatics are strong and interesting, but negatively in that I'm getting a bit of green and black tea coming through the fruit.

I started looking up articles on whole cluster fermentation and came across these interesting quotes both for and against the practice (attributed to The Pinot File - "Whole Cluster Fermentation: A Wild Card"):

For...
Ted Lemon, Winemaker, Littorai “The most basic chemical fact is that when you add stems to a wine, you increase the pH and decrease the TA compared to a completely de-stemmed wine. The implication of this is obvious. If you add a large percentage of whole clusters, you may, depending on region, vintage and ripeness at picking, have to acidify the resulting wine unless you are comfortable with very high pHs. That is the downside from a chemical perspective.”
“There is a difference between just adding stems back (which basically no one does) and doing a percent of whole cluster, because, the whole cluster brings a dimension of carbonic fermentation to the resulting wine. Besides the carbonic effect, there is also the sensory effect of the stems themselves. They can lend aromas which range from vegetal to menthol to wintergreen to cinnamon and spices. Stems can also have a dramatic affect on flavors. They can lend astringency and bitterness. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of stems is their effect on the tannic impression of a wine on the palate. Some people claim that stems make a wine more tannic. I would argue the other way. Due to the increase in pH and the presence of a partial carbonic maceration, whole cluster wines tend to be softer than de-stemmed wines (depending on the region, vintage and percentage of whole cluster).”

Against...
Wes Hagen, Winemaker, Clos Pepe Estate Vineyard and Estate Wines “Whole cluster fermentation is a Burgundian affectation that I have experimented with. While I agree that it adds some tannin and mid palate mouth feel to young wines, the broccoli stem/veggie/soy sauce character it seems to add to a young wine is not a flavor I enjoy in Pinot Noir. I spend considerable time with canopy management to get the veggie out of Clos Pepe fruit and not sure why I would want to put the flavor back in via stem inclusion. When asked why I don’t use stems in Clos Pepe wines, I usually give two answers: #1 I grow grapes to make wine, not stems, and #2 If you need better mouth feel out of Pinot Noir, structuring the wine with a little more acidity seems to be a better solution than letting the grapes get too ripe and flabby and then using stems to put a bit of bones back onto the flesh.”
“Stem inclusion does seem to integrate in a bottle-aged Pinot Noir, say 4 to 5 years down the line, just like oak, but at that point the tannins are mostly polymerized anyway, and the contribution to mouth feel is likely minimal. I believe taking Burgundian production techniques and applying them to California Pinot Noir is antithetical to developing our own regional identity - like bringing Hinduism to Salt Lake City. You may start with a few adherents, but eventually you will be talking to yourself.”

Curious to hear other opinions on this.
Last edited by Scott Fitzgerald on November 20th, 2018, 5:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Thoughts on stems...

#2 Post by John Morris » November 20th, 2018, 5:34 pm

I'm curious to hear other people's thoughts, too.

A couple of quick reactions. These guys are growing in rather different climates. I don't know Clos Pepe's wines, but they are in a rather different style that Lemon's, no?

Also, there's an extreme aversion to anything remotely green in California wines. So much effort has gone into purging cabernets of any olive or green pepper notes. Wes's comments seem in line with that. Lemon cut his teeth in Burgundy and the Rhone, and I think that's always shaped his approach and preferences.
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Re: Thoughts on stems...

#3 Post by Scott Fitzgerald » November 20th, 2018, 5:46 pm

John, in case you (or others) are interested, here's a link to the article I referenced, which has quotes from other winemakers:

http://www.princeofpinot.com/article/865/
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Re: Thoughts on stems...

#4 Post by Kevin Porter » November 20th, 2018, 5:50 pm

Thank god! I thought this was another thread on wine glasses.

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Re: Thoughts on stems...

#5 Post by Scott Fitzgerald » November 20th, 2018, 5:57 pm

Kevin Porter wrote:
November 20th, 2018, 5:50 pm
Thank god! I thought this was another thread on wine glasses.
Awesome! Updating the title now...
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#6 Post by larry schaffer » November 20th, 2018, 7:48 pm

Thanks for posting this - love the topic and the information that is often shared.

One thing to note - we really do not know everything that is 'added' during the whole cluster process. There is a lot of speculation as to what happens but we honestly do not have any particular scientific proof because no 2 ferments are identical.

The idea 'carbonic maceration' - like aromas and flavors may occur depending upon how aggressively you crush the fruit and how aggressive your punch downs are. Some winemakers choose to pump over whole cluster fermentations, leading to the majority of the clusters being uncrushed during the process.

Keep the conversation going - and ask away any questions you may have . . .

Cheers!
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#7 Post by A. So » November 20th, 2018, 7:59 pm

I've had quite a bit of trouble distinguishing stems/no stems in pinot (e.g. Fourrier destems but sometimes tastes green and stemmy to me). It was a subject that was brought up at dinner last night (mostly in the context of whether such a thing as "ripe stems" exists and whether it makes a difference if the stems are ripe or not). My proposal was to find good examples of pinots (Burgundy, but I suppose this could be extended to the new world as well) where we had solid technical information about stem inclusion and blind taste whether there were stems or not.
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Re: Thoughts on stems...

#8 Post by John Morris » November 20th, 2018, 8:16 pm

Kevin Porter wrote:
November 20th, 2018, 5:50 pm
Thank god! I thought this was another thread on wine glasses.
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#9 Post by Marcus Goodfellow » November 20th, 2018, 8:18 pm

A. So wrote:
November 20th, 2018, 7:59 pm
I've had quite a bit of trouble distinguishing stems/no stems in pinot (e.g. Fourrier destems but sometimes tastes green and stemmy to me). It was a subject that was brought up at dinner last night (mostly in the context of whether such a thing as "ripe stems" exists and whether it makes a difference if the stems are ripe or not). My proposal was to find good examples of pinots (Burgundy, but I suppose this could be extended to the new world as well) where we had solid technical information about stem inclusion and blind taste whether there were stems or not.
For Oregon, I would suggest:

Stems-Cristom, Goodfellow, Kelley Fox, and White Rose. I know both Cristom and Goodfellow(my wines) utilize stems every vintage. Stem “ripeness” is a complicated conversation that is both different for different regions and cellars. Stems lignify as the plant shuts down for winter. A more northerly region has a bigger shift in daylight to nightime hours as harvest approaches and often a significant shift downward in night time temps. The shift is important as a region with cool nights due to fog may retain natural acidity but not shift as the seasonal light change also changes. Then add in cellar choices-I don’t use any enzymes or cold soaks and, along with cool ferment temps, this helps me stay away from vegetal flavors in the wines. That said, it also drastically changes my fruit extraction...

Destemmed-Crowley(2014 is an exception), Westrey, J. Christopher, and Vincent(also I believe Belle Pente).
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#10 Post by John Morris » November 20th, 2018, 8:19 pm

A. So wrote:
November 20th, 2018, 7:59 pm
I've had quite a bit of trouble distinguishing stems/no stems in pinot (e.g. Fourrier destems but sometimes tastes green and stemmy to me). It was a subject that was brought up at dinner last night (mostly in the context of whether such a thing as "ripe stems" exists and whether it makes a difference if the stems are ripe or not). My proposal was to find good examples of pinots (Burgundy, but I suppose this could be extended to the new world as well) where we had solid technical information about stem inclusion and blind taste whether there were stems or not.
There's someone in a group of mine who is very good at identifying the wines with stems in blind tastings. He's right maybe 90% of the time. So it is possible. (I'm not good at it.)
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#11 Post by Robert.A.Jr. » November 20th, 2018, 9:13 pm

John Morris wrote:
November 20th, 2018, 8:19 pm
A. So wrote:
November 20th, 2018, 7:59 pm
I've had quite a bit of trouble distinguishing stems/no stems in pinot (e.g. Fourrier destems but sometimes tastes green and stemmy to me). It was a subject that was brought up at dinner last night (mostly in the context of whether such a thing as "ripe stems" exists and whether it makes a difference if the stems are ripe or not). My proposal was to find good examples of pinots (Burgundy, but I suppose this could be extended to the new world as well) where we had solid technical information about stem inclusion and blind taste whether there were stems or not.
There's someone in a group of mine who is very good at identifying the wines with stems in blind tastings. He's right maybe 90% of the time. So it is possible. (I'm not good at it.)
I think that I know who this might be! [snort.gif]

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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#12 Post by Marcus Goodfellow » November 20th, 2018, 9:25 pm

John Morris wrote:
November 20th, 2018, 8:19 pm
A. So wrote:
November 20th, 2018, 7:59 pm
I've had quite a bit of trouble distinguishing stems/no stems in pinot (e.g. Fourrier destems but sometimes tastes green and stemmy to me). It was a subject that was brought up at dinner last night (mostly in the context of whether such a thing as "ripe stems" exists and whether it makes a difference if the stems are ripe or not). My proposal was to find good examples of pinots (Burgundy, but I suppose this could be extended to the new world as well) where we had solid technical information about stem inclusion and blind taste whether there were stems or not.
There's someone in a group of mine who is very good at identifying the wines with stems in blind tastings. He's right maybe 90% of the time. So it is possible. (I'm not good at it.)

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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#13 Post by Marcus Goodfellow » November 20th, 2018, 9:29 pm

The inimitable David N, haven’t seen a post from him in quite a while.

I generally feel like I can taste the presence or absence of stems as well, but I enjoy wines made with stems about as much as David dislikes them...

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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#14 Post by Kelly Walker » November 20th, 2018, 9:35 pm

DRC does a lot of stem inclusion. They have been mildly successful.
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#15 Post by T. Melloni » November 20th, 2018, 9:37 pm

Robert.A.Jr. wrote:
November 20th, 2018, 9:13 pm
John Morris wrote:
November 20th, 2018, 8:19 pm
A. So wrote:
November 20th, 2018, 7:59 pm
I've had quite a bit of trouble distinguishing stems/no stems in pinot (e.g. Fourrier destems but sometimes tastes green and stemmy to me). It was a subject that was brought up at dinner last night (mostly in the context of whether such a thing as "ripe stems" exists and whether it makes a difference if the stems are ripe or not). My proposal was to find good examples of pinots (Burgundy, but I suppose this could be extended to the new world as well) where we had solid technical information about stem inclusion and blind taste whether there were stems or not.
There's someone in a group of mine who is very good at identifying the wines with stems in blind tastings. He's right maybe 90% of the time. So it is possible. (I'm not good at it.)
I think that I know who this might be! [snort.gif]

Mr. I love Texier.
I quickly thought of Mr. Z when reading the original post and, on particular, David's comments on Kutch Falstaff and Copain Kiser and stem inclusion.
While his tone, expressed in a direct and unabashed manner, was taken as harsh, I appreciate his point that, if stem inclusion is noticeable and prominent, then the wine is not balanced. I am simplifyng the premise, but there is an element with which I agree. With any particular wine, you might find the herbal, and crunchy element of stem inclusion enjoyable. (I understand some people also like green bean flavors in their wine.). Similarly, some enjoy a cherry cola note. Some like candied black fruits in their pinot. I think that if one element is so predominate, then the wine is not balanced. Still could be enjoyable. And still may be your preferred wine. And the various elements may come back into balance over time. If at any point one aspect sticks its head above the rest, then to me that is a detraction.
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Re: Thoughts on stems...

#16 Post by Rama Roberts » November 20th, 2018, 9:49 pm

John Morris wrote:
November 20th, 2018, 5:34 pm
These guys are growing in rather different climates.
That was my first reaction too. Adam Lee made Siduri wine from Clos Pepe as well as wines from the Sonoma coast- presumably close-ish to Littorai. IIRC he varied his stem inclusion dramatically depending on the vineyard (and vintage).

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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#17 Post by Jeremy C » November 20th, 2018, 9:53 pm

Well worth pointing out that DavidZ's ability to admirably point out stem inclusion shouldn't be separated from his distaste of stems. Not sure how this is relevant, but IMHO noteworthy. It just seems to me that it would be different if he were otherwise indifferent to stems but could similarly consistently point out the stem presence of any wine.
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#18 Post by Jeremy C » November 20th, 2018, 9:55 pm

Btw, I miss the guy here.
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#19 Post by Jim Anderson » November 20th, 2018, 10:07 pm

We have moved from some, of random-ish, stem inclusion to a much more methodical use of stems in our fermentation’s. This has occurred over the past 8 (2011-18) vintages.

We have the fortune of working with a large cross-section of northern Willamette Valley sites and have worked diligently at discovering what stem inclusion can/does/will bring to ferments.

There is no absolute answer is the answer. I am highly inclined to stem inclusion and believe our best sites and, particularly, sections within those sites are highly capable of turning stem inclusion fermentations into great wines. However, it is not always the answer. I usually think that stem inclusion will increase the complexity, uniqueness and the exposure of a site’s character. Most Oregon sites are inclined toward fruit forward aspects and they can benefit from stem inclusion to re-focus that natural energy in a way that brings out a greater array of site derived aromatics and flavors.

There are few wines that we produce (a large swath) that have no stem inclusion aspects to them. But we have great wines that are all de-stemmed as well. I will generally err on the side of putting stems in. The wines are more likely better off for it and rarely suffer from it.

We take every measure to make sure the stem inclusion is handled gently. This year 135 fermentations were all pigeaged and that has been the case for several vintages. It is labor intense and time consuming but it works. I think one could come through our cellar and barrel taste and tell that there was or was not stem inclusion but not based upon vegetal characteristics in the wines.

Largely our wines have significantly benefited by our increase use of stems over the years. Mostly our best wines have heavy use of stems. It’s not across the bird but it is close. I know and have seen the shortcomings and failings of stem inclusion and know it is not for every winery and site let along every consumer.
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#20 Post by Robert Grenley » November 20th, 2018, 11:36 pm

Anyone have a pretty good idea which Burgundy producers usually destem and which almost always do whole cluster and which may occupy the middle ground and may or may not add a variable amount?
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#21 Post by jwpinxten » November 21st, 2018, 2:27 am

Robert Grenley wrote:
November 20th, 2018, 11:36 pm
Anyone have a pretty good idea which Burgundy producers usually destem and which almost always do whole cluster and which may occupy the middle ground and may or may not add a variable amount?
I asked at Gouges last year, and surprisingly, they always destem and have always done so.
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#22 Post by Gerhard P. » November 21st, 2018, 6:34 am

There is a difference between "whole clusters" and "stem inclusion"!
Whole clusters mean the grapes are not destemmed AND almost not crushed, so the fermentation begins inside the berries and CO2 is kept inside for a certain time, leading to a certain foreward fruit expression and more CO2 in the wine (which also prohibits oxidation).

Stem inclusion means the grapes are not (or partially not) destemmed - or the stems are put back later (partially), the latter rarely practiced ...
but the grapes are crushed and the fermentation begins with the free running juice.

Seriously - I have had many fine wines with both (or all of) the methods above.
But I have also had wines that were "seriously stemmy" (= too much) - and on the other hand wines that were lacking bite and mouthfeel due to total destemming ...

Generally I´m leaning towards (partial) stem inclusion, but I admire Henri Jayer, too ... [wow.gif]
... and I also think there is (or should be) no formula for all regions, all grapes and all vintages ...

But I´m no winemaker ... so I can only rate the finished product ...
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Re: Thoughts on stems...

#23 Post by Gray G » November 21st, 2018, 6:41 am

Scott Fitzgerald wrote:
November 20th, 2018, 5:57 pm
Kevin Porter wrote:
November 20th, 2018, 5:50 pm
Thank god! I thought this was another thread on wine glasses.
Awesome! Updating the title now...
LOL
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#24 Post by Todd Hamina » November 21st, 2018, 6:47 am

Wines can be green without using any whole cluster. I feel when folks do a poor job making wines with whole cluster that grave mistakes were made whether at the pick or at when to press off.
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#25 Post by Gray G » November 21st, 2018, 7:01 am

a couple of great winemakers are all in on whole clusters as part of their repertoire in Southern California, Binns and Krankl

cheers

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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#26 Post by Brandon J. » November 21st, 2018, 8:15 am

That's interesting about stems increasing the pH, I've not heard that.

For Oregon, in cooler vintages like '07, '10 and '11 it seemed winemakers were using LESS stems on higher acid wines but I'm assuming that's more about the stem itself being ripe enough?

I'm generally very partial to stem inclusion and accept the fact that even the best wines/producers will have a few wines that are green/bitter. The few vintages it happens are overshadowed by absolutely gorgeous wines.

Another producer who seems to have stems dialed in perfectly is Johan.
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#27 Post by larry schaffer » November 21st, 2018, 8:28 am

The idea that stems increase the pH is certainly 'theoretically' correct, but does not mean it happens in each and every situation. Like everything else wine-related, I would say that it depends on a number of factors and therefore should be looked upon as 'truth'.

The real 'challenge' here is that stems do not always 'add' the same flavors or aromas - again, it's just not that simple.

I am all in with stem inclusion, and have been doing all or my reds 100% since 2014, with many of my 2013s also 100%. I stomp the heck out of my grapes when they arrive at the winery - in each 1/2 ton picking bin for about 10 minutes - and then punch down from there. Depending upon the variety, some clusters will make it all the way through fermentation, but many less than one might expect. I am not trying to make 'carbonic-like' wines but instead trying to integrate those stems so as to build structure and add another layer of complexity aromatically. Some varieties will show a more distinct additional character from the stems - my 100% carignane, for instance, is only in oak for 10 months and tends to show more of it them my grenaches, which see about 2.5 years in older oak.

It may be easier to compare 'apple and apples' when just looking at pinot, but even then, you need to take into account oak treatment, elevate, fermentation temperatures, and so many other factors . . .

Cheers.
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#28 Post by larry schaffer » November 21st, 2018, 8:29 am

Gray G wrote:
November 21st, 2018, 7:01 am
a couple of great winemakers are all in on whole clusters as part of their repertoire in Southern California, Binns and Krankl

cheers

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pileon
Any idea of the percentages that they use - and how this may have changed over time? It was my impression that both did small percentages but not large ones, but I could be wrong.

Cheers.
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#29 Post by Adam Lee » November 21st, 2018, 8:30 am

I've used stems in some portion since the very first Siduri vintage (1994) -- but at times was pretty cautious about it. On Clos Pepe specifically (since that was part of the discussion), I always used a lot on the Pommard section but less on the 115 (the Pommard seemed to take longer to ripen and thus hung longer and seemed to get more ripe stems). -- Right now with my new Clarice Pinot Noir I am doing a good bit of whole cluster (54-58% in the 2017s, more like 83% in the 2018s -- longer cooler growing season). In other words, I am a fan, but try and adjust it when necessary based on the vintage, section, etc.

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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#30 Post by Adam Lee » November 21st, 2018, 8:33 am

larry schaffer wrote:
November 21st, 2018, 8:28 am
The idea that stems increase the pH is certainly 'theoretically' correct, but does not mean it happens in each and every situation. Like everything else wine-related, I would say that it depends on a number of factors and therefore should be looked upon as 'truth'.

Larry,

That's interesting. When I've done side by sides (pretty common -- I go into a tank with some % of stems, but if I have extra I go into bins and destem that, I can't think of a time where I haven't seen an increase in pH with the stem retention. When doesn't it happen and what leads to that?

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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#31 Post by larry schaffer » November 21st, 2018, 8:45 am

Adam,

What I've found is that the pH rise is negligible in some cases, more pronounced in others, and non-existent in others. I 'base' this on the fact that I always see a pH increase from the moment that the grapes arrive until primary fermentation is complete. I run numbers when the grapes arrive, after a few days of cold soak, and then after the wines have been barreled down. I'm taking out the variability of secondary fermentation by doing this for the most part.

This is not as 'scientific' as I'd like to be, and I understand that, but the feeling that there is always a huge pH increase leads many to believe that these wines will be 'flabby' or lacking 'zing' as I just want to counter that. Does that make sense?

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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#32 Post by Adam Lee » November 21st, 2018, 8:54 am

I've just never not (double negative) seen a difference in side by sides (which, as I said, happen just about every year). I get where you are coming from with the perception -- but I think that the tannin addition, etc. more than compensates for any higher pH.

Thanks,

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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#33 Post by Gray G » November 21st, 2018, 9:57 am

larry schaffer wrote:
November 21st, 2018, 8:29 am
Gray G wrote:
November 21st, 2018, 7:01 am
a couple of great winemakers are all in on whole clusters as part of their repertoire in Southern California, Binns and Krankl

cheers

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pileon
Any idea of the percentages that they use - and how this may have changed over time? It was my impression that both did small percentages but not large ones, but I could be wrong.

Cheers.
Larry,

I think it is creative artwork to the best winemakers, and from what I've read by reviewers it varies each and every year and wine.

So many factors to consider, and yet it is always what is in the bottle that counts.

Jedi Masters or Gungalagunga come to mind

Personally, I'd give them a call.

Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving
so much time, so little wine, Albanista G r i e v e

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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#34 Post by GregT » November 21st, 2018, 6:46 pm

I thought stems lower alcohol, decrease acidity, increase pH, add tannins, add astringency, reduce anthocyanins, and perhaps add a spicy character.

But doesn't it really depend a lot on the grape variety, the maturity of the grapes and therefore the stems, the maceration times, crush practices as well as other practices, etc?

I used to think I could tell what had stems and what didn't. I don't drink a lot of Pinot Noir and relied mostly on examples with Syrah, as well as other grapes. Then I found out that a lot of what I thought was from stems was really from the skins. That made me realize I was just stupid and clueless, and with that clarity, my life became much more satisfactory.
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#35 Post by Eric Lundblad » November 21st, 2018, 11:29 pm

One thing I've wondered about stem inclusion and pH, is when does the stem inclusion raise the pH? That seems like a dumb question to ask (and might be).

One thing that happens with fermentation, i.e. alcohol, is Tartrates (that were completely soluble in juice) can become insoluble once it starts becoming wine because of the alcohol (i.e. tartarates are more soluble in juice, i.e. a water based solution, and less soluble in an alcoholic solution...which is why tartrates, aka 'wine diamonds' exists). The fascinating/odd thing is tartrates that drop out of a medium to low pH wine will push the pH lower (more acidic)...and the tartrates that drop out of wine in a high pH solution will push the pH higher (less acidic).

So, if stems are slow to cause an increase in the pH of a wine, and if the tartrates are fast to precipitate out of the wine (due to the alcohol)...then a medium-low pH wine would get a larger enough pH drop (the pH drop due to the tartrates is higher, because the stems hasn't raised the pH yet)...and the difference might be enough to compensate (& maybe erase) the effect of stems increasing the pH.

Sorry, this is still more convoluted than it should be, but there's a legitimate idea here so I'm posting anyways. Blame Jim Cowan's AV Pinot I had with dinner...I am :) (which had whole cluster btw).
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#36 Post by larry schaffer » November 22nd, 2018, 6:26 am

Suffice it to say that . . . It's complicated.
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#37 Post by Gray G » November 22nd, 2018, 9:51 am



experimentation is key, always learning
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#38 Post by Marcus Goodfellow » November 22nd, 2018, 1:34 pm

Eric Lundblad wrote:
November 21st, 2018, 11:29 pm
One thing I've wondered about stem inclusion and pH, is when does the stem inclusion raise the pH? That seems like a dumb question to ask (and might be).

One thing that happens with fermentation, i.e. alcohol, is Tartrates (that were completely soluble in juice) can become insoluble once it starts becoming wine because of the alcohol (i.e. tartarates are more soluble in juice, i.e. a water based solution, and less soluble in an alcoholic solution...which is why tartrates, aka 'wine diamonds' exists). The fascinating/odd thing is tartrates that drop out of a medium to low pH wine will push the pH lower (more acidic)...and the tartrates that drop out of wine in a high pH solution will push the pH higher (less acidic).

So, if stems are slow to cause an increase in the pH of a wine, and if the tartrates are fast to precipitate out of the wine (due to the alcohol)...then a medium-low pH wine would get a larger enough pH drop (the pH drop due to the tartrates is higher, because the stems hasn't raised the pH yet)...and the difference might be enough to compensate (& maybe erase) the effect of stems increasing the pH.

Sorry, this is still more convoluted than it should be, but there's a legitimate idea here so I'm posting anyways. Blame Jim Cowan's AV Pinot I had with dinner...I am :) (which had whole cluster btw).
Eric, in my experience the shifts are quite rapid. Sinificant increase in pH happens in 24 hours.

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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#39 Post by Paul Gordon » November 23rd, 2018, 8:17 am

Like Marcus, I observe the pH shift early during the first couple days of cold soak.
For us, though we see a +0.1-2pH shift resulting from the stem inclusion, the TA does not move. I have no idea how that works. The 2013 Alturas, the first year we started using whole-cluster, nudges 4.0pH but a TA well north of 6g/L. No one has ever described that wine as low acid.
With our 100% whole-cluster Syrah there is a definite carbonic character which is especially noticeable straight after bottling. It has receded/balanced out after a year+ in bottle. That character makes the wine a little fun to drink early.
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#40 Post by John Morris » November 23rd, 2018, 9:16 am

Great discussion. Thanks to all you winemakers for your input!
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#41 Post by Eric Lundblad » November 23rd, 2018, 10:30 am

I agree...great discussion, all of it.

I suppose it makes sense the pH would rise (due to potassium) early...I was thinking that, possibly, alcohol would be required to extract sufficient stuff from the stems (i.e. late in the process), as it does with seeds. Too bad...I like my version better :). Anyways, thanks for the excellent observations!
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#42 Post by Marcus Goodfellow » November 24th, 2018, 11:54 pm

T. Melloni wrote:
November 20th, 2018, 9:37 pm


I quickly thought of Mr. Z when reading the original post and, on particular, David's comments on Kutch Falstaff and Copain Kiser and stem inclusion.
While his tone, expressed in a direct and unabashed manner, was taken as harsh, I appreciate his point that, if stem inclusion is noticeable and prominent, then the wine is not balanced. I am simplifyng the premise, but there is an element with which I agree. With any particular wine, you might find the herbal, and crunchy element of stem inclusion enjoyable. (I understand some people also like green bean flavors in their wine.). Similarly, some enjoy a cherry cola note. Some like candied black fruits in their pinot. I think that if one element is so predominate, then the wine is not balanced. Still could be enjoyable. And still may be your preferred wine. And the various elements may come back into balance over time. If at any point one aspect sticks its head above the rest, then to me that is a detraction.
I appreciate that you use the words “then to me” in the last sentence. I feel differently. To me, if there is a point, any point, where a wine comes into harmony and produces an experience that is superlative, even if only at that one point, then that wine is worthy of my taking time to learn how to gauge when that experience may be obtained. DRC is a perfect example.

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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#43 Post by Robert.A.Jr. » November 25th, 2018, 3:44 am

GregT wrote:
November 21st, 2018, 6:46 pm

That made me realize I was just stupid and clueless, and with that clarity, my life became much more satisfactory.
That is worthy of a signature line. I may steal it, assuming nobody else has already! ;)

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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#44 Post by H Wallace Jr » November 25th, 2018, 6:15 am

For all of our Mourvèdre, we've been 100% whole cluster 100% of the time. Anyone not doing that is just wrong...... ;)
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#45 Post by Ian Brand » November 26th, 2018, 10:10 am

California winemaking is very dynamic, and while that is generally positive, there can be a pretty dramatic echo chamber effect in particular hot spots. We're watching that happen in particular portions of the Sonoma community now vis-a-vis stems.
Our experience:
Grenache needs them.
Syrah and Mourvedre like them.
Pinot is site specific.
Cab Franc can benefit from a little bit.
There are better ways to make Cab Sauv.
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#46 Post by Howard Cooper » November 26th, 2018, 10:49 am

I kind of like it when different winemakers are making different decisions on issues like this.

1. It indicates people are thinking and responding to the needs of their grapes and their vineyards and not just making wines based on a formula.
2. The market will have different types of wines that taste different and we can all choose what we like better. Wine should not be Coca Cola.

Thanks (esp. to the winemakers) for an interesting and honest discussion.
Howard

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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#47 Post by Jörgen Lindström Carlvik » November 27th, 2018, 5:16 am

This is a well written thing on the subject by Andrew Jefford !

There were for sure some news here for me anyway; https://www.decanter.com/wine-news/opin ... on-332676/
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#48 Post by Markus S » November 27th, 2018, 5:29 am

Stems are our friends
When we add them a lot
Except when they add flavors
That are friendly or not
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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#49 Post by Mark Cochard » November 27th, 2018, 10:46 am

I posted this link in the last discussion of whole cluster.
Winemakers interviewed include Jeremy Seysses, Taras Ochota, Pax Mahle and Mathieu Lapierre
https://www.guildsomm.com/public_conten ... -interview

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Re: Thoughts on stems / whole cluster...

#50 Post by Kurt B e i t l e r » November 30th, 2018, 12:59 pm

Greetings Berserkers

With regard to stem-derived tannin, it's my opinion that tannin can vary as much as flavor or aroma in wine.

Fruits range from cranberry to dried prune and similarly, tannin can run a spectrum from coarse to crisp, paste or velvet. Fine wines might have elements of all and express beauty by their unique (hopeful) synergy of pieces. To measure tannin by mere ‘quantity’ might be misguided.

For some years we made a Pinot Noir from a low-yielding/ small-berry vineyard that, when fully de-stemmed, gave abundant tannin [depth] yet left a ‘monolithic’ impression on the palate. In 2013 we trialed 30% WC with this fruit and discovered profound textural breadth and pleasant herbal complement. I credit the tannin variety in those stems for the wine’s heightened dimension and interest. It was a great lesson and has influenced our fermentations since.

All things wine are of course subjective, and I wouldn’t project my experience on others’. Grape variety, ripeness, terroir, tannin source (skins, seeds, stems, lees, cooperage?), maceration, etc. all have special influence and are what make our world of wine so fascinating. There’s a Shiraz for every Pete [cheers.gif]
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