The day after
Being gathered at the table and enjoying a glass of wine was already in the past a moment that needed to be photographed and thus preserved in our memories.
... Winemakers are farmers – in the best possible meaning of the word, to be sure. Even more, they are extraordinary farmers as their trade requires an above-average degree of education (much more than is necessary for growing potatoes, for example), skills which should also exceed the average and a family tradition of several decades or even centuries. And why farmers? Because wine is technically and legally specified as an agricultural food product obtained by complete or partial alcoholic fermentation of pomace or must that was produced from noble grapes of the Vitis vinifera. If the wine is to be of high quality, knowledge, love and art all have to be included in its production.
Yet this is a product intended to be sold on market, to provide payment for the winemaker's effort and make profit. The category it belongs to is a purely economic one, a market category, yet one which people like. Wine as a drink, however, is respected because it is a bringer of health and because it was cherished already in biblical times; furthermore, it possesses a quality of raising doubts in someone who has ´crossed the line´, as we like to say.
If we want to drink wine, we buy it and pay for it. Often at a price higher than acceptable, especially in the case of Slovene products. But babbling about ´callous hands and hardworking producers´
, including poetic metaphors that have been used so often they are already worn to the bone is not a decent thing to do when you take into account farmers who struggle along by growing beet or cereals. Yet if you want to be realistic, you have to admit that everyone is milking subventions from Brussels from the government. The name ´osmica´
dates back to the times of Austro-Hungarian Monarchy when Maria Theresa granted farmers and winemakers an annual 8-day right to sell the wine that had been left from the previous year without paying any taxes; in time, it became an event where both home-made wine and food were sold. Nowadays the name stands for the sale of bulk wine of designated origin and in the last years, a rule which allows the wine cellars to organize a 10-day ´osmica´ twice a year provided the food and drink is home-made has become commonly accepted.
´Osmica´ Vidmar - The annual ´Osmica´ (Slovene name for number 8) event took place on the Vidmar farm as well. People in the photo starting from the left: uncle Boris, Armando, nono (grandpa) Boris and friend Drago at the ´counter´, 1995.
While leaning on an oak barrel, called barrique, I was giving a lecture on wine, including wine etiquette, the details of matching food with wine etc. In course of years, I have become much more familiar with the art of giving lectures. I was looking into the eyes of the listeners. And something about them made me ask, "How is wine produced?"
My instinct had been right. Silence, which became even deeper when I asked them another question about red wine.
An oak barrel, named barrique
, measures 95 centimetres in height and has a diameter of maximum 70 centimetres. It weighs 45 kilograms and has a capacity of 225 litres, while its cost ranges from about 500 to 600 euros. It can serve as a convenient table at wine tastings or as an item of decoration in wine cellars or rooms designed for such occasions. This was just the type of barrel I was leaning on when I posed the question why a wine can be red or white, which I then answered myself. The colour is hidden in the skin of a grape berry, which contains a concentration of anthocyans.
Nona (grandma) Cvetka - Where wine is drunk, a slice of home-made ´salamino´ along with some fresh baked bread must be had as well; the old wine cellar, 1988.
The word is of Greek origin and consists of two parts: ´anthos´
, which is ´flower´
, and ´kyanos´
, which means ´blue´
. The pigment in the grape skin is determined by the chemical composition and pH-value of the skin – it can be red, violet etc. When drinking red wine, the pigment turns blue in the mouth cavity due to its basic environment, which also explains the blue tongue. For the production of high-quality wine, the harvest must take place in dry weather as rainwater reduces the grape quality drastically. The production of red wine then follows the procedure about to be described, which seems most natural to winegrowers, yet becomes an alchemical secret in the eyes of city drinkers.
First, the grape berries are destemmed, which means that the berries are mechanically separated from the stems
Dragica - When we organize ´osmica´, there is always a lot of work to be done – the whole family is busy as well as numerous diligent helpers who lend a hand in the preparation of food and serving of guests.
. If the stems were pressed as well, the wine would contain a lot of sour, tannic and other unwanted or (for our taste) unpleasant ingredients. After that, the grape berries are disfigured in a machine, which doesn't press them and doesn't leave them whole. The berries – or more precisely, the skin of the berries – only burst. In the past we used to say that the grapes are crushed.
Cue: a mill for crushing grapes. Of course, a lot of juice (must) is extracted as well. If we wanted to produce white wine, we would press this blend of grape berries and must that is called pomace. In the past, as much pressure as possible was applied to press the grapes but nowadays the amount of pressure is strictly regulated. The handle of the press was controlled manually previously, which resulted in very high pressure levels, whereas today pneumatic presses operate at the lowest pressure level possible, which is approximately two bars. However, if you were in a hurry, you would get white must and consequently white wine even out of red grapes. However, we want to produce red wine. In that case, the pomace won't ferment in a closed container (a barrel or steel container called simply inox – a synonym for stainless steel) but in an open one under strictly controlled temperature conditions.
The skin of the grape determines the colour
, taste and feel the wine leaves in our mouth, which is why the must ferments together with the skins and seeds of the berries. At the beginning, when there is yet no alcohol in the mixture, mostly colour as well as tannins and other substances are eluted from the berry skins. In colder regions, concentrated must is added (in order to increase the quantity of sugar). Alcohol fermentation takes place at 25-30 degreees Celsius; the temperature is controlled carefully. Certainly, for light-bodied red wines lower temperatures are chosen. Australian invention: fermentation takes place in closed steel tanks; thus too high tannin levels are prevented (rough, raspy feel in the mouth). Only when wines of the most exquisite quality are produced, natural yeast flora is used for the fermentation to take place, whereas otherwise industrially prepared yeast are applied at this stage of the process. Yeast fungi are living creatures, which convert sugar into alcohol, while heat and carbon dioxide are also released as byproducts (the latter can prove lethal in larger wine cellars). As the level of the grape and must mixture (pomace) is constantly rising during fermentation, it has to be stirred continuously – we call this ´the sinking of the hat´
because the bloated surface of the mixture resembles a hat. It is common for red wines to be left in contact with berry skins not only for a week but even for a whole month if high quality wines are produced. After that, the whole content is pressed and left to stand. Maloactic fermentation – or deacidiation as we call it – is also initiated to convert the unpleasant maltic acid in a grape into softer-tasting lactic acid. In red wine production, as opposed to white wines, all the wines mature in oak barrels: already used or new ones, bigger (600 to 3000 litres) or of standard size (225 litres).
Wine shop opening in Domžale - Nono Boris at the festive opening of the Domžale wine shop.
On the other hand, white wines of rare grape varieties or vintages stand in barrels until they are bottled. A new method that is being applied, even though known for milleniums, is to let wine mature in amphoras (clay vessels), which are then buried into sand as they are not very stable. Afterwards, the wine is bottled, where it, as we say, continues to mature. Bordeaux wines are left to stand in the barrel for one year and in the bottle for another year, whicy is why in the region of Burgundy, the red wines are not put on market until after two years have passed from the harvest. Other details, such as how the wine is clarified with special agents, how the method of cold stabilization is applied in order to remove tartrate, how the wine may or may not be filtered and left to clarify on its own, how it is kept on the lees and so on and so forth are all details which are not necessary for a city drinker to be familiar with.
On the other hand, white wines of rare grape varieties or vintages stand in barrels until they are bottled. A new method that is being applied, even though known for milleniums, is to let wine mature in amphoras (clay vessels), which are then buried into sand as they are not very stable. Afterwards, the wine is bottled, where it, as we say, continues to mature.
Bordeaux wines are left to stand in the barrel for one year and in the bottle for another year, whicy is why in the region of Burgundy, the red wines are not put on market until after two years have passed from the harvest. Other details, such as how the wine is clarified with special agents, how the method of cold stabilization is applied in order to remove tartrate, how the wine may or may not be filtered and left to clarify on its own, how it is kept on the lees and so on and so forth are all details which are not necessary for a city drinker to be familiar with.
Wine shop opening in Domžale - A loud and tumultuous atmosphere at the opening event was further enhanced by a band of musicians playing accordions (´frajtonerice´).
Wines can be still or sparkling (champagnes). They can also be dry, medium dry, medium sweet or sweet, while aromatised and fortified wines (vermouth, madeira, sherry etc.) belong to a class of their own. But wines cannot be sour or dessert. If a wine is described as ´sour´, it is either exactly that (and consequently of low quality) or it is a fine dry wine with a sense of freshness inviting us to drink. Strictly speaking, in Slovene the technical term for dessert wines is ´wines of special quality´. Among these are late harvest wines, ´jagodni izbor´ and ´suhi jagodni izbor´ wines (the most appropriate English terms would be ´berry selection´ and ´dry berry selection´), ice wines etc. ...
Published with permission of Mr Saša Veronik