150 is not just a number. 150 different wines are the result of a year of hard work by a passionate team making wine for wine lovers from all over the world. The normal amount of different wines bottled in half-a-million capacity winery as ours – The Vines of Mendoza – is probably no more than 20 in a year. At The Vines of Mendoza, due to all the micro-vinifications we carry out for more than 100 Private Vineyard Owners, the number of different wines we make is unique worldwide.
Bottling is a critical step in winemaking. Bottling is a bit like giving birth. The work of a year or even more can be destroyed if the process is not carried out properly. At The Vines of Mendoza, carrying a perfect bottling is vital. Our Head Winemaker Pablo Martorell and his team make sure to make all the best decisions along the process in order to capture the full expression of these wines in the bottle.
Each of these wines requires meticulous work in order to ensure a successful bottling.
Here are some of the key steps we carry out before and during bottling:
Quality control – Making sure all supplies are delivered and up to our standards. Ensuring quality control of bottles, corks, boxes, labels, etc. Imagine that we custom create each one of these wines and unique bottles, corks, capsules, labels, etc. The pre-work to coordinate this bottling for 150 different wines is intense.
Hygiene – It is critical to ensure hygiene of all the machinery and supplies to guarantee absence of contamination. Therefore cleaning and sanitizing is essential.
Checking of the free SO2 – The term ‘sulfites’ is an inclusive term for sulfur dioxide (SO2). SO2 is a preservative and widely used in winemaking (and indeed most food industries), because of its antioxidant and antibacterial properties. SO2 plays a very important role in maintaining a wine’s freshness. It is important to know that the doses of sulfites added to wines is minimum and its consumption is harmless.
Analysis and sensorial tasting of each of these wines – Tasting each of these wines to make sure they have the expression and style we look forward to and also chemically analyzing them is essential.
Fining & Filtration – After a wine completes fermentation, yeast, bacteria and fragments of grape cells make the wine cloudy. During aging, the wine clarifies as gravity pulls these particles to the bottom of the oak barrel or stainless steel tank, producing sediments called “lees.”
As our wines have a long aging, they tend to have a natural settling that usually is sufficient to achieve a clear wine. Depending on what is going on in our wines, we may decide to do one, both, or neither of these treatments. It all comes down to our personal winemaking philosophies and whether or not we feel the wine needs maintenance. We like preserving the natural expression of wines as much as possible, avoiding manipulation that might take away some fruit expression and character from them.
Fining – A wine is usually fined in order to soften a harsh or astringent character, to improve clarity, and/or to create stability. What happens is that an agent is introduced (egg whites – bentonite, or others) to the wine that physically binds with a targeted element, most commonly tannins or proteins. Once the reaction finishes and the agglomeration precipitates out to the bottom of the vessel, the wine is racked to remove it from the sediment. Fining agents should be used at the lowest possible dosage needed to achieve the desired effect. Over dosage can often create a loss of mouth feel aroma and/or flavor.
At the Vines we only fine the white wines, since it is important to obtain wines of a brilliant and clear aspect. But in the case of our reds, this year we didn’t have to fine thanks to the wines quality and natural brilliantness result of careful racking and aging.
Filtration – There are two reasons to filter wine: aesthetics and microbial stability. In our case, we are just carrying out a soft filtration to help on the aesthetic side, making our wines more polished both in the glass and in the mouth; often creating a rounding effect that softens the wine’s edges.
Pore sizes of filters are measured in microns. We use a type of cellulose membrane with a loose porosity that helps to obtain brilliant wines without affecting the structure and fruit expression of wines. That is why that in our non-filtrated or softly filtrated wines, some sediment might be encountered.
Therefore, It is important to know that the presence of sediment is not necessarily a sign of a flawed or bad wine. In many instances it is a sign of the direct opposite. Even if the wine is relatively young, sediment is not more than an evidence that the winemaker favors a more “natural” approach to winemaking, ready to allow it to develop its inherent complexity without too much filtering as in most of the industrial commercial wines.
It’s good to mention that there is nothing toxic nor inedible about sediment. It’s a textural and aesthetic thing, not a potential health hazard. My recommendation is to decant the wine if you prefer to avoid pouring these sediments into the glass.
To conclude, bottling can stress a wine and cause it to temporarily “fall apart” right after the process. It will take about two months for the wine to get over the bottle shock of the sulfite addition and bottling process, so waiting to drink it is essential. We know it’s hard – but you’ll get better wine in the end!
Some wines may take a few years before they reach their best expression. Wines might be quite drinkable now, but only with bottle ageing they will acquire all those extra flavors, roundness and an added complexity.
So you can see now that bottling at The Vines of Mendoza is truly UNIQUE. It is a great challenge but we are very pleased with the results. We are looking forward to opening one of these recently bottled wines with you! CHEERS!