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Please give a warm Wine.Woot welcome to our latest guest blogger, Clark Smith, chief winesmith at WineSmith Wines. If you enjoy this piece, Clark also writes about winemaking at Wine Crimes and on his GrapeCrafter blog.

Honored and delighted as I am to be posting my first guest blog, I need to start with a caution about wine writing. Wine is a medium of conviviality which works its magic mostly through aroma, taste and touch. This means you really need to be there. Print media are laughably ill suited to exploring its charms. Experience trumps description every time. You can explain to a deaf person that music conveys emotion, but they can never really get what you mean. For the same reason, endless argument about wine sensory phenomena are easily resolved by sharing a glass.

Twenty years ago, newbies learned about wine by taking classes, joining tasting groups, and hanging around experienced people. The internet has made it much more convenient to talk about wine in its absence, often with silly results. The inane discussion about minerality is a great case in point. The scant research that’s been done on the subject shows the word is bandied about without consistent definition, and always will be until we become grounded through shared experience.

I get my definition from Randall Grahm grahm on terroir – santa cruz mountains.pdf and my French tutors at Oenodev, who focused on it as an indicator of longevity and its flipside, reductive problems in youth. In my lexicon, minerality is not an aroma (petrichor), nor is it the wet stone flavor of Semillon, but rather an energetic buzz in the wine’s finish, almost like electricity run through the throat. It is an attribute of limestone and granitic soils, and but can be obtained on any site if living soil principles are applied. German Mosels usually have it, and their California counterparts don’t. It’s often mistaken for acidity, which is similar but occurs in the front of the mouth, not the finish (except for acetic acid). The varieties Cabernet Franc and Roussanne tend to be strong in this attribute. Minerality imparts a liveliness on the palate and a lengthy flavor persistence that sets Chablis apart from other chardonnays and living soil vineyards apart from other New World wines. This sensation is often masked in the New World by the bitterness of high alcohol.

Nobody has pinned down what exactly is happening. French terroiriste Claude Bourguignon believes that mychorrhizal fungi facilitate trace mineral uptake. In his thesis, Tuscan winemaker Paolo DiMarchi measured high iron content in his very minerally Nebbiolos. I worked with CSU Fresno’s Susan Rodriguez and Barry Gump to try to nail down what minerals might be responsible, but we couldn’t find a single simple driver. Hildegarde Heymann at UC Davis speculates that sulfur compounds cause minerality, but I believe this is backwards: minerality causes reduction, not the other way ‘round.

I hope it will not be considered crassly commercial for me to mention that I make some very minerally wines, particularly my WineSmith Cab Franc and Faux Chablis, and you could try them.

 

Winedavid39


quality posts: 180 Private Messages Winedavid39

Guest Blogger

Thanks Loweel !

PetiteSirah


quality posts: 76 Private Messages PetiteSirah
Winedavid39 wrote:Thanks Loweel !



Any time, dude. What did you think of the Faux Chablis? I loved it. Just waiting for it to pop up here

Hail the victor, the king without flaw
Salute your new master ... Petite Sirah!


"Who has two thumbs and loves Petite Sirah?" ThisGuy!

ddeuddeg


quality posts: 23 Private Messages ddeuddeg
Winedavid39 wrote:Thanks Loweel !


WD, you have a PM.

"Always keep a bottle of Champagne in the fridge for special occasions. Sometimes the special occasion is that you've got a bottle of Champagne in the fridge". - Hester Browne


Ddeuddeg's Cheesecake Cookbook

ScottHarveyWines


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Hi Clark,
Welcome to wine woot. You'll find this group of wine wooters a lot of fun with some refreshing ways of enjoying wines.
For you wooters, Clark and I have worked together for many years. I beleive Clark's contributions to the science of winemaking are greater than that of any other single person. His developments in de-alc., de-VA and developing sweet spot technologies has revolutionized current wine production increasing the overall quality of California wines greatly.

PetiteSirah


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ScottHarveyWines wrote:Hi Clark,
Welcome to wine woot. You'll find this group of wine wooters a lot of fun with some refreshing ways of enjoying wines.
For you wooters, Clark and I have worked together for many years. I beleive Clark's contributions to the science of winemaking are greater than that of any other single person. His developments in de-alc., de-VA and developing sweet spot technologies has revolutionized current wine production increasing the overall quality of California wines greatly.



Somewhat unrelatedly, Scott, I definitely want to pick your brain on costs and what else would be involved in having you help us do a PSychos' wine -- I suspect we'd have more fun and more options (not to mention a better result) than crushpad or judd's hill custom crushes.

Hail the victor, the king without flaw
Salute your new master ... Petite Sirah!


"Who has two thumbs and loves Petite Sirah?" ThisGuy!

gcdyersb


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Cool post, very exciting to have such an important wine scientist posting here!

I'd be very interested if some Wine Smith wines showed up on Woot, that's for sure. I tend to go for the rustic, minimalistic wines, but I'm also curious to see what science, when used by a master, can do for expression of terroir.

Cabernet Franc: it's not just for blending! It's also for blogging.

PetiteSirah


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gcdyersb wrote:Cool post, very exciting to have such an important wine scientist posting here!

I'd be very interested if some Wine Smith wines showed up on Woot, that's for sure. I tend to go for the rustic, minimalistic wines, but I'm also curious to see what science, when used by a master, can do for expression of terroir.



Faux Chablis is seriously, seriously, seriously awesome. Not just for the price tag, but that something like that can come from California (and relatively undistinguished land to boot). The wonder of dealc personified.

Hail the victor, the king without flaw
Salute your new master ... Petite Sirah!


"Who has two thumbs and loves Petite Sirah?" ThisGuy!

ScottHarveyWines


quality posts: 148 Private Messages ScottHarveyWines
PetiteSirah wrote:Somewhat unrelatedly, Scott, I definitely want to pick your brain on costs and what else would be involved in having you help us do a PSychos' wine -- I suspect we'd have more fun and more options (not to mention a better result) than crushpad or judd's hill custom crushes.



Give me a call and we can go over the numbers. Clark is also well versed with custom crush.

kylemittskus


quality posts: 224 Private Messages kylemittskus
PetiteSirah wrote:Faux Chablis is seriously, seriously, seriously awesome. Not just for the price tag, but that something like that can come from California (and relatively undistinguished land to boot). The wonder of dealc personified.



Fingers crossed we see it because I love be some Chablis. I'm really curious how a CA chard would come out when it is intentionally created in a Chablis style.

Clark, thanks for taking the time to write the blog! Hopefully we'll see more of you (and/or your wines) soon.

"If drinking is bitter, change yourself to wine." -Rainer Maria Rilke

"Champagne is a very kind and friendly thing on a rainy night." -Isak Dinesen

richardhod


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Lovely, lovely, this helps ground our previous discussion on minerality with some fact and experience!

I've tasted Scott's Jana Leelanau as being a Mosel wine, but from the States with intense minerality (I can't get enough of a good Kabinett), and I can even detect it (if more diluted) in the Jana California old vine Riesling. But I've never tasted it in a Chard. It's been years since I had a Chablis, and I was too young really to appreciate it. About time, then.

Now, of course if you wine.wooted that faux chablis we'd be able to tell...

Can you elaborate on the living soil principles and how they really help? To me, this is the most interesting part.

Oh, and why does minerality cause reduction (and from what to what, from acids to alcohols or to arenes, and how can we tell it it's thus spoiled??)

Thank you, heaps! I remember someone posting something from you on another topic in the last 6 months or so, and it was also a definitive guide.

PetiteSirah


quality posts: 76 Private Messages PetiteSirah
kylemittskus wrote:Fingers crossed we see it because I love be some Chablis. I'm really curious how a CA chard would come out when it is intentionally created in a Chablis style.

Clark, thanks for taking the time to write the blog! Hopefully we'll see more of you (and/or your wines) soon.



It's amazing. And well worth the price.

Hail the victor, the king without flaw
Salute your new master ... Petite Sirah!


"Who has two thumbs and loves Petite Sirah?" ThisGuy!

winesmith


quality posts: 32 Private Messages winesmith
richardhod wrote:Lovely, lovely, this helps ground our previous discussion on minerality with some fact and experience!

I've tasted Scott's Jana Leelanau as being a Mosel winem, but from the States with intense minerality, (I can't get enough of a good Kabinett) and I can even detect it (if more diluted) in the Jana California old vine Riesling. Low alcohol, of course. but I've never tasted it in a Chard. It's been years since I had a Chablis, and I was too young really to appreciate it. About time, then.

Now, of course if you wine.wooted that faux chablis we'd be able to tell...

Can you elaborate on the living soil principles and how they really help? To me, this is the most interesting part.

Oh, and why does minerality cause reduction (and from what to what, from acids to alcohols or to arenes, and how can we tell it it's thus spoiled??)

Thank you, heaps! I remember someone posting something from you on another topic in the last 6 months or so, and it was also a definitive guide.



Good news for all of you who have asked. We are indeed putting together a wine.woot offering which will include the 04 Faux Chablis, an amazing wine we have just released, as well as another nice minerally wine, the WineSmith 06 Cab Franc. I just have to get a pile of interstate licenses -- a huge and expensive pain in the rump. We're on it.

We just don't know what is actually being tasted as minerality. It resembles acidity, but it's further back on the palate, and a bit like an electric current in your throat.

Since you asked, I'll do my best to speculate on what might be happening. If you get lost, skip to the last paragraph.

It is possible that minerality is actually very similar to acidity, which is a flow of protons from a free to a bound state. Wine has a low pH, which means it contains a lot of free protons. When it enters the mouth it interacts with basic saliva, neutralizing the wine: H+ + OH- => H2O. Those H+'s are really just protons, i.e. a hydrogen atom with its electron stripped away.

With me so far? But that's not the end of the story, because most of the protons in wine are bound to weak acids like tartaric, malic and lactic, which are in equilibrium with the free protons. These are like a series of reservoirs of acidic protons which get depleted sequentially because the acids are of different strengths, and they form a kind of ladder of buffer capacity. So on the palate, the first acid to be depleted is tartaric, which you taste on the tip of the tongue. Then malic is in the mid palate, then lactic, and acetic (which hangs on to its protons the most)is neutralized in the throat.

So now you have this picture of proton flows being discharged in different parts of the mouth, and that's the sensation of acidity.

Hildegard Heymann (sensory science czar of UC Davis) and I were judges at Riverside last week and kicked around the idea that minerality might actually be a redox ladder. The various elements have an oxidized and a reduced state involving giving up an electron, for example iron II and Iron III: Fe++ minus e- => Fe+++. That's the rust reaction. It's also the main mechanism through which soils retain oxygenation after tilling.

So you can have a series of electron reservoirs, just like acids except they give up an electron instead of a proton. There are dozens of important mineral redox couples. And unlike acids, these reactions are slow and complex, and sometimes require tiny amounts of mineral catalysts to flow correctly.

So under the right conditions, when the right mix of minerals is available in the wine to get the electrons flowing, and we taste it in the finish.

Soils like limestone, schyst and granite appear to contain these minerals in available form, and a healthy living soil with lots of earthworms and mychorrhizal fungi facilitates their mobilization and uptake.

But that's not enough. You have a battery now in the wine, but it needs to be charged. There are a variety of ways to do this, all involving reduction. Proper ripeness leading to aggressive phenolic reductivity, healthy fermentations, oak tannins and lees stirring can all contribute to charging up the battery by moving the mineral redox pairs into the electron-loaded-up reductive state.

When the wine is in this anti-oxidative condition, it will gobble up what oxygen gets to it, but in the absence of oxygen will cause closing of aromas and formation of H2S and other sulfur compounds which are favored in the reduced state. That's why it takes six years for my Faux Chablis to come around and be drinkable.

Bottom line: If a young white wine (common with Mosel Rieslings, Roussannes and Santa Cruz Mountain Chardonnays) has less aroma than you think it should, maybe even a little stinky, but you see lots of flavor by mouth and it tingles in the finish, you might lay some of it down to see if it improves with age.

klezman


quality posts: 113 Private Messages klezman
winesmith wrote:Good news for all of you who have asked. We are indeed putting together a wine.woot offering which will include the 04 Faux Chablis, an amazing wine we have just released, as well as another nice minerally wine, the WineSmith 06 Cab Franc. I just have to get a pile of interstate licenses -- a huge and expensive pain in the rump. We're on it.



How long until this, you think? I don't want to be out of the country and miss this offer, especially since I am a huge fan of Cabernet Franc (at least the ones from Niagara)

winesmith wrote:Hildegard Heymann (sensory science czar of UC Davis) and I were judges at Riverside last week and kicked around the idea that minerality might actually be a redox ladder.



I find this fascinating.

How could you test this? Give people "neutral" 14% ethanol and throw in various minerals and acids in ionized states? I would think this is an extremely difficult sort of experiment to control.

I am also unclear how we would be capable of perceiving redox reactions happening in our mouth. Could you expand on that?

An aside on pH vs. titratable acidity - I think there was a long thread discussing this previously. I'm sure somebody could dig it up. Are you saying pH or acidity affects our ability to perceive the minerality?

winesmith wrote:But that's not enough. You have a battery now in the wine, but it needs to be charged. There are a variety of ways to do this, all involving reduction. Proper ripeness leading to aggressive phenolic reductivity, healthy fermentations, oak tannins and lees stirring can all contribute to charging up the battery by moving the mineral redox pairs into the electron-loaded-up reductive state.

When the wine is in this anti-oxidative condition, it will gobble up what oxygen gets to it, but in the absence of oxygen will cause closing of aromas and formation of H2S and other sulfur compounds which are favored in the reduced state. That's why it takes six years for my Faux Chablis to come around and be drinkable.



So your hypothesis (or is this part borne out by experience?) is that wine needs to be in a highly reduced state in order for it to oxidize in our mouths, thereby creating the sensation we interpret as minerality?

And your H2S example seems to be a great point that the redox reactions will occur no matter what (S subs in for O, and is almost as strongly electronegative, iirc). So then you need some oxygen to come in and displace the sulphur?

The science and chemistry of wine are fascinating. I could read tomes on this.

Aside: For those non-chemists in the room, I've found it helps to think of oxidizers as atoms/molecules that accept electrons as they undergo reduction. Conversely, reducers donate their electrons as they are oxidized. The terminology is confusing because of the pairs of opposites.

Oxidizer = electron accepter/stealer
Reducer = electron donor
Oxidized = electrons have been stolen away
Reduced = electrons have been gained

2014: 17 bottles. Last wine.woot: Wellington Vitory x3 & Fjellene Walla Walla Reds
2013: 66 bottles, 2012: 91 bottles, 2011: 92 bottles, 2010: 74 bottles, 2009: 30 bottles, 2008: 3 bottles My CT

rpm


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Fascinating. I've long been a fan of Chablis as the standard against which I judge almost all Chardonnay - from the simple Chablis through the Grand Cru, which, in age in a great year, can rival the Grand Cru whites of Burgundy (though not Le Montrachet).

It's interesting to note that the early modern history of Chardonnay in California (before Hanzell and Stony Hill became well-known) focused on clean, almost crisp, relatively lightish, dry wine. The classic Wente Chardonnays of the late 1950's and early 1960s. (I particularly remember the 1962 as outstanding, holding its own among very decent (but not great) white Burgundies.) No real minerality, there, though.

It's also interesting to note (in the context of your talking about Mosel) that the premier whites in California both before and after Prohibition were often true Rieslings, though they were made more in a Rheingau style (as far as it goes) than a Mosel style.

Wine-tasting in 8 words:
Pull lots of corks!
Remember what you taste!

gregorylane


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Seriously...I'd quit my job to hang out with you guys!

What a terrific post(s). I learn more about wine reading here at Woot than I do actually tasting. Not to say I learn more about what I like, but listening to those of you who know wine discuss it, opens up all kinds of new directions I want to explore.

More please.

There is really no point in trying to explain liberty to people who don't understand what it means.
rpm-2012

PetiteSirah


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Hopefully Clark will be able to join us for a stop or 2 on the RPM tour... :-).

I'm just waiting for him to release that "God's Own" Diamond Mountain (?) Petite Sirah that he gave me a barrel sample of in August and poured a splash of in February at Dark & Delicious. Really imPreSsive stuff.

Hail the victor, the king without flaw
Salute your new master ... Petite Sirah!


"Who has two thumbs and loves Petite Sirah?" ThisGuy!

winesmith


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PetiteSirah wrote:Hopefully Clark will be able to join us for a stop or 2 on the RPM tour... :-).

I'm just waiting for him to release that "God's Own" Diamond Mountain (?) Petite Sirah that he gave me a barrel sample of in August and poured a splash of in February at Dark & Delicious. Really imPreSsive stuff.



That's Diamond Ridge Vineyards. We expect to release very soon. Meanwhile check out www.diamondridgevineyards.com.

winesmith


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klezman wrote:How long until this, you think? I don't want to be out of the country and miss this offer, especially since I am a huge fan of Cabernet Franc (at least the ones from Niagara)



Depends on the responsiveness of the State governments. No crystal ball, but we're hoping within the month.

winesmith


quality posts: 32 Private Messages winesmith
klezman wrote:How could you test this? Give people "neutral" 14% ethanol and throw in various minerals and acids in ionized states? I would think this is an extremely difficult sort of experiment to control.

I am also unclear how we would be capable of perceiving redox reactions happening in our mouth. Could you expand on that?

An aside on pH vs. titratable acidity - I think there was a long thread discussing this previously. I'm sure somebody could dig it up. Are you saying pH or acidity affects our ability to perceive the minerality?



This part actually was fairly easy, thanks to a trick Randall Grahm taught me. There are mineral soil amendment tinctures which reproduce a similar flavor in wine when added in very tiny amounts, which you can use to train a panel by adding them to a "minerally dead" wine, thus zinging it up so the panel knows what you mean by difference. Or you can use example wines like Faux Chablis. Once trained, the panelists at Fresno State under Dr. Susan Rodriguez had no trouble discerning the high-minerality wines consistently.

I'm no taste physiologist, and I doubt that anyone really understands how acid perception in taste buds really works, let alone minerality. We do know that acid perception (i.e. tartness) is clearly related to TA, not pH, as is salivation response. The analogy is clear: electron flow vs proton flow. Seems plausible that if we can sense one, we can sense the other.

winesmith


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klezman wrote:So your hypothesis (or is this part borne out by experience?) is that wine needs to be in a highly reduced state in order for it to oxidize in our mouths, thereby creating the sensation we interpret as minerality?



Yes, this is what I'm proposing as a possible mechanism. It's the same sensation you get when you lick a fresh battery -- a static discharge. The prerequisite is to have in the wine the battery itself -- a mineral complex which can be charged with electrons. Simple high potassium content doesn't seem to be enough.

This is all speculation. The experiences I related in the initial post you can take to the bank. This theoretical conversation is mostly to suggest some tangible theory that might suggest that a scientific basis for the phenomenon is not too outlandish.

klezman wrote:And your H2S example seems to be a great point that the redox reactions will occur no matter what (S subs in for O, and is almost as strongly electronegative, iirc). So then you need some oxygen to come in and displace the sulphur?



You're thinking along the same lines, but we really don't know why reduction leads to H2S, and the likely pathway is something much more complex than what you outline. For example, we used to think that hydrogen sulfide could react with ethanol to form ethyl mercaptan (H2S + EtOH => H20 + EtSH) but when Boulton went to study the reaction kinetics, he found out there weren't any: it just doesn't happen directly.

Science on this has been inhibited because (for technical reasons byond our control) redox in wine has proven difficult (or impossible) to measure. In this peculiar circumstance, academic enologists need to start from accepting the reality that whether or not we can define it, wines have a redox potential. Then we figure out how to fund some research. Linda Bisson at Davis and Doris Rauhut at Geisenheim have done the most work to date. I'd imagine that sulfur-containing amino acid cleavage is involved. That's why home permanents get stinky when you put a reducing agent on your hair.

I really don't know. But for sure, young wines with good healthy reductive strength and ageworthiness will often get a little stinky in youth, and IT IS NO BIG DEAL.

The rest of us need to recognize that science is no longer the engine of progress here, any more than it is in music composition. Having already answered the easy questions, it is now pretty much relegated to the role of the confirmative caboose, bringing up the rear. We should not wait for theories; we should learn to trust our own experience and hang out socially with experienced tasters, like, you know, in the real world, with actual glasses of actual wine. As I said in the beginning, the internet spirals into these theoretical discussions because it has almost no access to a shared experience of the wine itself.

I like wine.woot because it provides a way we can all taste the same wines and compare notes.

klezman


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winesmith wrote:The rest of us need to recognize that science is no longer the engine of progress here, any more than it is in music composition. Having already answered the easy questions, it is now pretty much relegated to the role of the confirmative caboose, bringing up the rear. We should not wait for theories; we should learn to trust our own experience and hang out socially with experienced tasters, like, you know, in the real world, with actual glasses of actual wine. As I said in the beginning, the internet spirals into these theoretical discussions because it has almost no access to a shared experience of the wine itself.

I like wine.woot because it provides a way we can all taste the same wines and compare notes.



This is all amazingly cool information - and I (and if i may be so bold, the entire community) greatly appreciate your expertise and answering our mostly uninformed questions. Being a bit of a science geek myself, I like the idea of being able to understand the complexities involved in winemaking. Understanding more about what goes into it gives me just that much more appreciation for those truly excellent balanced wines. Similarly to understanding more about musical structure can enhance my appreciation of a John Coltrane solo.

I, for one, would be more than happy to taste with you or with anybody else here. Shared experience isn't just educational - it's fun too!

2014: 17 bottles. Last wine.woot: Wellington Vitory x3 & Fjellene Walla Walla Reds
2013: 66 bottles, 2012: 91 bottles, 2011: 92 bottles, 2010: 74 bottles, 2009: 30 bottles, 2008: 3 bottles My CT

winesmith


quality posts: 32 Private Messages winesmith
gcdyersb wrote:Cool post, very exciting to have such an important wine scientist posting here!

I'd be very interested if some Wine Smith wines showed up on Woot, that's for sure. I tend to go for the rustic, minimalistic wines, but I'm also curious to see what science, when used by a master, can do for expression of terroir.



Thanks for your great post. What science is really about is candor, openness and inquiry, and you exemplify all these. It isn't necessarily space-age technical. Technology has put us in a very bad way, and is in no way to be worshipped. But while we hope for wine to be the "one pure thing," unbesmirched by technology, that possibility went out the window 100 years ago when we let electricity in the winery door.

Postmodern winemaking seeks to inquire into what we lost when that happened. It accepts that we may need technology to get us out of that fix, but this time we should be more careful what we embrace, based on a well developed artistic aesthetic that wine should be soulful / bottled poetry / proof that God loves us and desires us to be happy.

On this issue, Jamie Goode did me justice on his blog: http://www.wineanorak.com/clark_smith.htm.

JOATMON


quality posts: 19 Private Messages JOATMON
winesmith wrote:proof that God loves us and desires us to be happy.



Loves us: yes. Desires us to be happy: hmmm.

Franklin said all this (in French) in the context of the miracle of turning water into wine. Thus, the existance of wine is proof that God's love is with us.

"Desires us to be happy" was added later; it was never part of Franklin's conversation.

Juvie: 30+24+4; Sellout: 6+7+0
Rags: 3+2+3
Drunk: 69+94+15 wine, 20+29+4 non-wine
Rugrat: 0+0+0; Refunded: 2+3+1
(as of 2011-03-02)

gcdyersb


quality posts: 141 Private Messages gcdyersb

Clark, what is your take on taste receptors? From my understanding acidic or sour flavors are the result of protons (H+) binding to specific receptors. Similarly, I believe I read at some point salt receptors (perhaps this is the article: http://www.hhmi.org/news/zuker20100127.html) are essentially sensing the Na+ ions.

I need to better digest the redox discussions, but could these ionic receptors for sodium and other ionic species be tied into perceptions of minerality?

Cabernet Franc: it's not just for blending! It's also for blogging.

winesmith


quality posts: 32 Private Messages winesmith
gcdyersb wrote:Clark, what is your take on taste receptors? From my understanding acidic or sour flavors are the result of protons (H+) binding to specific receptors. Similarly, I believe I read at some point salt receptors (perhaps this is the article: http://www.hhmi.org/news/zuker20100127.html) are essentially sensing the Na+ ions.

I need to better digest the redox discussions, but could these ionic receptors for sodium and other ionic species be tied into perceptions of minerality?



First of all, I subscribe to Dr. Michael O'Mahony's view that the four basic tastes (sweet sour, salty, bitter, to which we now admit a fifth, umami) is totaly made-up, unsupported horse hockey. All you have to do is taste potassium, iron, sulfate, or any number of other ions to realize that there are hundreds if not thousands of tastes, just as there are aromas.

Apart from the bitterness tastebuds on the back palate, my information is that we know little about how taste works, and are not really working on finding out. Most lecturers continue to preach the basic taste model and ignore O'Mahony's work, but I consider him the go-to guy on these matters. Check out http://www.gourmet.com/magazine/2000s/2008/07/scienceofflavor.

gcdyersb


quality posts: 141 Private Messages gcdyersb
winesmith wrote:First of all, I subscribe to Dr. Michael O'Mahony's view that the four basic tastes (sweet sour, salty, bitter, to which we now admit a fifth, umami) is totaly made-up, unsupported horse hockey. All you have to do is taste potassium, iron, sulfate, or any number of other ions to realize that there are hundreds if not thousands of tastes, just as there are aromas.

Apart from the bitterness tastebuds on the back palate, my information is that we know little about how taste works, and are not really working on finding out. Most lecturers continue to preach the basic taste model and ignore O'Mahony's work, but I consider him the go-to guy on these matters. Check out http://www.gourmet.com/magazine/2000s/2008/07/scienceofflavor.



Interesting article--it seems we have dozens of receptors. So in principle the various cations that are perceived as minerality each have a receptor or at least bind differently to receptor(s). Perhaps there's a combinatorial effect???

Back to the red-ox topic, after re-reading it a bit, your stated that minerality is directly related to various cations being in an electrochemically reduced state. Over time though wine oxidizes slowly, at least when bottled with an 'average' cork. What happens to expression of minerality as a result as a wine ages? It would probably be less prominent as the wine oxidizes, right? And if micro-oxygenation is employed, either by barrel or using a bubbler type apparatus, does that tend to suppress minerality?

At any rate, I think I'm starting to grasp the battery picture. Galvanic cells and salt bridges come to mind . . . . as well as licking a piece of metal. So it's really the redox potential of a metal that gives it that, for lack of a better term, metallic flavor.

I need to review my inorganic chemistry, but my old textbook is note at my fingertips. And I'm not a chemist by training, though its application to wine makes it much more interesting to me.

Cabernet Franc: it's not just for blending! It's also for blogging.

richardhod


quality posts: 261 Private Messages richardhod
winesmith wrote:Thanks for your great post. What science is really about is candor, openness and inquiry, and you exemplify all these. It isn't necessarily space-age technical. Technology has put us in a very bad way, and is in no way to be worshipped. But while we hope for wine to be the "one pure thing," unbesmirched by technology, that possibility went out the window 100 years ago when we let electricity in the winery door.

Postmodern winemaking seeks to inquire into what we lost when that happened. It accepts that we may need technology to get us out of that fix, but this time we should be more careful what we embrace, based on a well developed artistic aesthetic that wine should be soulful / bottled poetry / proof that God loves us and desires us to be happy.

On this issue, Jamie Goode did me justice on his blog: http://www.wineanorak.com/clark_smith.htm.



I'm sure I didn't ask anything like as complicated a question, but I LOVE the answers. Thank you! Provisional answers, which is all we can every give. And, also stimulating more questions, the best kind of answers.

It's taken a lot of time for people to get to this techno-philosophical position. I'm guessing it's a holistic approach which a smart practical craftsman will always use, and which PW alludes to here. Understanding living soil you mentioned might be one of these. In the post-modernist era we are rediscovering our Gemeinschaft techniques, being for example the sorts of things the old French viticulteurs may know, but don't necessarily know how they know it, because the knowledge isn't in their heads, but embedded in their practices, attitudes and traditions. These are tacit knowledges which being priceless and easily missed at the same time, were overlooked by our new, shiny, flat, clean, Ubermensch C20th technologies. And of course, there's stuff we never knew in the first place!

Our new tech has its place of course, but not at the expense of our hard-earned centuries of wisdom. Science has it place because along with that old wisdom came fable and superstition, and "downright horse-hockey", ha ha! And now we have to get down in a more careful way to work out which is which!

It seems a lot of people take too much of a position on too little data, and too little understanding. For example, biodynamic. Some people don't like biodynamic, and some do. It may be a stab, misguided or not, at removing modernist technological interferences from parts of the winemakeing process we do not fully understand. And it may have some point, and it may be partly "horse-hockey" :D

i do like umami though. great idea, but yes, possibly as scientific as Freud. Keep it up! Where can e come and taste winesmith stuff?

kylemittskus


quality posts: 224 Private Messages kylemittskus
richardhod wrote:For example, biodynamic. Some people don't like biodynamic, and some do. It may be a stab, misguided or not, at removing modernist technological interferences from parts of the winemakeing process we do not fully understand. And it may have some point, and it may be partly "horse-hockey" :D



Now you started it!

"If drinking is bitter, change yourself to wine." -Rainer Maria Rilke

"Champagne is a very kind and friendly thing on a rainy night." -Isak Dinesen

winesmith


quality posts: 32 Private Messages winesmith
richardhod wrote:I'm sure I didn't ask anything like as complicated a question, but I LOVE the answers. Thank you! Provisional answers, which is all we can every give. And, also stimulating more questions, the best kind of answers.

It's taken a lot of time for people to get to this techno-philosophical position. I'm guessing it's a holistic approach hich a smart practical craftsman will always use, and which PW alludes to here. Understanding living soil you mentioned might be one of these. In the post-modernist era we are rediscovering our Gemeinschaft techniques, being for example the sorts of things the old French viticulteurs may know, but don't necessarily know how they know it, because the knowledge isn't in their heads, but embedded in their practices, attitudes and traditions. These are tacit knowledges which being priceless and easily missed at the same time, were overlooked by our new, shiny, flat, clean, Ubermensch C20th technologies. and of course, there's stuff we never knew in the first place!

Our new tech has its place of course, but not at the expense of our hard-earned centuries of wisdom. Because along with that wisdom came fable, and superstition, and downright "horse-hockey", ha ha! And now we have to get down in a more careful way to work out which is which!

It seems a lot of people take too much of a position on too little data, and too little understanding. For example, biodynamic. Some people don't like biodynamic, and some do. It may be a stab, misguided or not, at removing modernist technological interferences from parts of the winemakeing process we do not fully understand. And it may have some point, and it may be partly "horse-hockey" :D

i do like umami though. great idea, but yes, possibly as scientific as Freud. Keep it up! Where can e come and taste winesmith stuff?



I loved this post. It summarizes our relationship to science quite well and embodies respect for all positions, a non-contentious but relentless curiosity utterly unguided by politics or buzz words. The link to Peter Wellington's discussion of the O word is required reading, and is equally wise.

We need to hang on to the true definition of science: a realm of inquiry rather than certainty. Einstein said "The reason we call it 'research' is that we don't know what we're doing."

As for tasting WineSmith, email me at winesmith@ap.net if you want to come by the winery. As I've said, tasting together would be the preferred method. We don't have a tasting room, but I'll show up and we'll sip, chat and maybe make some music. Otherwise, you can get the wines at www.grapecraft.com. There will be a VERY good deal surfacing soon on wine.woot, but it might make sense to try ahead of time so you are ready to blow big bucks when the time comes.

PetiteSirah


quality posts: 76 Private Messages PetiteSirah
winesmith wrote:I loved this post. It summarizes our relationship to science quite well and embodies respect for all positions, a non-contentious but relentless curiosity utterly unguided by politics or buzz words. The link to Peter Wellington's discussion of the O word is required reading, and is equally wise.

We need to hang on to the true definition of science: a realm of inquiry rather than certainty. Einstein said "The reason we call it 'research' is that we don't know what we're doing."

As for tasting WineSmith, email me at winesmith@ap.net if you want to come by the winery. As I've said, tasting together would be the preferred method. We don't have a tasting room, but I'll show up and we'll sip, chat and maybe make some music. Otherwise, you can get the wines at www.grapecraft.com. There will be a VERY good deal surfacing soon on wine.woot, but it might make sense to try ahead of time so you are ready to blow big bucks when the time comes.



From PerSonal experience, hanging out with Clark was quite a day. Maybe it's something we can work into the RPM tour...

Hail the victor, the king without flaw
Salute your new master ... Petite Sirah!


"Who has two thumbs and loves Petite Sirah?" ThisGuy!

ScottHarveyWines


quality posts: 148 Private Messages ScottHarveyWines

[quote postid="3946128" user="PetiteSirah"]Hopefully Clark will be able to join us for a stop or 2 on the RPM tour... :-).

Look forward to seeing you at the RPM tour with your wines.

SonomaBouliste


quality posts: 227 Private Messages SonomaBouliste
winesmith wrote:You're thinking along the same lines, but we really don't know why reduction leads to H2S, and the likely pathway is something much more complex than what you outline. For example, we used to think that hydrogen sulfide could react with ethanol to form ethyl mercaptan (H2S + EtOH => H20 + EtSH) but when Boulton went to study the reaction kinetics, he found out there weren't any: it just doesn't happen directly.

Science on this has been inhibited because (for technical reasons byond our control) redox in wine has proven difficult (or impossible) to measure. In this peculiar circumstance, academic enologists need to start from accepting the reality that whether or not we can define it, wines have a redox potential.

The rest of us need to recognize that science is no longer the engine of progress here, any more than it is in music composition. Having already answered the easy questions, it is now pretty much relegated to the role of the confirmative caboose, bringing up the rear. We should not wait for theories; we should learn to trust our own experience and hang out socially with experienced tasters, like, you know, in the real world, with actual glasses of actual wine.



Hi Clark,

I always love reading your philosophical musings on winemaking. The discussion of minerality certailny stimulates new thoughts, but the above really gets to the crux of what makes our profession so challenging and interesting. No matter how hard some people try, winemaking can't be reduced to a science. Human sensibility is an amazing trait that can't be replicated. I am fond of telling people that one of the things that really stokes me is that winemaking requires use of both frontal lobes.

I find the attempts by one professor at our alma mater to build a computer model for making fine wine absurd at best. The university has made great strides in the understanding of winemaking, and has benefitted the industry tremendously, particularly at the low end. However, the subtleties of wine chemistry, particularly regarding phenolic compounds, are so complex as to defy analytical understanding. I was aghast a few years ago at a UCD seminar when our most esteemed Professor Boulton told the audience that winemakers were deluding themselves that tannins "softened" with extended time on the vine; just because you can't measure something does not disprove its existence. It reminded me of another professor pooh-poohing the traditional use of stems or white grapes in red fermenations for better color (before they "discovered" copigmentation).

Peter

SonomaBouliste


quality posts: 227 Private Messages SonomaBouliste
richardhod wrote:It's taken a lot of time for people to get to this techno-philosophical position. I'm guessing it's a holistic approach hich a smart practical craftsman will always use, and which PW alludes to here. Understanding living soil you mentioned might be one of these. In the post-modernist era we are rediscovering our Gemeinschaft techniques, being for example the sorts of things the old French viticulteurs may know, but don't necessarily know how they know it, because the knowledge isn't in their heads, but embedded in their practices, attitudes and traditions. These are tacit knowledges which being priceless and easily missed at the same time, were overlooked by our new, shiny, flat, clean, Ubermensch C20th technologies. and of course, there's stuff we never knew in the first place!

Our new tech has its place of course, but not at the expense of our hard-earned centuries of wisdom. Because along with that wisdom came fable, and superstition, and downright "horse-hockey", ha ha! And now we have to get down in a more careful way to work out which is which!

It seems a lot of people take too much of a position on too little data, and too little understanding. For example, biodynamic. Some people don't like biodynamic, and some do. It may be a stab, misguided or not, at removing modernist technological interferences from parts of the winemakeing process we do not fully understand. And it may have some point, and it may be partly "horse-hockey" :D

i do like umami though. great idea, but yes, possibly as scientific as Freud. Keep it up! Where can e come and taste winesmith stuff?



Ah yes, what is "natural"? If you ask 6 winemakers you'll get 6 different answers, like the blind men describing an elephant. Clark, you wrote a great blog elsewhere about "spoofulation"; perhaps you can provide a link. I'm reminded of a contemporary who, a number of years ago, decried the "manipulation" of Chardonnay via barrel fermentation, ML, lees stirring, etc. I rebutted this with my belief that his technique (temperature control, bentonite, inhibiting ML, etc.) was more manipulative. What is traditional? the practices of 30 years ago? 100 years ago? longer?

winesmith


quality posts: 32 Private Messages winesmith
ScottHarveyWines wrote:[quote postid="3946128" user="PetiteSirah"]Hopefully Clark will be able to join us for a stop or 2 on the RPM tour... :-).

Looks like we are doing a BBQ at our house for the RPM tour on July the 22nd. Clark you are welcome to join us and bring some of your wines for the wooters to enjoy.



Thanks, Scott -- very generous of you to include me. I've marked my calendar.

winesmith


quality posts: 32 Private Messages winesmith
SonomaBouliste wrote:Ah yes, what is "natural"? If you ask 6 winemakers you'll get 6 different answers, like the blind men describing an elephant. Clark, you wrote a great blog elsewhere about "spoofulation"; perhaps you can provide a link. I'm reminded of a contemporary who, a number of years ago, decried the "manipulation" of Chardonnay via barrel fermentation, ML, lees stirring, etc. I rebutted this with my belief that his technique (temperature control, bentonite, inhibiting ML, etc.) was more manipulative. What is traditional? the practices of 30 years ago? 100 years ago? longer?



As a simple rule of thumb, I have found that anyone who employs the term "manipulation" in a discussion about good guys and bad guys in winemaking has a serious axe to grind and very little understanding of the winemaking process. These people generally accept all the havoc wrought by electricity, stainless steel, inert gas, refrigeration and so forth with compete aplomb because they grew up with all these things in their homes, and thus are comfortable with them.

I am in complete agreement that technology screwed up winemaking, no less than the rest of our lives. (Try having a non-dysfunctional relationship with your cell phone or your email.) But this happened a long while back, and the new tools like reverse osmosis and micro-ox that are currently on the hot seat are really trivial examples of a much larger shift. But even before the 20th Century, wine has always been the most manipulated of foods -- crushed, fermented, pressed, aged, and bottled. That glass does not contain fresh grapes. What process could be more manipulative? But for Pete's sake, manipulation is the nature of cooking.

This bad blood didn't exist in the '70's and '80's. I think the problem has arisen because winemakers ceased to be straight with consumers and the trade about the changes occurring, which created a cycle of deception. It is understandable for people to be suspicious of progress, when it is so hard to get a straight answer out of a winemaker these days, and the winemakers withhold and spin the truth for fear of being so accused. Since I'm already a target, I've decided simply to tell it like it is. This does cost me a lot of sales to people who think I'm Mr. Manipulation, but what the heck, you can't please everybody, and I do think I've improved the bridge to consumers for winemakers generally.

The link to the article you're speaking of, "Spoofulated or Artesanal" (and some others I wrote on the subject such as "Yeast Inoculation: Threat or Menace?" and "Natural Winemaking: Setting Your Priorities") can be found at AppellationAmerica.com. Please don't have a coronary when I tell you that this content is subscription based. You will have to shell out an entire five bucks for a month of access to this wonderful site. If you'll check out the video tour on the home page, I think you'll be convinced it's worth it. Any wine geek worth his username should blow the annual $50 for access to its 20,000 pages, the definitive reference on North American wines.

richardhod


quality posts: 261 Private Messages richardhod
ScottHarveyWines wrote:[quote postid="3946128" user="PetiteSirah"]Hopefully Clark will be able to join us for a stop or 2 on the RPM tour... :-).

Looks like we are doing a BBQ at our house for the RPM tour on July the 22nd. Clark you are welcome to join us and bring some of your wines for the wooters to enjoy.



Thank you for your words Clark! From you, as eminent domain practitioners it means a lot, especially since I have to date spent far too much time as a theoretician. What you might call "applied epistemology" of these sorts are what I've made one of my more passionate specialities. Even studying for a qual/quant PhD at USC did I rarely find people with a sufficiently supple and open mind to generate and sustain the kind of discussions above. A few, of course, but - as implied above by Peter - many otherwise quite brilliant academics are too hidebound to narrow theoretic rule-oriented views, partly for professional advancement through publishing reasons, partly because that's where easy data lies (never mind its external validity even within a positivistic paradigm), and partly due to certain other habitual and social drivers.

Which is why I always intended to return (as I am doing) to the real world afterwards. Incidentally, and tangentially, anyone want to meet a wine import agent in Shanghai?

And now Scott on the list... since he makes some of my favourite wines, all discovered thanks to woot, I'm really starting to get interested in the rpm tour. Never consideered doing such a thing before, so I'll have to ask if there's any space. I'll be back from Asia, and have CA wine tour at the top of my to do list. Only ever done Sta Rita hills area before.

winesmith


quality posts: 32 Private Messages winesmith
richardhod wrote:Thank you for your words Clark! From you, as eminent domain practitioners it means a lot, especially since I have to date spent far too much time as a theoretician. What you might call "applied epistemology" of these sorts are what I've made one of my more passionate specialities. Indeed I'm working on framing such arguments for the next book after the one I'm currently writing, and reference to this complex domain is likely to be obligatory.

Even as a qual/quant PhD student at USC did I rarely find people with a sufficiently supple and open mind to generate and sustain the kind of discussions above. A few, of course, but - as implied above by Peter - many otherwise quite brilliant academics are too hidebound to narrow theoretic rule-oriented views, partly for professional advancement through publishing reasons, partly because that's where easy data lies (never mind its external validity even within a positivistic paradigm), and partly due to certain other habitual and social drivers. Which is why I always intended to return (as I am doing) to the real world afterwards. Incidentally, and tangentially, anyone want to meet a wine import agent in Shanghai?

And now Scott on the list... since he makes some of my favourite wines, all discovered thanks to woot, I'm really starting to get interested in the rpm tour. Never consideered doing such a thing before, so I'll have to ask if there's any space. I'll be back from Asia, and have CA wine tour at the top of my to do list. Only ever done Sta Rita hills area before.



Your dilligence to try to grok the big picture deserves acknowledgement.

We are in the middle of a paradigm shift wherein the establishment holds the high ground reputation-wise and in owning the language, with its buried slanted assumptions. We progress when modern winemaking sees the inadequacies of its system and postmodernism offers a plausible alternative. This works so much better when there is mutual respect and fondness, which is definitely the case between us and many of the folks at UCDavis.

richardhod


quality posts: 261 Private Messages richardhod
winesmith wrote:Your dilligence to try to grok the big picture deserves acknowledgement.

We are in the middle of a paradigm shift wherein the establishment holds the high ground reputation-wise and in owning the language, with its buried slanted assumptions. We progress when modern winemaking sees the inadequacies of its system and postmodernism offers a plausible alternative. This works so much better when there is mutual respect and fondness, which is definitely the case between us and many of the folks at UCDavis.



The textbook on the problems of conventional wisdom, JK Galbraith's The Affluent Society (go to Ch.2) was required first-year first week reading from my economics tutor at Oxford. It is, 50 years after publication, still outstanding, and eminently readable.

And a good point you make: I ahve to agree that for all the institutions' flaws, a healthy, constructive, yet non-insular relationship with academic practices is always informative!

klezman


quality posts: 113 Private Messages klezman
winesmith wrote:I think the problem has arisen because winemakers ceased to be straight with consumers and the trade about the changes occurring, which created a cycle of deception. It is understandable for people to be suspicious of progress, when it is so hard to get a straight answer out of a winemaker these days, and the winemakers withhold and spin the truth for fear of being so accused. Since I'm already a target, I've decided simply to tell it like it is. This does cost me a lot of sales to people who think I'm Mr. Manipulation, but what the heck, you can't please everybody, and I do think I've improved the bridge to consumers for winemakers generally.



This is along the lines of one of the things I love about woot. Even if the acidity and pH and other technical data aren't posted initially, people ask for it and nearly always get it. Another way to help us decide whether it's likely to be a style we like.

I realize, though, this is not entirely in line with your argument. I'd love to hear more frequently what sorts of techniques were used in the making of individual wines. More importantly, even, I'm interested in why the winemaker decided to use these techniques. This is exactly because of what you're talking about - there's some good science behind winemaking but also lots of artistry. If it was just science any old shmo could pick up a recipe and do it.

Do you see a way to get the industry to move more towards something more honest and open? And if so, do you see it causing difficulty for consumers to decipher all these techniques? Or would that just be another step on the information overload trajectory?

2014: 17 bottles. Last wine.woot: Wellington Vitory x3 & Fjellene Walla Walla Reds
2013: 66 bottles, 2012: 91 bottles, 2011: 92 bottles, 2010: 74 bottles, 2009: 30 bottles, 2008: 3 bottles My CT