Thursday, June 27, 2013

Chilean Harvest 2013

Sadly it's been awhile since I've posted a new update.  I know several of you have expressed concern that the winery had been what next??  Well, the next step is to start making wine!  I pushed the contractors a bit to get the winery done in time for the Chilean harvest this spring.  You may be asking yourself..."Sacre bleau!  He buys grapes from so far away?  Say it cannot be so."

Well, it is so.  I will acknowledge that there is a lot of fluff and movement in the wine industry today to focus closely on making local wine and express that local terroir, otherwise no one can possibly take you seriously.

To that point of view, I say "Nuts!"

The whole concept behind Aaronap Cellars is that I strive to make the best wine possible for the best grapes I can get my grubby little hands on so that any bottle can stand on its own two feet against the rest of the world.  I want you to buy my wine because it's darn good...and it's made by this guy in Westford, MA.

So what's that got to do with Chile?  Well, Chile vineyards are perhaps the best place on the planet to source carmenere and malbec grapes.  Prior to the late 1800s, both of these varietals were once grown in the Bourdeaux region of France and used to produce the fine wines the region was known for.  But then a little root louse called phylloxera caught a ride on some grape vine roots from America to France and all of a sudden the famous vineyards of France began to die.  It took several decades, but finally the antidote (grafting vulnerable French vines onto immune American rootstock) was discovered and France began to replant her vineyards.  As you'd expect, the vineyards in Bourdeaux were replanted with the most commercially successful varietals like merlot, cabernet sauvignon, & cabernet franc.  Carmenere & malbec became essentially extinct in the region.  Malbec survived in France with plantings in the Languedoc area, but became a minor player.  Little did we know that the European colonization of South American in the 1700-1800s also included transplanting many varieties of grape vines.  Fast forward about 80 years and imagine the consternation when "merlot" vines in Chile & Argentina were genetically identified as actually being carmenere & malbec.  Turns out that a lot of carmenere & malbec had been transplanted in South America as "merlot".  In the end Chile has become the last great bastion of plantings of carmenere in particular, as well as malbec.

I am a history buff and I love the story of the miraculous survival of carmenere.  I'm also a sucker for the underdog so I love the idea of making wine from a little known grape that smuggled its way into Chile and has become their celebrity varietal.  Thanks to my grape broker, I have access to the only place that grows significant amounts of carmenere and malbec.  Finding those varietals in MA & CA is next to impossible, so I've chosen to tap the resources of South America.

And I'm darn proud of that!

This spring, I purchased a quarter ton of carmenere and 0.75 tons of malbec from the Curico & Colchagua Valleys of Chile.  They arrived in a big stack of crates in the back of my pickup.

The new Zambelli destemmer performed admirably in crushing the grapes and pumping the must into the winery.

 And then the yeast did their thing.  Pods of fermenting must spotted the winery amidst the other equipment.

A few weeks later and then it was pressing time!  The sequence is the fermented must mixture is transferred from the fermentation tub to the press where the wine drains away from grapeskins/seeds.  The liberated wine drains into the bucket where it is pumped into a waiting stainless steel tank to allow the large solids to gravity settle.  Check out the high tech stepladder serving as pump holder!

 Pressed wine draining from the press!  Very artsy.

 At this point, alcohol fermentation is over.  The next step is to allow a secondary fermentation to occur that will convert the malic acid in the wine to lactic acid--this helps smooth out the wine.  Then, the wine will be transferred to oak barrels for aging over 9-12 months.  The carmenere will be featured in our signature "Carm-ah" blend with syrah, while the malbec will be featured in another blend (more details to follow).

Hopefully this was a helpful insider's view of the winemaking at Aaronap Cellars.  These varietals have come a long way from France to Chile and then to MA where we craft them into premium wines.  The best of the best is often found around the world and not just in your backyard.  Look for these wines to be released in Fall 2014 or Spring 2015 so that you can taste the true carmenere terroir!