Ask Wine Wizard

Perhaps you could share your wisdom with me and offer some essential winemaking rules?

TroubleShooting

Terry Brennan — Cambridge, New York asks,
Q

Dear Wine Wizard, I’m just getting started with winemaking and am looking for some general advice, perhaps a short list of the most important things to remember. Perhaps you could share your wisdom with me and offer some essential winemaking rules?

A
Hmm . . . this is a good question and one that more people should ask when getting into a hobby. It also serves as a natural follow-up to my previous mistakes answer. It is good to look at the total picture of winemaking and focus in on the most important elements. These are the rules that come to mind: It all starts with the raw material: This is rule #1. Your wine will only be as good as your starting material. It’s possible to make good wine out of great fruit but you can’t make great wine out of mediocre fruit. An ancillary rule is that you’ve got to understand and accept your starting material, both its potential and its limitations. You can ferment with the latest yeast, stir the lees and use an expensive French oak barrel, but an insipid wine can’t grow beyond its roots, even with all the expensive and time-consuming treatments in the world. Acid is the foundation of wine: I learned this at my first-ever winemaking job as a cellar rat at Chalone Vineyards
Response by Alison Crowe.