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  Editorial Issue 44, September 2006   
Wine Made with Wood Chips? No, Thank You!Wine Made with Wood Chips? No, Thank You! MailBoxMailBox  Contents 
Issue 43, Summer 2006 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 45, October 2006

Wine Made with Wood Chips? No, Thank You!


 Fashions were not enough to make the world of wine uniform and homologated. Fashions were not enough to debase even more the image of wine and to sacrifice, one more time, a unique product, expression of a millenary culture. The latest news is that now the law is working for the same goal, too. This way we will be happy to have in our glasses a wine made with methods not agreed by many, however perfectly legal, as upon the heads of us mortals the wisdom of a law could decide for all of us a new model of wine making. The European Union - proposed by the Management Committee for Wine in Brussels - is evaluating the possibility of using wood chips for the wines produced in the community. Within few months, the European Union could in fact allow viticulturists of the Union to use oak wood chips for the production of wines, just like the way it is already permitted in the countries of the so called “New World”, a measure that, frankly speaking, leaves speechless and very perplexed. It is the latest menace to the world of wine to the exclusive advantage of the usual “smart ones”, who will finally have a perfectly legal way to sell consumers the illusion of tasting a wine aged in wood casks.


 

 There are many “justifications” proposed by the ones who support this new law, most of them, honestly speaking, are pretty arguable. Without discussing about the reasons of these opinions, which are to be taken for what they are, it should be however understood the role of the cask in wine making and whether it can be replaced by “wood chips”. Despite for most of consumers it is true the organoleptic sensation typical in wines aged in cask gives the conviction in the glasses has been poured an “important” wine, every real wine lover which can be called like that, knows cask is more than that. First of all, the beneficial effect of the slow oxidation the wine has in the cask and which is impossible to get with any chip. Perhaps it is thanks to the common “ignorance” wood chips get their main support: in case wood aroma and taste are perceived, therefore the wine is undoubtedly good, important and of quality. This “trick” can be done by using wood chips, whose cost - among the other things - is far lesser than the worst of casks. One of the reasons supporting this law is in fact represented by costs.

 The possibility of using wood chips in the production of wines should help - they say - to contrast the strong attack to the European market done by the wines coming from those countries in which the use of this technique is permitted. As the wine produced with wood chips undoubtedly has a lower price, as well as considering the fact consumers like “important” wines having wood taste, in this way it will be possible to release in the market the so called “carpenter's wines”, to the advantage of wallets and the palate of the most unwary consumers. Let's admit this, the price of wine has reached pretty prohibitive levels and accessible only by few, where most of the times speculation takes the place of an arguable and presumed quality. Did they really need to take such a measure, which certainly humiliates the dignity both of consumers and wine, in order to make a mass of consumers happy, which, again, are completely ignorant about what the market is proposing? Consumers will be hoaxed twice, both for the fact wine produced in this way will have no obligation to write in the label this disputable technique, as well as for the lacking of honesty from producers who will make wood chips their best ally in the cellar.

 We understand the fact not all consumers are interested in looking for or appreciating quality in the beverage of Bacchus, after all, not all the people can appreciate art or can feel the emotions of a painting. However they should grant us the freedom, or better to say, the awareness of choosing, by clearly writing in the label the type of wine contained in the bottle. If there are consumers who prefer wines made with wood chips, they have all the rights to buy it and to appreciate it, we however think it is not fair this measure can be a subtle way to hoax everyone. Although it is true only the wine maker exactly knows all the miracles happening in his or her cellar - thanks to chemistry and to its magic, most of the times it is possible to make a bad wine into something “decent” - we do not believe they should take advantage of technology in order to sacrifice honesty. In many countries, for example, it is mandatory to write in the label whether the wine contains sulfites, likewise they should clearly write in the labels the use of wood chips and not ridiculous description praising its wood aroma or taste, in order to make that wine into something it is not, and for the sake of speculation.

 To make the situation even worse, there were many who expressed their opinions - a ridiculous way to make a stone appear as if it were gold - who believe the use of wood chips is an “alternative” way to age wines. The ones supporting these opinions should, in our opinion, better understand the complex chemical and physical phenomena taking place in a wine kept in a cask to age, something which cannot be obtained in any case with wood chips. It would be better, as well as honest, to simply define these wines for what they really are: wood aromatized wines. This would be correctness and honesty! Certainly not an alternative way to “age” wines! After all, in what consists the technique of using wood chips in a wine? To put a wine in an inert tank - usually stainless steel - to plunge a bag full of wood chips and to allow it to macerate for some time. Does this mean aging a wine? Does this mean making a wine more “important”? Although we have nothing against aromatized wines, we believe wines produced with wood chips should necessarily belong to the category of aromatized wines, something which should also be written in the label.

 We are not saying we are against the use of this technique - after all if there are consumers who like wood aromatized wines and are happy with their consumption, everyone is free in his or her choices - we simply want honesty and correctness, not only for consumers in general, but also for the dignity of wine and its culture. A law like that, no matter how it will be, leaves perplexed. Not only for the not very honest way to support it, by making it look like something it is not and will never be, but also for the consequences in the efforts done so far in the promotion of quality wine and its typicality. Going on like this, bureaucrats will soon or later make a law defining grape varieties to use in the production of wine, while banning all the autochthonous ones, of course. They will do that, there is no doubt about this, for the safeguarding of the interests of consumers - not for the interests of the usual “smart ones”, of course - and for increasing the prestige and the quality of wine, of typical products and their diversities. It is so evident…

 



   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column ABC Wine 
  Editorial Issue 44, September 2006   
Wine Made with Wood Chips? No, Thank You!Wine Made with Wood Chips? No, Thank You! MailBoxMailBox  Contents 
Issue 43, Summer 2006 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 45, October 2006

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 In this column are published our reader's mail. If you have any comment or any question or just want to express your opinion about wine, send your letters to our editorial or fill in the form available at our site.

 

It is said the use of chemistry in modern wine making is frequent and most of the time indispensable. How could they make wine in the past without the help of chemistry?
Fabio Mussi -- Milan (Italy)
In its essential definition, wine is the result of the alcoholic fermentation of must, a process that, in its nature, is to be considered of chemical type. For this reason, enology and chemistry have a strong and indissoluble bond: wine is the product of a chemical reaction. It is known chemistry is not used in enology for the “simple” production of wine only, it is also and above all used for the stabilization and correction of this beverage. It is no secret that thanks to chemical corrections it is possible to make a bad wine into something decent - or however less worse than what it is - by adding lacking substances or filtering excessive ones. There are many chemical substances used in enology for the production of wines, including the famous and “debated” sulfur dioxide, useful for stabilizing wines. However sulfur dioxide is only one of the many chemical substances permitted in the production of wines, whose usage could be in many cases limited, however it should be observed some substances are added to wine in order to make it more marketable and to meet consumers' expectations. One of these substances is gum arabic, capable - like in a miracle - to make smooth and agreeable any wine while increasing structure as well: one of the many magic which can be done in the cellar thanks to chemistry.



Why are most of red wines produced by assembling Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot?
Thomas Peterson -- Baltimore, Maryland (USA)
The combination of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot is for wine producers one of the most common choices. Not only the two grapes are used alone for the production of mono varietal wines, they are also added in variable percentages to other grapes. The magic combination of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot originated from Bordeaux - their homeland - which together with Cabernet Franc, they make the so called Bordelais blending. Bordeaux wines are famous worldwide, this is not a mystery. For this reason, the combination Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot has been widely used in order to emulate Bordeaux wines and to take advantage of their success. The second reason is that wine produced with these two grapes are generally appreciated by most of consumers, in particular the wines in which Merlot is present. There is no doubt Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are grapes capable of making great wines: tens of examples in the world are ready to confirm the quality of these two grapes. However, something which is frequently forgotten is that two grapes, famous or unknown, are not enough to make a good wine: grapes - which first of all must be cultivated and vinified with quality criteria - represent only one of the many factors needed for the production of great wines.



   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column ABC Wine 
  Editorial Issue 44, September 2006   
Wine Made with Wood Chips? No, Thank You!Wine Made with Wood Chips? No, Thank You! MailBoxMailBox  Contents 
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