Soil To Glass
A discussion with Bill Williamson.
There are many critical decision-making moments during winemaking. It is important to understand the science of wine production and how to apply that science in the winery.
More than that the modern winemaker who seeks to make ultra-premium quality wines must have a complete understanding of how winegrapes are grown, along with biological, environmental and management factors that influence fruit and wine quality all the way along the chain of events from soil to glass.
The Vineyard Influence
Under the heading “Vision” we discuss the various factors of terroir, grape variety, vineyard and farming protocols which influence the decisions required to grow premium wine grapes. Additionally the winemaker needs to understand the influence of grape composition and ripening on harvest decision and the resulting wine style. At Williamson Wines we control the farming of 15 varieties across 240 acres of vineyards. The farming protocols, that is the decisions regarding these vineyards and the wine grapes they produce are solely ours.
Once the fruit reaches the winery the winemaker concerns himself with grape and must processing which includes juice and must treatment and additions. Next comes alcoholic fermentation and the relating yeast biology followed by the biology of lactic acid bacteria and the management of the malolactic fermentation. All the while the winemaker is directing cellar operations including the testing and control of wine stability and making decisions regarding barrel regime, aging, clarification, fining, filtration and blending of the wines.
As the wine begins to emerge, showing it's own character, the winemaker needs to understand the anatomy and physiology of human organoleptic senses as they influence our interaction with wine. Basic sensory science analyses, tests etc., may be used, however, the deciding factor in blending, fining and filtration will be the winemaker's appreciation of the wine's nuances, not some statistical analysis.
Art and Science
At Williamson Wines we have a distinct advantage in the blending process. We first make all the grape varieties as standalone wines. Our winemaker is blessed with a fine wine palate and a deep understanding of food flavors and how they interact with wines. He is then able to taste and blend individual wines to a margin as fine as one-half percent by volume to create unique wines that will perfectly pair with food groups and spices. He achieves all of this with an underlying concern for the history of the wines and their paring across the past ten centuries. Without doubt the production of our wines is as much art as science.