Where Wine and Beer Meet: Cider

It’s the middle of harvest and we all have been rather busy with picking grapes and the numerous wine festivals this time of year. All that being said, I never got to write a blog for last week…  

So without further ado: Cider

While I was at Cornell, one lecture was devoted to the topic of apple cider. One point brought up was, “What exactly is cider? Would you call it a wine or would you call it a beer? It doesn’t really fit either category…”

Cider, to me, is where the brewing world and the wine world meet. It is sold like a beer, often with crown caps, carbonation, and generally has the same alcohol level as a beer. From the wine end the apple juice is fermented like any other fruit wine, just with a shorter fermentation since there is less sugar in apples. The line really blurs when one starts to consider carbonation, some cider is flat like most wines others have CO2 like most beers. Legally though, cider is simply fermented apple juice with a final alcohol level below 7%.

Enough of that debate though; let’s get into what makes a good cider. Surprisingly, the answer is sharp (highly acidic) apples. Well, a blend of those and sweet apples. Most of a good cider’s structure comes from the acid that found in the sharp apples. Too few sharp apples and the drink feels watery and flat. Too many sharp apples will produce a cider that will make someone pucker in an instant. The key is finding the right blend of sweet and sharp apples.

Lastly, I’m proud to say that our Artisan Orchard Cider, just released this past weekend, is my first creation as a winemaker! I hope you enjoy it.

-Brian Tomasello 4th Generation Outer Coastal Plain Winemaker Tomasello Winery

 

The Three Parts of a Grape Berry

We started harvest about ten days ago so I wanted to talk about grapes today. Wine grapes have three parts: the skins, the pulp, and the seeds. The seeds have been bred out of table grapes, one example being Thompson seedless grapes.

Let’s start from the inside with the seeds. Seeds are not very tasty since they have very high amounts of tannins and do little when it comes to winemaking. If you have ever bought a bag of concord grapes and then bit down on the seeds you know how bitter the seeds can be. That being said, the last thing a winemaker wants to do is crush the seeds when the juice is pressed otherwise this bitterness will find its way into the juice. Grapes can have anywhere from one seed per berry up to four seeds per berry.

The most important part of the grape for white wine is the pulp. This contains the sugar, acids (both tartaric and malic), aromatics, and a small amount of potassium. A white wine gets all of its acid and flavor profile from the juice that is extracted from the pulp.   

The last and most important part of the berry for a red wine is the skins. The skins contain all the color (called anthocyanins) in a red berry and thus need to be left in contact with the juice for the wine to have a red color. If the grapes are pressed shortly after they are crushed then the wine will be similar to a white wine or be rose in color. This part of the grape also contains the less bitter tannins that a winemaker wants in a red wine; it helps to give the final product a better mouthfeel.

-Brian Tomasello 4th Generation Outer Coastal Plain Winemaker Tomasello Winery
Image Credit: http://dcwineweek.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/DCWW-Blog_extra61.jpg

Chambourcin

I hope you all had a wonderful Labor Day weekend. I worked a wine festival in Allentown, NJ and came to realize that a number of people do not know what a Chambourcin is so here is a small introduction.

Chambourcin, a red grape, is a French-American hybrid grape that was first commercially sold in the early 1960’s. For a hybrid it is very popular in France and has found a home in the northeast United States, Australia, and Vietnam as well. It is a grape that can handle the winter cold better than most hybrids but also does well in the hot and humid summers of New Jersey because it is particularly resistant to downy mildew.

From a wine side, Chambourcin does particularly well when aged in oak. It has a number of fruit forward notes like, black cherry and plum but also has hints of baking spices from the oak. We age our Chambourcin in American oak for a period of ten months. The wine has a deep and dark plum purple color and a very round, smooth finish.   

We are just about to release our 2015 vintage, which is a wonderful example of the full bodied reds that can be produced here in Southern New Jersey. Stop in and try some today.

-Brian Tomasello 4th Generation Outer Coastal Plain Winemaker Tomasello Winery