It's so easy to just lay low. So easy to just slow down and take it all in. Don't get me wrong, because sometimes it is fantastic to just be inert. But for me that describes a lot of life including my own. And today I will carpe diem, even if it is just to write about wine. Though I did see the movie Bumblebee with my daughter. I enjoyed it. It had a spunky protagonist, amazing action and CGI that was just enough to keep my attention but not crazy enough to just make me wonder about the computer graphics.
But I digress. Today's questions is: "Examine the advantages and disadvantages of deliberate stem inclusion, or additions, during the winemaking process."
Stem inclusion occurs when winemakers take the whole cluster of grapes and ferment with the entire bunch en masse. This occurs in many of the world's wineries and regions. Though Burgundy with it's world renown Pinots (Domaine Romanee Conti) and Gamay (Beaujolais) are some of the most well known there is no wine regions not practicing this style in some manner.
The decision on whether to go stem or stemless lies in great part to the winemaker and the style or wine to be made. It is though that in years where there is a great ripeness to the grapes there is often more instances of stem inclusion versus vintages where the grapes achieve less ripeness and then winemakers will shy away from stem inclusion to focus on the flavors of the grape itself.
If one picks their grapes and therefore whole cluster and stems, the taste that is gained will be of a more herbaceous, green nature while late harvest grapes, whole clusters and woody stems yield more of a forest floor, dark floral, spicy and even black tea flavors. Adding stems can also lighten the color of wine, which in the case of Burgundy is natural because of the thin skin nature of Pinot Noir. But this affect may be undesirable in dark skin grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Nebbiolo. Lighter wines may be perceived as less appealing to critics and consumers.
There is also the practice of partial stem inclusion where maybe 50% of the wine is stem soaked while the other is just juice of the grapes. 100% stem inclusion can be encountered as easily as 100% juice alone. It seems to depend on what the winemaker feels is important to that particular batch. Because depending on the year stem inclusion could be quite high or next to nothing. All wine makers want to make great wines and the use or disuse of stems is just one of the choices available to make that happen.