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WTN/Wine Advisor: Cooked!

by Robin Garr » Mon Mar 31, 2008 12:44 pm

Cooked!

So many bad things can happen to good wine! Many common wine flaws are clearly defined and fairly easy to learn to recognize. Wine judges learn to identify flaws as an aid to scoring wines in competition. Many wine enthusiasts pick them up quickly, as a hobby interest and a guide to identifying and discussing wine problems. A few examples:

* Cork taint: A moldy, musty stench reminiscent of wet cardboard or a damp basement, often with an overtone of chlorine bleach, identifies wine afflicted by a faulty natural cork.

* Oxidized: The familiar walnutty aroma of inexpensive Sherry signals a wine exposed to oxygen over time in the bottle or through a faulty cork or stopper. The geek-speak term "Maderized" is nearly synonymous, although as an exercise in wine pedantry, it's possible to draw a line between "oxidized" by air exposure and "maderized" by exposure to air and heat.

* Wild yeast: Earthy, "barnyard" aromas ranging from sweaty leather horse saddles to barnyards piled high with manure - often accompanied by a twangy acidic finish - usually denote contamination by wild yeast strains with names like brettanomyces ("brett") and dekkera.

* Volatile acidity: The bacterium acetobacter, afflicting carelessly made wines, can yield a range of "high-toned" aromas ranging from a whiff of furniture polish to a salad-dressing jolt of vinegar.

* Sulfur: A range of sulfur compounds (not to be confused with sulfites used as a natural preservative) can cause a variety of aroma faults in wine from "burnt match" to offensively stinky smells of overcooked cabbage, sauerkraut or swamp gas.

One of the most widely discussed wine faults, though, doesn't submit easily to dictionary-style definition. Today, following up on an extended conversation in our WineLovers Discussion Group, let's tighten our focus on "cooked" wine, a common problem that lacks a clear description.

Not literally "cooked" on a stove top, this term refers to a wine purportedly damaged by exposure to excessive heat - or, increasingly, exposed to any heat above the traditional 55F/13C temperature of underground cellars - during shipment or storage.

This term is a relative newcomer to the world of wine evaluation. Wine encyclopedias and other reference books from as recently as the 1970s don't list it, at least not separately from oxidation and maderization. It rarely if ever comes up in wine judging in Europe (perhaps because these competitions usually feature new wines sent directly from storage at the winery). But dip into online wine forums or attend gatherings of wine enthusiasts, and it surely won't be long before you encounter an expert spitting out wine and declaring it "cooked."

Getting those experts to agree on exactly what constitutes "cooked" and how to identify it, however, is a much stickier wicket.

Why did a long-term non-issue so quickly bubble to the top of wine lovers' worry lists? I see a combination of two factors: First, a few strong wine importers - most notably Berkeley's irrepressible Kermit Lynch - made a virtue out of shipping their wines under carefully controlled conditions ... and pointing out that their competitors do not. Second, a significant increase of wine collecting and investment - as opposed to mere wine drinking - altered priorities among new wine enthusiasts.

Amid a growing received wisdom that exposure to heat in shipment or storage compromises the potential longevity of ageworthy wines, collectors began paying attention to the provenance of their wines - and, soon enough, worrying about the storage status of all their wines.

But what exactly does a "cooked" wine taste like? Frankly, you can ask five experts and get five answers. Based largely on personal, anecdotal experience, some cite "overripe fruit" "pruney fruit" or even "stewed fruit" as a dead giveaway. Others look for the telltale nutty but stale Sherry-like scent that betrays oxidation. Collectors, who rarely drink their treasures young, focus on the longer term: Overheat a wine, they fret, and it will "fall apart" in the cellar, losing its fruit while an undamaged wine would be maturing toward mellow complexity, the damage revealing to the collector's dismay only after years of storage.

Although the science behind this theory is less than clear, I'm inclined toward the latter view. Back in the summer of 2001, I conducted some casual tests, deliberately "cooking" a bottle of modest Cabernet in a closed car on a searing summer day. Tasted later in a "blind" pairing with an identical but un-damaged bottle, the heated wine was actually more immediately appealing, showing more forward fruit and softness. The effect resembled "flash pasteurization," a sleazy treatment given some industrial-type commercial wines to bring up their fruit. It doesn't seem surprising to me that a wine so treated - not unlike an athlete overdosing on steroids - would give up its longevity in exchange for a youthful burst of power.

Still, when I taste a wine and find it either forwardly fruity or hinting at Sherry, I can't say that "cooked" is the first explanation that comes to my mind. "Cooked" is often used generically for "damaged" in cases where it's not really possible to be more specific.

I do believe that long-term exposure to warmth compromises longevity, but I'm not persuaded that cooking confers a short-term "stewed" or other character that can be consistently picked out with the level of confidence that wine judges bring to cork taint, volatile acidity or wild yeast contamination.

At the end of the day, though, I see no reason to alter my conclusion in the 2001 article: It simply makes sense to take care of your wine and keep it cool ... and that goes double if you're talking about an expensive, ageworthy wine that you intend to keep for a long time.

At the same time, the reassuring lesson is that, even if you make a mistake and let your wine get overheated - or if the power to your cellar goes off for a few hours on a hot, summer day - you needn't assume that it's ruined and can't still be enjoyed.

Now, here's today's tasting report, a fine value in a rustic but food-friendly Old World Cabernet.

Domaine La Tour Boisée 2005 Vin de Pays d'Oc Cabernet Sauvignon ($9.99)

Clear but very dark blackish-purple, almost inky; clear garnet at the edge. Appealing red fruit and spice, hints of mixed berries and tart plums, pleasant but doesn't really jump out to me as varietal Cabernet. Flavors are consistent with the nose, fresh and tart, perhaps a hint of dark, bitter chocolate as a backdrop to the fruit. Tannins aren't obvious at first tasting, but show up as dry and rather scratchy astringency on the finish. Warm at 13.8% alcohol, a bit rough and rustic; but there's nothing the matter with that in this "wine of the country" table wine, fine with simple fare. U.S. importer: Wine Adventures Inc., West Des Moines, Iowa. (March 31, 2008)

FOOD MATCH: Fine with red meat or pasta, or in this case, both: Leftover rare rib eye steak warmed through in a light sauce of fresh tomatoes, green peppers, red onions, garlic and Pecorino Romano as a sauce for mezzi rigatoni..

VALUE: The $10 price point for quality European wine is almost disappearing as the puny dollar continues to weaken. This rustic red, however, is well worth the toll.

WHEN TO DRINK: Drinkable now and not really meant for aging, but fruit, balance and tannins will likely hold it for a few years.

WEB LINK: The winery Website is published in French, English and what appears to be two dialects of Chinese:
http://www.domainelatourboisee.com

For a fact sheet on an earlier vintage of today's wine, see
http://www.domainelatourboisee.com/wine ... ignon.html

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE:
Distribution of Domaine La Tour Boisée is limited. U.S. readers may be able to get information on sources from the import firm, Wine Adventures Inc. of West Des Moines, Iowa:
http://www.wineadventures.com

You'll find a few U.S. and international vendors for Domaine La Tour Boisée on Wine-Searcher.com:
http://www.wine-searcher.com/find/Tour% ... g_site=WLP

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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Cooked!

by Craig Pinhey » Mon Mar 31, 2008 1:27 pm

Hi Robin

As far as I'm concerned, cooked is maderized. I don't see any difference. Isn't that the definition of maderized? Wines heated in storage?

Funny, speaking of flash pasteurization, I am in Argie right now (I'll send selected wine notes when I get back - I am in my Buenos Aires hotel waiting for my airport ride) and I was at a winery this week, one of my faves (Finca Las Moras) and their winemaker admitted using flash pasteurization for certain wines, certain black grapes. The device cost like a million pesos (or dollars?) and they only use it for that short period once a year, and only on specific wines with specific properties.

Their Black Label wines are fantastic value, and I hope to see them in our market soon. Not sure if those ones use FP.

But i have had several wines here that tasted cooked, as I did in Cali. I mean cooked, as in cooked on the vine. Raisiny. Like many zinfandels. Now THAT can be difficult to tell from wines cooked in hot storage! And sometimes I get wines by the glass that I've never had before and I wonder - was that bottle open too long, or is the wine made from grapes left on the vine too long? ;) This happened in the bar at the Park Hyatt in Mendoza, with a Dona Paula Merlot. Never had it before, so I wondered - is it supposed to be like that? I guess if it was open too long it would have an unpleasant, cardboardy dryness too...
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Cooked!

by Robin Garr » Mon Mar 31, 2008 1:47 pm

Craig Pinhey wrote:As far as I'm concerned, cooked is maderized. I don't see any difference. Isn't that the definition of maderized? Wines heated in storage?

I wouldn't say that, Craig.

In my wine vocabulary, at least, "oxidized" is a more accurate term than the rather geekspeak "Maderized," which traces its etymology to the Madeira process but is generally taken as a pejorative for a wine accidentally submitted to the heating process that Madeira undergoes intentionally.

I've seen folks (including either Thomas or Oliver, maybe both, in the recent forum thread that inspired today's article) argue for a distinction between "maderize" and "oxidize," the former involving heat and the latter oxidation. Frankly, I find that a rather fine distinction, and linking it to Madeira flavor vs Sherry flavor really doesn't work because it doesn't take flor into account.

Let's put up a stop sign before this thread, like the last, starts diffusing into a gazillion branches: My point isn't so much to define "cooked" as to point out that there is very little agreement, even among the experts, as its exact definition, characteristics and descriptors. Some say it's oxidized, some say maderized. Some say it's overripe or stewed fruit, caramel or burnt sugar. And many say it's just enhanced youthful fruit purchased at the expense of shortened longevity and compromised cellarworthiness. Based on my own anecdotal experience, I'm somewhat aligned with the latter definition, although I can't muster specific science to explain it.

Before anyone bloviates on about how "cooking" is merely another name for oxidation/maderization , though, I would suggest conducting your own real-world experimentation similar to what I've reported and TomHill and other have reported. Take a bottle of wine out on a hot summer day. Cook the hell out of it, letting it roast until the cork pushes out. Cool it off, then taste it. You may find your assumptions challenged.

For Phase Two of this test, this summer I'm going to cook a few and then put them back in the cellar for a year or two, for later comparison against un-abused wines from the same batch.
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Cooked!

by Mark Lipton » Mon Mar 31, 2008 3:06 pm

Robin, I lost track of that other thread, but having given the subject some thought, I think that the most likely scientific explanation for what's going on is that short-term exposure to higher temperature results in an increase in interior pressure in the bottle, leading to a compromise of the seal afforded by a cork and -- down the road -- to all the problems associated with cork failure (premature oxidation, high ullage, early senescence). This is most evident in leakers, but may be equally true in bottles that don't have pushed-out corks or leakage. If such a view is true, the prediction is that bottles sealed under alternate closure should be far less sensitive to heat damage.

Arguing against that view is an observation made by Tom Reddick years ago that he found more examples of heat damage in Champagne than in any other still wine. Since, according to the theory proposed above, subtle heat damage is a consequence of the failure of the seal, one would expect heat-damaged Champagnes to be flat, a rather obvious sign.

Just my $0.02,
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Cooked!

by Robin Garr » Mon Mar 31, 2008 3:11 pm

Mark Lipton wrote:Robin, I lost track of that other thread, but having given the subject some thought, I think that the most likely scientific explanation for what's going on is that short-term exposure to higher temperature results in an increase in interior pressure in the bottle, leading to a compromise of the seal afforded by a cork and -- down the road -- to all the problems associated with cork failure (premature oxidation, high ullage, early senescence). ...

Mark, I think we're very close to the same page and perhaps actually on it, although as I pointed out to Craig, I'm really bearing two flags into this battle, one seeking a clear definition with descriptors, but the other arguing that "cooked" at this time is a widely used but rather recent winespeak term noted for its imprecision and lack of general agreement. I think the earlier thread rather clearly underscored this analysis ... ;)
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Cooked!

by Gary Barlettano » Mon Mar 31, 2008 3:56 pm

Just a stray observation: I've always associated the taste of oxidation with the taste of blood from an open wound. I guess we've all cut ourselves and, in absence of a Band-Aid or other closure, have licked the blood away. There is a certain ferrous flavor caused by blood's meeting oxygen which, when I find it in wines, I refer to as oxidation. For me maderized wines have some of this and also the old, moldy, raisiny muffiness of bad Madeira. But both oxidized and maderized wines can still have some body. Cooked wines, for my own note-taking convenience, have somehow gone flat and flabby in addition to having many of the characteristics of a maderized wine. But this is all just me and, as is often the case, I'm using the same words as everyone else but can still be speaking a different language.

Perhaps "cooked" isn't a characteristic or a descriptor at all; rather, it might simply be a cause which has multiple effects. Maybe it's is too much heat applied at the wrong time just as too much rain on the vines applied at the wrong time doesn't produce "rainy" wine but has other possible deleterious effects?
And now what?
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Cooked!

by Robin Garr » Mon Mar 31, 2008 4:31 pm

Gary Barlettano wrote:Just a stray observation: I've always associated the taste of oxidation with the taste of blood

Interesting, Gary ... I respect that without being able to share it ... but I often find "blood" or its close kin "rare beef" in Rhone Syrah, and always thought I was being smart by assuming that it somehow relates to iron in the soil.

Good thoughts in general, though, and supporting my supposition that "cooked" simply hasn't settled in on a clear, generally-agreed-upon descriptor along the lines of "corked" or "bretty," perhaps not least - as you say - because it covers a fairly wide range of flaws from "sat on a rail car on a siding in Tucson for a week in July" or "shipped through the Panama Canal on a rustbucket freighter" to "stored upright in the wine shop for three weeks" or "sat in my wine cellar during a two-hour power outage."

Bottom line, though, as summer draws near, I think it would be a lot of fun if a bunch of us would experiment - presumably with less "fancy" wines - by subjecting them to serious Abu Ghraib treatment and then tasting them blind against non-abused counterparts. I'll be very surprised if any but the most mistreated specimens show the kind of short-term caramelization or maderization that the conventional wisdom suggests. But some longer-term testing with cellared abused bottles could be really interesting.
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Cooked!

by Gary Barlettano » Mon Mar 31, 2008 5:08 pm

Robin Garr wrote:
Gary Barlettano wrote:I'll be very surprised if any but the most mistreated specimens show the kind of short-term caramelization or maderization that the conventional wisdom suggests. But some longer-term testing with cellared abused bottles could be really interesting.

Maybe a topic for next month's Wine Focus?
And now what?
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Cooked!

by Robin Garr » Mon Mar 31, 2008 5:31 pm

Gary Barlettano wrote:Maybe a topic for next month's Wine Focus?

Not sure it's the best fit there, but it would be a deliciously geeky thread in the main forum. :)
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Cooked!

by wrcstl » Mon Mar 31, 2008 5:33 pm

Robin Garr wrote:Cooked!
Why did a long-term non-issue so quickly bubble to the top of wine lovers' worry lists? I see a combination of two factors: First, a few strong wine importers - most notably Berkeley's irrepressible Kermit Lynch - made a virtue out of shipping their wines under carefully controlled conditions ... and pointing out that their competitors do not. Second, a significant increase of wine collecting and investment - as opposed to mere wine drinking - altered priorities among new wine enthusiasts.


I always thought another reason was that so many wines were being produced with ouer-ripe grapes, sorta RPs style, and these wines I sometimes get confused with being cooked, paricularly if they have some age.

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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Cooked!

by Robin Garr » Mon Mar 31, 2008 5:42 pm

wrcstl wrote:I always thought another reason was that so many wines were being produced with ouer-ripe grapes, sorta RPs style, and these wines I sometimes get confused with being cooked, paricularly if they have some age.

You're probably right on target, Walt, but I hate it that this explanation actually makes sense. :twisted:
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Cooked!

by Victorwine » Mon Mar 31, 2008 5:52 pm

Hi Robin,
I like this 30 Second Wine Advisor article better.

http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvis ... 1114.phtml

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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Cooked!

by Robin Garr » Mon Mar 31, 2008 6:33 pm

Victorwine wrote:I like this 30 Second Wine Advisor article better.
http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvis ... 1114.phtml

Thanks, Victor! I wish I had thought to cross-reference that one as well.
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Cooked!

by Dale Williams » Mon Mar 31, 2008 8:06 pm

Robin Garr wrote:Bottom line, though, as summer draws near, I think it would be a lot of fun if a bunch of us would experiment - presumably with less "fancy" wines - by subjecting them to serious Abu Ghraib treatment and then tasting them blind against non-abused counterparts. I'll be very surprised if any but the most mistreated specimens show the kind of short-term caramelization or maderization that the conventional wisdom suggests. But some longer-term testing with cellared abused bottles could be really interesting.


The short term experiments don't really interest me. And frankly serious abuse isn't my main interest. What really interests me is what bad storage can do to long term aging, but I'm not willing to subject bottles that I think are really ageworthy to the risk. What I will do is an experiment over say an 18 month period.

I'll take 3 or 4 paired bottles of inexpensive (but short term ageable) wine. I'll put one bottle of each in a back corner of my kitchen atop a cabinet (you know you're too into German wine when you start to spell it kabinet). Others in cellar in a "don't touch" box.. We tend to keep our house very cool in winter, but sure kitchen is warm at times. And it does get warm in summer. I'll revisit in 2 years if I can hold out. Serve all at a dinner in 2010.
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Cooked!

by Duane J » Tue Apr 01, 2008 8:36 pm

This thread got my curiosity up about cooked wines. I cook wine at work a lot to test it for heat stability but never taste it. Today I tasted a red and a white. They were not really horrible tasting. The aroma of the white was just a little bit different and it tasted a little flat compared to an uncooked version of this wine. The finish had a hint of oxidation. The red was about the same but the oxidation seemed stronger to me. I would have thought the white would have been more fragile and shown more signs of abuse. Both of the wines were drinkable for me.
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Cooked!

by Craig Pinhey » Tue Apr 01, 2008 10:52 pm

I still say cooked is maderized! intentional or accidental, the flavours are very similar, or the same. I don't use the term maderized for regular oxidized wine (sherry like). I call that oxidized. But if it tastes overly raisiny, then I (right or wrong) call it baked or maderized. But sometimes that could be baked on the vine, I suppose...

cooked on the vine, though, needs another term...(besides parkerized ;)

I "made" my own sherry for my Sommelier class exam once. I put Fortrant de France Sauv blanc in a decanter and left it in our sun room in direct sunlight , open, for a couple months. And, wouldn't you know, most people in the blind exam thought it was a commercial sherry. I have to say, it wasn't bad!
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Cooked!

by Robin Garr » Tue Apr 01, 2008 10:55 pm

Craig Pinhey wrote:I still say cooked is maderized! intentional or accidental, the flavours are very similar, or the same. I don't use the term maderized for regular oxidized wine (sherry like). I call that oxidized. But if it tastes overly raisiny, then I (right or wrong) call it baked or maderized. But sometimes that could be baked on the vine, I suppose...

You're certainly entitled to your opinion, Craig, but perhaps you didn't read the article at the top of this thread. The two points I sought to make seemed simple enough: (1) "Cooked" is a vague term among wine enthusiasts and has not settled down to a commonly-agreed-upon definition or descriptors; and (2) many wines declared "cooked" are not at all maderized; indeed, simple experimentation will reveal that it requires extreme damage before this character appears, and many wines left under sub-optimal conditions simply won't show it.
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Cooked!

by Craig Pinhey » Wed Apr 02, 2008 12:17 am

Yes I read it.

I understand what you are proposing - I just don't think we need more descriptive terms. There are too many already!

I think there are levels of "cooked," "baked," maderized, whatever you want to call it. Like any defect.

But what you are describing sounds more to me like wine made from overripe grapes. Raisiny but not oxidized. That's what those magnets due to wines, isn't it?

Flash pasteurization does it, too, I think. Maybe your controlled "cooking" process is yet another technique to make the wine seem like the grapes were overripe. Very fruity, but...
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Cooked!

by Robin Garr » Wed Apr 02, 2008 8:12 am

Craig Pinhey wrote:Flash pasteurization does it, too, I think.

That would be why I wrote in the original article, "The effect resembled 'flash pasteurization,' a sleazy treatment given some industrial-type commercial wines to bring up their fruit."
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Cooked!

by Victorwine » Wed Apr 02, 2008 5:41 pm

Only if the wine does not have a “substantial” amount of alcohol does one have to consider either heat or cold pasteurizing and fining with micro-porous filters.

Question for Duane;
When testing a sample of wine for heat stability what technique is used? Amount of heat and duration?

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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Cooked!

by Duane J » Wed Apr 02, 2008 8:12 pm

Victorwine wrote:Question for Duane;
When testing a sample of wine for heat stability what technique is used? Amount of heat and duration?


I was afraid that someone would ask that question. Fosters Wine doesn't like us to give away company techniques so I can't tell you what we do. I can tell other ways so that people will know how to check the stability of their wines. You can filter the wine first through a 0.45 micron membrane filter. Next heat the wine for 24 hours in an oven at 135°F. Last remove the wine and let it cool to room temperature. You can then visually look for any haze at that point. The lack of any haze means it is stable. We use a turbidimeter to check our wines at work for any haze.

I guess if a person is bottling unfiltered they should skip the filtering step above.
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Cooked!

by Victorwine » Thu Apr 03, 2008 12:31 am

Thanks Duane.

Pasteurization of wine requires approximately the same temperature (135 deg F) but a shorter duration, only a few minutes. Instead of letting it cool down on its own, usually the temperature is “forced” down fairly quickly. This modern technique of pasteurization IMHO is a lot less “abusive” than a heat stability test or preparing a sample of wine to determine dry extract content using a hydrometer. (Where a given volume of sample wine is taken, a portion of the sample is evaporated; distilled water is added to remaining portion to bring it back to “original” volume of sample and hydrometer reading taken after sample is brought to appropriate temperature).
Being a home wine maker I heat stabilize only a small sample of my wines (I built an estufa, mainly for this purpose but it can accommodate a 5 gal carboy to produce Madeira-style wines) only to decide whether I will fine and filter my wine. Usually however “Old-World” thinking wins and hopefully my wines will never reach those temperatures.
In today’s age do most commercial wineries heat and cold stabilize a “representative sample” of their bottled wines to determine chemical stability of their “finished” wine and reliability of enclosure?

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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Cooked!

by Duane J » Thu Apr 03, 2008 1:33 am

I would think a lot of wineries do hot and cold stabilize their wines. We check all wines for hot and cold stability before they are bottled. The testing is done before the wine is put into the bottle. It is much easier to correct if there is a problem then. :) The reliability of the closures is done while the wine is being bottled. The corker pulls a vacuum on the bottle as it is corked. We check a few bottles every so often to make sure there is a vacuum in them.

Now as a home winemaker I don't care if my wine is heat and cold stable. :)
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Re: WTN/Wine Advisor: Cooked!

by Victorwine » Thu Apr 03, 2008 7:02 pm

Thanks again Duane. Home winemaking (for me anyway) is not yet a “job”, but a “hobby” I truly enjoy.

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