Letters from Lodi
An insightful and objective look at viticulture and winemaking from the Lodi
Appellation and the growers and vintners behind these crafts. Told from the
perspective of multi-award winning wine journalist, Randy Caparoso.
As we come into the middle of Lodi's 2021 wine grape harvest, it is as good a time as any to focus on three grapes that represent three sides of the Lodi winegrowing industry today:
• Tradition and history
Brix and alcohol levels in wines
The term Brix (also called Balling) is the name of the system for measuring sugar content in grapes, fermenting grape juices (musts) or finished wines developed by Adolph Brix in the early 1800s. Brix is credited with adding precision to the measurement of sugar content on a density scale known as Balling.
Grape sugars have a direct impact on alcohol levels of wines and the resulting sense of body in the taste. Potential alcohol by volume (i.e., ABV) is typically calculated by multiplying Brix readings by .55. However, the reality is that conversion rates can be as high as .64, especially for grapes such as Zinfandel or Chardonnay that are known for uneven ripening (clusters with "hens-and-chicks"-sized berries), which usually results from millerandage or shot berries...Continue »
The Assyrtiko grape is pronounced ah-SEER-tee-koh, according to Jeff Perlegos, a second-generation winegrower of Greek heritage, who farms vineyards on both the east and west sides of Lodi with his brother John Perlegos...Continue »
I once attended a Hospice du Rhône in Paso Robles — which used to be a yearly (but is now an occasional) celebration of wines for lovers of grapes grown in Mediterranean regions — and I was suddenly struck by a recurring theme voiced by guest vintners who were attending from France’s Rhône Valley, as well as from Australia, and Spain’s Priorat, Jumilla and the lesser known Méntrida region: They all grow grapes, they seemed to gleefully say, in “hot climates..."Continue »
The latest two red wine releases by former Manhattan sommelier, Patrick Cappiello, are both fulfillments of one of his dreams: to produce a style of red wine Italians (and Italian-Americans) drank in copious amounts, which is out of traditional fiascos —the big, fat, straw-covered bottles long associated with wines from Tuscany's Chianti region.
It's not so much the age-old packaging Cappiello is looking for, but a style of red wine: bone dry, sturdy, yet zesty and light, with a little bit of a silky feel that makes the wine go down with an ultra-smoothness. The ultimate "food wines"...Continue »
On the face of it, talking about wines being "balanced" was always perfectly okay. That is, until about ten years ago, when the term suddenly became politicized, like vaccines, gender identities or anything suggesting "natural." People started taking sides, and somewhere along the line the notion popped up that wines over 14% alcohol, or picked “overripe,” are somehow inferior or less “balanced” than wines picked at lower sugars, and finished closer to 12% or 13% alcohol (i.e., ABV, or "Alcohol by Volume")...Continue »
When I met the West Sonoma Coast-based winemaker Greg La Follette some 25 years ago, the first thing that struck me was what a bundle of contradictions he seemed to be. I knew he was known, and highly sought as an industry speaker and consultant, for being a winemaker with a mastery of the science of oenology. Yet everything he did seemed to gravitate towards making wines as "naturally" as possible.
He spoke constantly of doing "unsafe" things in the winery — like "pushing the dragon's tail," I once heard of him say — yet all he could talk about was understanding the science behind it all, which always entailed work done in vineyards, not wineries. As if winemakers ("hose draggers," he likes to call them) were responsible for very little of how wines turned out...Continue »
In our previous blog post, Progress of terroir-focused, vineyard-designate wines in Lodi, we discussed how wines with single-vineyard designations do not necessarily express sensory qualities derived directly from their respective vineyards' growing conditions. Or as terroir is frequently defined: as having a "sense of place."
Quite often, winemaker or winery house styles, or obsessions with attaining intense varietal character, have a tendency to blur or obliterate terroir expressions in commercial vineyard-designate wines (please see our recent post, How varietal character and terroir became generational bones of contention). In a world where 100-point scores and maintaining brand styles remain the highest priorities, focus on vineyard and even regional or appellation-associated characteristics usually falls by the wayside...Continue »
Terroir is a French term that entails the natural environmental factors, such as climate, soil, topography, aspect, elevation, latitude, etc., that have a direct effect on grape qualities, and ultimately on wines made from those grapes.
Second, because vineyards, like wines, involve human input, viticultural traditions closely associated with regions or eras are often considered part of a region's or vineyard's terroir.
Third, the word terroir is also frequently applied to sensory qualities in resulting wines in terms of their expression of "sense of place," especially when there is less priority placed on qualities such as varietal character or brand style. On a sensory level, a wine's expression of terroir is not necessarily, as the word implies, an earth- or mineral-related quality, although earthy or minerally qualities can certainly be part of it. The predominant sensory perceptions of terroir in a wine usually have more to do with qualities of aroma and palate sensations such as body (closely related to levels of alcohol in wine), acidity, and tannin...Continue »