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June 28, 2020

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Summer chilling with cold brewed whites

TECHNICALLY speaking, wines are fermented, not brewed. Technological jargon notwithstanding there’s definitely a parallel in the popularity of cold brewed drinks and cold production techniques used to make wines. Our punctilious writers at Shanghai Daily are introducing cold brew drinks for summer heat-beating enjoyment; so in sync, I’ll examine cold processes in winemaking and introduce an eminently cool summer wine.

In wines, as in cold brewed drinks, using cold processes aims to accentuate certain desirable attributes while mitigating less desired qualities. Throughout the entire winemaking process, from the earliest spring buds to the moment the wine deliciously caresses your palate, temperature is a key wine quality discriminator. In most cases, cold is good. In the vineyards, warm sunny days are best balanced by cool late afternoons and evenings in order to prolong the growing season and bestow the wines with greater freshness and elegance. In particularly warm climates grapes are often harvested in the evening to avoid high temperatures.

Once in the winery, some wineries cold soak grapes before fermentation to enhance color and preserve liveliness. This pre-fermentation cold maceration is controversial but some winemakers swear by it. Less controversial and more widely practiced is cold fermentation.

Controlling the temperature of the juice during fermentation is critical in modern winemaking. Fermenting at a lower temperature helps accentuate the delicate flavors of wines. Conversely, warmer fermentation emphasizes color and tannins. It’s hardly a surprise red wines are fermented at higher temperatures, about 24-27 degrees Celsius; while whites and rose wines are fermented at cooler temperatures between 15-20 degrees Celsius.

Modern winemakers are fully cognizant of the prevailing consumer demand for ever-fresher whites, rose and in some cases even red wine. As a result, cold fermentation is here to stay. But the need for chill doesn’t end there. Before bottling, some producers cold stabilize their wines. This process entails bringing the wine to near freezing.

After the bottles leave the winery, during shipping and storage they still need a cool dark environment to retain their freshness, exuberance and typicity. Serving whites is the final chilling necessity with basic whites best served about 6-8 degrees Celsius and most weighty and serious white served approximately 10-12 degrees Celsius. From vine to palate, the entire lifecycle of wines depends on careful temperature control. Now we know wines, especially whites, benefit from chilling; let’s look at one of the coolest wines to enjoy this summer.

Sicily boasts 23 DOC regions and one DOCG appellation. The largest and most all-encompassing is Sicilia DOC, making wines from a wide range of indigenous and international varieties. Since wines within this denomination can be made all over the island, the DOC is an important international marketing tool to promote the diversity of Sicilian wines. The region was upgraded in 2011 from IGT to DOC status and increasingly has been focusing on the island’s most historic native grapes.

Sicily was first settled about 8000 BC by primitive tribes thought to have come from the Iberian Peninsula. At some point of their development these indigenous people started to cultivate vines and make crude wines. Phoenician traders and settlers arrived about 3,500 years ago bringing new varieties and more advanced winemaking techniques. Our featured grape this week; Inzolia ( or Insolia and Ansonica), most likely was one of their earliest cargos.

Several traditional winemakers in Sicily told me that Inzolia originated in Normandy and arrived on the island in Roman times. This non-mainstream belief has been invalidated by work done by ampelographers and historians who study the ancient origins and migration of grape varieties. These scientific sleuths hypothesize that the earliest vitis vinifera varieties, including the progenitor of Inzolia, originated about 8,000 years ago in and around modern-day Georgia and Azerbaijan then migrated to Mediterranean cultures.

Inzolia is the third most planted white variety in Sicily after Catarratto and Grillo. Inzolia is a vigorous variety that’s prone to oxidation so during the better part of the 19th and 20th centuries the grape was most famous as a contributor to the island’s famous Marsala fortified wines. Single variety and blended wines were produced using the grape, but for the most part they were insipid, rough daily quaffs only suitable for locals.

Today, thanks to more exacting winemaking, including cold processes, top Inzolia wines are wonderfully aromatic, fresh and lively. Typically, they are a straw-yellow color with hints of green, and expressive aromatic and flavor sensations of flowers, citrus and almonds with herbal and saline notes. In short, they’re the perfect wine for an afternoon or early evening aperitif as well as champion partners to delicate seasonal fare as they compliment rather than overpower delicate summer dishes.

The selection of Inzolia wines in China is still quite limited but one of my favorites is the cold-fermented Cusumano Cubia Inzolia Sicilia DOC, a perfumed and fresh wine with sensual hints of sage and bitter almond. Like most Sicilian whites, it’s an affordable wine. Other good producers with Inzolia single variety or blended wines available in our beautiful city include Tasca, Firriato, Terramore, Zonin and Caleo. These wines are best enjoyed young, or within two years of the vintage.

Where to buy in Shanghai

China Wine & Spirits. Room 702, No. 1, Lane 1136, Xinzha Rd, 6087-1811
Cusumano Cubia Inzolia Sicilia DOC
Firmato Chiaramonte Ansonica Sicilia DOC
Terramore Inzolia Sicilia DOC
Zonin Collezione Inzolia Sicilia DOC
Caleo Inzolia Sicilia DOC

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinotage are the widely planted red varieties, while the most popular whites are Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc.
Key term
WO means Wine of Origin which is the appellation designation for South African wines.
Star wine
Meerlust Stellenbosch Rubicon



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