Will Work for Wine

I’m sure you’ve heard my title before.

I’ve seen it on social media, heard it uttered jokingly among friends, and heck, I’m sure it’s printed on cocktail napkins somewhere too.

As with most lighthearted sentiments, there is a kernel of truth behind this saying.

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We DO need to work for wine – there is a ton of work that goes into the process.

This is worth repeating. There is a TON of work that goes into making wine.

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I’ve been a wine drinker for almost thirty years. Yikes.

Perhaps we can’t count the wine I drank until I was about 28 though. Most of that was plonk.

Ahhh…. that’s better. Now I can say I’ve been a wine drinker for only eighteen years. Makes me feel a bit younger.

Anyway.

After I stopped drinking all that plonk, I became extremely interested in wine. I was so fascinated that I thought about becoming a sommelier, and started the first level of the program with the International Sommelier Guild.

Alas, blind tasting is not my thing. And creating those wine descriptions and tasting notes? Not my thing either.

Though I left my Sommelier dreams behind, the ISG taught me so much – we did a lot of tasting, but we also did a lot of reading. On a textbook level, I know all about the winemaking process.

But to experience it firsthand?

That’s a whole other level of learning.

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So I was happy to continue my education by helping out one morning at Rancourt Winery, picking the last of their Petit Verdot.

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After the scorching heat and lack of rain we had this summer, the general consensus seems to be that the 2016 vintage will be a pretty great one. I’ve heard some say that it will be just as good – if not better – than 2012 was. For my readers who don’t live in Niagara, we had a beautiful, hot, dry summer in 2012 and it produced some stunning wines – particularly my beloved red varieties. With all indications for this year looking the same, I can’t wait to taste what 2016 brings.

Due to these glorious growing conditions, the timing is perfect for Rancourt to produce a single varietal Petit Verdot wine. What’s even more exciting is that this is the first time they are doing so.

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A small group of us gathered at the winery one drizzly November morning. Fuelled by coffee, we ventured out into the vineyard.

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We met up with Marc Pistor, one of the members of Rancourt’s winemaking team.

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He talked about what they look for in the grapes, and what tells him that it’s time to pick.

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We tasted some of the grapes, and they were delicious.

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Then we talked about the seeds. Even the colour of the grapeseeds tells him a lot about the state of the grapes.

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Next, he pulled out this nifty gizmo. According to what I could find on the internet, its official name is “Brix Refractometer”. But hey – “nifty gizmo” works in a pinch.

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He squeezed some of the juice from the grapes onto the machine

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He looked into the viewfinder

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And presto! Brix levels are determined. When the brix levels are where you want them, it’s time to pick.

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So we got to work.

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I’ll just mention here that the pros had already been out picking that morning. They kindly left us part of a row to complete. It took the six of us almost two hours to finish part of a row. That just shows you how much work it is.

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We picked, chatted, and had to take the odd break to stretch a bit. You have to crouch down and reach around the vines, which sometimes means you end up in very strange positions. Also, the clumps of the grapes can make it a bit of a challenge to see exactly where to cut. You want to make sure you clip in the right place, so there is no damage to the grape clusters or vines.

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You must take care not to nip your fingers in the process either. One of the members of our crew went home with a few pecks on her fingers. Ouch.

All worth it for these beauties though.

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When we finished picking, our grapes were brought in to be destemmed and crushed.

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They were then transferred into the tank. Just look at this bubbling beauty.

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Now, we wait. Well, I wait. The winemaker’s work continues.

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Sue suggested we kick off our waiting process with some barrel sampling. We all agreed it was a splendid idea.

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We tasted some wines already in the barrel, and some that were still in the tank. We compared notes, though mine weren’t as exact as everyone else’s. I’m always amazed when people can pick up such intricate flavours. My brain seems to go by “yummy” and “oh that’s yummy too”, and “so’s this one”. Sensing and picking out all those different tastes is not my strong suit.

But it always makes for lively discussion among wine lovers.

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There are only a few wineries that I know of that produce a single varietal Petit Verdot wine, so this project at Rancourt is pretty darn exciting to me. I can’t wait to taste it.

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After our busy morning I realized once again that yes, you definitely must work for wine.

Thanks to Sue, Marc, and everyone at Rancourt Winery for a fun and informative morning.