Saturday, May 28, 2011

Comparison: Fermenting Lodi Zinfandel grapes with and without stems

In 2005, I made two batches of Lodi Zinfandel, one fermented with crushed grapes removed from their stems, and one fermented with grapes that were crushed with their stems intact. (For the record, they were labeled as Z'5 and Z,5 for the 2005 varietals)  Right after fermentation, those with the stems showed a distinct vegetative aspect, which seemed to fade with aging.  Separately, I have made recent tasting notes with both wines, here for the stemmed wine, and here for the de-stemmed wine.

But now I will do a head-to-head comparison...

In the glass, the two wines are almost indistinguishable: both light brick red, the de-stemmed version shows a bit more purple in the mix. (In the photo below, the version with stems in on the left, the de-stemmed version is on the right.)

Aromas are similar and virtually indistinguishable, both sweet with bright highlights.

On the palate, the main difference is not in the flavors, which are consistent one to the other, but in the mouthfeel.  The varietal fermented with stems still shows an angular aspect, sharp elbows bringing you into the finish.  The de-stemmed version shows instead a creaminess, a soft and silky migration into the finish.  That is at least a half-point (ie, a plus sign) difference on the five-star Spirit of Wine scale.

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