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Your Questions

Q

Why are different bottle shapes chosen for different styles of wine? Is there a correct shape for each of the various grape varieties and blends?

Sue Walker, Melbourne, Vic

I’m not certain there is a ‘correct’ shape, more that through common use we’ve come to expect that Bordeaux (and cabernet or merlot-based wines) will be bottled in a straight-sided Bordeaux bottle whereas Burgundy (and most chardonnays or pinot noirs) will use the sloping-shouldered Burgundy bottles.

However, some regions have made specific styles of bottle part of their identity. Châteauneuf-du-Pape’s heavily embossed bottle, showing the Papal mitre and keys of St Peter, was so important to the appellation’s producers they sought protection from the French Supreme Court, which recognised its significance and granted legal status.

Germany’s Franken region uses a flat, flask-shaped bottle, known as a bocksbeutel, reputed to be named after the private parts of a goat (‘bock’ in German).

Some individual producers use bottle shape to make their wines stand out from those of their competitors – Black Tower, Mateus Rosé and JP Chenet have chosen distinctive bottle shapes to differentiate themselves.

Q

What does a cold soak achieve during the winemaking process? Is it a process that is used on both white and red grapes?

Michael Halloran, Wagga Wagga, NSW

Cold soaking is the practice of macerating or soaking freshly crushed red grapes with their juice in the hope of enhancing colour and aromatics. The temperature of the vessel is kept low so that the yeasts responsible for alcoholic fermentation won’t begin to work. Water-soluble compounds present in the skins will be extracted during this period and once the winemaker is satisfied with the level of extraction, the vessel can be warmed, allowing the alcoholic ferment to begin. White wines don’t usually receive this treatment as colour isn’t normally desired in whites. Those wines labelled ‘skin contact’ are fermented as though they were red grapes, ie, the alcoholic fermentation takes place in the presence of the skins. A subtle but important distinction.

Q

Could you explain the meaning of ‘roble’, ‘crianza’ and ‘reserva’ on Spanish wine labels?

James Lloyd, Brisbane, Qld

Ageing designations on a Spanish wine label refer to the amount of time that wine has been matured prior to release. In increasing order of age, the cosecha, crianza, reserva and gran reserva categories have specific minimum requirements for both time spent in barrel and in bottle. There are also defined region-specific rules. Rioja- or Ribera del Duero-labelled ‘reserva’ will have been aged for a minimum of 36 months (12 months must have been in barrel) whereas those labelled ‘gran reserva’ will have been aged for 60 months (24 months in barrel). These terms can also apply to rosé and white wines, though the ageing requirements are usually less.‘Roble’ is the Spanish word for oak, so wines labelled this way will have spent a little bit of time in barrel but not enough to make much of an impact.

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