Destemming separates the berries from their stems. If the latter are not sufficiently ripe they may add unpleasant green tannins to the wine, or a grassy taste. This being said, the stems can be kept if they are ripe: they will enrich the wine’s palette of aromas, add quality tannins to wines that are lacking or to cellaring wines, and contribute extra complexity.
Grape Brandy and Pomace Brandy
The principle :
- brandy is obtained by distilling a base wine - white wine in the case of grape brandy and fermented grape mark in the case of pomace brandy. Distillation in a still removes water from the alcohol and isolates the best of the heart of the brandy, which will then gain its aromatic power.
The aim of crushing is to open the grapes to facilitate fermentation and the flow of colouring agents contained in the skin, because the pulp does not contain any colouring agents.
The must is placed in a vat to ferment for about one week. Absolutely no sugar or sulphur dioxide may be added. Decanting may be necessary to eliminate the biggest particles of lees, but the wine will remain cloudy and be used as a base wine with low alcoholic strength (between 7.5 and 12%).
Less than one year after the harvest, distillation removes water from the alcohol thanks to the two liquids’ different boiling points: alcohol boils at 78.5°C and can thus be isolated by heating. The different phases of distillation (evaporation and condensation) gradually load the nectar with aromas to give a colourless brandy, the "heart", that is between 50 and 72% ABV.
The brandy is undrinkable at this stage. It is aged in oak barrels (usually new ones) for at least two and a half years during which time the liquid can become red or golden in colour and acquire great aromatic power. The angels’ share evaporates during the aging process, so the barrels are topped up with brandy of the same origin. It takes decades for the alcohol level to get back down to the region of 40%. Grape brandy is often made from a blend of different grape varieties or different years.
The bottles used to store grape brandy vary greatly from one region to the next. Armagnacs, for example, are bottled in "basquaises" (bottles from the Basque country: rounded with flat sides), in 2.5-litre "pots gascons" (big, straight bottles), "cognacaises (bottles from Cognac) and "Arianes".