Organic Red Wine
Organic red wine is made from dark-colored (black) grape varieties. In our portfolio, these include familiar varietals such as Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Syrah, Merlot, Tempranillo, Malbec and Pinot Noir and unique grapes including Tinta de Toro (Spain), Agiorgitko (Greece), Bobal (Spain), Zweigelt (Austria), Dornfelder (Germany), Monastrell (Spain), Canoiolo, Raboso, Gropello, Rebo and Merzamino (Italy), Tannat, Petit Verdot, and Bonarda (Argentina). The flesh of almost all grape varieties is white, with the color of the wine coming from the skins of the grapes.
Many of the grapes for our organic wines are picked by hand, the wine growers carefully placing the bunches of grapes in bins, then taking them directly to production. Machine harvesting is also used, with small systems used to shake the grapes gently from the vines. Especially for our No Sulfite Added wines, the grapes are carefully hand-culled to ensure that no bruised or otherwise marred grapes are used in production. This helps to prevent bacteria from entering into the winemaking process.
De-stemming and crushing
Upon arrival at the winery there is a mixture of individual berries, whole bunches, stems, and leaves. After de-stemming and removing leaves, the grapes are lightly crushed to release the juice, then the juice and skins are put in the fermentation tank. This mixture is called “must.”
Yeast and Fermentation
Once the must is in a fermentation vessel, indigenous yeast naturally present on the skins of the grapes, or in the environment, starts the alcoholic fermentation. The sugars present are converted into alcohol with carbon dioxide and heat as by-products. The majority of our winery partners use this naturally occurring yeast, and some create or use organic yeast specifically from the region. Fermentation takes place at a higher temperature for red than for white wines, 70-90 degrees F.
Alcohol helps the extraction of color, tannin and flavor from the skins. In order to keep the skins in contact with the juice, the juice can be pumped over the floating skins, or the skins can be “punched down” periodically into the juice. The amount of color and tannins is determined by the length of time the juice remains in contact with the skins.
When the desired amount of color, flavor and tannins is achieved by the winemaker for their specific organic red wine, the “free run” wine is removed from the tank, and the grapes are extracted and pressed. The resulting wine is called the “press wine” and can be blended with the free run wine to produce the style the winemaker wants to achieve.
Decanting and Maturation
Organic red wine is decanted off its lees (dead yeast cells and other solids), and for our Made with Organically Grown Grapes wines, a very minimal amount of sulfur dioxide is added as a preservative to avoid oxidation and bacterial spoilage. For Made with Organically Grown Grapes wines, this amount can be up to 100ppm (conventional wines have up to 350ppm) but our winery partners try and keep them to a minimum with most averaging 20-30ppm. Wines that have No Sulfites Added can still contain naturally occurring sulfites produced by the grapes themselves) up to 10ppm.
Most red wine is aged for some period before bottling, in stainless-steel or concrete tanks, or in small or large American and/or French oak barrels. Oak barrels impart specific flavors and the age and type of oak is significant to the flavor profile.
Our organic red wines undergo fining, which is designed to clarify the wine. Fining agents used by our winery partners are 100% vegan and include Bentonite Clay and Pea Protein.
Filtration and bottling
Our organic red wines are filtered before bottling to eliminate any remaining yeast cells and bacteria and to produce a clear wine. The wine is then bottled and corked or capped with a “Stelvin” screw cap. You will find that many No Sulfites Added wines have a screw cap, as they are designed to keep oxygen from entering the bottle.