Oxygen Management in Wine: Why Should You Care?

Oxygen is the greatest enemy of wine, but it is oxygen that makes the wine, which ages under its influence – Louis Pasteur

Understanding wholesale mlb jerseys the role of oxygen in winemaking has been an important part of modern enology, as this often-quoted line from Pasteur shows. And as Pasteur pointed out, there is a paradox at work, in the relationship between oxygen and wine: it can be just as beneficial as it can be destructive.

When is there too much? When is there too little? The answer depends on many factors ranging from the type of grapes one is using to the expected (or intended) lifespan of the wine, wholesale nba jerseys as well as stylistic decisions from the winemaking team – with the occasional push from the marketing department. How oxygen will interact with your wine is as much a question of chemistry as one of technique and choice. 

One thing is for sure: oxygen management in winemaking is much more than just keeping your barrels topped up and your tanks sealed. It intervenes at every step of the process, and should thus be constantly kept to mind. Here are a few examples of all the places where oxygen shows up in your wine, in one way or another.

Fermentation, good and bad
Oxygen is a key component of the main steps behind the transformation of grapes into wine. It interacts with yeasts, enzymes, aromatic components, tannins and phenolics. The length of tannin chains, the color of the wine, the presence or absence of reductive components are all influenced by the level of oxygenation at the time when the must is being prepared or when the yeasts are turning sugars into alcohol – and so much more.

In other words, oxygen influences pretty much everything that changes over the course of the winemaking process–and everything that, in Raconteur the end, will define Doordarshan a wine.

Defining style
Since Nomacorc all these elements are affected by the presence (or absence) of oxygen, winemakers can actively use oxygen management to define the style of wine they want to make. Will the wine be fermented in an enclosed stainless steel tank or in a more porous cement or wooden wholesale jerseys fermenter? Will wholesale nba jerseys microoxygenation be used to round out 2013 tannin structures, resulting in a wine that is more approachable at an earlier age? Will punchdowns be used, or rather remontage or délestage? Will the juice intended for white wine be protected at the press or allowed to brown significantly? Should SO2 be used, and if so, how much and when? And that’s just in the early stages of making wine.

Protection
Sometimes, the absence (or at least, the minimal presence) of oxygen is what becomes essential. When the wine is settling down and aging in tanks or barrels, an excessive amount of oxygen can have much more dire consequences than during fermentation. Fragile aromatic components can get nipped in the bud, color can be affected, and undesirable characters can develop quickly, if care is not applied. The same logic About applies to moments when the wine is being transferred and moved around: racking, filtration, blending, bottling, etc. The use of neutral gases and a careful management of winery operations, along with proper oversight of tanks and barrels during aging, are essential to making sure the wine is in good condition when it gets to markets, shops and, down the line, all the way to wine lovers.

Evolution
The aging of wine is, essentially, a story of slow oxidation. And while, for some wines, life is meant to be short and fruity, others truly reveal themselves when the long-term effects of oxygen in small doses allow their complexity and depth to shine fully. Which of these types of wines are you looking to make? That will depend largely on the grapes, of course, but choices in the cellar – including the selection of an appropriate closure, suited to the wine style – will also determine whether the wines will reveal themselves early or need time to fully come together.

Consistency
With all these factors in mind, one has to make sure that the tools used and the methods applied are done so consistently. This implies uniform methods, from one end to the other, a good deal of measuring to know what is going on, and using the proper tools. Bottling is an especially crucial step, at the final stages, since oxygen ingress can occur in a significant way, if the process is not rigorous enough, which would cause inconsistencies in how individual bottles present themselves for the consumers. Closure selection also plays a significant role in ensuring greater consistency between bottles, and a better consumer experience in the end. From one end of the process to the other, managing oxygen properly and consistently will help ensure that the wine comes out the way the winemaker intended it, and that the people who drink it experience Cep, it as it was meant to be.

About the Author

Rémy Charest is a Quebec City-based journalist, writer, and translator. He has been writing about wine and food since 1997 in various Canadian and American print and online publications, includijng Le Devoir, Le Soleil, Coup de Pouce, EnRoute, Palate Press, Punch Drink, WineAlign and Châtelaine, and has been a regular radio columnist for Montreal's CJAD and CBC/Radio-Canada. He is additionally a wine judge for national and international wine competitions, notably the National Wine Awards of Canada and the World Wine Awards of Canada organized by WineAlign.

Rémy Charest Photo Credit: Jason Dziver

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