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Welcome to the 40 Knots Vineyard & Estate Winery blogs. Here is where we will be highlighting events and news from around the winery. Keep up to date of the latest trends, the happenings of the winery, learn how we farm and make wine, and get the inside scoop of our new releases and events.
Layne Robert Craig, Janitor and Blogger
As co-owner with his wife Brenda Hetman-Craig, Layne spends his days enjoying getting back to his family roots of traditional farming. You may see Layne out in the vineyard, at charity events, delivering wine or giving guests special attention as he takes them through the cellar for an in-depth look into how 40 Knots is able to make such delicious clean wines by using traditional methods. Layne's passion for flying is evident. With the vineyard directly below planes turning final for YQQ, it does appear that indeed Layne has found his sanctuary. Contact Layne for anything vineyard or winery.
Megan Thiel, Wine Sales, Tour Guide and Blogger
Megan has a passion for all things wine- from vineyard to tank to bottle. Her passion led her to an extensive apprenticeship with a German winery where she acquired a humbled appreciation for the vines. She comes to us with her WSET 3 accreditation and a comprehensive background; including a season with an Okanagan winery. Having recently moved from Vancouver, she is excited to become a part of the Comox Valley community.
Michael Johnson, Vineyard and Cellar, self-proclaimed sipster
A self-declared sipster, most unlikely to have become a wine lover. Read about my adventures in the vineyard and cellar, as my palate goes into training to become as honed as my wife's palate.
Welcome back, friends! This is Part 3 of my ongoing foray into grape life. It has been a tough few months for all of us, yet here we are and I am very thankful. I’m thankful for health and safety of our friends and families. I’m thankful that I was able to continue to work this whole time. I am thankful to all the frontline workers who had our backs throughout! I'm sending a huge shout out to everyone who donated community cups. It was a pleasure delivering them to the R.C.M.P. officers, the Comox by-law offers and the hospital and ambulance essential workers. A lot of love was shared over the past several months and I think it was the positivity and support that floated us through. I know that we as a local business couldn’t have done it without all the local support and the support of our wine club members everywhere. Thank you!
Some things have changed, there were hoops to jump... I mean regulations to follow in order to re-open safely. All the extra steps have slowed some of the services but increased the safety of our customers and staff exponentially. So I’d say it’s a fair trade. I wanted “Slow and in control helps keep the corona low!” on our chalkboard but I couldn’t sell it. I’ll work on some more slogans.
What I think is most important now, is that we can celebrate again. Wine Wednesdays are back, our employees are back and the tasting room is opened! In fact, one of the good things to come of all of this was the new format for tastings. My wife Alana says the tastings have become more intimate with more storytime and more sharing. More leisurely like wine should be.
Sounds nice right? I wouldn’t know. I’ve been sweating away in the vineyard here as well as the vines on Quadra! Yes, we are farming another vineyard on Quadra island, complete with an apple orchard. As well we are farming another orchard to the south of us. Rumour has it we might be dabbling in some traditional sparkling apple wine. But first I have to get through harvest.
If you haven’t been out to the winery lately, our vines are growing like crazy. I’ll add some pictures for you of both vineyards and see if you can guess which is which. The toiling is paying dividends because we got little baby grapes or “bapes” peeking out everywhere.
I keep meaning to do a smoldering exposé on how we make our traditional Brut and Soleil Rose but I'm always playing catch up with so much stuff going on! I do want to give a shout out to the amazing people who were on the bottling line the past couple of weeks, we couldn’t do it without you and I had fun popping all those bottles. I can’t express enough how much support and dedication it takes to keep a winery as large as 40 Knots going. It literally takes a whole community. That’s why I’m so proud when we are able to give back. The donations to our frontline workers or Agriculture for Autism initiative Brenda and Layne have been involved in for six years or the open vocal support of our LGBTQ community, I’m going to put an, etc here because I could go on and on but that’s what being part of a community is. I for one am proud of our not so little farm. We are cultivating grapes and love. Come by and visit soon, bring your whole family.
Becoming a Sipster Vol.2
This was my mantra while I was trying to figure out how to write Volume 2 of becoming a Sipster. I am now reconciling the person I have become, with the one I was, when I started the first blog. I had some grandiose ideas back then. I had a planned trajectory for how this series of little stories would transpire. There have been at least four months between Sipster Volume 1 and now. I have learned much more about the art of winemaking and the joy of sustainable farming.
A lot of parallels can be made between life and wine. I’m sure better writers than me can really wax-poetic about the life cycle of grapes and how it symbolizes the life of a human being. But that’s cheese and I’m not in the cheese-making business. Although as a side note Natural Pastures are true artisans. I digress.
A lot of parallels can be made between life and grapes. Both are subjected to mother-nature and both have some of their own control. At the same time, they differ on the most fundamental level. Making wine is structured, carefully planned, and well thought out, followed by concise execution. Life is chaos with many more effects beyond our control.
As I drive through the vineyard on my repurposed golf cart, hauling organics to the compost pile, I marvel at the rows upon rows of precisely pruned vines. Their twin cordons just now sprouting little fuzzy buds at almost the exact time they did last year and the year before that. The symmetry of the careful spacing and design matched by the symmetry of their growth from all the years they existed on our land at 40 Knots. It’s beautiful and their wonder isn’t lost on me. There is something pure about all those acres teeming with new life. I am beginning to understand their life cycles, and how to support them through what Layne is teaching me. I can honestly say I learn something new every day.
Winemaking seems daunting. Foremost is the time it takes. Some of our wines have been in aging for years. And wine does not just lay around, many exciting things are happening in their vessel. Back before I even started at 40 Knots, those vines had been pruned, the grapes were harvested, crushed, filtered, and gently set to rest, year after year.
I sampled the Pinot Noir 2018 from amphora yesterday and it filled me with appreciation. This ambrosia had started its life as little fuzzy buds years ago and now it was in my glass. Soon it will be in bottles so that you may experience it in your glass. As you sip, I encourage you to think of this cycle and the history that this wine has experienced.
As I sip this history, I think about how everything changes. In a few short months, how uncertain things became. All the while this wine from out of time has just been doing its thing, impervious to the chaos of our lives.
“Clean ethical wines are our promise. Great wines are not made in the tank and the barrel. Great wines come from the vineyard.” I now understand why Layne believes this. You have to believe in the product you put into those tanks, barrels, or amphoras. It will be months to years before you know the result. More important than belief is knowledge, it’s not enough to throw it all together and hope for the best. That’s where best practice and tradition comes in. Wine has been around for thousands of years and by studying the best practices of other countries and other winemakers, we can stand on the backs of giants and make a great wine that’s rooted in tradition yet uniquely ours. Even so, I suppose it’s not always perfect. Sometimes a batch doesn’t turn out the way you expect it.
Then there are all the times that bottle of vino exceeds our expectations. We come together as friends and family around the dinner table to share what man and nature have created together. Upon looking around the table, we understand that man and nature have also created energy and love around the table. Yes, we have experienced lesser wines and lesser moments. All the more reason to celebrate finer wines and special moments.
My Quest to Become a “Sipster.”
Chapter 1: Two Types of Wine.
Not long ago I thought there were only two types of wine, expensive and cheap. Even the color made little difference to me when I was expected to grab a bottle for some dinner or another at a friend’s place. I picked one that was in the middle of the road for pricing and hoped for the best. If someone at dinner recognized it and paid it a compliment, then I would take credit for the choice. If they complained I said that the person at the liquor store recommended it. So it went for many a year, buying wines at random, sometimes winning sometimes losing. I had no emotional stake in wine whatsoever. Back then I valued alcohol quantity over quality. A 24 of beer could be purchased for the same price as single bottle of wine. Economical!
Then in 2014 my mother and father in law bought a winery. Out of nowhere two very influential people, renowned in their professions, gave their notice then sold their assets in Fort St. John BC to buy a winery on Vancouver Island! You can’t make this stuff up. Needless to say, my wife Alana was a little excited at the prospect. I seen in her eyes the reflection of vines and waves, the spark of a dream she hadn’t dared dream but was now a possible reality. Suddenly I was being sent to the liquor store with concise instructions. Words like ‘pairing’ and ‘pinot something or other’ were becoming relevant to what I was purchasing. Yet I held firm, I was a bearded beer drinking man from the wild Canadian west and wine was fancy people drink.
The years passed as they tend to do and I found myself being forced to try more wine in order to be polite. I watched with feigned interest as they swirled their glasses then gingerly sniffed at what they called aroma or made comments about the clarity. “When in Rome” I thought as I copied them in order to fit in. It was a farce at first then suddenly out of nowhere I was pleasantly punched in the palate by Layne’s Pinot Noir, 2014 I believe. I couldn’t begin to quantify it. Like when I was a young lad and saw Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman for the first time, something fundamental that I didn’t yet understand changed inside of me. A veil fell from my eyes and I was rocked by the first of many startling revelations, people didn’t just drink wine to get drunk, it could taste good! Not only that but it could be used to enhance the taste of my food or the light of a sunset. I felt like I had been holding my golf club the wrong way all these years and was suddenly able to mitigate my slice. A wind from the west coast had blown clear a hidden path and to my chagrin I truly wanted to follow it.
So my quest for ambrosia began and fortunately for me I had a head start. If you haven’t yet guessed my in laws Brenda and Layne purchased 40 Knots winery and I can attest it has been a true labour of love for them. My wife Alana began spending summers at the winery helping and before long we were moving to the coast. I signed on full time December 2019 and will never look back. Everyday I learn a little more of the style and science it takes to craft fine wine and its as interesting as it is tasty. I had been missing out and I don’t want any of you to make the same mistake. Therefore, I am reaching out to all my brothers and sisters who may harbour a booze bias. Like you I love beer & whiskey, I’ve just learned that wine offers different yet equally enjoyable experience. Wine is a potent potion of love or enchanting flavour enhancer for dinner when selected correctly. It’s something you should equip in your arsenal for 2020 ladies and gents.
In closing allow me to give you this parting advice. If you think wine is something fancy for ‘other’ people, then like me you just haven’t had the proper experience. It can be as accessible or extravagant as you desire. It might also be daunting when you are just starting out, so I recommend taking the easy way like I did and learning from people who are not only knowledgeable but passionate about their product. Take the first step by coming in to 40 Knots for a free tasting. You have nothing to lose and you might just be surprised.
Tell them Mike sent you or ask for me personally, I’ll be the guy with the big black beard smiling because when you love what you do, you never really work a day in your life…maybe leave that part out if you talk to my boss.
Stay tuned for Chapter 2: Riddle Me This!
A bit of History
Gamay Noir a Jus Blanc originates back to the 1300s, with first traces found out of the Burgundy region of France. Its DNA shows that it is indeed a descendant of the Pinot Noir noble grape.
After the Gamay grape revived the Burgundy economy during the Black Death Plague, The Duke of Burgundy “Philip the Bold”, banned its production in the 1300s, citing that Pinot Noir was a more elegant and sophisticated choice. This forced the migration of Gamay to the southern French region of Beaujolais.
In the 1980s, Gamay Noir was center-stage as producers and growers alike reveled in the demand for Beaujolais Nouveau wine’s, and held parties to celebrate the young wine before aging. If you haven't taken in a Beaujolais Nouveau celebration, watch for the release on the third Thursday in November every year.
Nowadays, most plantings are found in Beaujolais and the Loire valley with remnants remaining in Burgundy. In Canada, it can be found in Prince Edward County, the Niagara Peninsula, The Okanagan Valley and here on Vancouver Island.
Gamay is gaining respect and interest as a serious wine. Styles vary across wine regions in the world, as well as flavors. Some are kept in stainless steel and some are oaked. Warmer climate regions tend to produce Gamay Noir with bubblegum and cotton candy notes whereas cooler climates like ours offer a tart, red fruit component.
40 Knots Gamay
40 Knots grows the Gamay clone 509. This rootstock was purchased from France in 2007 and 2008. Although there are currently 38 Gamay clones in France, this particular 509 clone is known to produce more full-bodied, balanced and aromatic wine that some other Gamay clones. It thrives in cool climate regions like ours here in the Comox Valley, has large clusters, and is a bit less fussy to grow than Pinot Noir.
thick, juicy Gamay Noir grape clusters from the 40 Knots 2019 harvest
This elegant Gamay is harvested from September to October. The first fermentation is in stainless steel and then moved to neutral Burgundy oak barrels, where the wine continues to soften and age, until bottling between June and August.
Our traditional Rosé is made of Gamay and Pinot Noir co-fermented in stainless steel. This beautiful Rosé is dry and bursting with flavors, perfect for the barbecue, brunch or sipping with friends.
At the 40 Knots cellar door, the newly released 2018 vintage has a hint of spice on the finish, something not seen in previous years. Boasting naturally acidity and uncomplicated notes of raspberry, sour cherry, and white pepper, this rustic wine is perfectly paired with a wide variety of dishes, including roast turkey and salmon and is served best with a light chill. If you like red wine but don’t enjoy heavy oak and harsh tannins, this wine is most certainly for you!
With the crocus’s emerging, we wait indoors and anticipate warmer days and longer daylight hours. Now is the time to trim back our 40 Knots vines in preparation for the Spring budburst! There are numerous styles of pruning that suit many different regions. The vineyard layout, climate and soil composition will help determine the appropriate method for proper vineyard structure.
Cane pruning is the main style found in the 40 Knots vineyard. This is the best option for #cooler climate regions with minimal growth left out in the elements and reduces the opportunity for negative effects of cold winter weather. A selection of last year’s strongest canes will replace growth from the year before with one cane left on either side of the crown of the vine. In most cases, it is important to leave a couple of canes on either side as insurance against the cold. This insurance vine can be cut back in the Spring when there is no more threat of frost damage.
Depending on the location and the climate, pruning one or two weeks later could potentially push budburst later into Spring. This is especially helpful for cooler climate regions where the exposure of late frost is a strong likelihood.
In some parts of the world, vines are considered weeds- they are incredibly hardy and can withstand up to -28°C degree temperatures with roots shooting down 15-20 feet. Good news for you backyard growers concerned about making a wrong move!
With the pruning complete and more that ¾’s of the growth cut back, the vines will look rather bare. The cane that is left over will be tied down to the bottom wire on the trellis system, with a twist tie, thin wire, or the old school way- by slowly and carefully twisting the cane to hold it into place. The canes will snap if manipulated too quickly, so patience is a virtue in this case!
With a great turnout to our Community Pruning class here at the 40 Knots Winery, we have some informed backyard growers going home a little wiser!
Join me next time, when I dive deeper into one of our estate red wine's and focus in on our Gamay Noir. How it grows, how it drinks and what food to pair with it!
*FREE community pruning workshop. See below for further information*
At the dawn of a new decade, we welcome a fresh start in the 40 Knots Vineyard. With 2019 behind us, we look forward into 2020 with revitalized hope, energy, and enthusiasm for a fabulous new vintage. Just like winter hibernation, the 40 Knots vines are in their dormancy stage and await the new spring sun. Winter dormancy occurs after the last autumn leaf has fallen and carries forward until early Spring.
Shorter winter days kick-off two phases of dormancy.
Endodormancy: (Greek word endo meaning inside) during this first stage, the vines become cold hardy. The plant growth regulators inside the bud prevent grapevines from growing, even in favourable environmental conditions. Endodormancy is usually complete by the end of December.
Ecodormancy: An external force that follows environmental conditions. In the Northern Hemisphere, the ecodormancy stage starts around February. In this stage, the vines await higher temperatures to proceed with budburst. With ecodormancy and climate change, vine growers must be vigilant to monitor low temperatures as to not kick off budburst too soon. This is where our #coolclimate region in the Comox Valley has a leg up!
With the vines seemingly lifeless and naked without leaves, the activity underneath the soil is charged in preparation for the new year with energetic vines sending out new roots. This “root flush” (think tiny hairs at the bottom of carrots and beets) reaches downward in search of nutrients from the soil. Internal starchy carbohydrates build inside the roots, trunks and cordons in autumn and until the first frost, and this stage is critical for proper flower, leaf and bud growth development for the following season.
Above the soil, the vines will dehydrate themselves as water contracts and glides into intercellular spaces. This phase almost steels the vines from the inside out, avoiding freezing during these chilling winter temperatures. Sugar and protein compounds come together to bind water, serving as cryoprotectants. So strength DOES come in small packages!
Join us for a FREE community pruning workshop
Calling all viticulturists, farmers and outdoor enthusiasts interested in learning vineyard pruning methods for both cane and spur vines. We are hosting a complimentary community pruning workshop on February 1st from 1-4pm at 40 Knots Winery. Click HERE to RSVP.
Unable to attend? Read about how much fun we had in my next blog post where I discuss winter grapevine pruning.
Happy New Year, from the crew at 40 Knots and me,
Aging wine in the cellar before bottling is a process that takes patience, diligence and the knowledge of one’s terroir. Grapes grown in cooler climate regions will need a different aging process than those from warmer climates. The trick for quality though is to know which vessel suits which varietal, and how long each one needs to rest before bottling. Here are the three ways that the 40 Knots cellar ages its wine:
Remnants of these ceramic style terra cotta pots have been spotted as far back as 6000 BC, with archaeologist having found remains in the Republic of Georgia. Once the amphorae reached the Mediterranean, ancient Greek’s and Romans used them as the main transportation and storage of wine. A huge benefit of amphorae is the stabilization of temperature through exceptional thermal insulation. With a porous surface, the wine stabilizes through slight oxidation; double the oxidative effects of oak! In today's wine world, there has been an insurgence of amphorae in wineries that farm organic or biodynamically. In following this biodynamic route, amphorae pots found in our 40 Knots cellar have been growing in numbers over the last year. All three of our amphorae come from Artenova in Florence, Italy.
40 Knots wine aged in amphorae:
The oak barrel is thought to be created by Spanish Celts around the fifth century BC. Embracing oak over amphorae around the 2nd century AD, the Romans and colonizing Europeans chose this transportation method for small goods and liquids. Most of the wine oak barrels that you’ll see around the world nowadays typically come from five main forests in central France or California and some of the eastern states. Wine flavors showcased from oak aging are spices, earthiness or a toasty characteristic and sometimes sweeter flavors of vanilla, caramel, and butterscotch. The barrels that you will find stacked in the 40 Knots cellar are from various areas in France.
40 Knots wine aged in oak:
Stainless Steel Tanks
With the creation of stainless steel in the early 20th century, winemakers began the journey of aging wine in stainless steel tanks. Unlike oak, a wine created in these airtight, neutral vessels imparts no flavors and undergoes no oxidation. Wine flavors formed to display the truest nature of the fruit, boasting crisp, clean and fresh characteristics. The 40 Knots cellar is filled with Italian tanks from a company called Albrigi out of Italy.
Look for these crisp, fresh wines in our portfolio. Unlike some other terroirs, there is no need to oak these beautiful whites as they are naturally full with lots of juiciness, and far from flat.
Celebrate New Year's Eve, or any other time that demands emphasis of flavor on the celebration, with our "in bottle" fermentation, French Traditional style bubbly!
Gift baskets made to order or pick one up today in our store. Got your Christmas cards out yet? Pick up one of our gift cards or we can e-send off! No expiry and may be used for purchases, vineyard tours, premium tastings and picnics.
Back by popular demand, check out our gift of Pinot box - Pinot Noir sale
!!!HUGE SALE ALERT!!!
From December 20 to December 24, you'll receive $25 off a case of wine! Just mention "I read about it on Megan's Blog"
Give us a call for Canada wide shipping options 855-941-8810, or visit us in the tasting room today.
Christmas hours: closed December 24 at 3pm, CLOSED ALL DAY December 25 & 26
New Years hours: closed December 31 at 3pm, CLOSED ALL DAY January 1 & 2
Thanks for following my blog posts for 2019! I look forward to picking up again next year in 2020. Please email me if there are topics you would like me to blog about, or if you ever have any questions about the blog. Or even better yet, stop in and see me at the winery!
“Just like a fine wine, you keep getting better with age”. We’ve all seen this Birthday Card for sale on the rack. The common misconception is that all wine surely does get better with age. This statement, however, is only true for a small number of wine types found around the world.
It is estimated that 90% of the wine is meant to be enjoyed within a year of production, and 99% of wine within 5 years.
For some of you, the goal is to drink wine when in the prime of its life. For most of you, it’s as soon as you bring it to an awkward family dinner party. Back in the day, the Old World regions (aka. Europe) were notorious for releasing wine that demanded a minimum 5-10 year lay down (think astringent, high tannin Barolo’s). Nowadays, you will find more and more European styles following New World regions (aka. anywhere that isn’t Europe) with wine that is ready to drink now.
Studies have shown that the average person waits 21 minutes between purchasing and opening a bottle of wine.
Tannin and acidity are structural elements that act as naturally occurring preservatives, allowing the wine to evolve without falling apart. Sugar and alcohol also factor in, but the body must be supported by tannin and acidity.
Because white wine grapes rarely go through skin contact after harvest, the lack of grape skin tannin is your first clue that white wine doesn’t have much age-ability (with the exception of Orange Wine). Many Chardonnay’s, however, have seen some barrel aging. This adds tannin from the oak barrel and creates the potential to lay that bottle down for several years. Because of current wine trends, an unoaked style of Chardonnay is quite popular in today’s market.
40 Knots White Wine
With all of our white wine grapes grown right here on Vancouver Island, our crisp and dry style white's are a perfect pairing with anything that comes out of our local ocean.
USUALLY BEST IN THE FIRST THREE YEARS
ONE FOR YOU AND FIVE FOR THE CELLAR, ENJOYABLE EVERY YEAR FOLLOWING
40 Knots Red Wine
Unlike wine from warmer climate regions, our estate reds are light in body and have soft tannins and moderate acidity.
STICK THIS ONE IN YOUR CELLAR!
Drinkable now and try on each year for the next 6-8 years. Prime is expected 3-5 years after vintage year.
DRINK NOW OR SAVE FOR MANY, MANY YEARS.
Sparkling bubbles will become very refined and soft with a baked brioche flavour, Trie Emily will be soft and deeply luscious, drink Safe Haven in 10 years while you sink deeply into your armchair and reminisce.
Stall Speed Collection Red Wine
These reds boast grapes coming in from the Okanagan Valley where the climate is slightly warmer.
At 40 Knots we have already done the aging process for you, with vintages ranging between 2008 and 2011.
If you DO decide to lay something down for a period of time, be sure that it is away from sunlight, vibrations, and temperature fluctuations. A cool basement emulates a cellar, so this is your best bet.
Ready to cross some Christmas gift purchases off of your “to-do” list? Visit us in the tasting room and get your custom gift basket- wrapped with your choice of goods, to your price point.
To barrel or not to barrel, to amphorae or not to amphorae: what are the different aging techniques BEFORE a wine is bottled? Stay tuned for my next blog post.
With the demand for natural consumer products on the rise, the pursuit of natural wine has become increasingly mainstream. With more and more negative effects being felt from consuming additives and unknown ingredients, the need for transparency has people delving deeper into what they are pouring into their glass.
So, what is natural wine? Simply put, it is a wine that has nothing added and nothing is taken away. Our mission at 40 Knots is to follow natural winemaking techniques while continuing to meet European natural winemaking requirements. This pursuit guides us from the vineyard to the cellar and right into the bottle. The process starts in the vineyard. Natural wine is made with grapes that are organically or biodynamically grown. Our biodynamic practices help us achieve this first step. In the cellar, there must be little to no intervention. Much natural wine created will not undergo fining or filtration, leaving the wine cloudy. Some winemakers will wait until all the sediment has fallen to the bottom of the tank, barrel or amphorae. For fining in the 40 Knots cellar, organically certified bentonite or compostable filter sheets are used to produce wine with a clear, un-cloudy appearance.
In contrast, conventional farming and winemaking have only been taking place for a few decades. With the need to uphold brand loyalty through consistency, there are adjustments that can be made to create a similar tasting product vintage to vintage. While all wine naturally contains low levels of sulfites, conventional wine allows for the addition of significantly more sulfites to help preserve the wine. Conventional methods actually allow up to 72 legal additives! Organic wine can still allow the same additions as conventional methods, as long as they are certified organic. 40 Knots assures above organic standards with natural quality and minimal intervention, from every vintage to every bottle.
As winemakers forge this naturally approached path through the love of the land; this will undoubtedly become a clear road carved out for future generations. While no legal definition of a "natural wine" currently exists, as the natural product market rises, so will awareness. This will surely connect us further to our surroundings, Mother Nature and life itself.
Want to impress your friends and family over this upcoming holiday season with something special!? One interesting style of trending natural wine produced at 40 Knots is the L’ORANGE. Never heard of an Orange method wine? In a nutshell, it is white wine grapes made in the style of a red. Long term skin contact and amphorae ageing with 0 grams per litre residual sugar is enough to make any Keto dieter sing. Stone fruit and orange zest on the nose yet the pallet boasts a spirit type quality. Think Grand Marnier without the sugar! Found at our cellar door during opening hours. We warmly invite you to visit us and taste.
Ever wonder how long you should cellar that bottle of vino? Or what ageing wine will do to the flavour components? Catch me next time, when I delve deeper into wine ageing techniques.
40 Knots grows and crafts high quality, ethical, clean wines that are distinct to Vancouver Island.
With harvest behind us, the 40 Knots cellar is a bustle of activity as our grapes now begin their journey to become wine. With a hands-off approach to winemaking, Layne's job is to coax natural fermentations where yeasts now convert natural sugars into alcohol.
The amount of alcohol in our wine is actually determined by the sugar levels in the grapes at the time of harvest. 40 Knots is known for the soft, easy-drinking wines with naturally lower alcohol levels, avoiding "hot" and unbalanced wine. Our styles are reminiscent of old-world natural wines. We allow a natural fermentation process converting sugars into alcohol, and finishing at the point of natural balance.
Over the last few months, I have posted about the main components found in wine – acid, tannin, sweetness and alcohol. I close off my four-part series now with Alcohol. So how do we decide on how much alcohol should go into the bottle? Well, we don’t. The natural fermentation process will carry on through converting sugars into alcohol, and quit at the point of natural balance. If a winemaker so chooses, there are techniques to add alcohol, including a process called fortification*. This will create a dessert wine of high alcohol and high sugar. Fortified wine’s include sherry, brandy and port*. There are also ways to reduce alcohol, such as boiling it off. This, however, will drastically reduce quality. If a winemaker decides to cultivate a wine with naturally low alcohol, the grapes can be harvested earlier when less sugar has yet to form.
So how do we test the alcohol level in our lab? Seen in the picture below is a traditional instrument, invented by the French, called an Ebulliometer. An Ebulliometer measures the current boiling point of water and then matches that with the boiling point of the wine in question. With the orbital slide calculator, you determine the % ethanol.
The proper alcohol percentage is essential for balance and structure of the final product. With all components in harmonious balance, you will find a wine of wonderful drinkability. At 40 Knots, we thrive upon balance both in the vineyard and the cellar. With our minimal intervention approach, we aim to craft wine of natural quality. This is our continued 40 Knots promise.
40 Knots French Traditional sparkling wines have naturally lower alcohol percentages as the grapes are harvested earlier than for still wine, with lower brix levels. With sparkling wines, this style goes through primary fermentation in a stainless steel tank and secondary fermentation in the bottle. First fermentation results in a lower alcohol, so when secondary fermentation takes place, it will not drive a high alcohol content, and thus resulting in a balanced wine. Spindrift, as an example, results in less than 10% in the primary fermentation, and finishing at a elegant 11% alcohol. Chardonnay for still wine is then harvested later in the season, with higher brix and pH which can result with the same alcohol percentage as our finished sparkling wine.
As an example, in our cool climate, a brix sugar level in our grapes of 20 will convert to just short of 11% alcohol. In a region such as California, with their big reds, where their grapes may exceed 30 brix when they harvest, this converts to an excess of 15% alcohol. Some wine in California even goes through a de-ethanization process to reduce the amount of alcohol.
In some styles of wine, usually where a very high residual sugar level is desired, such as a sweet dessert wine, the natural sugars from the grape may be retained in the bottle without adding sucrose, by stopping the fermentation early. Traditionally and today in Portugual, their port wine and our port-style, uses high percentage spirit addition that stops the yeast in the fermentation process.
*fortification is the addition of a spirit while fermenting wine is still naturally high in sugar, thus halting the fermentation process by keeping the sugar levels naturally high. Our *port style dessert wine is a delicious accompaniment to dark chocolate. But don't take my word for it, come try it out for yourself! Our 40 Knots tasting room is open all year round. Come enjoy a glass of port while taking part in our Music Trivia Nights, every Saturday night at 6:00pm.
But don't take my word for this. Check out our balanced wine for yourself! We are open all year for you to come and taste these wines for yourself, or bring your friends and join us in our Music Trivia Nights, every Saturday night at 6:00 pm.
with the growing demand for natural wine, have you ever wondered what in fact it actually is? Check out my next blog post to find out!