California: Winemaking

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Without tradition as either guide or limitation, most California winemakers have consistently looked to achieve the kind of reproducible results their university training exalts. Understanding a process and then controlling it are, thus, the first two goals of the state’s typical oenologist. Of all the steps in winemaking, fermentation has received the most vigorous attention.

Temperature-controlled fermentation began in California in the 1940s. With the advent of stainless steel tanks and more integral cooling systems in the 1960s, there came ‘designed’ fermentation curves for each major grape variety. Ultra-hygienic, infinitely controllable stainless steel tanks and sterile filtration allowed malolactic conversions to be brought under control at the same time. Today it is not at all unusual to have malolactic fermentation induced in one low ph batch of Chardonnay, deliberately inhibited in another (higher pH) batch, and then to blend these components for additional complexity in the resulting wine.