Evolution or Revolution? When the World of Beverages Converges
Over the past few weeks we’ve explored the science of winemaking. In one column I delved into the evolving creation of four new grape varietals in a French laboratory.
Last week I presented the natural science – the evolution of a bottle of wine from the vineyard through fermentation and aging in barrels.
I’m beginning to notice the manipulation of natural science and laboratory natural science more and more, including crossover products in wineries and breweries.
There is a natural relationship between the production of wine and that of beer. Both products are dependent in their aroma and flavor on the agricultural profile of the grapes and barley/hops grown for specific traits and characteristics. Both products are crafted in a winery/brewery utilizing various strains of yeast; these will affect the fermentation intensity and duration of the finished product. Both products can be manipulated by the use of the numerous options available for storing and aging the end product, be it stainless steel or wood barrels.
I’m noticing more breweries adopting and adapting winemaking techniques and recently I’ve noticed wineries combining the raw ingredients of the two core components. Much of this is the creativity of young entrepreneurs appealing to a changing demographic desire for new products.
Today’s young adult alcohol consumers are enamored with products that veer from the tried and true of previous generations and are willing to spend their disposable income accordingly. Producers are carefully treading into new territories to satiate this burgeoning predilection.
The crossover of brewing into the arena of wine techniques and production has been on the fringes of the craft beer world for several years. A number of brewers are aging select beers in neutral oak barrels (not possessing any distinct aromas or tannins). Exposure to a wood vessel rather than one of stainless steel allows oxygen and the fleeting aromas of oak staves to impart a unique profile to a craft beer. And they have been very popular, although quite limited in production.
However, several craft brewmasters have advanced this crossover. I read of a beer stored and aged in wood wine barrels fresh from this year’s winemaking. The barrels were still moist with grape juice absorbed by the wood staves, thereby imparting a unique style during beer fermentation. A stout ale with hints of Sauvignon Blanc? Perhaps. Check with your local craft beer reseller.
Another crossover beer product is one in which fermenting barley (or other grain) is mixed in vats with fermenting grape juice, again blurring the lines between the two products. Sold as a beer, this hybrid product is still seeking a core market. A stout ale with clear and perhaps competing characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc? I’m not sure in which type of retail shop it would be sold.
The crossover of winemaking into the previously exclusive domain of beer making is quite recent. Taking a page from craft brewers’ production trends, several wineries are mixing grapes and grain. Hops used in beer production are fermented and then added to fermenting grapes at the winery, resulting in a wine with unique floral aromas and a bit of hoppy bitterness. A Sauvignon Blanc with hints of stout ale? Sounds refreshing.
And crossover hybrids don’t seem isolated to beer and wine. How enticing is the latest offering from Hangar 1: rosé wine-flavored vodka? I’ll never know.
Now that my head is swirling from the hybridization and competing aromas and flavors of this emerging beer-wine, wine-beer sub market, I feel compelled to embark on a round of market research to ferret out the crafted, refined products from the lesser, market-hyped offerings. Wish me luck.
Note: I will be hosting a fundraising wine and food pairing event, featuring little-known Italian wines, to benefit A-Home, a provider of local affordable housing. It is Friday, Nov. 9 at the Holy Innocents Church social hall in Pleasantville at 7 p.m. For tickets ($75), contact Barbara Coleman at 914-741-0740 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nick Antonaccio is a 40-year Pleasantville resident. For over 25 years he has conducted wine tastings and lectures. Nick is a member of the Wine Media Guild of wine writers. He also offers personalized wine tastings and wine travel services. Nick’s credo: continuous experimenting results in instinctive behavior. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @sharingwine.