the slightest detail if each wine is to reach the consumer telling the whole story.”
When making white wines, pressing is followed by the decanting of the must. The best quality is obtained from the first musts that flow without pressing. These we call the bud must, the flower must or the tear must. It is very light, very fine, aromatic, smooth, floral, and fruited.
Musts have a high content of solid particles in suspension. These are removed by a procedure known as debourbage or settling, which consists of cold stabilizing the must for 24 hours, so that the solids settle to the bottom. The clarified musts are then siphoned off and taken for alcoholic fermentation, a process by which the sugars in the must are transformed into alcohol and other organic products.
Fermentation is considered complete when the wine has less than 2 grams of sugar per litre. After fermentation, the wine is decanted to remove the lees (or dead yeasts). Since the wine still contains its own, potentially destabilizing proteins, it is further clarified, using substances to attract the particles to the floor of the vat.
Before bottling, the wine is filtered to stabilise it for consumption and/or storage.
The first step when making rosé wines, is the removal of the stalks from the clusters (known as destalking).
The grapes are then crushed and taken to a vat where they are kept together with the flesh and skins for a period of 6 to 16 hours.
This allows the must to develop some colour before bleeding, that is, draining the must out of the solid paste. In Navarra we only use the bud must or tear must.
At Bodegas Ochoa, we believe that rosés deserve great-wine status; after all, we make them from the first, most aromatic juice of the grape.
By tradition, red wines are made by first removing the woody stalks from the bunches, then crushing the remaining part for fermentation in a vat filled to 80% of its capacity to leave room for the increased volume that comes from fermentation.
The flesh of black grapes is colourless (except in the case of the Alicante Bouchet variety), so we need to leave the skins in the must for a time in order to obtain the characteristic red-wine colour and aromas. This process, known as maceration, involves frequent decanting before, during and after fermentation.
During fermentation, yeasts react with the sugars to produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. All the while, carbon dioxide gas bubbles up through the grape flesh and skins, creating a barrier known as the cap.
At the oenologist’s discretion and according to the type of wine being made, (young, crianza, reserva…), the wine in the lower part of the vat is siphoned off into another. This is known as descube or devatting. After devatting, the cap still contains wine must. The skins are then pressed to extract a deeper coloured, more tannic, drier wine. The solids left behind after this pressing are sent to the distillery.
This second vat is where the second fermentation takes place. This malolactic fermentation takes from 7 to 15 days depending on the temperature. This second fermentation is caused by bacteria in the wine, which convert the malic acid always present in wine into smoother, more pleasant lactic acid.
The finished wine is then transferred to casks or a vat, depending on its final purpose. Crianzas and reservas are transferred to casks and young wines will remain in a vat. It is becoming more and more usual for us to perform this second fermentation in the cask, to incorporate the woody notes that make for a more pleasing, more elegant red wine.
Wine aging is a relatively recent practice, dating from the late 18th century. The benefit to be obtained from aging wine in casks became known when the quality of wine transported in barrels made of different types of wood was found on arrival to have improved.
Not all wines are suitable for aging. Whether they are or not depends on a whole series of factors, from to the selection of the vines, to the pruning, the soils and the winemaking process itself, all of which contribute to the end result. Climate, orientation of the slopes where the vineyards sit and soil composition all potentially enhance the quality of wines.
The length of the aging period in oak casks is decided by the way in which the wine itself develops. Aging causes changes in colour (from the purple of the young wine to dark cherry or brick red), in aroma (bouquet) and flavour (smoothness, nobility, balance and roundedness). After aging in the cask, the wines undergo a second aging period in the bottles in which they will reach the customer. The goal is for the wine to rest, become more rounded and display its complexity.
Here at Bodegas Ochoa we are convinced that red wine and the cask make a perfect duo. Thus, most of the wine we produce spends some time in the cask. It takes up to 6 months to produce an “oak” wine; more than 9 for a Crianza; more than12 for a Reserva; and more than 18 to make a Gran Reserva.
After much research, we have reached the conclusion that our Tempranillo ages better in fine American oak casks, while Merlot, Cabernet-Sauvignon and Graciano prefer French oak.
So we use 70% American oak casks and 30% French oak casks, with some variation depending on the year and the objectives we happen to be pursuing.
Our current experiments with oak from Eastern Europe (Rumania and Hungary) are producing some fantastic results.