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York Vineyard – A Virtual Experience: An Inside View With Master Sommelier

by Khushi Multani

York Vineyard - A Virtual Experience An Inside View With Master Sommelier

As we have all heard, wine is a very sophisticated drink, which adds to the experience of consuming wine by giving it a refined taste, a hearty texture, and a journey. 

Every wine you drink tells a story, a story of its origin, its process, its growth, and its conversation. Today, we have Mr. Kailash Gurnani, Chief winemaker at York winery, sharing his story and journey with us in conversation with Ms.Gargi Kothari.

Kailash Gurnani is the youngest winemaker in India, according to him, who has carried forward his family’s legacy. York is one of the most prominent family-owned and operated wineries in India.

The Gurnanis started with their winemaking journey in 2004. Kailash took over his family business in early 2012 after he came back from traveling to different parts of the world and Australia. 

He studied Oenology from Australia for five years, gained significant experience by working in different cities with various kinds of wineries. Then he came back to India to continue to make wine. He had spent his time in Cyprus and Bulgaria, studying ancient practices and the culture of winemaking. 

He says that India has a lot of cultural history and diversity but not when it comes to wine.

His strategy to attain growth in his business was by applying his learnings and experience to it. This is how he developed his portfolio of wines and the York brand.

Here are a few snippets from the conversation between the two experts:

Q. What Is The Philosophy Of Wine Making At York And Styles Of Wine?

Kailash personally likes drinking fruity, young, and fresh wines. To add to the benefit of that, India’s climate and conditions favor making such types of wine.

Consumers at York prefer drinking soft wines. They make wines that take an average of 5-6 years to age. They make simple as well as complex wines. Some of their wines are aimed at amateur wine drinkers, whereas others at connoisseurs who understand complexity, fertility, and much more.

The most significant benefit that serves York Winery’s growth is that they make wines that match the taste of what their consumers enjoy. This allows him to do what he likes and wants. 

Wine Grapes Nashik

Primarily, there are four different types of wines that are made at York. Red Wine, White Wine, Sparkling Wine, and Dessert Wine. The wines they produce range from easy-to-drink wines to Wines that age for more than years in the barrel.

There are two types of Sparkling wines that are made using traditional methods at York namely rose and white.

The whites are fermented in a tank, and its entire portfolio is quite spread out. There is something for everyone.

Q. How Do You Make Wines?

First, he has explained to us the process of making Red wines. They are processed and fermented along with the skins of the grapes for 20-25 days. The colors, flavors, and tannins are extracted from the grapes through this process. In the fermentation process, it becomes a part of the wine. 

wine bottles on t brown wooden barrel

Did you know?

Not all types of wines are stored for aging.

Two types of barrels used when storing wine : 

  • French Oak Barrel  
  • American Oak Barrel

These distinct types of oak barrels are made from wood found in forests that are over one hundred years old, from forests in France and the USA. These kinds of species are specific, and they are selected over time for their properties and chemical composition. They are preferred as they enhance the characteristics and flavors of the wine.

Q. Why Are Red Wines Fermented With Their Skins?

Tannins are a vital source of structure and backbone to the wine. Without tannins, the wine will taste imbalanced and disconnected from the drinker. In all, tannins bring everything together.

The wine made at York takes 10-11 months to age and a maximum of 14-15 months.

The oak’s flavors slowly get infused in the wine with time and become a part of the wine’s composition over time.

There is an untouched and undisturbed room where, from time to time, the maker goes and tastes the wine to check whether their quality is good and are aging well. The dim lighting, no natural light, and below ground level is ideal for temperature and humidity throughout the year. 

The wines that usually age in that room are Arros and Yaatra.

red wine glasses with red wine on table

Q. What Is The Difference In Flavours Of Oak?

American OakFrench Oak
It has intense butterscotch and vanilla characteristics.It has a higher concentration of certain tannins.
The intensity of the American oak barrel is much higher.French oak produces more elegant and structured wine.
According to Kailash, American oak is also significant to complement the rest of the wine.It enhances the complexity and backbone of the wine.

Depending on the preference of the maker, he chooses which characteristics of wine he wants to highlight. 

In general, french oak has more coarse tannins that are rough and has a little more vanilla concentration and content.

wine barrel lot

French oak also is more nuanced, and it gives the wine a mature characteristic like tobacco, dark chocolate, and coffee. It also provides the wine with more length. It is the preferred oak to use if the maker wants to make a long-aging wine.

Q. Where Does The Smokey Character Of The Red Wine Come From?

Smokiness primarily comes from the vineyard and from certain oaks that give wines a signature smokiness. The vineyard provides a smokey character for the wine because of the climate.

When they ferment the wine, some of the characteristics and properties end up in the wine. Therefore, it is a combination of the two.

pile of barrels

Q. So Can We Say That The Barrels Help In Oxygenating The Wine?

The entire round surface on the top is porous. There is an interaction between the wine and its external environment.  So there is a little bit of oxygen that passes through these pores.

It softens the wine, induces the oak impact, and it makes the wine easy and elegant. 

It reduces the bitterness of the wine, and these are very desirable properties of a very well-made wine. Oxygen transmission plays a significant role in making wine.

Q. Are All Reds Aged In These Barrels?

Not really, all red wines are not aged in barrels, but if one wanted to, they could do it.

One barrel takes up to 225 liters of capacity to age hundreds of thousands of liters of wine, and one needs a lot of space.

The barrels that one buys to age wine do not come cheap. One barrel might cost around 60,000 to 80,000 Rs, and thus it is an expensive process.

If the winemaker is making a wine that is meant to be drunk young, then no barrel is needed.

The young wines can be processed in tanks as well and can then directly be bottled.

The wines that need to go through the process of aging are only premium wines.

green plants on brown soil during daytime

Q. How Do You Decide Which Wine Of Yours Will Go In The Barrel And Which Won’t?

Generally, only premium wines go in barrels; usually, Arros and Yaatra are these types of wines. They are made from grapes which are grown in different kinds of vineyards. The young wines are made from grapes that are grown in other vineyards.

This process is followed because the fruit quality of those vineyards has more concentration of flavors and tannins. Only that quality of fruit can adjust to this process. The different crops are more suited to make young wines. Even though they were to be put in the barrels, they won’t have as much effect as the other grapes will.

Kailash says that the oaky flavors will overpower the young wines, and thus they should not be kept in the barrels. It is effortless to make overly oaky wines. Still, it isn’t easy to find the right balance between fruity and oaky right.

One can pair the right grape to the right consumer’s proper process only if they have established what they want to make and what their consumer wants.

brown and gray barrels

Q. For How Long Can You Use One Particular Oak Barrel?

One oak barrel can be used for a good 3-4 years for quality extraction.

The thing with new barrels is that it has a range of unique flavors and intensity. With old barrels, the power of flavors diminishes over time. The most extended used barrels are for a good 7-8 years.

The barrels are used to get very subtle wood characters and for little oxygen pressure.

Q. Do You Also Age White Wines In Oak Barrels?

Yes, Chardonnay is aged in barrels; if Arros is aged for 12 months, Chardonnay is aged for somewhat 4-5 months.

White wines do not have many tannins as red; generally, the utility of oak is to get buttery characters and to enhance the overall body of the wine. Only 5-10 percent of entire white wine is aged in oak barrels.

nachos served on white ceramic plate

Q. How Are Sparkling Wines Made?

The first process is to pluck the grapes, process and ferment the grapes and then filter them.

For the fizz that is usually found in sparkling wines, the wine gets it very traditional. All that is done is that the sugar and yeast are added to the bottle for the second time to get fermented and thus form carbon dioxide in the second process. It stays in the bottle and makes it fizzy. Carbon dioxide is produced naturally in this process.

The traditional method is used to make Champagne as well.

Q. What Kinds Of Flavours Does Yeast Infuse In The Sparkling Wine And Why Is This Whole Aging Process Important For The Wine?

Aging provides the wine with certain benefits, such as it increases the complexity of the wine. Hence, the yeast completes its primary objective of fermenting the sugar.

Once it dies and disintegrates in that process, the yeast starts to release complex butter, cookie, and bread components, which compliments the acidity, as it is already high in sparkling wines. As sparkling wines have a higher acidity, the long aging process helps to balance other characteristics of the wine to its acidity to make a better product.

Q. How Do You Get The Yeast Out Of The Bottle And Still Preserve The Carbon Dioxide?

The process through which this is done is known as the Riddling process. In this process, the bottles are kept in a machine. The machine gradually rotates the bottles from the horizontal position to the vertical position, which lets the yeast settle in the bottle’s neck.

It helps in dis-gauging the process, freezing the yeast accumulated in the neck, and eliminating it by opening the crown cap and then putting the cork and the wire to hold it in.

Q. How Is The Wire And Cork Significant And Why Are They Put On The Bottle?

The cork is porous, so it helps in further aging as there is little transit of oxygen. The wine holds the cork as it is a fizzy drink.

In a finished sparkling wine, the pressure is about 2-2.5 bar, but the pressure is 6 bar when it is still in the crown cap and is aging. An individual has to be careful in handling the wine.

pile of brown cork lids

Q. What Is The Difference Between Your Sparkling Wine And Rose Sparkling Wine?

The primary and essential difference is the variety of the base wine used as a primary element in making the wine. Sparkling wine is made from Chenin Blanc, a white wine, whereas rose is made from Shiraz. They process the food and are fermented without the skin; thus, they have a light pink color.

The base wine is what is put in the bottle to be fermented for the second time.

Q. How Are Rose And White Wines Made?

After sorting the grapes, the destemming process begins; the berries are separated from the stem. In the pressing process, the berries are pumped in the press. Later on, the juice is collected and separated from its skin. The liquid is then pumped into the tank and held in there for 48 hours, leading to the settling process. 

The clear juice is separated from the sediment, and the liquid is then transferred to another tank. The yeast is added for the fermentation process.

Q. What Type Of Tanks Are Those?

The tanks used in the above-explained process are stainless steel tanks which can hold ten thousand liters of juice or wine, and the temperature is controlled as needed. The ideal temperature is between 10-14 degrees celsius for wine.

When the juice is allowed to settle, it is at 10 degrees Celsius. Still, the temperature is between 12-14 degrees celsius when at the fermentation process.

Q. Why Such A Low Temperature?

The temperature has a lot to do with the activity of yeast. The yeast ferments at a faster rate in higher temperatures. Thus, by controlling the temperature, one is controlling the speed of the yeast fermentation. The better the process, the better is the quality of wine made with a better intensity of flavors.

The skins are allowed to decompose by making Mauer out of them, and after one year, the skin is used in the vineyards.

The process of making rose, and white wine is the same. Still, only the main difference being that the red wine variety is used to make the rose; one can use Shiraz and Cabernet wine.

clear wine glass on table

As we follow the southern hemisphere harvest cycle, the crop ripens in vineyards. As it leads up to harvest season, the climate gets more relaxed. The temperature of Nashik is sub-tropical and semi-arid. Thus slowing down the process of picking the grapes that make the wine.

In India, the harvest season is from January to March from winters we enter in the summer season. By the end of the season, the rate of ripening is faster. So the winemaker has to face specific challenges. It is challenging to get the ideal ripeness to make a well-rounded wine.

Q. How Do You Counter The Challenges Faced?

By keeping two things in mind:

Respect the crop and make wine that is suitable for the fruit

Try and select areas where the climatic conditions are favorable.

Nashik has a lot of various micro and macroclimates. Thus they try to match the varieties to the environment in the areas and also the soil type. In India, we produce young and fruity wines, which are meant to be consumed sooner and are often easy to drink.

Kailash likes to drink wines made in various regions of Australia, Burgundy from France, and the wines he makes. He says that every wine has a different story, multiple varieties, and a wide range of experiences.

By now, you have learned so much about wine. If you are interested in learning more about wines and learning from the expert herself, register yourself for the workshop now, and don’t miss out on the opportunity to be a wine connoisseur.

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