The Story Behind the Three New JARVIS Chardonnays
This October marked the release of three different 1999 Chardonnays; the regular lightly fined/lightly filtered Chardonnay, our lightly fined/lightly filtered Reserve, as well as our unfined/unfiltered Reserve. The differences between the three lie in their respective vineyard picking zones, as well as the fining and filtration processes, or lack thereof, that were applied to the wines.
All of the Jarvis vineyards are carefully divided into picking zones which are separately harvested at their individual optimal ripeness. The highest quality zones are set aside and then used in the production of our reserve wines. The 1999 Reserve Chardonnays are made of the grapes from "Finch Hollow." It came to our attention in the years past that there was a particular zone of Chardonnay that was traditionally harvested by the Finches and Blackbirds before we could get to it. After 1996 this "Finch Hollow" zone was finally netted and harvested by us. Dimitri Tchelistcheff our winemaker was amazed by the caliber of the fruit, deeming it of "Reserve" quality, leading to creation of our Finch Hollow Reserve Chardonnays.
While both of the Reserve Chardonnays are from the same picking zone, only the fined and filtered Reserve bears the name "Finch Hollow", making it easier to differentiate the two. The separation of the two Reserves does not occur until after aging, when Dimitiri Tchelistcheff uses the upper half of the barrels for the unfined/unfiltered Reserve, and clarifies the more nebulous bottom half of the barrels for the lightly fined and lightly filtered Finch Hollow Reserve.
Fining and filtration are two terms that apply to a variety of different possible procedures used in the clarification and stabilization of wine. However, though often used side by side, fining and filtration are not to be confused, as they are two different processes.
Fining is the addition of a reactive or absorptive substance to reduce the concentration of un-aesthetic constituents. The idea is that the added substance will bond with or absorb the unwanted elements of the wine, taking them out of the solution so they can settle at the bottom of the barrel. Fining agents can enhance clarity, color, aroma, flavor, and stability of a wine. There are an amazing variety of additive substances using in the fining of wine, ranging from egg yolk to synthetic polymers. Some of the more interesting fining agents that have been tried over the years include dried blood albumen in a powder form, as well as cyanide, (illegal in the US) which is used by some French wineries to enhance the color and stability of their wines. At Jarvis we use small amounts of Bentonite clay as our fining agent.
Filtration is a different process with almost as many variations. As the name implies, the wine is passed through a type of filter which traps the various particles clouding the wine's color. At Jarvis we filter with cellulose fiber pads that have diatomaceous earth trapped within. These pads are designed to collect particles in their interior rather than develop a cake at the surface.
Filtering, however carefully done, will always influence the flavor, not only the color, of the wine. Our unfined and unfiltered Reserve Chardonnay preserves all of its amazing fruit and also the flavors imparted by sur-lee aging. The lightly fined and lightly filtered Finch Hollow Chardonnay is more balanced and elegant in style. These two Jarvis Reserve wines present an excellent opportunity to compare and contrast the effects of fining and filtration.