Making White Wines in The Willamette Valley
What is the difference between making white wines or red wines in the Willamette Valley? The main difference is that rather than leaving the juice from the grape on the skins after destemming, whites wines typically are not destemmed and the grapes juice is immediately pressed off the skins, stems, and seeds. Second, while red wine is fermented over a 12 to 14 day period at warm temperatures (75 to 80 degrees), white wines are typically fermented over a longer period, 30 plus days, at cooler temperatures around 60 degrees. Red wines are also typically fermented to dry meaning all the sugar has been converted to alcohol. With white wines, that could vary significantly from a very sweet wine (stopping fermentation before the sugar is all converted) all the way to bone dry (no residual sugar).
Depending on the varietal, white wines may go directly from stainless steel tanks to bottle within four months or go into barrel for several months before bottling. For example, our Pinot Gris goes directly from tank to bottle and is released about six months after harvest. Our Pinot Blanc goes into neutral oak barrels for a couple of months just to allow the wine to age a little more. Our Chardonnay is put in once used barrels for six to eight months to provide some slight oak character while retaining all the fruit profile. They process isn’t done just in the Willamette Valley but are standard practices in the wine industry.