OENOLOGY: DEFINITION, ROLE AND BENEFITS
OEnology is defined as the science dedicated to the study of wine production and conservation. It covers vinification techniques and analysis of chemical and biological constituents of grapes and wine. In addition to laboratory analysis, wine tasting by the oenologist at all stages of production plays an important part in the development of cuvées and is critical for wine quality. Unlike the sommelier who intervenes in catering on finished wines, the oenologist acts upstream. The work of the sommelier is therefore complementary to that of the oenologist. In this short article, we will learn more about the role that oenology plays in winemaking, its history and its benefits.
A little history
The term « oenology » is derived from Greek “oînos” meaning “wine” and “logòs” referring to “science”. Wine is an ancient beverage, with evidence of which dates back to the 3rd millennium BC and even older. Traces of tartaric acid, the main acid found in grapes, were recently identified in 8100-year-old potteries originating from Georgia. Many old civilisations like Egypt, Iran, China and Greece were involved in winemaking. But it is through the works of Louis Pasteur on the mechanisms of alcoholic fermentation that the process of transforming grapes into wine has been elucidated, thus laying the foundations on which oenology will take off. Oenology then enters an “analytical” phase. This is laboratory oenology, based on the chemical analysis of wine constituents and centered on the identification of wine faults. Oenological counseling will then develop thanks to Emile Peynaud, who will be one of the first oenologist to visit his clients such as Chateau Margaux and Chateau Leoville Las Cases directly on site. This will lead to major improvements in wine quality through better precision in the operations.
His main role lies in supporting the winemaker at various levels. Through his advice, the oenologist is involved not only during vinification and bottling but also in the planting strategy, the selection of grape varieties, the development of a production unit, the selection of equipment and oenological inputs and the marketing strategy.
His expertise in tasting is essential to prevent, identify and correct faults. His interventions also take place during the decision-making for the date of harvest, always in collaboration with the winegrower, as well as during the blending of the cuvées. Based on the tasting and the laboratory analyses, the oenologist is able to support the winemaker in the smooth running of the vinification and to advise on any treatments to be carried out during the aging process. Finally, the oenologist is able to interpret the laboratory analysis certificate in order to indicate to the winemaker the next steps to follow.
Working as a team with professionals, such as an oenologist and a dedicated laboratory, makes it possible to clearly define the production strategy and to carry out the right controls in order to avoid costly errors. Thanks to his training and experience, the oenologist allows the winemaker to save time and money thanks to the precision provided by advice and laboratory analysis. In an extremely competitive world such as that of wine production, working with an oenologist gives an advantage to the winemaker so that he or she can achieve his or her objectives and realize his vision. The consultant oenologist profession has long standing tradition in wine-producing countries. It is therefore crucial to develop a local ecosystem promoting this profession in order to better compete with wines from abroad.
For more information on oenology, check out OENOQUEBEC’s website, which have been offering counseling since 2006. The combination of advice and laboratory analysis offered by our team in collaboration with OENOQUEBEC, in the form of an annual package generates significant cost savings and ensures precise professional monitoring. You can access more information on our annual package here.