Can Fibonacci Sequence Un-Muddy Wine’s Cloudy Ratings Picture?

Because it’s hard not to compare things, especially (for me) barrels of wine that will ultimately fit into one of a few different categories, I developed a full-proof, easily understood rating system composed of Negative ( – ), Neutral ( O ), and Positive ( + ).

Now, of course, there have to be gradations of each of these three primary categories, right? We’re comparing a lot of wines to each other…there have to be finer shadings so as to capture the whole panoply of my tasting experience. Voila! There’s ++, +-, ++-, O++, +-+, etc. Totally transparent, yes?

Well, over the 4th of July weekend I was mercilessly skewered for my innocent little system. My wife, June, going so far as to call it ridiculous and stupid. Consequently, I’ve re-thought this whole ratings thing and decided on a much simpler system…

fib imageFrom now on each wine will be given a rating based on the Italian mathematician, Fibonacci’s sequence. Found all over nature, the Golden Ratio (based on Fibonacci’s sequence in decimal form) was used by illustrious artists like Da Vinci to define perfection. So my new system has that going for it…the third-party endorsement of one of the greatest artists of all time. It also has size.

The longer the string of numbers…what I call the F-Seq, (ef-seck), the better the wine. So, I had a Zin yesterday…1,1,2. The Chardonnay – 1,1,2,3,5. And, the Cabernet? Brilliant – an F-Seq of 1,1,2,3,5,8,13!

We’re a comparing species; there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Grab some wine, give each one an F-Seq. Grab some apples, forks, carburetors…give them F-Seqs too!!

That’s the beauty of the Steven Mirassou F-Seq System™. The System fits everything, and everything fits the System!

The next time you want to differentiate two of anything, use The F-Seq. My gift to you, free of charge.



You Say Blood Orange; I Say…Rutabaga?

We’ve all seen those florid tasting notes that throw out 100 different adjectives to describe the aroma of a Russian River Valley Chardonnay or the texture of a Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir. And, usually, we scoff at the overindulgence, wondering if that guy got paid by the word.rutabaga

We taste only five things (including umami a relatively newly acknowledged flavor), but we can SMELL thousands of different aromas. Trying to figure out what you are experiencing when drinking a glass of wine can be a little complicated given that the flavors and aromas that we take in are mitigated by and attentuated and elucidated; subsumed and elevated by the acidity, tannin, and additives (think barrels) that accompany those organoleptic elements. The age of the wine and experience of the drinker will also add further layers of complexity and challenge. bloodorange

The flavors and aromas of fresh wine grapes are pretty straight-forward. By variety, they certainly differ, but the range of differences is relatively narrow. It is the miracle of fermentation, though, with its vast multitude of chemical reactions that actually create the aromatic compounds that are identical to rose petals or spice or geraniums. Wine is like a piece of cooked meat. The fresh ingredients smell ineluctably like themselves. But throw in fermentation and a fire and the chemistry changes everything.

When I am going through fermentation bins each day, I am looking for the evolution of the aromatics, flavors, and textures of the wine. The first couple of days, the bins smell like the berries I plucked off in the vineyard a couple of days before. Each day, though, complexity increases (hopefully in a good way…I smell, early on, mostly for off-odors that could signal a problem with the ferment) and my notes abound with aromatic descriptions that serve really to help me remember a certain point in time during the wine’s early life that may help me foresee (and manipulate) one out of a multitude of potential futures.

I hadn’t really thought of it that way, until right now. Early on in the winemaking process, aromas are predictive. Later, (sometimes much later) those aromas harken back to a very specific point in time. That very singular combination of aromas reminds me of the wine I drank with my wife on our honeymoon and then later had, coincidentally, when my oldest turned 21…or the spoiled wine I threw away when I cleaned out my grandfather’s wine cellar after he passed (which automatically makes me think of my grandmother’s death and the funeral arrangements I made for her a few years later).

So, taking it another few steps, it can be said that the whole of one’s life experience (all those most important of moments) can be summed up by what we smell emanating from a glass of Cabernet. How’s that for the bottomlessness of wine?

How Dry Am I?

While the way the grape or the wine tastes (or – often – will taste) is THE driving force behind every decision I make, certain numbers are very helpful in helping to understand what is going on in my wines at any given time.

As I write this, it is coming up on 10 days since the harvest of Cabernet Sauvignon from

Tools of the tasting trade: Siphon and graduated cylinder

Tools of the tasting trade: Siphon, graduated cylinder, and notebook.

my Home Ranch  vineyard. In that time, this 16-ton lot of wine (divided up into 3 separate pick locations and 10 individual fermenting boxes) has cold-soaked for four days (the fermentors were left alone…no punchdowns…so that the native flora on the grape skins could ferment away until they died at above 2 degrees of alcohol, giving over their special bits of complexity), and undergone active primary fermentation for only five days; the amazing little-engine-that-could of the  fungal world – yeast – eating nearly all of 24.5 Brix of sugar in the meantime.

My daily routine consists, in part, of smelling and tasting through each bin at least twice a day because as you can surmise from the numbers above, the wines change dramatically and fast even over the course of a 12-hour period. And it’s not just the flavors that change. Aromatic complexity, mouthfeel, tannin development, length and vitality through the mouth…all of these curves of ripening (and I use that word here in the context of becoming done) are constantly moving, gaining speed, and losing it as well.

I try to taste with as few numbers as possible, using them later for confirmation. So, I’ll go through 6 bins of Home Ranch, Section C and try to determine – based upon mouthfeel, sweetness, and astringency – how much sugar is left and how much more obvious change I am going to see before the wines are completely dry. Looking later at the Brix and temperature readings I get each morning, I’m often amazed at how different the senses are from the science.

It is a testament to the bottomlessness of wine, that even after all this time – ensconced in the comforting confines of my cellar – that while the numbers don’t lie, they don’t necessarily tell you a whole hell of a lot either.