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Book Review

Daniel Pambianchi's Techniques in Home Winemaking :
A Practical Guide to Making Chateau-Style Wines
(Revised and Expanded)

"A competent guide to making premium grape wines at home"

Pambianchi, Daniel. Techniques in Home Winemaking : A Practical Guide to Making Chateau-Style Wines. Véhicule Press, Montreal, Quebec, 2002.

(Reviewed for Amazon.com by Jack Keller, The Winemaking Home Page)

This is a very good book. The rather lofty objectives inferred by its title and stated in its "Preface" are more than adequately met. Indeed, the book is geared toward achieving good wine from average grapes through proven methods of balancing aroma, body, clarity, color, taste, and style. In all, it succeeds in achieving these goals.

The book is laid out in a logical order that progresses from the general and introductory to the specific and detailed. Among the introductory topics are a discussion of wine styles, grapes, juices, concentrates, and an analysis of wine itself. The author then discusses winemaking equipment and the additives and chemicals used to control musts and shape the character of the wines produced by controlling sugar, alcohol, acidity, pH, and sulfur dioxide. He discusses the preparation of the grapes for processing, the maceration process, pressing, alcoholic fermentation, malolactic fermentation, and stabilization. Not only does he explain the processes themselves, but he offers sound advice and skillful techniques even old hands will appreciate. He then devotes a well-written chapter to clarification methods and products, from simple racking schedules to a variety of fining products and filtration systems. He then moves into and through the all-important and oft-overlooked subject of blending varieties and vintages to achieve more complex and interesting wines. His chapter on oak barrels is perhaps the best I have read. Not only does he thoroughly discuss the preparation and maintenance of oak, but also traditional and modern methods of fermenting and aging wines in oak, including spoilage problems, how to treat them, and more importantly how to prevent them. Alternative oaking methods are also discussed. Finally, he concludes the basics of winemaking by discussing bottling, closures and cellaring.

Had Pambianchi stopped there, his book would have surpassed most in useful content. Instead, he spends three chapters discussing the ins and outs of making sparkling wines, ports and icewines. From must preparation to specific techniques of alcoholic fermentation for each, he explains the fundamentals with clarity and thoroughness. For sparkling wines, the bottle fermentation, disgorgement, dosage, and bottling are the final steps that lead to success or failure. Portwine making is not simply fortifying a sweet still wine, and icewine making is not simply prematurely stopping the fermentation in a late harvested, highly-acid, very sweet, grape must. Pambianchi clarifies these differences and defines the essence of each. Here, his book excells.

He then goes back to the basics and discusses vinification and winemaking problems anyone could encounter and how to treat them. This is a wonderful chapter for anyone who ever encounters one of these, for Pambianchi discusses the 14 most common problems and their resolutions better than do most authors of similar books. When combined with his coverage of the problems associated with oak barrel aging, this book's value is potentially enormous.

Lastly, the book contains a number of very valuable appendices. But the whole of the book is peppered with detailed and useful charts, tables and illustrative figures. I highly recommend this book.

Order Daniel Pambianchi's Techniques in Home Winemaking : A Practical Guide to Making Chateau-Style Wines from AMAZON.COM now!

Last update was June 10th, 2001.

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