At Union, we often joke that we work hard and play harder, but the truth is our work is fun, so it’s more of a play hard, play harder situation. We get to pioneer new ideas, celebrate our successes, laugh at the mishaps, and be among friends while we do it all. Which brings us to our newest adventure: Underwood Nouveau.
Our Underwood Nouveau is a riff on a Beaujolais Nouveau, which is traditionally made from Gamay grapes (also called, Gamay noir à Jus blanc grape) in the Beaujolais region of France. Always looking for an Oregon angle, we decided to use our Pinot Noir grapes in the Underwood Nouveau for a fresh take on our traditional Pinot noir. The Gamay grape is actually a cousin of the Pinot Noir grape and flourishes in very similar climates.
Normally, it takes us a year to make our Underwood Pinot Noir, while our Nouveau takes just over a month — from pick to sip. We created it to celebrate our first grape harvest of the year and introduce the true expression of our 2019 vintage. It’s fruit-forward, light, and fun, meaning we had a lot of fun making it, and you’ll have a lot of fun drinking it. Nouveau is known for being a fresh, fruity wine that celebrates the first pour of the season.
(image credit Blue Heron Vineyards)
The first step to creating our new wine was to pick the grapes. We started hand-picking the grapes for this year’s Nouveau batch on the early morning of September 24th and the fruit arrived at our winery and was unloaded by sunset. It was an all-hands on deck situation here to get it done in one day, but we prevailed. We picked the grapes in whole clusters. No crushers or de-stemmers were used.
To ferment the grapes, we used a process called “carbonic maceration,” a fancy name for a straightforward, natural process that can produce vibrant, lively, fresh, and also some very serious wines. Here’s how it works: the full bunches of grapes are placed into stainless-steel, temperature-controlled vats, which are then sealed and filled with CO2 to remove the oxygen. This triggers a process within the grapes known as intracellular fermentation. Once alcohol levels reach around 2% abv, the grape skins split and release their juice. This takes about 10 days.
During this time, the grapes at the bottom are gently crushed under the weight of the others and begin to ferment, releasing more CO2. This gentle, yet speedy, process releases the berry flavor without releasing the bitter tannins from the grape skins. The carbonic maceration process is stopped when the fruit is removed from the tank and pressed.
The process was a success! In the end, our Nouveau tastes bright and fruit-forward with notes of cherry, plum, and currents.
To introduce our Nouveau with the proper fanfare, we worked with a designer to create a can that would speak to the beauty of art nouveau. He nailed it. We love the design.
A can made perfect sense for this project because a Nouveau is meant to be sipped right away, not stored. Our Nouveau should be popped open anytime, anywhere during the fall season it honors.
We’re excited to have the opportunity to introduce a wine that embraces the spirit of Union — don’t take yourself too seriously, have fun, and enjoy the moment. Just remember to do it with your pinkies down.