What is an oenologist and what are his or her functions in winemaking?
Of the entire winemaking process, from the moment the grape varieties to be grown are chosen to the moment the wine is marketed, he or she may be the most influential human figure in determining the personality of the wine. the most influential human figure in determining the personality of the wine is the oenologist. This is a professional in charge of supervising the whole winemaking process and making strategic decisions throughout all the steps that must be followed to reach the final product. In order to make these decisions, the oenologist must base himself on a series of technical knowledge and on the characteristics that he wants to achieve in each wine in question: aromas, colour, balance, etc.
We will now take a closer look at these questions in order to find out more about What is an oenologist, what are their functions and the importance of their work in the winery.
What is an oenologist?
Traditionally, the set of tasks that we currently attribute to the oenologist were carried out by other types of professionals with some kind of technical training: chemists, biologists, agronomists, pharmacists; or directly by other figures within the winery and even by the winemakers themselves. But with the passage of time, the perfection and refinement that the entire wine-making process has achieved has led to the creation of the the emergence of the oenologist as a specific and eminently technical profile. So much so that in 1996 the University of La Rioja began to offer the University Degree in Oenology, a degree that has now been replaced by the Degree in Oenology and is legally required to be able to work as an oenologist.
And no wonder, since the professional oenologist must know and master a series of technical subjects that cut across the entire winemaking process: agricultural knowledge, biochemistry, organic chemistry, physics, mathematics, genetics, knowledge of economics and the marketing of the product, legal aspects of the sector, etc. All of this, in order to be able to make decisions during the exercise of their functions inside and outside the winery. Decisions that will directly affect the quality and final characteristics of the wine.
What are the functions of the oenologist?
The oenologist's functions are varied and are distributed throughout the entire winemaking process: from cultivating the grapes that will serve as raw material, to supervising the bottling, conservation and marketing of the wines. Among these tasks, the following stand out:
- Choice of terroir and grape variety or varieties to be used for the cultivation of the vineyards. Analysis of the characteristics of the terrain and climate and how these characteristics should be used to produce the final product. Knowledge and choice of vines of different grape varieties, blending of vines, etc.
- Management and care of the vine during cultivation: irrigation, treatments, choice of time, optimal conditions and techniques for the grape harvest, etc.
- Design of the winery, working procedures, selection of machinery and equipment.
- Management and control of the entire winemaking process winemaking process: choice of the most suitable winemaking methods; procedures for obtaining the must; control of fermentations; supervision of the physical and environmental conditions of the process; compliance with the appropriate hygiene, health and safety standards.
- Supervision of laboratory analyses: physical, chemical and microbiological analyses. Analysis of the organoleptic characteristics of the wine.
- Quality control at all stages of viticulture and winemaking.
- Supervision of bottling and design of the techniques of crianza and conservation of the wine. Control and management of the evolution of the wines through technical tastings.
- Research and innovation work for the improvement of all the techniques used in the production of raw materials and winemaking.
- Decision-making related to product and brand design, marketing work, wine commercialisation, distribution, etc.
Rafael Vivanco. Winemaker of Vivanco
At Vivanco, the figure of the oenologist is embodied by Rafael Vivanco, who together with Santiago, in charge of the Foundation Vivanco, makes up the fourth generation of this family project. Linked to the world of wine since childhood, Rafael Vivanco trained as an agricultural engineer at the Public University of Navarra. He then went to Bordeaux to specialise in oenology at the Bordeaux Faculty of Oenology. During his stay in this wine region he was able to work and learn in two harvests, one of them with the prestigious winemaker Hubert de Boüard, owner of Château Angélus. From then on, he has kept his attention to detail when making wine: the care of the vines, the benefits of separating the varieties, the knowledge of the terroir, etc.
As a winemaker, his vision is innovative and always respectful of the winemaking tradition of La Rioja. Proof of this are the wines of the Collection Vivanco, the elaboration of single-varietal wines such as the Plots of Mazuelo or the Winter sweetness, a wine for ageing, a pioneer in Rioja.
Now we know what an oenologist is and why his work is essential for a wine to express the best of itself.. Someone we will remember when we enjoy our next glass of wine.