Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Chilean Syrah

I've alluded to also getting Chilean Syrah grapes this spring, but have been too busy to actually describe the fermentation! Will have to recap in 1 post.

Grapes were picked-up from M&M Produce on May 31 and crushed within 3 hours of pick-up while still cool. I was a little disappointed that these grapes actually had moldy clusters in just about crate. Not as bad as I've seen before, and I probably shouldn't complain too much given that they were picked on April 16 and have traveled about 3000 miles!

Sugar levels were pretty good (Brix = 23.8), but acid levels were a tad low (pH = 3.67 and TA = 4.8 mg/mL). I'm going to wait to adjust until after fermentation is over.

I innoculated with RC-212 yeast about 6 hours after crush and fermentation had started by the next morning. The syrah fermented slower than the malbec and had only fallen to Brix = 1.1 by Friday, June 6. My darling wife had a triathalon race in New Hampshire that weekend and I was strongly urged to attend to maintain marital harmony. I took Friday morning off from work and pressed must and let the fermentation continue in carboys under an airlock. This should give a smoother, more fruity wine that will be ready to drink earlier. I got 3 6-gal and 1 3-gal carboys and a 1-gal jug full of wine. By Sunday afternoon, when we returned, it still wasn't done (Brix = -1.3). I didn't have time to rack on Monday night, so I finally was able to rack off the gross lees on Tuesday, 6/10. I ended up with 4 5-gal carboys, and 3/4-gal amongt some smaller jugs. I innoculated with Lalvin VP-41 ML bacteria and MLF has noisely commenced within 24 hrs. I'm a little concerned because I think I detect a bit of H2S aroma. Can't do much about it at this point. I'm off the gross lees and MLF is in progress. Hopefully, that will blow off most of the H2S and I can splash rack to my heart's content to get rid of any residual.

The past couple of days have been HOT in Boston! I've discovered that my garage is wonderfully insulated and only reached >80 °F after 2 days of 90+ °F temperatures. After racking of the gross lees, I brought both the syrah and the malbec inside (76 °F A/C!) and have them lined up in the spare bathroom. I'll have to post a picture because it's rather hilarious to see a bathroom FULL of wine!.

a Wine Student

Chilean Malbec In Carboy and MLF!

I did end up pressing the malbec on Sunday, 6/1. One of the Brutes had fermented dry by Friday night, so I covered with Saran Wrap and got an extra day of extended maceration while I was waiting for free time. Very easy pressing once I got going. Having sat unused for 18 months and moved from Michigan to Massachusetts, my press required a bit of scrubbing to get the cobwebs off. I ended up filling 3 6-gal and 1 5-gal carboys, as well as a 750-ml and 375-ml bottles, which sat for 24 hrs to settle the gross lees. I then racked off the gross lees into 3 6-gal carboys, 2 1-gal jugs, a 1/2-gal jug, and a 375-mL bottle. I hydrated a packet of Enoferm-beta malo-lactic bacteria and dispensed amongst the 'boys to initiate malo-lactic fermentation. And that's pretty much were things sit. The ML fermentation is going strongly, although my chromatography test still shows significant malic acid present after 1 week.

Why the ML fermentation, you ask? Well, this is commonly done on red wines to help soften the acid profile and give a little more roundness. Lactic acid has a low pKa than malic acid, so it reduces the acidic taste. Lactic acid is perhaps most famous for giving that round, buttery taste to California chardonnay, but it does the same thing in red wines. If you don't purposefully initiate MLF, you run the risk of having it start on its own by naturally occurring ML bacteria after you've bottled it. That can lead to exploding bottles due to the CO2 released, and the native ML bacterial strain may give off-flavors that you don't like.

a Wine Student

Prior Chilean Malbec 2008 posts:
Chilean Malbec Grape Crush
Malbec Fermentation Has Commenced!
Malbec Mid-fermentation Update