I have three ways that I know spring has finally shoved aside Old Man Winter here in balmy Massachusetts. One: I haven't pulled the snow blower out of the garage in at least 3 weeks. Two: the azaellas along my driveway start to bloom. And three: I get a call from M&M Wine Grape that my Chilean grape order has started to arrive!
I ordered two grape varietals from Chile this year, Chardonnay and Syrah. The chardonnay grapes were the first to arrive, so I took a couple of days off of work (a man must have his priorities straight) and drove down to Hartford to pick them up. I was fortunate to arrive at a fairly non-busy time, so I got a tour of the cold storage facility and the revamped winemaking store. In addition to the grapes, 4 boxes of bottles and a stainless-steel must plunger followed me home!
These grapes came from the Curico Valley in central Chile and were picked on March 18, 2009. Given that these little beauties have been on a boat for almost 1 month, they arrived in fantastic condition. Each 18 lb crate wrapped in tissue paper with a grape-keeper sheet (filled with K-meta) on top. Very little MOG (material other than grapes), no bruising, no mold, and a mix of green/browned bunches
I spent Thursday afternoon crushing and destemming, which went like a breeze thanks to Vinia! The must received a treatment of pectic enzyme and Scottzyme Cinn-Free Enzyme (to enhance varietal fruit flavors) and soaked on the skins for 2 hrs. Then the juice was pressed off the skins in three fractions. I obtained 6 gal of essentially free-run juice that was very light in color. Then 6 gals of moderate pressing juice, and then 4 gal of moderate-to-heavy pressing juice that was darker in color. Each fraction received 50 ppm SO2 per gallon and was cooled in my basement overnight at 45-50 °F (I use water baths and ice jugs to keep things cool).
On Friday, I racked the clarified juice in each bucket off of the settled solids and measured the Brix (sugar level) = 24.8-25, total acid = 3.2-3.3 mg/mL, and pH = 3.70! At those levels, I'd be making bland rocket fuel since that Brix level would give a potential alcohol = 15%! I added water and tartaric acid to reach Brix = 22 (PA = 12.5-13%), total acid = 5.4 mg/mL, and pH = 3.21. The acid levels are still a little low, but I'm going to complete fermentation and then make final adjustments while it is aging. Each bucket received a dose of OptiWhite® for color preservation & freshness, and to help round out the mouthfeel and enhance the aromatic complexity.
This is where things get a little complicated. I'm going to ferment each pressing fraction separately with a different style goal. Once the wines are complete and cleared, I'll bottle some separately, but will also look at blending to try for a more complex wine. My fermentation plans are listed below.
Fraction 1: Free-run juice
Goal: Crisp, light, & fruity style that emphasizes varietal flavors with little to no oak. No MLF.
Actions: Treated with lysozymes to prevent MLF and used ICV-D47 yeast for emphasis on the tropical & citrus flavors and polysaccharide production.
Fraction 2: Moderate pressing juice
Goal: Big, full-bodied, buttery chardonnay
Actions: Fermented with CY3079 yeast for bigger mouthfeel and buttery citrus flavors. Added oak shavings to simulate a barrel fermentation. Will do a MLF and sur lies aging after alcohol fermentation.
Fraction 3: Last pressing juice
Goal: Middle of the road no MLF chardonnay useful for blending
Actions: Added lysozymes to prevent MLF and fermented with Cote des Blancs yeast.
Once fermentation is in full force, I will cool each bucket in a water bath and maintain a temperature of <65 °F. It's still early, but I did observe evidence of fermentation in each bucket as of this morning. The 80 °F temperatures for the next couple of days should really jumpstart things as the juice warms up. The basement is a little too chilly this early in the spring, so I may have to keep my water baths in the kitchen for at least a couple of days.