Monday, June 28, 2010

Wines are at rest (almost)

One of these winemaking seasons, I'm going to meet my goal of blogging through the production steps in real time. Until then, you'll just have to live with my summary blogs. :)

I'm happy to report that the Chilean Carmenere and Sauvignon Blanc wines are finally racked into carboys and sulfited. Both of them have been giving me some anxiety...

The Carmenere has been sitting on the gross lees in my stainless steel tank for several weeks. I would like to say that this has been a stylistic decision to let the wine undergo malolactic fermentation on the lees to provide nutrients for the bacteria and give the wine more complexity as the yeast cells undergo autolysis and spill their cellular proteins & contents into the wine.

I could say that...but it would be a lie.

The truth is that I just haven't had the time to rack the wine while I was finishing up my winemaking class and dealing with personal life & work stuff. So, the carmenere been sitting there while the bacteria do their thing. I've been most worried about it taking on a rotten egg smell since the Chilean grapes are rumored to do that if left sitting on the gross lees for too long, so I've been giving it a stir about twice week to keep the gross lees from compacting and diligently sniffing.

Fortunately, MLF completed by last weekend and I finally had a couple of nights free this past week. I hadn't boughten a pump yet, so I ended up draining the tank into a bucket and pouring the wine into carboys. Not the best procedure, but I figured it would give the wine a nice splash rack to let any objectionable volatile aromas to escape and be a nice little microoxidation to speed up the aging process. I do believe it worked, because the aroma & taste of the carmenere is AWESOME! Very fruit, tannic, and some interesting chocolate flavors already. I got about 21.8 gallons out of the 270 lbs of grapes, which is actually a really generous yield (was expecting closer to 15-17 gallons. I ended up topping off the last carboy with 1.5 bottles of 2008 malbec to make a full 22 gallons.

The sauvignon blanc has also been giving me a headache. Fermentation was pretty seamless, but I also ended up letting it sit on the leese for a couple of weeks until I had time to deal with it. The free press and first press fraction carboys kept bubbling frequently. Hydrometer & refractometer indicated the wine was completely dry, so what gives? I finally got the wine racked and sulfited about 1.5 weeks ago, only to watch the bubbling continue unabated. I'd like to believe that the wine was giving up dissolved CO2 as the basement has warmed up. However, I think it's more likely that the wine is undergoing an undesired malolactic fermentation. A lactic acid analysis test will confirm that this week, but I think that's the most likely explanation.

If that's the case, I'm a little confused because I added a nice large dose of lysozymes to the must prior to fermentation to prevent MLF, but perhaps I didn't add enough. If MLF is going on then I'm probably going to have to adjust the acid to get a crisp finish again, and perhaps add some oak to make a "Fume blanc" style. Stay tuned!


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