The garage is filled with the sweet smells of fermenting wine. I have 50 liters of Chardonnay, 25 liters of Pinot Noir rose, and the main event - nearly 300 liters of Pinot Noir spread over three garbage can fermentors, all fermenting without added yeast.
After picking the grapes last Sunday, I let them soak without any cooling for 5 days before warming the fermentors with a space heater and an aquarium heater. This morning the bins all smelled a bit like nail polish, or ethyl acetate, but a brix reading showed that sugar levels had hardly dropped so I knew fermentation hadn't yet begun in earnest. Sometimes at the beginning you can get "ea" smells, before tempertures in the fermentors has risen significantly. Sure enough, things smell great again.
The garage is pretty cold, so I have the heater on to help get the fermentation temperature up. I don't want it to get too high, because the grapes this year aren't as ripe as I'd like. Higher temps can extract more tannin than I want. Sure enough, one bin shot up to 92F before punchdown and stirring tonight brought things down significantly. The other bins are staying in the low 80s, right below where I want them but since the one went so high, I think a mix of the three will be just right. My goal now is to get the yeast to slowly complete fermentation without sticking as the temperature falls. I want it cooler after this peak period, but not too cool so that the yeast go inactive. It's a delicate balance.
Of course, with the low brix level I mentioned previously, I chaptalized (added sugar) some this morning and will do more tomorrow as I add approximately 1.7kg per 100L of wine, per Emile Peynaud, to raise the wine one degree of alcohol. I'm loathe to chaptalize as I did in 2005, but this year especially there's no avoiding it.
At the winery, I did some labelling today and the evening punchdowns. Only 11 bins fermenting in earnest, so punchdowns weren't so difficult. There are a few more bins about to be kicked off, the last of the year. This weekend we dug out 12 bins in five press loads, giving me lots of time to learn the finer points of working a 3-ton bladder press. Fill, press, spin, press, spin, press, spin, etc. empty, repeat. Lots of shovelling, lots of nice new wine aromas, satisfying to be done at the end of the work day.
Tasting note - France, yet again. This time, the 2004 Perrin Cotes du Rhone "Nature" from one organic vineyard apparently near Orange. This is simply one of the best old school grenache driven Cotes du Rhones I've had in a long time. For just over $10, it's a steal. Rich earthy plum and black pepper aromas with a full body, ripe tannins, and delicious blackberry, stone, and pepper flavors. There's not a ton of acidity here, but it doesn't matter. I think you could hold on to this for a few years, not that it will improve. But if you're looking for a great value French wine that you don't have to worry about drinking up in the next 12 to 24 months, here it is.