October 08, 2009

Harvest and baseball

So I have two bins of pinot noir soaking in the winery. I'm swamped at my "real" job but nothing much happens during the cold soak. Light mixing of the skins and juice each day, maybe a pump over to mix things up for a good sample to take brix and ph readings, which change after havest as any dehydrated grapes give some suger into solution and potassium buffering the ph up a bit.

Brix is a bit higher than I'd like at 25.4. It's the price of waiting an extra week to harvest, as sugars rose modestly but flavors seem to really come on strong. Acidity is still strong, but the ph reading and final brix will come tomorrow when a juice sample is taken to the lab for a full analysis. We'll see how much malic acid is in the juice vs. tartaric acid. Since malic acid converts to lactic in the ML fermentation, raising ph, the more malic, the more you can expect to see a ph shift up. If there's lots of malic and not so much tartaric, an extreme example, you might consider acidification with additional tartaric to ensure balance in the finished wine. I'm not guessing that will be required here, but we'll see.

Another important number from the juice analysis will be glucose and fructose content, a better measurement of sugar to predict final alcohol levels. As things are, a winemaker's inclination might be to add water to bring the sugar level down a bit, maybe to 24.5. You might think that would dilute the wine, but it doesn't do that, necessarily. Rather, it's an intervention that might be necessary in the extreme, but something I want to avoid if possible. The question is -- intervene with acidulated water, or end up with a higher alcohol level in the wine. Yeast convert sugar to alcohol at rates between .55 to .62. If I assume a .57 conversion, and the brix is an accurate reflection of potential alcohol, I'm looking at 14.4% alcohol. Is that ok, or do you add water to bring that down? I'm inclined to want to do nothing, but if the glucose/fructose is higher still, hmm. What do you think? I'm not trying to make intellectual wine, rather a tasty drink for dinner and such. These grapes won't be going into a high end bottling. But what to do, what to do.

Enough wine geekery. Any baseball fans out there? Ten years ago when I first worked some harvest days in a California winery, I remember the nice, tired feeling of driving home to San Francisco after a hard day's work listening to late evening playoff baseball games on the radio. I used to love traveling in the fall months when I could, but that's done if you're making wine. I also love baseball, and while harvest is a busy time, there are moments to catch some ball even if I can't lounge around and watch entire games. Those drives are a good memory now. Same too when I was first a home winemaker, listening to games while I picked my own grapes and then at home in the garage as I oversaw vinification, then the recent years of working harvests and having long drives and time to hear baseball on the radio. There's something sweet now about making wine and hearing a game, a connection I never made as a kid or younger adult but now consider a right and good mark of fall. I love October.

Tonight, I have kid duty as my wife is out at knitting group. She's enough of a wine widow so it's only fair. The wine with dinner? 2008 Domaine La Croix Belle Vin des Pays des Cotes de Thongue, a 100% syrah bottling from the Languedoc region of France. Ten bucks locally and pretty nice gulping wine. Clearly syrah, with gummy purple fruit and a pleasant stem note, and a sweet savory flavor that's nicely balanced between acid, tannin and flavors. Worth trying again.

1 comment:

Dudley said...

Godspeed Vincent. I am ordering a 5 gallon keg of North Coast Old Rasputin this week. I would like to have you and some other winemaker bretheren over to the house once the stems and skins settle. Cheers.