October 24, 2009

Totally negative

All three fermenters of pinot noir are in negative territory, meaning below zero on the brix scale. Brix measures soluable solids in grape juice, most of which are fermentable sugars. Even though it's not exactly right, we think of brix as the measure of sugar. As sugar gets converted to alcohol during fermentation, brix drops. Because of a few things, including the presence of alcohol, brix actually gets into negative territory before a wine is completely "dry," meaning it has no more fermentable sugar. So "going negative" is good because fermentation is almost done.

One big worry of winemakers is a stuck fermentation, when fermentation ends before all the sugar is gone. That can lead to all kinds of problems, so going negative means you're almost home safely. Not quite there, but close enough to get excited. When everything you're making is negative, it means you're definitely close to the end of the hard work of harvest and that's really exciting.

Yesterday two of my three fermenters were drained and the skins pressed. Now there are three bins of wine to settle. One for each fermenter, and a third for the press wine. Tomorrow those will all go into barrel. Tuesday the last fermenter will get drained and pressed, and probably Thursday into barrel. Put bungs in all the barrels, wash up everything, and harvest will be officially done. Exhale.


Ruben said...

Glad to hear things are going well for you Vincent. How do you decide what kind of barrel treatment to use? New or used barrels? And how many barrels did you end up with this year?

Vincent Fritzsche said...


Good question. At this point, I'm still experimenting. For my homemade wine, I've always used pretty old oak. Three or five year old barrels, which give a little oak flavor but nothing like new wood. I'm not a huge fan of new oak, so I'm using a mix of older oak with one "new" barrel. I'm still barreling wine, so I don't know exactly how much wine I'll end up with. But I have one once filled barrel, two twice filled, and five thrice filled barrels. And since I ended up with a bit more than I expected, I got another barrel that's reconditioned by reWine in Salem. So it's newish in flavor, which should work well in a blend of seven or eight barrels. And I'm figuring the once filled will hold the wine I hope to bottle separately as a "reserve" wine. It's too early to say if that will work out. I'm still learning. But that's the plan. Hope you can come down and try what I have. I'm excited about it.