Saturday, September 11, 2010

Racking time

This whole winemaking thing is a lot of work. I decided tonight that I wanted to taste, test and rack my two 2010 Chilean wines again. The pinot noir has been sitting with an oak "spiral" in it for 2 months to add a little oak without the use of a barrel. The Malbec has not had the oak added yet, but needs a few more rackings to remove the hydrogen sulfide odor that I inadvertently allowed to happen by letting the wine sit on the gross lees too long while I was in Australia in the spring.

So first I checked the Malbec pH (3.25) to make sure it was the same as the last time I measured it. Then I did a titration to check the SO2 (it was 50 PPM, a tad high for this low pH, but not terrible). Next I tasted the wine. The H2S smell is still there, although it's not that strong. The wine tastes really excellent though--once you aerate the H2S smell out with a few swirls. I decided to rack through some copper to try to reduce the Hydrogen sulfide. (Copper reacts with the sulfur and precipitates it out). If racking and a little metallic copper contact doesn't help the H2S situation, I will be forced to use the age old copper sulfate treatment to bind up the sulfur and settle it out as precipitate. If I can get a handle on this H2S issue, this is going to be a great wine. So anyway, I racked it and added the oak spiral to the Malbec.

Lesson learned: always rack the freshly-pressed wine off the gross lees the day after pressing! Don't go to Australia and let it finish fermenting on the gross lees unless you like a swampy smell!!!

Next I tested and tasted the pinot noir. Ironically, this wine tasted better at the last racking than the Malbec, but now it's not as good. My Malic acid test showed that neither of these wines completed MLF--which I knew because they just didn't do anything after adding the MLF bacteria. I finally gave up. But unlike the Malbec which has enough alcohol to offset the low pH, the pinot noir doesn't. The pinot has pH of 3.35 (a tad low) but it tastes quite acidic. It's a little late in the game to alter the pH chemically (and frankly, I'm against playing with the pH of wine artificially).

Both wines had considerable tartrate crystals in the bottom of the carboys. Maybe a cold stabilization to precipitate a little more? Have to think about that. Both wines have clarified beautifully and have another 7 months in bulk aging before it's time to bottle, so I have time to let them mellow and see what happens. It's still a little early to worry too much about it.

On another note, I put in my order for the fall California grapes. I considered doing two cuvées again, but I just don't have enough carboys and the place is getting full of them. So I decided to do one batch of Northern California pinot noir. The grapes are due in October, hopefully not interfering with a business trip to Bonaire at the end of Sept. I ordered 100 pounds of pinot noir.

So that's the update from here!