The second week of April we decided that the Cabernet Sauvignon had gone about as far as it could go. The weather, reflecting a most difficult season for years, was still against us with periods of constant rain. We were running the increasing threat of diluted juice and disease outbreak.
The harvest was completed in under a day with a minimum of fuss. There were some very small outbreaks of botrytis spotted and, given the good yield of the total vineyard, the affected bunches were simply dropped.
The crush went without problems and the resultant juice had a sugar level of 12.5 Baume and pH of 3.7, an excellent result considering the season.
The yeast and MLF cultures were quickly added to the must and fermentation started within 24 hours.
It was quite a vigourous ferment which meant the desired higher temperature for red wine ferments (25-30 degrees), which improves color extraction, was achieved.
We added French oak staves to the ferment to give the final wine its oaky character without having to go to the expense of oak barrel storage later in the winemaking process.
We also made a concerted effort to punch the cap down at least 4 times a day in an effort to extract as much colour and tannin as possible.
This resulted in the infamous "purple hands" syndrome that most winemakers suffer from during vintage and is a constant source of surprise to those people in the supermarket line.
Due to the vigour of the ferment, we monitored the reducing sugar level with a refractometer on a daily basis.
And finally the more accurate hydrometer test showed that the ferment was over after a week and it was time for pressing.
So it was into the press.
The free run wine was run off and the remaining skins were given a good "squeeze" to extract the remaining wine with its higher color/tannin component.
And both free run and pressings were added together in the tank so the fermentation lees could settle out and MLF could hopefully begin.
This is a critical time in red wine production as MLF (malolactic fermentation) can only be initiated in the absence of sulphur. So the wine is virtually unprotected from oxidation at this stage. We sparged the wine with CO2 and sealed the tank to minimize this risk.
So now it's a matter of waiting and monitoring MLF progress before we can start the clarifying/racking process.