Sunday, May 22, 2011

Goodbye, Old Friend.

Australians tend to keep their cars for quite a long time.
But this must be some sort of record.
Neighbour Bob has a 1987 Ford Falcon which has racked up 546,000 km (341,250 miles).
It has been relegated to a work horse for many years now, helping Bob carry his tools of trade around many rural properties as well as his rods to the beach for fishing trips.
He was aware that she was fast wearing out and his fears were confirmed during the last annual registration inspection when the mechanics said although they will pass it one more time not to bother bringing it back again.

The "Bobmobile" as it is known around here reacted to this news by developing a huge oil leak and internally destroying her power steering system.
So on Tuesday it's off to the wreckers.
There will be an appropriate wake that evening at the Tavern.
The number plates will obviously be transferred to the replacement vehicle.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Burning Off

Australia is very prone to bush fires especially during summer.
Our valley borders a national park and a state forest so we are surrounded by a potential fire hazard.
As some of my readers know, we were threatened by an out of season bush fire back in August of 2009.
To reduce the hazard, the local Rural Fire Brigade carries out 'cool burns' in the parks and forests around us to reduce the 'fuel' level during autumn and winter which is considered the low risk time.
Property owners are also encouraged to reduce fuel levels and burn fire breaks when it is safe to do so

So Neighbour Bob and I decided to burn a fire break strip along the road bordering our properties. I had sprayed it all off with herbicide a few months before and cut down all the saplings.
This morning we had light winds and a bit of dew so we went ahead.
It all went to plan with no dramas. Bob kept guard on one side with a shovel in case any 'residents' who had been hiding there made a break for it. There were none.
I patrolled the fence line with a sprayer to put out any fence posts that caught alight.
There are plenty more of these jobs to do over the next few months. I have burn off piles ready all over the place.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Old Friends

Last week we had a quick visit from Pam and Bruce who live in Brisbane, Queensland.
I first met them in 1957 at my primary school there when we moved from Melbourne.
So I guess they are my oldest friends.
We certainly shared a great number of adventures together during our 'formative years'.
Bruce continued onto secondary school with me and became part of our surfing group.
Pam did her own thing overseas for a while but eventually came home.

We have kept in contact over the years since I moved away in 1968 and have visited one another sporadically.
Funny though that no matter how long it's been between contacts, we pick up the threads of our lives so quickly.
We had a fun day (and night) catching up on all the gossip about family, mutual friends, acquaintances and our travel adventures.
To say the wine flowed would not be an exaggeration.
And today is their 40th wedding anniversary.
Congratulations, guys!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

pH Day

pH is the measure of the acidity or basicity (alkalinity) of an aqueous solution.
Pure water is neutral and has a pH of 7.0
Solutions with a pH of less than 7.0 are acidic, more than 7.0 are alkaline.
In wine production we usually work with pH levels between 3.0 and 4.0
In practice white wine should have a pH between 3.1 and 3.4 and red wines 3.3 to 3.6
Why is this so important?
From a drinking point of view, acidity accentuates the fruitiness and balance of wine.
However from a oenological point of view, the 'correct' acid levels have a bearing on the antimicrobial and antioxidant properties of the sulphur dioxide that is added to the wine as well as encouraging growth of desirable micro organisms, inhibiting microbial spoilage and aiding in the clarification process.

While sulphur dioxide is added to wine, it's the molecular sulphur content of the 'free portion' of that addition, as opposed to the 'bound portion', that is most affective.
The amount of molecular sulphur is dependent on acidity
Therefore simply put, the lower the pH, the more molecular sulphur is available to do its work.
Our wine region is considered 'warm' in viticultural terms.
This means the grapes ripen relatively rapidly with an associated degradation of acid.
In general all our grape juice, in particular the reds, can have a low acidity in wine terms (pH of around 3.5 to 4.0) at harvest. And pH becomes even higher during the fermentation process as well as after malolactic fermentation.
In Australia we are allowed to add acid to compensate for this.
So to get our juices and ultimately our wine to the correct pH level, tartaric acid is added. This acid is a natural acid component of the grape juice in any case.
But we need to know first what the pH of the wine is.
This is done with a pH meter.
There are some pretty sophisticated pieces of equipment around but we use a basic hand held unit.

First job is calibration. This is carried out using two commercial solutions of known pH, in our case, 4.0 and 7.0.
Once the unit is calibrated, the wines are tested.
Then, when the pH is known then, we can estimate the amount of acid to be added.
And I mean estimate.
There is no formula relating to acid addition and pH drop due to the 'buffering' capacity of wine which we wont go into here.
So it's a matter of adding acid in progressive amounts from 4 to 1 g/L until the required level is achieved. Doing a test run on a 1L sample initially will give some indication however.
The acid is dissolved into a minimum amount of water and added to the wine.
So I did this with three of the four 2011 wines as the Semillon at pH 3.4 was ok.
After a few hours or so I tested them again. And as usual they all needed more.
So the task was repeated until satisfactory levels were reached.
So what about titratable acidity (TA) I hear some of you ask.
I can say I used to do it but eventually questioned the necessity so now rely on pH (and my palate) only.