Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Vintage 2016 / Update 3

-Semillon harvested.
Baume 11.5°
pH 3.4 (satisfactory)
50ppm SO2* and ascorbic acid at crusher.
DAP added before yeast inoculation.
-Tempranillo harvested.
Baume 12.5°
pH 3.8 (high)
-Pinot Noir harvested.
Baume 12.3°
pH 3.9 (high)

Due to the small yield we crushed and then 'sulphured' the Tempranillo sealing it in a tank. We waited until the Pinot Noir harvest when we combined both varieties and fermented them together.
The red blend needed pH adjustment to 3.6 with tartaric acid.
Other additions apart from yeast were DAP and a MLF culture.
After 3 days the Semillon had not commenced fermentation. I went over my SO2 addition* and realized I had miscalculated and added too much.
Due to its antimicrobial effect this can retard fermentation or prevent it entirely.

So I decided to try the very tricky process of adding hydrogen peroxide. This converts the SO2 to a sulphate. It is also a very strong oxidizing agent and can ruin a batch of juice/wine very easily. So it is best to do it in stages while monitoring the resultant SO2 levels being careful not to reduce it to lower than 5ppm.
There is a specific formula and process for this operation. Details are here.
Then I added what was a 'stuck fermentation' level of yeast ie.4 times the normal, and fermentation started in 12 hours.
Note to self: be more careful with the maths next year!!!!
The Cabernet is enjoying some drier warmer weather and we don't expect to harvest until late March.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Champagne or is It?

Today is Valentine's Day and I guess there will be a considerable amount of Champagne drunk.
But will it be real Champagne?
There was a time when any sparkling white wine from most anywhere was called Champagne.
With a few exceptions that practice has now been stopped and the real stuff can only come from the Champagne region of France produced under the rules of that appellation.
Let's look at some of the processes for making a sparkling wine.
  • The initial step is to select a single wine or blend (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier etc.) that has been specifically made for sparkling wine production. Usually it is white but can be pink.
          This is called the base wine.
  1. For a really cheap sparkling:
  • Bubble carbon dioxide through the base wine in a refrigerated pressure tank.
  • Filter.
  • Bottle.
  1. For a little more upmarket sparkling:
  • Place base wine in a refrigerated pressure tank, add sugar and yeast. The yeast ferments the sweetened wine. The carbon dioxide evolved from this secondary fermentation is absorbed by the cold wine.
  • Filter.
  • Bottle.
This is called the Charmat Process.

  1. For an even more upmarket sparkling:
  • Yeast and sugar are added to the base wine in a bottle
  • After secondary fermentation occurs in the sealed bottle, the now sparkling wine is transferred under pressure to a tank.
  • Filter
  • Bottle (in a different bottle).
This is called the Transfer Process.

  1. The traditional and best (and most expensive) way of making a sparkling wine eg. Champagne:
  • Yeast and sugar are added to the base wine in the bottle it will be eventually sold in.
  • Secondary fermentation occurs in the temporarily sealed bottle eg. crown seal
  • After some time, the bottle is manually turned in a rack twice daily and gradually brought to the upright position (neck down). The lees from the fermentation process eventually settle in the neck of the bottle leaving the remaining wine clear. This is called remuage (riddling) and takes about 3 weeks.
  • To remove this deposit, the neck of the bottle is immersed in a freezing solution which freezes the lees plug into a solid mass. The seal is removed and the internal pressure in the bottle expels the plug. This is called disgorgement
  • The bottle is then topped up with some of the same wine and a sugar/wine solution. This is called dosage or liqueuring.
  • Bottle is corked and wired although at least one Australian producer now uses a crown seal.
This process is called Methode Champenoise or Methode Traditionnelle (traditional method).

It should be pointed out here that only Champagne can be legally labelled Methode Champenoise. Producers of similarly produced sparkling wines elsewhere usually use the term Methode Traditionnelle or Traditional Method.
Spain uses Cava, Italy designates it Spumante and South Africa uses Cap Classsique. An Italian sparkling wine made from the Muscat grape uses the DOCG, Asti  and from the Glera grape the DOCG, Prosecco. In Germany, Sekt is a common sparkling wine.
There are also semi sparkling wines ie. wines made with less bottle pressure. These include the German spritzig, Italian frizzante and French pétillant wines.
Australia, Italy and Moldova produce red sparkling wines. In Australia, these are often made from Shiraz.

Saturday, February 06, 2016

The Piano

No, not the New Zealand movie but the one in our house.
I have known it all my life. It belonged to my mother.
She used to play by ear, never having had a lesson in her life.
I don't think many days went by without her playing anything from pop to classical.
The piano came with us when we moved from Melbourne to Brisbane.
It was there I remember a blind man coming at least once a year to tune it.
When Mum died, my father tried to self learn. He wrote numbers on the keys in pencil which were still there when it eventually came down to our Sydney home as part of the daughter's inheritance.
Then it came down to the South Coast.
It has always been a bit of 'a pain'. Being iron framed it is extremely heavy and was always expensive to move (removalists surcharged by the step!). It has cracked every wall it has stood against.

So here it has been for nearly 30 years, an untuned and a somewhat unloved ornament and picture shelf.
No one wants old pianos it seems. Looking through Sell and Buy ads it appears like they range from $100 to 'if you can move it, it's yours for nothing'.
The co driver had found some uses on the Internet for unwanted pianos eg. out door planters. This idea shocked the daughter somewhat. That, and it as a source of a bonfire.
Anyway, one day not so long ago, the co driver revealed she had taken lessons as a child and proceeded to bang out a few tunes. Looking for a diversion from quilting, sewing and knitting, she thought she would like to resume playing.
But it was obvious the piano needed a tune.

We asked around and got a recommendation for a tuner. A young man turned up and gave it the once over.
Yes, it was in good condition, repairable (sticky keys), tunable and had a nice tone.
An hour or so later music filled the house. He could really play.
He said piano tuning was a full time job and there were a few in the area. Who knew?
So the co driver now sits down for an hour or so a day honing her piano playing skills.
I did some research on the piano itself. It's branded Karl Steinmeyer - Berlin.
There is no such piano maker listed, the nearest being a Karl Steinmayer
It seems many piano manufacturers were trying to cash in on the obvious quality of German made pianos around the turn of the 20th century. Ours could be of Australian manufacture from the now defunct Berlin Piano Company in Sydney.

Monday, February 01, 2016

Vintage 2016 / Update 2

We are now at or well into the veraison stage for all varieties.
That is when the grapes have stopped cell growth and start to change colour with sugars developing and acids reducing.
This means for the early varieties, harvest is not far away.
We now become even more concerned with the weather.
Too much rain, apart from increasing disease potential, will cause juice dilution (reduced sugar levels) and the possibility of grape berry splitting. The latter is particularly concerning for the thinner skinned varieties like Semillon and the tightly bunched varieties like Pinot Noir. Splitting is an open invitation for the fungus disease Botrytis to take hold.

So what is our weather data so far this season?
November: 95mm over 11 days (average: 84mm over 9 days)
December: 47mm over 8 days (average: 69mm over 8 days)
January: 265mm over 15 days (average: 86mm over 9days)
Yes, January is a bit of a disaster.
It has apparently been the wettest in three decades.
There is a very strong El Niño affect in place. We have been subjected to very intense thunderstorms virtually every second day which dump a lot of rain on us in very short time spans. Weather Bureau warnings of strong winds, potential large hail and flash flooding for the state are a daily occurrence.
We have tested the Baume (sugar level) of both Semillon and Tempranillo. We are a few degrees short of an acceptable level in both. A taste and seed maturity test of the Pinot Noir confirmed it needs more time and a formal test is a week or so away. The late variety Cabernet Sauvignon won't be subjected to testing for at least another 3 weeks or so.
Currawong and Satin Bird

The birds have now become aware of the bountiful supply of food behind the netting and are looking for every way of getting in. So far one or two have been successful and it's a constant battle to find and patch up the holes. They, especially the satin birds, are very resourceful and inspect all the vulnerable areas eg. joins, on a continual basis. The currawongs swing back and forth on the netting sides using their long beaks to sneak a berry or two.