Sunday, March 25, 2018

Vintage 2018 Finishes (Cabernet Sauvignon Harvest)

In late February the drought finally broke.
We received 126mm over two days.
Our creek was running a banker and the dams started filling.
So it was a rush to get the Cabernet Sauvignon sprayed before more forecasted rain over the next weeks came (and it did on a regular basis).
We were lucky enough to get a warm sunny dry day in between the showery ones to get this task completed.
Mid March we had a sudden scorching day with temperatures hitting 38C, (causing devastating bushfires just to the south of us) then it turned cool with a week of substantial rain.
This weather pattern is so typical of February\March (see graph) in the Shoalhaven and is the bane of the grape growers here who have late maturing varieties eg. Cabernet Sauvignon.
Average Monthly Rainfall/Rain Days Ulladulla AWS

While the vine foliage can be protected from fungus by well timed spraying, too much rain dilutes the juice in the nearly ripe fruit. Lower sugar equals lower alcohol!
Worse, it can cause the berries to split which alters the flavour profile of the grape. Resultant decomposition can produce compounds like ethyl acetate and acetic acid which are undesirable for wine making.
Splitting also provides a breeding ground for fungus, particularly botrytis, which can spread rapidly.
This all happened last year.
We ended up dumping the wine made.
There is a very detailed article on grape splitting from CSU here.
But this year we wanted to avoid any problems and picked the crop on 24th March.
It was probably a little early going by the Baume reading.
The fruit was in reasonable condition but with some botrytis evident and we didn't want it spreading.
We ended up with a yield about two thirds normal due to the kangaroo "attack" early in the season.
Baume: 12.0° (a little bit low)
pH: 3.5 (good)
Grapes were crushed and destemmed and an excess yeast culture and DAP added to the must.
After fermentation is finished, we will transfer the wine plus skins to a stainless steel tank which will be sealed to allow more colour to be extracted and for MLF to take place.
After a week of maceration, it will be pressed and the wine returned to the tank, pH adjusted and sulphured.
The pomace will be returned to the vineyard rows.
Pomace left after pressing

After racking the wine off the fermentation lees it will be returned to the tank where egg white is added to start the clarification process.

Then, after another racking off the settled solids, French oak chips will be immersed in the wine to give it the desired amount of oakiness. This mimics, to some extent, maturation in an oak cask but is really no substitute for the real thing. But with the cost of barrels and their restricted size plus relatively limited life span, it is ok for this Vin de Garage operation whose wines are meant for early consumption.
French oak 225L barriques are around $1000 and up, Hungarian oak $700 and up, American oak $500 and up.
Oak is used in wine making to vary the colour, flavour, tannin profile and texture of wine
The use of oak in wine is described here in detail.
Then it is just a matter of keeping the sulphur at the right level and waiting until flavours have suitably melded before bottling ie. about a year.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Vintage 2018 Continues (Tempranillo Harvest)

The Tempranillo was harvested on a cool sunny day with 99.9% of the fruit in excellent condition.
We also added in the minuscule crop of Pinot Noir which wasn't worth processing by itself.
After crushing and destemming, we ended up with 110L of must.
Baume: 12.5°
pH: 3.5
We added DAP and an excess amount of yeast culture. Wild yeast fermentation was evident soon after crushing finished so we added the extra yeast to overcome any problems associated with that.
Wild yeast fermentation is a legitimate process in wine making but we were not willing to risk it this time around. More on this in a later post.

We have quite a range of insects in the vineyard, the majority of which are 'good guys' who feed on and keep the 'bad guys' away. Therefore we have never sprayed insecticide in any of the blocks.
The colony includes many spiders of different types which spin their webs across the rows. We have to clear the rows of these before working down them. This causes the residents to retreat to the vine foliage.
I must have caught one spider between my head and the netting while picking as I felt a searing sting and brushed a big one onto the ground.
Funnel Web Spider

Was it a nasty or not? We do have the lethal funnel web spider here but they live in the ground. If you get bitten by one of these it is a rush to the hospital for anti venom.
But the culprit was light brown not black and I wasn't feeling unwell so decided I was going to live.
But it did leave an itchy lump.
Back in 'the winery', rapid fermentation began within 12 hours and we are now in the process of punching the cap down every four hours or so.

When fermentation is finished we will let the wine sit on the skins for another week to extract as much colour as possible and hopefully go through malolactic fermentation before pressing.