Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Our first season in review

All of our wines are almost ready for finishing. It's a good opportunity to recap the year and learn about our mistakes and our victories in the wine making process.

One of the first things that I'll say that I need to work on is knowing my YAN (yeast assimilable nitrogen) count at the beginning of the harvest so that I know how much DAP (di-ammonium phosphate) to add. Yay acronyms. Basically, this means that I need to know how much nutrition is in the juice so that I know how much more food to add so that the yeast have a healthy ferment. When the juice doesn't have enough inherent nutrition at the start of the ferment, and I have failed to supplement it with DAP, the yeast get stressed during the ferment and begin to produce a lot of sulfur bi-products. This happened this year with our Vidal and our Chambourcin, most smellably with the Vidal.

Nevertheless, this mistake offered me the opportunity to learn to about copper additions! Small amounts of copper take out the nasty sulfur smell and let the good qualities of the wine shine through. There is a legal limit on how much copper you can add and don't worry, we're way under those limits.

Another thing I've learned is that I don't want to use V1116 yeast with the Vidal next time. We did one tank with V1116 and then one with W15, and by far, the W15 was superior. It had more body, more fruity notes (apple to be precise), and more balance. The V1116 was a superior fermenter, but the wine was devoid of fruit after the fermentation. It lacked body, and was quite a bit sour. If the lab was correct, this wine ended up with 14% alcohol. This seems almost impossible as we started out with 22 Brix.

The tank with the W15 yeast did get stuck around 4 Brix and we used the V1116 to get it started again. There is a use for this yeast, however I doubt I will use it next year for the main batch of wine.

One thing I will use next year for everything will be pectolytic enzyme. When making wine by hand, maceration in pectolytic enzyme makes basket pressing much easier and juice yield much higher. Plus the aromatics are much more intense. I believe that it is our use of pectolytic enzyme and maceration time (5 days for the Chambourcin and 1 day for the Vidal) that gave us such interesting and intense color and flavour. I would consider extending the Vidal maceration period for another day just to increase juice yield and ease of pressing.

Now a word of caution about the malolactic conversion in the Chambourcin: Don't worry about it! I was very worried about the progress of our malic acid to lactic acid when I couldn't taste any progress for the first few days. I've had conversions that last 2 days and I've had conversions that lasted two weeks before. Now I've had one that lasted 2 months. I worried so much about these conversions, their nutrient statuses, and the temperatures at which they occurred. The lab work said that the conversions were over, however, in one tank specifically, I couldn't smell or taste any of the buttery results. Until I opened the tanks 3 months after the 'end' of the conversions and BOOM! Popcorn smell hit me in the face!

What I learned: Get the conversion started at 70 Fahrenheit. And even if it doesn't seem like its converting, just wait. Don't try to raise the temperature. In fact, lower it a bit after the first few days. Wait a few months and see. Having too much buttery flavour is just as bad as not having enough. Therefore, patience my friends, patience!

So what we have at the end of this process are a few different wines. We have two Vidal- One very fruity, like apple cider; the other one (made with the V116), more alcohol, more acidic. We've thrown a few wood chips in there and put 10% of it through malolactic conversion (therefore, it's going to taste more like a chardonnay when we're done).

We have two Chambourcins too- One very smooth, and one that was a bit rougher. We did a blending trial the other night, and the wines that were the best were the ones that were 100% of either one or 50% of both. It's strange to see how having 75%-25% of one wine mixed with the other produced either a harsher wine or a wine with no flavour at all. Therefore, I think we'll be mixing our Chambourcin tanks 50%-50% to get the best wine.

We fined all the wine (except for the Vidal W15 and 5 gallons of Chambourcin) with gelatin. We'll be making a few bottles of vegan wine for our vegan friends. Let me know if you know anyone who wants some, as it will go fast!

Well, if you'd like to try this wine, email us or call my dad's old supermarket at 704-782-2117. Wanda will answer the phone and assist you in giving you a taste!

I'm off to Australia to work at Carlei Wines for the next few months. Hasta luego!