As yet another harvest has come to an end, I sit down and reflect on how things went this year, looking for ways to improve the way we process fruit. So far the only thing that I wished had gone better is… the weather! We had poor summer but a great autumn. I think capricious weather, especially here, will always be the challenge of winemakers and viticulturists (Cameron, there is no way you disagree with this!?).
With that said, I am happy with the overall quality of harvest. We now have base wines with good levels of acidity, ripeness, and nice flavours. All of the wines have now completed alcoholic fermentation, except for the last pressing of Chardonnay and are “dry” (all sugar has been consumed and turned in alcohol). For the type of sparkling wine we aim to produce, winemakers target about 11% alcohol after the first fermentation, and 12.5% in the finished product after the secondary fermentation (that takes place in the bottle). This allows for a good balance between acids, sugar and alcohol. So prior to first fermentation we added a little sugar to the juice to raise the natural alcohol level.
The wines will very soon go through malolactic fermentation, which should be completed in December. To achieve this in a timely manner, we started a bacteria culture a couple weeks ago. It might not sound exciting—I mean, it’s bacteria after all—but this culture allows the wine to start the malolactic fermentation right after the alcoholic one. Commercial bacteria guarantee a consistent, relatively fast fermentation (as do commercial yeast for that matter). If it lingered for too long, it could lead to spoilage and consequently off-flavors. Indeed wine can fairly easily get contaminated by other bacteria if left “unattended”.
If everything goes to plan, we’ll be looking at fining trials by early January along with pre-blending sessions. Exciting times to come!
Jonathan Médard – Winemaker