Posted by Brian Loring
November 22: Fermentation slowed way down the past few days, and the caps in the fermenters started to weaken. I haven’t really been doing punch-downs as much as just getting the cap wet. I’ve been closely watching the Brix level to determine when to press, and today is the day.
There’s no set-in-stone rule that says when you should press. We press at various points based upon how the seeds looked when the fruit was crushed and how the fermentation is progressing.
When there are more green seeds than we’d normally like to see, we usually press a little sooner. The reasoning is that you want to get the seeds away from the alcohol, which can break them down and release bitter tannins. If the seeds are all nice and brown, then this isn’t as much of an issue.
We also look at Brix and temperature. The Brix scale is strange because it goes negative. A reading of zero Brix doesn’t mean that all the sugar is gone. Even at minus 2 Brix, there’s still sugar present. We never let a fermenter go completely dry. When we see Brix levels around minus 1, that’s usually the point when we’ll pull the trigger. If the wine in the fermenter is cool and the Brix level is in the 2 to 0 range, we’ll often press to get some oxygen into the wine to help give the yeast that last little push. In this case, the Mourvèdre was at about minus 1.
Once we’ve made the decision to press, we pick out the barrels we’re going to fill and sanitize them with ozone. We have a machine that creates ozonated water, which we use to rinse out the barrels. We even ozone all the new barrels since I’ve heard that brettanomyces (a spoilage yeast) has been cultured out of new barrels. One of the worst things that can infect your wine in my opinion is brett.
We decided to press the Mourvèdre directly to barrel. We used to do that for the Pinot as well, but recently we’ve started pressing the wine to tank and letting it sit overnight so that the heavy, or “gross,” lees could settle out. We’re doing that to help control tannins. Since the Mourvèdre is going to be in barrel for about two years, we should be able to rack a couple of times and get enough air into the wine to soften the tannins. So keeping the heavy lees in barrel now to get some more intensity will hopefully be fine.
It’s a nice feeling to see the last wine get into barrel. Now we get to clean all the equipment and put it away until next year. The fermenters are all stacked up and out of the way, and the barrels are all lined up in their tidy rows in the barrel room. The work is never completely done, but it is a good feeling to have survived another harvest.
Richard Hirth — Michigan — December 5, 2008 4:00pm ET
Jordan Harris — Niagara, Ontario — December 5, 2008 5:27pm ET
Brian Loring — Lompoc, CA — December 5, 2008 7:28pm ET
Brian Loring — Lompoc, CA — December 5, 2008 7:37pm ET
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