Thursday, December 30, 2010

Adventures in Winemaking Installment #6

We are still making wine, but the excitement of the wine club party and holidays placed winemaking on the back burner. It is about time we share our progress.

We left off in mid November when we were “punching down” the cap on our four buckets of Cabernet Sauvignon. Since then quite a bit has happened to our wine and I would like to mention a few particular milestones. The first big and possibly my favorite step was pressing our wine. In order to extract color we left our wine on the grapes skins for just over two weeks. The skins and seeds also contribute to the amount of tannin our finished wine will have. As we personally don’t have a press we purchased a cheese cloth, strained our wine through the cloth, and pressed with our hands the remaining berries. Although, our fingers were frozen we had a great time squeezing as much juice as possible. As luck would have it, we ended up pressing the very same day that Jean-Michel pressed his Cabernet Sauvignon, it made us feel like we were doing something right.

Check out this quick video of the day we pressed.

The second milestone, that is important to mention, is the completion of the fermentation process. In order to stop fermentation you must kill the yeast. There are a variety of ways to stop the fermenting wine such as Campden tablets, but we decided to get ours cold by placing it in large refrigerator. After a night in the cold we then experienced our third milestone, racking. Racking consists of removing the wine from the lees at the bottom of the bucket or the residue from the grapes. This will take place a number of times before our wine is finished. We also were transferring the wine from the four buckets to two five gallon carboys.

Now with our carboys full and our wine having gone through fermentation we had a few things left to do. The first is adding oak. Both Jen and I like slightly bigger and spicier wines so we decided to add a bit of French oak. As we don’t have a barrel the size we need, nor does Jean-Michel have barrels to spare our option was to use oak supplements. We quickly learned that there are a variety of oak enhancements to choose from. Jean-Michel was kind enough to offer us his sample kit. We had the choice of type of enhancement from staves, beans, chips, and rice, in addition to the choice of oak from Hungarian, American, and French and even the choice of toast light, medium and heavy toast. We chose to go with medium toasted French oak staves. Oak enhancements can be powerful so we have slowly added ours and continuously tasted the wine to make sure the oak flavor does not take over.

The next step in the process of making red wine would be to allow the wine to go through a secondary fermentation called Malolactic fermentation. This process is a bacterial fermentation that transforms the tart tasting Malic acid to the softer Lactic acid. The purpose is to stabilize the wine. We, however, have not started the Malolactic fermentation. The fermentation will only take place if the wine is kept at a warmer temperature. At the moment we are keeping our wine cold and have chosen to wait until later this winter or early spring to kick off the secondary fermentation. Our wine will remain in the cool warehouse and will be checked on periodically with tastings.

Stay tuned for more of our winemaking adventures in 2011!