Did a brix test in the field today. The Chardonnay is a disappointing 5-8º on Sept 6! The Pinot Noir is around 10-14º. Without another 2 weeks of warm weather we may be in a situation where we will have to pick and chaptilize (add sugar).
We need more leaf topping and thinning especially around the fruit. Some of the clusters are touching and overcrowded and really should be removed, but it’s just so difficult to cut off a happy cluster.
This years Pinot Noir is on high speed fermentation. We pitched the yeast and yeast starter on July 12. The must was pretty cold ~ on the cusp of too cold 66-68º. We put a little heat in the room and 36 hours later it kicked off.
In fermenting red wine you need to keep punching down the “cap” that forms as a result of the yeasts eating up the sugars and producing co2. The punchdown keeps the must from drying out and keeps the skins in contact with the juice to extract color and tannins.
This batch is requiring a punchdown 3-4 times a day. It nearly reforms just as soon as we punch it down. It’s also fermenting very fast. Yesterday our brix was 24º (percentage of sugar) and today it’s down to 10º. We aren’t sure why as the temperature is right. Perhaps this strain of yeast Lalvin Bourgovin RC212 is just fast acting.
Today we’ll pitch in Fermaid K, a yeast nutrient to help the yeast finish the job without getting “stuck” or “sluggish” .. which it doesn’t seem like a possibility. Hopefully it won’t kick it into overdrive!
Secondary fermentation AKA Malolactic Fermentation or MLF is a process that is used in most red wines and some whites .. like our Chardonnay. It lessens the malic acid and turns it into lactic acid and give wine a smoother taste or better “mouthfeel”. Lactic acid is softer on the palate.
We have found a lot of conflicting information on MLF and decided after reading that you can’t “over” inoculate that we’d just use it generously.
Here’s where we are truly flying by the seat of our pants: We didn’t stick to the formula on the package. The package of Viniflora Oenos was enough bacteria to inoculate 66 gallons of wine. We hydrated the entire lot into a small amount of juice – then after mixing it up we used about 1/2 of it in our 8 gallon batch. (Technically then enough bacteria for 33 gallons when’s e only have 8). In addition we now realize this package should have been kept frozen until use. A practice we will now try to abide by when buying winemaking yeasts, bacteria, enzymes, etc.
Our first batch of Chardonnay from our 2019 grapes came out pretty darn good. We bottled 15 and drank it all or gave it away with confidence. But we did a few things differently on that small batch of 3 gallons. We performed 1º fermentation inside the carboy with an airlock, only removing the bungs to stir and replace so at not to introduce oxygen to the wine.
This time we have 8 gallons vs 3. We somehow forgot to ferment it without contact with the air. So we don’t know how it may or may not adversely affect our end product.