Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The two ferments are blended

With both the stainless steel and the dustbin ferments reaching 995 on the specific gravity meter (the indication that the sugar is pretty much gone and the alcohol is there), the two were 'blended' yesterday.

The dustbin ferment (including its five oak chips) was tipped into the variable capacity tank to spend some time on lees. Now it's a question of waiting and stirring and tasting.

In the meantime, I ran some tests on the wine at a nearby winery. The pH is at a healthy 3.27 (pretty much exactly how I wanted it) although I am slightly worried that the stainless ferment was harvested a little early and is, in winetasting parlance, a little 'linear'. I'm hoping time on lees and the riper dustbin ferment will balance and round it out.

A free sulphur test (see Jekyll & Hyde-type lab picture above) put the sulphur at 16ppm (parts per million). A little on the low side. To bring it up to around 30ppm, 4.5g of potassium metabisulphate was added. Hopefully that should help keep the oxidation away.

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Saturday, 12 September 2009

The first grapes are harvested and pressed

The first grapes are in. At 8am this morning, after a heavy night of tasting French wines and cheeses, table football with the mayor and the coup de grâce of G&T back at the clubhouse, yours truly donned the walking boots, pocketed the secateurs and went out into Luis' dad's vineyard.

At that hour, the village is partly shrouded in mist, and the temperature hangs on at the 10 degrees Celsius mark. Perfect.

After two hours and five picking boxes of Verdejo (and one accidental bunch of Malvasia), I was ready to call it a morning. More than ready, in fact. The grapes were weighed on the scales of a nearby winery (which told me that I had brought in a miserable 70kg) and then left to stand in my little bodega while I took a quick breather and a cup of tea.

The realisation that hand destemming, while pretty cool (and done by the ultra-stylish Pingus), was the most labour-intensive, morale-sapping exercise resulted in the dumping of the four remaining cases my large 250 litre tub (a recent acquisition, unblogged - sorry). The tub and stainless steel tank had both had a little dry ice dumped in them to give a carbon dioxide blanket for the grapes.

After a good clean of the Wellington boots, in I went. Barefoot treading was too risky for me - my feet are not the most attractively aromatic, and I was scared of contamination. There is a particularly enjoyable feeling to the sound of squelching grapes beneath your (Wellington-clad) feet. I also added two grams of potassium metabisulfate into the must.

And then, out came the plastic jug and the colander (yes, a normal household colander) and I began transferring the juice from the tub to the tank, filtering out the skins and pips as best I could. Not an enjoyable, or clean, exercise either.

With 30 litres of juice in the tank, I chucked down the bucket and cursed wine drinkers everywhere. Yes, 70kg for 30 litres. How I wish I had bought a press (not just for the added extraction of juice, but for the added ease).

A further two grams of sulphur, a couple of 'glacons' of dry ice bubbling away in the juice (looking like the test tubes in a Dr Jekyll lab from a '50s film), and the top of the tank was put in place.

Once everything was washed or, in the case of the bloody heavy marc: chucked away, I sat down and had a cup of tea. The same again tomorrow, only much more grapes. About 250kg more grapes, to be precise.

Had I not come close to breaking point earlier, when scooping out the last of the juice from the tub, I would be contemplating defeat now. But I'm not. I'm off to a party in the village.

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