Monday, December 27, 2010

Nature's Air Conditioning

After writing about the vineyard selection riesling last week, it is almost as if the ears of our small drum of pied de cuve fermentation were burning! That fermentation had been slowly winding its way from a massive amount of sugar towards our target mark of somewhere around 63 grams per liter. Against all expectations and signals to the contrary, however, it decided to hit that mark well ahead of schedule last Thursday.

Following the initial burst of fermentation when we first inoculated the juice in October, we only checked in on the progress of the fermentation periodically to see that everything was continuing without major problems. Compared to entire tanks that we inoculated normally this would seem like a stunning lack of oversight. Our standard fermentations normally wrap-up in one to two weeks and thus require near-daily checks on how far the fermentation has progressed so we can stop it in time for the style of wine being made.

The small drum of the riesling we decided to ferment in this manner, however, was only dropping around 3-5 grams per liter of sugar per week.  Carefully monitoring the fermentation on a day-to-day level was therefore not entire helpful and rendered useless; the changes over any 24 hour period were too small to be reliably measured.

Never having experimented with this style of fermentation before, we were under the impression that the rate of fermentation would brake even further to a near standstill over the dead of winter.  Peter and Tricia became concerned last week that the fermentation had entirely halted and the drum needed to be moved to a warmer place from our winery into our warehouse.  Nevertheless, over the previous few weeks the rate of fermentation - at least in terms of how quickly sugar was being metabolized - had held steady and perhaps even increased to 6 grams per liter per week.

On my last day of work last week I decided to check on the riesling as well, both in taste and numerically, given Peter and Tricia's concerns that the fermentation may have finally halted.  To my surprise (and Peter's as well, when I called to confirm the course of action with him), the fermentation had actually sped up in the last week and we were dead-on the sugar level we hoped to stop the wine at. As opposed to the tanks of wine back during harvest that require artificial cooling via glycol jackets to halt a fermentation, the timing of this riesling could not have been much better.

At the end of the day, I simply rolled the drum outside onto our crush pad and am letting the icy temperatures we are (sometimes) fortunate to have here in the Finger Lakes do their work.  Frankly, the only question was what to write down in our record-keeping book.  Normally we write in "Cooling On" for a tank that we are chilling; this time I just wrote down "Moved Outside."  I think it speaks for itself.

By: Kelby Russell, Winemaking Team

Music of the Day:
  • Giacomo Puccini - Turandot; "Nessun Dorma" (after the version in Tricia's last post, this one comes from Aretha Franklin who performed it at the same pitch, without any rehearsal, and with 15 minutes advance notice when her friend Luciano Pavarotti was receiving an award and found himself too ill to perform):

Support Artists, buy the music you like!

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