Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wines I'm Making: 2013 Grape Harvest (October 6, 2013)

2013 marks our 10th harvest. We picked the grapes in our little backyard vineyard on Sunday, October 6--both the Sangiovese and the Cabernet grapes. October 6 is a fairly typical date for the Sangiovese (the dates have ranged from around September 29 to October 16 over the years).

It's somewhat early for the Cabernet (October 18 in 2012), but a fair number of clusters were already turning to raisins, probably because I watered less than usual this year (only twice, rather than three of four times in most years) and it seemed best not to wait any longer. We harvested 20.5kg (or 45.1 lbs) of Sangiovese grapes, which became just under eight gallons of must after crushing and de-stemming. The must measured 22 degrees Brix with pH at 3.63, just about right for the light rosé these grapes will become.

We harvested 41kg of Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc (or 90.2 lbs), which yielded a little more than 11 gallons of must. The must tested at 27.5 degrees Brix--the highest it's ever been, reflecting the high percentage of raisined grapes. The pH was at 3.56. Because of the high sugar level, I'll probably add a small amount of acidulated water to the must to lower the Brix to around 26 to avoid producing an excessively alcoholic and therefore unbalanced wine. The lesson here is to water the grapes a little more, although I'd been hoping to eventually wean the grapes off water altogether.

The Sangiovese is already pressed and inoculated with Epernay II yeast, as usual. We ended up with about 4.5 gallons of pressed juice. I pitched the yeast on the afternoon of the 7th. The grapes spent about 20 hours on the skins, which will result in a fairly deep pink wine.

The Cabernet must is resting. I usually do a three- to four-day pre-soak, which is supposed to result in more extraction from the skins of softer (water-soluble) tannins than the (alcohol-soluble) tannins extracted during the fermentation process. I don't know, but this method seems to produce a wine we like. Today I'll be adjusting the sugar level, as noted above. Tomorrow or the day after it will be time to add the yeast and get the fermentation started. I love this time of year. The whole house will soon smell of fresh yeast and fermentation--like a winery.

[Update: This afternoon (October 9) I dissolved 15g of tartaric acid crystals in 2.5l of distilled water (using a formula provided by the kind people at The Beverage People) and added the mixture to the Cabernet must. It was difficult to mix it all in evenly, so, measuring the Brix after the addition, it comes out a bit low (at 23 degrees Brix), but I suspect that's simply because of an imperfect mixture. The sweetest juice is probably stuck at the bottom of the container. The aim was to reduce the sugar to 25.5 Brix. I'll stir it up again tomorrow and test it once more.]

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