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Cellar Dweller

Hang loose, Dude...

Themore adjustments you can make early inwine development, the betterwill be the final palate.

By Gary Strachan I

n our northern latitudes, things change fromyear to year andwhat you got last yearmay not bewhat you get this year. There are a fewtricks to getting a

heads up tominimize surprises on the crush pad. First of all, get to knowthe vineyardwhere you source

It’s crush again. Take a deep breath and start filling the tanks.

your grapes.What is the soil profile like?Does it have good enough drainage that growth can be controlled by appropriate watering? Is the vine spacingwide enough to allowbalanced growthwithoutmultiple hedgings and toppings throughout the summer? Is the air drainage good enough that the season won’t end prematurelywith an early frost? One last and very difficult question: Is the season length of

the grape varietymatched to the frost-free growing days and the typical growing degree days of the site? This is the foundation of a vineyard thatwill give youmore consistent composition in spite of changes in heat units and rainfall from year to year. There are two potential problems if the grape variety doesn’t

match the vineyard. If the grape is a long-season variety, such asRiesling or one of the Cabernets, on a cooler site, then you may have to copewith immature grapes in all but exceptional years.Watch for cane darkening, taste the berries, chewup the seeds and skin to assess ripeness.Don’t depend on lab tests alone to tell youwhen to pick. You could end up having to copewith green flavours, pale

colour, and thin body. The quick fix for a redwine is to not make a redwine.Make a rosé or blush, or if the problemis really severe,make a sparkler. If you have no choice except tomake a red, you can press

out part of the batch,make a blushwith that and return the pomace to the skin extraction part of the fermentation. If your tartaric acid (TA) is so high it can’t be corrected by a

malolactic or the usual tartrate precipitation, you can do a double salt precipitation or potassiumbicarbonate correction on part of the blush you extracted and add that back to your main batch. Atmaturity themalic and tartaric acid of grapes is typically

about 50:50 so amalolactic fermentationwill drop the TA by about 25 percent. Cold stabilizationmay drop TA by about


two g/L. Vegetal flavours

tend to be broken down by oxidation, so a délestage fermentation can assist you to unmask the fruity notes and minimize vegetal notes. Youmay also need to take steps to augment the palate. Oak chip press aid during skin fermentation can assist this. Youmight alsowish to add skin tannin to balance the astringency. Themore

adjustments you can make early inwine development, the betterwill be the final

palate. There is little to be gained by extended skin contact of immature grapes, so press themandmove into an early malolactic followed by a sûr lie autolysis. There is also the possibility that grapes couldmature early

and have less than normal varietal character.When the last 30 days of the season are above 20°C average, the rate of loss of volatile flavour compoundsmay be greater than their rate of synthesis, resulting in awinewith nondescript varietal character. Add to this the grapesmay be overmature at harvest and thewinesmay lack acidity, have high pHand high alcohol. The easiest factor to dealwith is pHThere are several

options. If tartaric acid is added, the pHwill drop by approximately 0.2 pHunits per gramof tartaric acid Initially the TAwill rise by the same amount as the added acid, but the tartaric acidwill eventually precipitate as potassiumbitartrate, thus removing potassiumion and leaving the pHat the lower level. Citric acid ormalic acid have approximately the same effect,

but they aremore soluble andwill not precipitate. Thus the TA will remain at the adjusted level.Use carewith citric or tartaric acid to ensure that nomalolactic fermentation is initiated. To developmore intense varietal character, the extraction

fromskinsmust be enhanced. This can be accomplished either by extended skin contact or by the use of pectinase to break down the berry structure, either inwhites or reds. In whitewines thismust be donewith caution in order to assure that excess tannins aren’t extracted. Thewinemay require fining to remove excess astringency, depending onwine style. The bottomline is that a fundamentally good growing site

should be versatile enough to give good performance in good or bad growing seasons.With a little care, goodwines can still bemade in spite of an adverse season. —Gary Strachan is listed on LinkedIn

British Columbia FRUIT GROWER • Fall 2013

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