Part 1 of this blog post described my tiny six-vine vineyard in London, and Part 2 the start of winemaking. But after six days the fermentation stuck; this third part picks up the story there.
What to do? First I waited to see if the fermentation would restart spontaneously, even if slowly. No such luck, though other good things continue to happen, such as leaching of colour, flavonoids and sugar from the skins.
After 19 days it was time for Plan B. This was to make the best wine I could with the current residual sugar (58 g/L) and alcohol (7.3% abv). The first step was to take the juice off the pomace (floating) and gross lees (at the bottom). They no longer contained much sugar (with an eye on possibly restarting fermentation later) and their decay can result in off flavours. Straining through muslin produced 1675ml of free-run wine, enough for two bottles as planned. Then the lees were rung out in a muslin bag (like Dick Whittington’s bindle) and this gave 325ml of press wine. Two litres!
Step two: what to do with the press wine? Some of it is usually added back to the free-run wine to pad its shoulders, and the rest is normally served to the following season’s pickers with their lunch, but my picker (a.k.a. The Wife) would sensibly reject it. It was darker than the free-run wine but tasted very similar, and there wasn’t much, so I just added it all back.
I now had something like a (pale red) German Spätlese. These have to start fermentation in the range 76-90 Oeschle (which includes my 19% Brix) and finish with at least 7% alcohol, so that’s my wine! As it happens, Spätlese, though normally Riesling, can be red, made with Pinot Noir.
So alcohol and residual sugar were acceptable, but what about acidity? I feared it might be much too high given the northerly growing zone and early harvest. My acidity titration kit is in England, out of reach for a while, but I had bought a pH meter. pH is a scale from 0 (most acidic) through neutral (pure water) which is 7, to 14 (most alkaline). It measures something a bit different to titratable acidity so winemakers monitor both.
White wine is more acidic than red wine, with pH usually between 2.9-3.4 against 3.3-3.9 for most reds. White wine needs more acidity for backbone, having no tannins to help.
Château Sharot 2018 came in at a pH of 3.0, quite respectable; cool climate Riesling can be lower. The addition of dessert grapes helped a bit here. They had pH=3.5, the wine grapes were 2.9. (A similar weighted average applies to Brix: the dessert grapes were 17.5 and the wine grapes 11.8, averaging 12.8).
This means that artificially reducing acidity may not be necessary, but the decision will be taken after two more tests: one is taste and the other is titration. If I do go ahead I will adjust small batches of the wine by different amounts and see which tastes best. EU wine law is again a useful signpost: commercial wine is not allowed to be both enriched (Chaptalised) and deacidified, so I will avoid deacidification if possible.
So my wine ticks all the boxes but how does it taste at this stage? I have modest experience of ‘barrel samples’. They naturally taste raw and immature, but should already display fruit, lack of faults and good balance. My wine was acceptable: there was fruit – light in concentration but with some complexity from the blend – and the acidity, though high, balanced and masked the residual sugar like a Riesling. Nor was it spoilt or just plain nasty; so far so good.
I wanted to clarify a little of this vin primeur for a photo. None of the usual fining agents is available in Singapore, except casein, which is sold to bodybuilders at inflated prices in one litre cans – and I needed less than one gram. A somewhat cheaper substitute is low-fat milk, which is 90% water, 5% casein and 5% everything else (mostly lactose). I duly pipetted half an ml into a sample of wine and gave it a good shake. Hmm, forgot to cool the wine a bit first. Never mind, just wait.
Good flocculation from (and of) the casein after a few hours
It worked well, but hmm again, I just noticed the milk is banana flavoured. Well, I couldn’t taste it, it’s Harrow Nouveau for goodness sake, not Beaujolais Nouveau. There’s a thought, do you think I should submit a PDO application for Harrow? As long as Peter down the road doesn’t start vinifying his grapes, I could be a monopole.
Château Sharot Première Cuvée Demi-Doux 2018
WSET Level 4 Tasting Note:
The wine appears hazy and has a deep pink colour. The nose is clean and youthful, with medium intensity aromas of rose petals, green apple, raspberry, strawberry, red plum and tomato leaf. On the palate it is medium-sweet but tastes off-dry on account of the high acidity, with low unripe tannins and low alcohol, and the body is medium(-). There are medium intensity flavours of raspberry, strawberry and tomato leaf. The length of the finish is medium(+). The wine is of good quality, having complexity of fresh fruits from the blend and unexpected length, but somewhat unbalanced and of modest concentration.
So I have made a wine that doesn’t demand any further work, apart from a few months élevage and maybe a final fining or filtration. But it is not the wine I intended, and a stuck fermentation is a problem looking for a solution, niggling away in my mind. Plan C is to let half the wine rest and to try to referment the other half. About which, see the next post.
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