Thursday, 14 January 2010

The wine is bottled

I'm running behind on this blog. But then I always was! In any case, just prior to leaving Spain for Christmas with the family, I racked out the bentonite and bottled the remaining wine. I've now managed to get gravity racking down to a 'T': I use a piece of tube to syphon the wine from the tank into my large tub, clean out the tank and then manhandle the tub so its slightly higher than the bottom of the tank, and syphon it back in. Working on your own, it's a laborious process.

Then came the bottling. A very simple affair that consists of rinsing the clean wine bottles with a splash of the wine before filling and corking. Ninety bottles and a sore arm later, I was done. And that was it. After so much work (and believe me, it is a lot of work) the feeling of pride was quite something.

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Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Adding Bentonite

Luckily, a friend of mine did my bentonite tests for me. Otherwise, this envolves multiple samples, a small oven and lots of patience. It came out at 0.8 which basically means that the lowest does of bentonite I can get away with is 0.8grams per litre of wine.

While fining and stabilising the wine (which includes sorting out the proteins in the wine so that it wont get a 'protein cloud' during storage), Bentonite has the unfortunate side-effect of stripping it of some of its fruit profile and flavour. Verdejo is a relatively protein-rich grape so I'm quite lucky that the results came out at 0.8 (I was banking on around 1 or 1.2).

So 64 grams of 'Bento' as its known (for 80 litres of remaining wine) was soaked in 640ml of water for 12 hours before being chucked into the wine on Friday). After a good stir, it's happily filtering through the wine.

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Monday, 7 December 2009

A pre-bentonite bottling

A couple of weeks ago I did a quick run of bottling, filling 30 bottles (washed and rinsed) with the unfiltered, unfined Verdejo. It's a relatively quick proceedure envolving filling the bottle to a decent level, putting the cork in the bottle (using the 'machine' pictured) and piling them up.

Overfilling them can lead to a messy situation when the cork is forced into the neck.

Leaving one of the bottles in the fridge showed some evidence of 'matter' building up at the bottom of the wine, but nothing serious.

Bentonite fining will go ahead shortly...

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Monday, 26 October 2009

Racking the fine lees and how regional politics interferes with my wine

Yesterday, two days too late for my liking, I racked the fine lees. Using my trusty tube, gravity and my 250l tub, i siphoned off the wine until I got to the lees. Tipping the dribbling, ochre-coloured slop (and five oak chips) at the bottom of my tank into the drain, the tank was hosed out and the tartrate crystals scrubbed of the sides before the wine was bucketed back in with a few grams of potassium metabisulphate. I now have clear juice and I'm ready to fine it with the aid of some bentonite given me by a friend in Rueda.

The reason I had to postpone the racking is thus: Two days ago, our little village received a visit from the regional health and safety inspector.

Now, the village sits on an aquifer, which provides untreated, beautiful, clean, soft water from the ground. No one has died from it and we all have wonderfully soft hair. But in order to ensure that the village passed the health and safety tests, the water would have to have chlorine in it. So the villagers put chlorine in it.

My little winery uses this water and, as any winemaker will know, even a tiny amount of chlorine in contact with wine opens the door to TCA (cork taint). Great.

So I had to wait two days for the chlorine to pass out of the water system before I could use the water to wash out my tank. Local government, eh...

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Sunday, 18 October 2009

Stirring the lees

Nearly two weeks have passed since the two ferments were blended. Despite the addition of sulphur at that point (to ward off oxidation and stop any further fermentation), it appears that the wine was reluctant to finish until it was done. In the two days that followed, I was finding wine on top of the lid of the fermenter.

In the last 12 days, the wine has remained on lees. A white winemaker friend of mine in Rueda told me there was no need to add any sulphur post-ferment as the lees will protect the wine from oxidation. At regular intervals (about once every five days) I've given the wine a stir with a large household whisk. Not ideal, but the best I've got.

I'm expecting that yesterday's stir will be the last. Now I have to prepare myself for more racking, and get the bentonite.

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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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Tuesday, 29 September 2009

The ferments

The two 'cuvées' were innoculated about a week ago. The wait for the stainless steel tank to get under way was getting too fraught with worry, so in went the yeast.

Both are now going strong, with the stainless steel tank nearly done and the dustbin proving that plastic, like concrete, is actually pretty good for fermenting wine (its temperature has remained at a constant and rather cool 19 degrees Celsius, compared to the stainless steel which got up to around 22 degrees a few days ago).

The daily routine consists merely of having to measure temperature and specific gravity (with the use of a hydrometer). It all gets noted in a little red book.

Despite the almost all-consuming effort that it took to crush, press and rack the juice at the beginning of the process, the demands (on time as well as physical effort) are now considerably less.

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