It is safe to say that 2016 brought its fair share of “champagne problems”. We produced 26.5 gallons of wine this year, up from 6 gallons in 2015. It may seem bizarre to be disappointed with a 5x increase in volume. This uncontrolled increase however results in an inconsistent ripening throughout the vineyard. Our measured brix of 13 is the lowest since we began keeping records in 2013! What seemed like an endless grape harvest this year is likely due to improper pruning and yield management, the practice of which we will need to revisit next year. On a positive note, the flavor of the unfermented grape juice was very satisfying so I look forward to 2016 being remembered as a very easy drinking and refreshing vintage.
Our vineyard produces Marquette, St. Croix and Frontenac grapes which we use as a blend. In years past we have experienced very high acid levels from this base so this year we experimented with two new strains of yeast, as well as a yeast nutrient and malolactic bacteria. Each yeast provides unique characteristics to the wine so we were sure to include a review of each yeast during each step along the way!
Malolactic fermentation occurs when bacteria consume malic acid (think green apple) and convert it into lactic acid (think yoghurt). Malolactic bacteria have traditionally been introduced to the wine once fermentation has completed. A new school of thought however believes that a co-inocculation of yeast and malolactic bacteria helps ensure that the bacteria culture sufficiently multiplies during the warm fermentation period. This growth helps ensure a thorough secondary fermentation which we hope to be able to recognize after several months of aging. We used Enoferm Beta malolactic bacteria.
We used Fermaid K as our yeast nutrient.
Maceration took place over five days due to time constraints. Ten days would have been ideal. Color and tannin seem to be at satisfactory levels even after such a brief period.
Tasting notes during pressing (November 18, 2016)
Lalvin RBS 133: Dark berries, prunes, vanilla, moderate acid, high tannin. *My favorite at this point (11 gallons)
IVC D254: Fermentation took a day longer to get started. Pressed while still sweet, tasted like tart grape juice. (6 gallons)
Enoferm Syrah: High acid, dark berries, wood (Concentrated must due to free run juice used for Rose) (9 gallons)
Rose: We used a limited maceration technique where we removed a portion of must from our syrah fermentation after 24 hours. Has not yet been tasted. (4 gallons)
Tasting notes during first racking (December 29, 2016)
Lalvin RBS 133: Very low acidity compared to ICV D254. Low tannin, refreshing. Plum fruit. Raspberry aroma. Very nice!
ICV D254: Spicy on front of tongue, medium acidity, very dry, black currant.
Enoferm Syrah: Moderate acidity, more acid than Lalvin RBS 133 but less than IVC D254. Full body, vanilla and dark berries. Present tannin. It’s a toss up between this and 133.
During racking we tried to keep the fermentations separate to allow tasting by yeast type. We did blend one carboy with Lalvin RBS 133 and Syrah (60:40). We also had to top up the Syrah carboy with 15 oz of ICV D254.
Oak addition (January 15, 2017)
2oz of medium toast oak cubes were added per 5 gallons of wine for an intended 2 months of contact time before bottling. All but ICV D254 received oak.
Rosé tasting (February 12, 2017)
Served chilled, light carbonation: Medium acidity, low tannin. Light raspberry flavor. Better suited for summer time than winter!
Bottled (March 4, 2017)
Tasting notes (March 12, 2017)
Yeast: ICV D254
Color: pinkish red, light body, slight effervescence
Nose: leather, raspberry, effervescence
Taste: very acidic, no effervescence, no tannin, sour cranberry. All flavor up front with no lingering taste. Reminiscent of Pinot Noir.
Yeast: ICV D254
Color: reddish purple, medium body, unfiltered
Smell: chocolate banana, sour apples, barn yard potato dirt. Very interesting!!
Flavor: much less acidity than 2014, drinks like a Sauvignon Blanc, Green apple, not much of a finish.
Color: ruby, similar to 2014
Smell: very subtle must, moisture, lemon, dirty sock. Citrus. After 5 min smells like sweet cinnamon.
Flavor: starts with citrus and goes to unripe white peach. Slight tannin, moderate acidity.
Conclusion: very nice all around, definitely a keeper. Will use this yeast next year but with the addition of oak. Perhaps a blend with Syrah would cut down on the sharpness.
Lalvin RBS 133
Color: same as ICV D254
Smell: oak, vanilla, sweet
Flavor: sweet cherry, vanilla. Light tannin. Moderate acicdity
Conclusion: Ok nose & flavor. Not sweet but bordering on cloying. Not a favorite.
December 25, 2017: Very nice! Definitely worth making next year. The extended aging helped this wine develop. Unfortunately we did not order this yeast this year because the flavor was not nice when we last tasted it but we certainly will order it next year.
60/40 blend of RBS 133 & Syrah
Color: dark like blood
Smell: black cherry , smoke, metallic, coffee
Flavor: most tannin so far, black cherry. Very light oak. Moderate acidity.
Conclusion: good flavor but might not be the ideal combination. Has a more mild version of the cloying flavor from RBS 133 present. Seems to be too many things going on at once.
December 25, 2017: It’s ok but more acidic compared to the RBS 133. I prefer the RBS 133.
Smell: strawberry, vanilla, wet earth
Flavor: softest, unfermented grape, low acidity
Conclusion: Our favorite of the 2016’s!
Grape crushing is serious business
Our pressing happened in the kitchen this year
Happiness in a bottle