by Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines (Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, Red Côte)
Well, we got the Merlot in this week, Tuesday to be exact. The harvest and crush were uneventful. I like it that way.
I have to admit that things that once got me all bent out of shape I now take in stride. We had rain last Saturday, and the normal rule of thumb is that botrytis mold can develop within 48 hours. So three days until harvest is a day longer than you’d optimally like. But having been through this before and never having had a problem, I wasn’t going to lose any sleep over this. And in fact the grapes came in perfectly clean. Maybe it was the sunny Sunday after the rainy Saturday, but bottom line I’ve just never had a problem so I wasn’t going to get all hot and bothered about a little rain.
I was hoping that the actual must would show a little higher acid levels than my last berry sample predicted. Unfortunately, it was the opposite. The first pH reading I did on the must came in at 3.77 (the higher the pH the lower acidity). I don’t really like to see a finished wine with a pH above 3.8, and I would prefer 3.7 to 3.8. And since the pH tends to go up some between now and the end of malolactic fermentation, the 3.77 was too high.
So I made a relatively modest tartaric add (.5g/l). Since there’s no hard and fast rule on how much of an add results in how much reduction in pH, it’s a little bit of a guess as to where my pH will end up. A rule of thumb I use is that 1g/l of tartaric will reduce the pH by .1, but that rule is almost useless as the actual results are totally unpredictable. So we’ll just have to see. I’ll run a pH in a few days and see what the actual effect was. I suspect I’ll make another acid addition at some point.
I am temperamentally opposed to manipulation of wine any more than is absolutely necessary. There’s a lot of manipulation that is absolutely necessary though. But my experience is that things you do to the wine never seem to have quite the beneficial results you hoped for. So when in doubt I do nothing. So even acid additions, which are probably one of the least objectionable of additions in the grand scheme of things, I have done only rarely. But here the add seemed called for, so I did it.
I also got a TA (titratable acidity) reading on the must of 6.0. For reasons I’ll discuss in a future post, I pretty much ignore TA, as I did here. Though, for the record, the 6.0 reading would also suggest a small tartaric add.
More next week…