November 21, 2011

Harvest 2011 part 4: plunging

Pumping over Vincent Pinot Noir, once early on to give oxygen to the yeast.
Waiting this year for the fermenters to start their fermenting was especially nerve wracking for me. Last year one fermenter went a little sideways on me. The resulting wine was good, just not what it might have been. This year, a few days into crush I was sure something was terribly wrong with everything. I felt an inexplicable doubt about the whole process, the doing nothing, waiting for luck to happen. Still we did nothing, waiting for some good carbon dioxide to emerge before plunging the first time. Finally it happened.

Plunging Bjornson vineyard, never shy on color. Very interesting, muscular Pin
Before harvest, a thread on Wine Berserkers offered a nice debate on how many or few punchdowns make sense for Pinot noir. One camp says just a few are necessary. Another camp, predominant in the U.S., says no, no, no, frequent punchdowns are required to extract color and flavor, not to mention keeping the fermentation healthy and happy. I felt some bravado and wrote about how we don't punchdown much, how at a winemaking conference we heard from a famous producer in Burgundy about the "one" punchdown they do for the top end Musigny. Turns out we did between eight and 10 punchdowns in each fermenter over 18 days, more than I would have guessed but still not a lot compared to usual regimes locally. The wines don't lack for color and the fermentations were extremely healthy, so it just didn't make sense to do anything more. Same with yeast foods or anything else. The grapes were terrific this year. And plunging fewer times helps let the natural core of heat in the fermenter build up, rather than constantly mixing things up and wondering why the temperature isn't going up.

I'm not about color in Pinot noir, but this is remarkable nonetheless.
The result? Beautiful, young, raw wine that needs time in wood. Time it now gets, harvest completely done, all new wines in barrel. The vibrant color of new wine is unmatched. You may not love the green apple acidity of this unfinished drink, but that color is remarkable. Astonishing even.

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