Sunday, March 16, 2008

Pinot Cold Soak Continues

The temperature of the must is holding at about 53° F and there is no evidence that the cap is starting to rise, nor do I smell any spoilage aromas. Tomorrow morning I will start to ramp up the Pod temperature to kick off fermentation.

This cold soak is the most dangerous thing I will attempt in this Pinot trial – dangerous with respect to its potential for ruining the must. I'm doing it to see if I can get away with it in the Pod (and so far I'm happy to say things look good) because I'm sure some other users are going to want to cold soak their Pinot.

I want to differentiate between a facilitated cold soak – one where the must is actively chilled as I am doing now – and a passive "cold soak" where the winemaker is simply waiting for the ferment to take off on its own.

I do not facilitate a cold soak in my commercial Pinot production. I have tasted many facilitated Pinot cold soak trials over the years, and while there are small differences I have not been able to conclude that the wines with extended pre-fermentation maceration at facilitated cold temperatures are any "better" than those where the ferment started on its own, in its own time. For me it is not worth the equipment cost, or the opportunity cost of tying up my Pinot fermenters for longer than necessary, to facilitate an extended cold soak.

What does make a difference is for the ferment to take off on its own – especially if the first yeast to dominate the ferment is a strain of Kloeckera. This yeast starts more quickly than Saccharomyces at lower temperatures, but Kloeckera will rarely ferment to even 12% ethanol. Saccharomyces must finish the ferment.

Things get interesting when Kloeckera takes off and makes ethyl acetate, which Saccharomyces can take up later in the ferment and incorporate into more complex aromatic compounds. In my experience, when the ferment takes off on Kloeckera the finished Pinot has more aromatic "lift" than when Kloeckera is not present.

Kloeckera is truly a "wild" yeast, and as far as I know has never been cultivated – so there is no way to guarantee that it will start any particular ferment. I am thankful when it is present. Whichever yeast starts my Pinots, I inoculate with a selected strain between 22° and 18° Brix to assure that the fermentation has the best chance to go to completion – and that Is what I plan to do in this Pod trial.

What I won't be doing is the post-fermentataion extended maceration that has been so successful for me in the last two Cabernet ferments. In my experience Pinot responds very poorly to post-fermentataion maceration. Most varietals lose a bit of color while developing a more stable lovely red, improved softer and broader tannic structure, and more complex aromas. Pinot loses a lot of color, what remains is more brown than red, and the wine loses aroma but gains harsh tannins that never seem to resolve or soften. Again, this is another example of how Pinot is just difficult and contrary.

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