Wednesday, October 1, 2008

New Opportunity For Experiments

ProVina delivered five WinePods to my winery. The plan is for me to do comparison fermentations to test hypotheses and validate protocols.

First up will be a comparison fermentation using our Annadel Estate Pinot Noir. I'm starting of easy – dipping must from my production T-bins to fill three Pods: one will be the control, the second will undergo an extended cold soak, and the third will be a submerged-cap ferment.

The control will have a "normal" temperature profile and number of punchdowns. The submerged-cap will have the same temperature profile, but I will use the press to hold the skins below the level of the fermenting juice.

Years ago Tom Mackie (now at St. Francis Winery) did his master's at UC Davis on submerged cap ferments. Bottom line: if this were a great method to ferment everyone would be doing it. It's not – it has a tendency to produce reduced (sulfide) characters and different phenolic extraction profiles compared to wines made traditionally. I want to validate that I can make a palatable wine anyway – some WinePod users need the option of fermenting without having to be there on a regular schedule for punchdowns.

I'm interested in the extended cold soak as well. In my opinion "cold soak" of Pinot is a faddish practice based on misinterpretation of the ordinary progression of ferments in red Burgundies. In Burgundy most fruit comes in cold at harvest – typically in the 40's F. Traditional practice is to wait for the ferment to start on its own. This often takes up to a week or more, hence the fruit gets a "cold soak" before fermentation starts.

I know of wineries that expend a huge amount of effort and refrigeration tonnage to chill Pinot musts for weeks before initiating fermentation. Does this really make a better wine? If so, is it enough better to justify the expense and risk? This single Pod ferment won't provide a definitive answer, but it will add to my growing body of observation.

I want to thank Greg Snell and the rest of the good people at ProVina for entrusting me with this many Pods – and trusting that I will make good use of them.