Thursday, December 12, 2002

Wine Education

Today at work I led a tasting of the five wines that are now in barrel in my garage. I love tasting with my colleagues at Balzac. The range of wine experience is great, and the views from all points of the spectrum are always interesting and helpful to me as a winemaker. People relatively new to wine have no idea how fresh and insightful their thoughts about a wine can be.

In order, we tasted:

2002 Pinot Noir: Surprisingly good color, loads of cherries in the nose along with a bit of mushroom/earth/funk character. Light bodied but with a fairly soft, rich mouthfeel (I think it's finally through ML). Not a Pinot that will knock your socks off, by any means—but it's got clear, enjoyable varietal character and should be a very nice wine to have around the house. It sits now in a 2000-vintage 100-liter American oak barrel. I suspect I'll bottle from the barrel (to avoid oxidation) in late May, nine months after the grapes were picked.

2002 Zinfandel: A lighter-colored Zin, but a very fragrant, berry-ish nose. Very zippy acidity, just a hint of tannin. Like the Pinot, this is a wine made to enjoy with food—bistro food, I'd guess at this point. Yum! This wine is in a 1998-vintage 60-gallon American oak barrel.

2002 Carignane: Oops. Something went wrong here. Cloudy, stinky, no acidity. I guess the fact that it's pH was at 4.15 (seriously) post-fermentation was a suggestion that this wine would be problematic. I'm going to dump in some tartaric to get the pH in a fairly workable place, maybe 3.8, and see if the wine might clean itself up with a racking and a winter in the barrel.

2001 Sangiovese: Dark ruby and brilliantly clear. Pretty floral/cherry nose. Firm in the mouth the way a good Sang ought to be. Some have said this wine is suffering from too-high acidity (pre-fermentation I bumped the acidity up every-so-slightly, by .5 g/L). But I'm still not certain. It is, after all, Sangiovese. May or may not do a very light egg-white fining before bottling later this winter.

2001 Cabernet Sauvignon: This is my favorite wine of the bunch. Dark and brooding. Lipsmacking dark fruit and tannins. After tasting the '02s, this wine seemed finished and perhaps slightly hard. But it's not finished and it will soften, I believe, and gain complexity. It's in a 2001 French oak barrel, and needs more time in the barrel. I think I'll rack it in March and then may wait until late-summer/early-fall to bottle.

Big thanks to the fellow Balzacians for allowing me to share these works-in-progress with you!