Blog: Winemaker's Journal
January 2, 2013
A few days off during the holidays gave me time to rack my red wines for the first time since fermentation was completed.
First racking is always a relief. The wines have finally made through the most crucial part of development and can be put in the cellar for a long winter's nap.
I've been worried the past month. I let fermentation proceed at cooler temperatures than usual this year, between 60 and 65 degrees. Most years I ferment reds at close to 80 degrees. Primary fermentation will finish in about eight days at that temperature. I wanted to extend fermentation and keep the slurry on the grape skins as long as possible to get more depth of flavor, color and mouthfeel.
I pressed the grapes and move the wine from open vats to carboys after about 15 days. Fermentation was barely half done but I had to squeeze the grapes so I could leave on a trip.
The secondary fermentation took longer than usual, more than two months to convert all the sugar in the grapes to alcohol.
I actually added heating pads to my three 5-gallon carboys of cabernet sauvignon to raise the temperature to about 70 degrees for the last week when I feared fermentation had stopped.
Racking is a process where the now clear wine is siphoned off the lees, the dead yeast that precipitates to the bottom of the barrel, or in my case, the bottom of the 5-gallon glass carboys.
This is a great time to taste the wine and see how it's coming along. The 15 gallons of cabernet sauvignon tasted very promising. The 5 gallons of estate wine I made from co-fermented cabernet franc, lemberger and sangiovese, not so promising. It was pretty tart. Maybe some adjusting and blending later on will help. Then again, maybe not. All part of the learning process.
I added oak chips to each of the carboys and put them in the cool cellar with the white wines that are farther along in the process. I'll rack all the wines a few more times before bottling time early next fall.