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NorCal

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What % do you think the wine improves by doing activities above the basics; good fruit, clean ferment, rack, SO2 and patience?
 

Johnd

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What % do you think the wine improves by doing activities above the basics; good fruit, clean ferment, rack, SO2 and patience?
Doubt I could put percentages on those things, but top notch fruit is imperative if you’re going to make great wine. If you can get great fruit, messing up the ferment, making a racking error (like too long on gross lees), too much sulfite, reduces the potential of great fruit. Gotta get all that right to get the max out of whatever quality fruit you have.
But there’s so much more, especially to fermenting, natural yeast, cultured yeast, cold soak, enzymes, planned temp spikes, cool ferments, carbonic maceration, and knowing which technique to employ based on tasting the grapes.
Then there’s barrels.....at Del Dotto, we barrel tasted the same exact wine, aged in four different French oak barrels, side by side, two were meh, one was really good, the fourth was spectacular. How the hell does one pick the right barrel? I was just happy to have a real French one.
The more I learn and make, the more I appreciate the wines where the winemaker got it all right. Don’t know if I ever will, but it’s damn fun trying.
No answers from me, just more questions......
 

stickman

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I don't think I could say it any better than John, the fruit is at the top of the food chain, but there are so many other factors to consider. The terroir focused winemakers might use more standard techniques to allow the fruit and vineyard site to show, while the "style house" employs some of the advanced manipulations to push the wine towards their vision of what the wine should be. John's point about the barrel selection is valid, and also makes you wonder how to select the yeast and other manipulations when the barrel has such an influence. It's kind of like doing great body work on your car and then screwing up the paint job, except that the car is easier to fix.
 

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What % do you think the wine improves by doing activities above the basics; good fruit, clean ferment, rack, SO2 and patience?
Aight, using UC Davis system I’ll try a stick a number on this. Say your already Using quality fruit and standard basic winemaking technique and in 3 years you’ve got yourself a bronze medal winning wine with an avg score if 14.
But I bet higher quality barrels at 20 months, controlling temp throughout the lifespan, not using press run, and some other fancy tricks, when appropriate, like sur lie, flash detentè, etc could have very possibly turned those same grapes into a gold medal with an 18 avg score or better -maybe. 4 points would be 30% of a wine at 14. Improving itself 30%.
A wine at 17 using basics but 19.5 getting fancy is only 15% better. But I’d argue making a great wine instead of good wine holds more weight than making a good wine instead of an ‘okay’ wine.
(I’m more familiar with UC Davis than the commercial ‘90 point wine’ type system)
If the question is “it is even worth it to invest so much more time and $ to improve our wines?- I’d say that number is less arguable. - 100% yes!
 
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NorCal

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Great feedback. I like the notion of having these techniques available to use, but not doing them to do them (I’ve done most), but rather using them as a means to achieve the objective for the wine.
I’m making a little Petite Syrah this year. I’ve reserved 200 pounds to make 10 gallons. I’ve had this wine from this vineyard and it is quite tannic by its nature and typically takes 3 or so years in the bottle to where it is approachable. Perhaps I’ll get an extra 40 pounds, so I can do a real soft press.
I’m also making a 60 gallon barrel of Cab Franc. I’ve made this wine from this vineyard 4 of the last 5 years. The only special thing thing I’m thinking on this wine is getting higher brix (26-26.5) splitting the lot and using D80 & D254. Temp control as best I can with ice jugs, 3-4 punch downs per day.
 

meadmaker1

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I see it very much like a bee hive. Honey production and continued survival being 100%
To reach the best possible result, each of 30, 000 or more bees, completely dependant on each other need in each stage of life to be as heathy and productive as possible.
Every thing less than 100% by any 1 bee afects the end result.

And some how after 140 lbs. Of honey is in buckets, or the wine is in the bottle, I take credit for the whole thing.
 

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What % do you think the wine improves by doing activities above the basics; good fruit, clean ferment, rack, SO2 and patience?
Outside of the basics you mention, the % of influence would depend on the experience with the activity and when to apply it, how and how much.
 

mainshipfred

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For me the thing that makes winemaking so much fun is it's both a science and an art. The science part is easily achieved, the art part is another story. Yeast selection, temp ranges, barrel selection Ph and tannin additions,etc. require experience and mistakes. Not to mention being lucky enough to have the ability of knowing how a wine will mature. If I were to put percentages based on art and science I would place 25% science and 75% art.
 

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I’m also making a 60 gallon barrel of Cab Franc.
I’m curious here, and on a barrel thing right now, since you’re making batches large enough to warrant using standard size Bx barrels, living in the midst of wine country, what barrels are you using? Have you tried some, moved on to others, use the same barrel and just add staves? New / old combos, what’s the plan?
 

NorCal

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I’ve used new American, new French and currently a third year French Oak that I purchased from a winemaker up the street, Scott Pruet. He’s our local celebrity race car driver and an incredible winemaker. I found that the Cabernet that is in the barrel needed more oak than the near neutral French oak barrel was giving it and added 4 American oak, medium toast spirals to it. I’m a big fan of the spirals.
 

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I’ve used new American, new French and currently a third year French Oak that I purchased from a winemaker up the street, Scott Pruet. He’s our local celebrity race car driver and an incredible winemaker. I found that the Cabernet that is in the barrel needed more oak than the near neutral French oak barrel was giving it and added 4 American oak, medium toast spirals to it. I’m a big fan of the spirals.
How long was your wine in the two new barrels, and how did the oak come through in the finished product?
 

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In winemaking, it's always interesting to change up some of the variables to study the result. Case in point, the same Cabernet that @NorCal and I made last Fall - In my batch, we separated a small amount of the just-crushed must and slow fermented in a temperature controlled environment. It took three times longer to ferment compared to my larger batch, completed in my warm garage. We put the temperature-controlled wine into a new 10-gallon American oak barrel, whereas the larger batch was put into a new 60-gallon barrel. Recent tastings after ~ 6 months shows that the cool-fermented wine is noticeably better. The other batch is very good, but the 10-gallons is just better! A few things changed, so it's hard to nail down the impact tied to one variable. The sample must was cooled several days before we started the fermentation. A slow temperature controlled fermentation. A smaller barrel. If the temp controlled fermentation is the biggest reason, we may be out of luck. With my budget, there's not a temp controlled tank in my near future!
 

ibglowin

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You have multiple variables unfortunately so it will be hard to prove that the cooler ferment was the difference here. We know that the smaller the barrel the faster the wine goes through micro-ox and it could cause the wine to smooth out at a faster rate than the same wine in a full size (or larger) barrel. It will be interesting to note if the two wines converge together down the road and become closer to each other in taste profile etc.

In winemaking, it's always interesting to change up some of the variables to study the result. Case in point, the same Cabernet that @NorCal and I made last Fall - In my batch, we separated a small amount of the just-crushed must and slow fermented in a temperature controlled environment. It took three times longer to ferment compared to my larger batch, completed in my warm garage. We put the temperature-controlled wine into a new 10-gallon American oak barrel, whereas the larger batch was put into a new 60-gallon barrel. Recent tastings after ~ 6 months shows that the cool-fermented wine is noticeably better. The other batch is very good, but the 10-gallons is just better! A few things changed, so it's hard to nail down the impact tied to one variable. The sample must was cooled several days before we started the fermentation. A slow temperature controlled fermentation. A smaller barrel. If the temp controlled fermentation is the biggest reason, we may be out of luck. With my budget, there's not a temp controlled tank in my near future!
 

4score

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Unless it's a trade seceret you're leaving us hanging. LOL! What temp was the temp controlled kept at and what were the 3Xs time frames?
We actually cold soaked it in mid 50's for 2 weeks, then fermented for about 2 weeks in the mid 60's.
 

NorCal

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How long was your wine in the two new barrels, and how did the oak come through in the finished product?
I used the new barrels for two seasons each. The oak was pronounced, I think mostly from the Medium + toast. I have found that I don't like the "+" toasting and will never buy one again. I think the "+" tends to overpower the wine, especially that first year.
 

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I used the new barrels for two seasons each. The oak was pronounced, I think mostly from the Medium + toast. I have found that I don't like the "+" toasting and will never buy one again. I think the "+" tends to overpower the wine, especially that first year.
Good to know!! My french barrel is also M+ and am planning to keep the wine in there for 1 year +, but will keep close tabs on the taste. My fall back plan if the oak starts to creep up too much is to pull a carboy or two of wine out of the barrel, and add some of the same press run that's still in carboys.
 
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