As I said previously, my 2011 Aglianico crop from my vineyard was lost to birds (and maybe other marauders). All I had left were the equivalent of one cluster from the vineyard and the fruit from my two back-up Aglianico vines, which was promised to my son.
Recently, he picked, de-stemmed, crushed and inoculated that fruit. After a glitch with getting fermentation started, he’s been doing punch-downs after school (I’ve filled in for him while he’s in school).
The wine has been setting a firm cap every two to three hours for a good week. Yesterday, I checked for residual sugar. It was around 1.5% to 2%.
I decided it was time to press off and rack into a jug. Unfortunately, my son got sick last night so he spent the day at his mother’s to reduce the risk of infection to our newborn. The wine would not wait, so I got to work.
I once heard a commercial winemaker (I think it was Larry Schaffer) mention that he presses off his Syrah while it’s still sweet (around 4%), claiming it preserves fruitiness. Since I wanted a more fruit-forward wine, I wanted to press off our Aglianico while it’s sweet. For the same reason, we had also macerated the grapes under inert gas, while doing a cold soak, for about 36 hours.
In a conversation last night, Jeff Miller pointed out that: “…fruit is extracted during the first days of fermentation. Tannins are extracted more towards the end. So pressing off early doesn’t affect the fruitiness, but will result in lower tannins.”
Now, Aglianico is a high-acid, tannic wine. It would stand to reason, then, that pressing off Aglianico while the must is still sweet, will reduce tannin content. As a result, one might expect fruitiness to dominate and not be drowned out by astringent tannins. Perhaps this would also make the wine accessible earlier.
I knew this would be a tiny batch of wine. I wanted to be sure that we can get four half-bottles (375 ml each) of this wine when we are done.
For the time being (and until I bring in the Gilroy Fiano and Suisun Valley Montepulciano), mine is not just a micro- (or even a nano-) winery, but a pico-winery. Still, I had to put this tiny batch through the steps of élevage.
First, I had to collect the free run wine. This was simple: A length of tubing, some suction and gravity took over the rest of the work:
I wanted as little of my secondary vessel to be filled with lees. So, I drained the pomace through a tight sieve:
I used a small stainless steel colander and two stainless steel bowls. The larger one collected the press wine. The smaller one, which fit perfectly inside the colander, was used to press the pomace.
After the initial, hand-pressing, I weighed the rig down with a few bricks and let that sit for 15-20 minutes:
After that, I poured the wine which had collected at the bottom of the larger bowl into the jug.
I repeated this a few times, turning the pomace a few times until a mass about the size of a softball remained:
I was able to fill the half-gallon jug to within half an inch of the plug:
I threw in about a gram of oak chips, plugged the jug and put in an air lock.
When the wine goes dry, we will rack it off the less – likely into a 1.5-liter jug and start malolactic fermentation.