It’s been a weird year. Probably not quite enough rain, probably a little too much heat. But there comes a point when you’re just splitting hairs; it’s never going to be perfect.
I’m fortunate enough to be working with some amazing Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (which will almost certainly be made as separate wines), and I’ve still got some Sangiovese on the vines.
I’ve been cramming for the past 6-12 months trying to figure out tannin extraction/development from Cabernet because this is something I don’t think I really understood properly in the past… and to be honest, I’m still not sure. You can read a book, but you have to actually do it in practice a few hundred times to actually understand it. But it occurred to me the other day that the Cab has been macerating/fermenting away for around two weeks now and I haven’t paid any attention to flavour since the fruit was on the vines… that’s probably dumb, but it just seems like something that takes care of itself when the vineyard is good, the vines are good and the fruit is healthy. If you get caught up on it, you lose the forest for the trees.
I’m much more worried about tannin. The other curveball in the whole thing is that purely from a personal preference perspective, I feel like the best Cabernets are usually ultra-clean. I don’t mean new world, and I do believe that you need to expose wine to the elements a bit to let it grow and be interesting, but I’m just terrified of volatile acidity (VA) in this Cab. VA has a nasty habit of destroying fruit profile, and sometimes it doesn’t even take much of it to do that, sometimes it can even be delayed.
Fighting off VA, and intentionally encouraging slow starts to wild yeast ferments and then doing extended macerations, is kind of stressful. But, it’s a ridiculous balance that is going well so far, and we’re through the most dangerous times (I think).
The Sangiovese is a bit of a wild card. It’s from the Brumfield Winery (family) vineyard, and they’re about 10 year old vines now. They’re a lot younger than I’d normally deal with, but it’s a good site, they’re good vines, and it’s Sangiovese… I kind of want to play.
At this point the fruit is still on the vine. That and Brumfield’s Shiraz are the only grapes still out there. I just really think that the later part of the ripening process is incredibly crucial for Sangiovese’s fruit development. So at the moment I’m just praying for the rain hold off over the next 7-10 days and we should have something serious to work with.
I’m not sure if the above makes coherent sense; I’m more than a little cooked from vintage. This year is looking like around 3x the size of the biggest vintage I’d ever done (2017) and whilst I’m still tiny, it’s damn near killed me and I need to find smarter ways of doing things. Still, at the moment I’ve got the prettiest Cabernet and Merlot batches you’ve ever tasted, and the Sangiovese looks like it’ll do well too. I couldn’t ask for more.