Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Winemaker, Part II

Earlier entries in this series:

Part I

The guys kept shoveling and The Winemaker began checking the fermentations in the other tanks.

Grenache was on day ten of a fourteen-day cold soak. The Winemaker loved cold soaks. The must was in there, unfermented in the chilled tank. It wanted yeast and he wouldn't give it.  It was his dominance over the product, summarized.

Not to mention it made the color of his wines beautiful, to use Wine Experience's term (March 2004 issue, page 67, two-thirds down the left column). The Winemaker liked to fantasize about thirty day-long cold soaks that would yield wines literally the color of squid ink. Color was everything in wine, or at least it was millions of things. Where aroma and flavor compounds could be infuriatingly vague, an anthocyanin always got straight to the point and The Winemaker appreciated that.

Some people said color had no relation to flavor. The Winemaker's opinion on them was two words long. He knew deep flavors only kept the company of deep colors. Pinot Noir? Irrelevant. Not that he didn't know how to make incredible Pinot Noir (and indeed had for three vintages, before he pissed off the wrong members of the Santa Rosa Politburo and never ate foie gras in that town again).

One day he would cold soak the white wines too--he would be the first to do it.  

Something was strange in this Grenache though, the skins appeared to be concentrating towards the surface. It wasn't obvious, but there was a dryness to the topmost ones that suggested a natural, wild fermentation had started and was forcing the skins upwards. The winemaker had learned to recognize subtleties like this.

He grasped for alternate explanations before settling on the inevitable--he would have to end the cold soak early and inoculate the must with yeast today. The times he had intentionally tried wild ferments had resulted in wines that smelled like onions and tasted like astroturf.  

The Assistant must not have been sanitizing the punchdown gear thoroughly. That's what you get when you trust people who don't know microbiology, thought The Winemaker sullenly. The Assistant had cheated him, cheated the wine, out of a proper cold soak. He got angrier.

Behind him the rhythmic scraping of Juan Luis and Agustino's shovels syncopated with the wasted grapes raining into the bin. There were still a lot of them left.

"Andale! Eh?" snapped The Winemaker in their direction as he started for the lab to mix the yeast culture.

There was no Lalvin BM45, the yeast strain he liked to use for Grenache, in the lab. The Assistant. Even though it was never explicit that ordering yeast was the assistant's responsibility, he was in the lab more often and so he should have known about this. The Assistant was going to have a very bad Monday morning.

The Winemaker dug furiously through the other yeast bags and eventually settled on Lalvin RC212--not ideal for Grenache but almost everything else in the cabinet was for white wines. He sliced it open with his Leatherman and filled a clean bucket with warm water.  He began to stir with his bare forearm, enjoying the starchy redolence of the rehydrating fungus.

Ten seconds later the creak of the main door echoed through the winery.

"What the fuck?!?" boomed a gruff General Patton voice. The shoveling noises stopped.

The Winemaker stopped stirring, thought a few things over quickly, and went out to face the owner with slimy yeast still on his arm. 


Unknown said...

Love this writing. Being right in there with the must and its heady aroma. File this entry under fermentation or, better yet, scenes for a novel that centers on wine making.

JBH said...

Thanks :)