sdfreedive wrote:Hmm WineSmith...
I'm hoping he's on to discuss this wine.
3. Chemical additives? (This is not a bad thing, I'm more asking because you've been very upfront about how you believe a few tweaks can make a good wine a great wine. And I like learning)
As a general rule, I like to pick when fruit is fully ripe so I optimize my color and color extraction. To aid in this, I put an untoasted oak chip from the French forest of Alliers, air-cured 18 months, into the fermenter to assist color extraction. This chip is made by a company named Boise France from the 75% of good wood left over from the barrel making process, wood which was hewn away to make staves. It has no oak toast flavors such as vanilla, coffee or toasted almond. I never buy new barrels, because I think it's very wasteful to use a piece of fine oak furniture made from a 200-year-old tree to flavor a wine. Most of my barrels are at least 20 years old.
At the crusher, I generally add 45 ppm of sulfur dioxide in order to repress spoilage organisms and give my inoculated yeast strain a chance to get a footing. In a classic Bordeaux style, I am uneasy about uninoculated fermentations, which can add a lot of microbial aromatics which dominate over the grape varietal characters I am trying to balance.
Since I'm not picking based on numbers, I may, if necessary, correct pH to an initial 3.55 with tartaric acid from grapes. This pH will drift into the correct zone after skin contact, the effects of fermentation, and malolactic. For more on my philosophy of High pH Winemaking, check out http://www.vinovation.com/ArticleWinepH2.htm
Once I get extraction and dryness, I will keep the wine on the skins and bring in oxygen with a micro-diffuser at 40 to 80 times the rate a barrel supplies. The goal is to oxidatively polymerize the color and tannin into short, stable chains, the ideal structure for good aromatic integration and graceful longevity.
Ironically, oxygen at this stage is homeopathic. It actually increases the wine's anti-oxidative power and longevity, at the same time refining the structure. I use this technique in preference to fining with egg whites or isinglass, in my mind an obsolete procedure for winemakers who don’t know how to work with tannins.
Oxygenation is used the same way in chocolate making - converting harsh, nasty cocoa powder into voluptuous chocolate. You know that chocolate waterfall in Willy Wonka? They really have those. It's called "conching."
Finally, I often employ the reverse osmosis process I invented to lower the alcohol if it’s excessive. I never consider brix when determining proper ripeness, and simply rebalance the wine if it needs it. We did this on the Peterson Cabernet component, which was originally 14.8%, lowered to 13.2% and later rebalanced to a “sweet spot.” This wine was mostly bottled as WineSmith 206 Cab Sauv and was finished at 13.7% by re-addition of its own high proof alcohol.
This wine is in great shape at seven years' age, with plenty of time to go (at least five, probably ten years of life remaining, or more in a good cellar), but it's drinking extremely well right now, in middle age bringing together the cedar and tobacco nuances of bottle bouquet with the firmness and fresh fruit flavors of youth.