As it seems to be with all over the world, the weather this harvest has certainly seemed “trippy”. Blistering hot days of record temperatures well into September, swinging to cooler weather and chilly nights, and even a bit of rain and some snow in the Sierras, then back to heat again, this harvest has been marked by a crazy rollercoaster of weather. One of the side-effects of this weather pattern is to lead the grapes into illegal territory…yup, they are dropping acids (insert painful groan for an incredibly cheesy joke).
A fun harvest video for your viewing pleasure taken at Naggiar a couple of weeks ago…
(a certain website won’t let me embed it to give you a preview, but trust me, it’s a cool and short video)
So, just what has led these grapes to a life of crime? Acids naturally start dropping as sugars start climbing after versasion. The problem comes when you have huge swings in temperature from day to night. From daytime highs of 105 degrees to nighttime lows of 55 degrees, that is a huge swing of 50 degrees in a day. This huge difference in temperature causes the malolactic acid in the grapes to degrade. No malolactic acid means no malolactic fermentation…no bueno. There are a couple of ways to amend this if malolactic acid is nonexistent in your grapes, the best way being to blend with different blocks that have a higher malolactic level. Our blocks at Naggiar face all different aspects, so that if one block is subject to the wide temperature swings, there are others more protected that can be blended in to the affected lots. The crazy nutter of a winemaker they have at Naggiar actually likes these challenges…which works to my advantage because it’s great being married to a problem solver.
Other than dropping acid, there have been a lot of high points. The berries are smaller than last year- which is great for the flavors- but with the same cluster count. Sugars are lower but the flavors and color extraction are great. Since the sugars are lower, we are starting the fermentations more spontaneously with yeast coming in with the fruit from the vineyards and the “resident” yeast in winery.
In the vineyard, the vines have held up really, really well to the excessive heat we had a few weeks ago, but just within the last few days, with the overnight temps in the 40’s, we are seeing the vines start to shut down and pack it in for the winter. Thus…we are halfway the-er, oh OH, livin’ on a pray-er that our grapes stop dropping acid. (just snuck some Bon Jovi in for ya).