Moments like this: yet another lesson in patience and going with your gut

It had been eight months since the last of my other 2010 wines had finished their malolactic fermentations. It was my first vintage of Les Corbeaux.They were the prettiest grapes of the year, and once the tank was filled up at harvest, it looked like a pile of small caviar thanks to the ridiculously tiny bb-sized berries. The grapes were from the oldest vines I had sourced up until then. The average age of the vines was 65 years old, with some sections being over 80 years old. On top of all of this, I was only able to produce 1.5 barrels. 

 

I did my best to treat every cuvée the same, but as was the plan, there are going to be differences in how each cuvée responds to the same exacting inputs. Thankfully, all of the wines went through alcoholic fermentation with nearly the same speed. However, once the wines were in barrel, the Corbeaux seemed to just lag. Due to the size of the berries, coupled with my limited number of punchdowns, there was a good amount of unfermented sugar that seemed to linger. It was a tiny amount, but it was a hint at things to come. 

The labs that I take samples to are filled with oenologists with degrees in making, protecting and understanding wine. Over the years, I’ve been told on several occasions that certain wines should be racked since they didn’t smell great at the moment. I was told to heat up barrels to encourage malolactic fermentations that were nearly finished, I was advised on potentially adding color and many other things. At each stage, I decided to wait and see. I’m not a patient person by nature. Those that know me would say that I’m actually quite the opposite. But with wine, I’ve tried to be better. 

Over time, I would taste visitors through each of the wine and at times, people would enquire about the Corbeaux. They’d taste it and remark that it tasted good, just not finished. The barrel and a half would sit in the coolest section of the cave, nearly hidden, but I couldn’t keep its potential out of my mind, and at times, my frustrations. The material was sound, things were just moving at a glacial pace, and after the 2011s were in barrel, the other 2010s in bottle, it was suggested to me that it might be in my best interest to do something to drop the level of sulphur in the wine, nutrients and other things as well as to warm up the barrel. All of these things were thought to kick start the secondary fermentation. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I was worried about needing to use some of these processes I don’t have much against them in principal, I was only hoping to be spared from them being necessities.

I figured, and felt that time would be the best cure. Why not? It had worked with stinky barrels, slow alcoholic fermentations, finishing malolactic fermentations, and wines that didn’t seem to initially offer much by way of nose, or tension. Time healed all of these things. I appreciate suggestions, but I figured to do as I have done since arriving in Burgundy, I would stick with my intuition. 

With the weather in Burgundy heating up lately, I thought it important to do one of my random analysis that I really don’t like doing. The lab ends up giving me information I already assumed, I get a list of numbers and they really don’t change a thing. What bothers me more is thinking about how much wine I am handing over to the lab. They will use a little to test, and much more to taste. All of these samples could work out to a bottle that could have been in the hands of someone curious about what we’re doing. But, in the end, it is important to back up my intuition with sound analysis. I mean, let’s be honest, I’m going into my fourth Burgundy harvest and still don’t know much about wine “making”. To be even more honest, I’m more than fine with it.

 

Two days ago, I received my results. Everything is looking great with the 2011s. Numbers are in line with the analysis that was performed in January. The big news is that Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru “Les Corbeaux” 2010 has finally finished malolactic fermentation!!!!!! The best is that I Didn’t Touch A Thing. This thrills me to no end. It is really a humbling thing when you are worried about one of your wines. I felt really worried, but I put that aside and only focused on what little confidence I had and it worked.Time doesn’t heal everything. And, sound analysis can prevent a lot of maladies from happening in wines, and are quite essential to sane wine producers.

 

Sometimes removing myself from relying on analysis and not relying on the safest course of action has proven to be a euphoric thrill ride. I wouldn’t wish to endanger a wine for the rush of it all or for dogmatic principles, but trusting in something and having it payoff is a wonderful thing. I really couldn’t be happier. I think I’ll go and pour a sample in celebration. 

Here are the results below:

Image

The Acide Malique is what you want at 0.0 g/l to show that your malic acid has converted to lactic acid. Everything looks good, besides a low level of sulfur, which I’ll adjust today. This is one very good reason to do analysis by the way. 

 

Cheers,

 

Ray

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