Last week, we kicked off the harvest season by hand harvesting the champagne clone pinot noir for our first estate grown bubbly. The two main grapes used for champagne wines are usually chardonnay and pinot noir, with pinot meunier also added in some regions. Our bubbly will be a blanc de noir made exclusively from pinot noir grapes. We did have the option of blending some estate chardonnay in with it as well, but for now we are going to use the chardonnay for a stainless (naked) still wine.
After bringing the grapes in, we started with a whole cluster gentle press, where most of the free run juice and easily extracted pulp juice was collected and transferred to a vat. We then did a more vigorous pressing, where we collected the juice that sort of clings to the skins and seeds. Since the acidity and sugar level is quite different in the pressed juice, we moved that to a separate vat for fermentation. Each of these stainless vats rested overnight and with the help of some enzymes, much of the suspended particles fell to the bottom of the tank. The next day we racked off that stuff – the process by which you move wine from one vessel to another – and added champagne yeast to get the ball rolling.
As of today, the juice has been fermenting for a week now. Most of the sugar will have already been converted into alcohol. We will let it go for a few more days, where it should keep developing complexity while it converts the last traces of sugar. The color of the juice we started with was orange and the pressed juice was more of a shade of pink. We think most of that color will have faded during fermentation, and in a few days, are going to open it up and rack it off the lees. Then we’ll get a chance to see what will be our base wine for our first estate grown sparkler.