A couple of days ago, we pressed off the Mourvedre (in our fancy new balloon press, pictured above!) and tucked it safely away in a variable. That means there are only two grapes left to finish fermenting before vintage 2011 is behind us: the Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc.
The Sauv is the closest at 1.002 specific gravity (about 1/2 brix). Officially, all the sugar is gone at a reading of 1.000, but because we’re not working with totally clean liquid (sediment, yeast and MOG still swirling about, albeit listlessly), we’ll still see evidence of fermentation at .997 — what would be about -1 brix if you could have negative sugar. (Hmm: maybe this is how they make Aspartame …)
So I think I’ll hold my breath for another day or so and press it Monday. After last year’s minor epidemic of ethyl-acetate (apparently not unique to our winery), I’m leery of letting it sit too long without the protective layer of CO2 that an active ferment generates. Still, the Sauv is the one we’d like most to have a tannic backbone, so I’ll watch it like a hawk and perhaps try to wrap and gas it tomorrow night if the ferment’s too anemic.
That would leave the Franc, which is only just entering the earth’s atmosphere at about 3.5 brix. And slowing down — so much, in fact, that I’m nervous about it getting stuck before it’s done. We’ve never been fermenting this late into the fall — I mean, holy crap, there’s a chance we may press this wine after Thanksgiving! — which is fine except that as fall wanes, so do yeast-friendly temperatures. So as a precaution, I swaddled the Franc back into an electric blanket this morning, nice and low but enough to keep the yeasties awake enough to finish their epic sugar binge.
All in all, though, it’s getting a little lonely downstairs. After the explosive beginning of crush and a house full of friends and fragrance for a month and a half, the end of harvest ends up being a little like that Haydn symphony, during the course of which the musicians, one by one, gradually pack up their instruments and leave the stage. Just two lonely violins left at this point, and then too soon, silence.