Syrah notes

We picked up our Syrah at the same time we did our Merlot, but as you might remember, we let the Syrah determine the pick date and let the Merlot fall where it might. That decision ultimately showed up in the flavor (more backbone and structure), but of course, in the numbers, too…

On the face of it, the Syrah numbers aren’t all that different from the Merlot’s, but where they are different is telling. Les numeros:

brix 27.1 degrees
glucose + fructose 28.7 g/100mL
pH 3.85
titratable acidity 0.44 g/100mL
tartaric acid 4.10 g/L
L-malic acid 2.23 g/L
potassium 2110 mg/L
alpha-amino compounds 156 mg/L
ammonia 26 mg/L
yeast assimilable nitrogen 177 mg/L (as N)


As with the Merlot, left on its own this would definitely be Parker rocket fuel, breaking the sound barrier at nearly 16% alcohol — assuming the yeast survived the journey to complete fermentation. So clearly, we needed to water this guy back, too.

Syrah from Elephant Mountain VineyardsBut unlike the Merlot, the acid/pH profile is more in balance, and that was reflected in the taste of the fruit when it came in the door: ripe, deep flavors but carried along with a little zip of acidity. Now, to be sure, a pH of 3.85 isn’t going anchor any lemonade any time soon, but it means what we need to do to nudge it into balance isn’t a dramatic move, and that’s always safer. So an an opening bid, we ratcheted the pH down to about 3.75 to see where things tasted.

Lastly, that YANK, at 177, is reasonably healthy, or certainly is in outpatient, not the ICU.

So we added water to try to knock the sugar down to 25 brix or so, giving us closer to 14% alcohol and a wine you’d actually want to drink, as opposed to start charcoal with. Over this volume of must, that ends up being a lot of H2O, but trusting the math, I duly dumped it in.

Two days later, a lot of the water was still spread in a slick across the top of the must, and yes, dear reader, talons of panic began to sink into my flesh. I’d mixed it up after dumping, and to be sure, I didn’t expect it to soak up instantly, but this was starting to freak me out. A quick brix reading after punching down shoved me even closer to counseling: 23.5 brix. Had I — not to put too fine a point on it — totally fucked the syrah? I began to game out what I’d tell the other Garagistes, of how we should really be making more rosé, don’t you think? Of how we really ought to be making and championing delicate, lower-alcohol wines that would truly stand the test of time (should we live to consume them). Of how, okay, I fucked the syrah.

But the next day, something magical happened. Well, magical in the sense of disaster averted, like when you see the flashing lights in the rear view mirror, but the police whip past and pull someone else over. The water finally integrated into the must, and we were at 25.5, right where we want to be.

Thank you officer, I won’t do it again! (on this wine…)

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