Syrah and Merlot numbers

Courtesy of the good folks at ETS Labs, we’ve now got some scientified digits to noodle on the Syrah and Merlot.

The top line, I suppose, is the acidity this year: it’s excellent. I don’t think we’ve ever gotten Washington fruit that didn’t need some pH adjustment to bring into safe territory. But this year, Washington’s weather mirrored Oregon’s, only a little warmer and with a lot less rain. That cool summer kept acidity lower than usual (heat and in particular warm nights tend to evaporate acidity), the result being lively wines right out of the chute.

That doesn’t mean these wines won’t require a few “Jesus units” (“water into wine,” as one wine pundit quipped), but we’re within striking range of well-balanced wines — again, especially because of those acid numbers. A good harbinger of a great vintage, I’d say…

Actual numbers after the jump.

First, the Merlot:

brix 25.8 degrees
glucose + fructose 277 g/L
pH 3.68
titratable acidity 4.1 g/L
tartaric acid 4.41 g/L
L-malic acid 1.66 g/L
potassium 2010 mg/L
alpha-amino compounds 63 mg/L
ammonia 28 mg/L
yeast assimilable nitrogen 86 mg/L (as N)

And then the Syrah:

brix 25.8 degrees
glucose + fructose 270 g/L
pH 3.44
titratable acidity 6.8 g/L
tartaric acid 3.72 g/L
L-malic acid 4.35 g/L
potassium 2010 mg/L
alpha-amino compounds 49 mg/L
ammonia 17 mg/L
yeast assimilable nitrogen 63 mg/L (as N)

The big things to note here are the sugar and the pH. The brix in both wines, left unadjusted, would produce alcohol somewhere around 16%. That might be a totally sweeeet number if we were in high school, but without a lot of trickery, you’d smell and taste the alcohol in the resulting wine — if you could even get the yeasts to finish fermenting the sugar in so toxic an environment. So we’ll be adding water to each to drop the brix probably a point and a half to start.

The Merlot’s pH is actually closer to normal Washington levels — a little high, but not incredibly dangerous. We’ll want to knock it down a couple clicks to ensure the wine won’t taste flabby, and so it’ll have a little more protection against microbial squatting. This is probably a good indication that we waited a couple of days too long to pick the Merlot, but considering the Syrah is right on the money, and we can easily adjust the ‘lot, I’d say we made the right call.

And yeah, look at that Syrah acidity: wow. My ideal is somewhere around 3.5 for bigger reds (that is, not Pinot Noir), so this is pretty much right on the money without any tinkering on our part. It’ll be interesting to see how this Syrah develops compared to last year’s, for sure.

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