Update 2010: The Troubled Ones II

The Grenache at Stonehenge, just hours before some of it became roséOur Viognier may yet have a Hollywood ending. Our Rosé, well… by any other name, would taste as sweet…


Our Rosé was a tank bleed (or “seignée”) of the Grenache right after it was crushed. I confess this one totally drank my lunch, tossing a number of problems at me I had no answers for. The biggest was thinking I was watching a nice, slow fermentation through the fall, then winter… then spring… when in fact primary fermentation had collapsed short of the goal and what I was actually seeing was malolactic fermentation (a secondary, bacteriological fermentation that changes malic acid into lactic acid). As a result, I didn’t realize this wine was “stuck” — not completely fermented and stalled in a sticky, quasi-alcoholic stasis — until a month or so ago.

Restarting a stuck ferment is notoriously hard, because you’re asking the yeast to start from a dead stop in an environment mostly toxic with alcohol (again, the ferment has nearly converted all the sugar to alcohol at this point, so the wine is pretty poisonous stuff as far as yeast is concerned). So I went through the laborious and time-consuming protocol recommended by the good folks at Scott Labs. It involves multiple nutrient additions over the course of a few days, then gradually adding waves of yeast over the course of an afternoon so they methodically gain confidence and territory without freaking out. In extreme cases, the protocol also calls for standing on one foot, baying at the moon, and whacking yourself with a switch.

Okay, those last three aren’t exactly in Scott Labs’ protocol, but I do think they helped in this case. One of the carboys actually finished, so now we need to decide if we should just blend the two together (the other is about 1% residual sugar), filter it, and call it a lesson learned; or figure out how to get the other one to finish.

Frankly, I’m ready to clear the decks, if only because the last thing I want to be doing in September as grapes arrive is pleading with a grumpy rosé. So I think we’ll probably just bottle it in the dark of some night and walk away, whistling innocently. It does still smell pretty decent behind all the yeast, so if we filter then blend the 1% and the nearly-none-percent carboys, we’ll have a wine that may be a tad sweet, but with luck, come off as “fruity” when chilled into restraint.

Here’s hoping…

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