2007 Chroma results

With fresh reference samples of some acids to work with, I put all four wines through paper chromatography yesterday [what the heck is “paper cro-magni-wha…?”: more background here]. Bask in the aurora borealitic results above.

To the left, along the baseline and on top of those tiny X’s, I placed drops of tartaric, malic and lactic acid, spaced about an inch apart. You’ll note that directly above them there are balloon-like blobs, some closer to the baseline, others closer to the top of the page. If a wine has any of those acids in it, we’d expect to see a blob about the same distance up the page above its X. Crude? Yes. Beautiful? Oh, yeah.

So take a look at the blobs to the right, above drops of the Franc, Cab, Merlot and Pinto. Drawing a horizontal line from the reference blobs on the left, you can see that all of our wines have tartaric acid (not surprisingly), and all have lactic acid. That the Franc, Cab and Merlot don’t have a blob at the malic latitude suggests that all the malic acid in those wines has been converted to lactic acid, so we can assume that malolactic fermentation has finished. Or, in non-science speak, these wines are done fermenting and are more or less safe to bottle without risk of further CO2 bubble production, popping corks down the line and embarrassing Garagistes at parties.

On the far right, however, the Pinto does show some kind of blob at the malic level, though it’s not especially distinct. I took the pH of all our wines prior to running the test (you can see those numbers next to the names), and the Pinto was just a hair above 3, which is pretty acidic (the typical range of wine hits between 3.3 and 3.6). So my guess would be that that much acid has inhibited malolactic fermentation, slowing its progress through this wine. That said, I remember the Pinto tasting great (and not “acidic”), so I’m not sure what to make of or do with this result. Is malo stuck, or simply taking its time? Dunno.

In any case, the reason I ran the test in the first place is for the Franc, whose results indicate malolactic is over and we can therefore trust the acid numbers we got earlier. So in the next day or so, I’ll be adding SO2 and some acid to try to perk up our old friend.

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Franc-ly Puzzling

As I wrote a few days ago, the Cabernet Franc — long our favorite wine from our grower — wasn’t its usual self at last racking. While it’s been dependably fresh and lovely any time we pull it from barrel, last week it was dull and flat, seemingly absent the will to live. A little unsettling, to say the least.

Today I got back some lab results from our long-suffering friends at ETS Labs, so we have a better picture of what’s going on with this sullen teenager. But even as the data answers some questions, it raises some others.

Stroke your beard and consider a theory or two with me after the jump…
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