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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Tools of the trade

Quick quiz: What is the bizarre looking implement to the left? A javelin? Irrigation pipe? Blow gun? No silly, it is an aeration rig. It is the Macgyverish nature of small vineyards and wineries to create interesting devices to get around practical problems. Usually involving PVC, zip ties, or hose clamps. In this case, we want to aerate our fermenting must for the sake of yeast health and also acetaldehyde bridging for tannin structure and color. The cool kids all use racking or pump-over carts for this, far too pricey for us. So instead we hook this rig up to the air compressor, the ball valve at the top keeps it at a low pressure, and the diffuser at the bottom has a bunch of very fine holes, hopefully adding oxygen to the must. Hand punch downs usually accomplish this my submerging the cap in small portions with air trapped in the floating skings, reintroducing it into the ferment. Nice, simple, and easy, though nowhere near as cool as the pump-over carts to remove seeds for delestage. This we are trying to approach now by pumping over out of the racking valve primarily to avoid pumping seeds and hastening seed coat breakdown in our more tannic wines, like the Dolcetto and Aglianico. The Primitivo has a disposition toward grainy astringency so we are being careful with it, though it seems a little too delicate to gobble up much oxygen. Our Primi is not big, jammy Zin style. The Nebbiolo will be hand punched only, just like grandpa used to do it. We are rustic, but smart enough to know how the real guys do it.

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