The Vintner’s Year | November 2013
Jim Law of Linden Vineyards in Virginia provides the penultimate despatch in his particular ring cycle.
November is when the winegrower's high-flying season comes in for a landing. This was not an easy vintage, which is probably why instead of gliding in for a soft landing, I crashed. When those last grapes came off of the vines, I prematurely retreated to my comfy nest in front of the fireplace. However, even though the weight of harvest was behind us, cellar work was still very persistently demanding. I must admit that with age, it is getting harder to muster that second wind to go the distance.
However, the harvest was safe. There were no more worries about the weather. The raccoons, bears and turkeys are free to glean. As the stress and worries of the farming side quickly diminished, I was able to focus on the fermenting wines and make clearer decisions. Much of the decision-making at this stage is intuitive, which requires more of a Zen approach. Harmony comes from harmony. A winemaker's stress can be reflected in the wine.
We are monitoring the progress of malolactic fermentation (MLF), the bacterial fermentation that converts the more assertive malic acid found in grapes to softer, less tart lactic acid. This vintage it is very important that MLF is complete. In 2013 the red grapes had very high acidity and we need MLF to soften and integrate the wine's current tart character.
White wines are finishing up their alcoholic fermentations. They are still very yeasty and cloudy, so it is hard to evaluate them, but we are especially excited about the Chardonnays. They seem very precise and focused this year. As often seems to be the case, there are a few barrels that are stubborn and still have a bit of residual sugar. We have been keeping them warm and stirring them frequently to encourage the yeast to finish their work.
Evaluating wines at this stage is probably not a good idea. We have a gut feel for what to expect based on harvest conditions and juice flavours and concentrations. In the next month or two as the wines settle and clarify, we will get our first glimpse of the character of the vintage. For now, we just make sure nothing goes wrong and put the well-behaved wines to bed.
Tasting Notes & Wine Reviews from Jancis Robinson