When to bottle sulfite-free Cab?

Clark
The 09 is in barrels. I've not had the nerve to taste it for a long time. It's the one we did without adding sulphites. What is the projected course of events, i.e. how long should it stay in barrels, and thereafter how soon should it be bottled? From the wine structure I guessed it would be a "2 to 3 year" barrel wine, but I've not done an so2 free wine before, so maybe it should reduce to 18 months?
Cheers
Edmund

Edmund,

The game with sulfite-free is to achieve microbial equilibrium by getting as much microbial activity out of the way as possible – at least two summers over 15C, and three is better. However you must bottle when the reductive strength of the wine drops below what is coming in through the barrel skin. You can tell by reading DO, but also you can run VA’s, which will start to climb at this point. I find that these wines begin very fruity and pass through a funky “animalia” stage, eventually crystallizing into something pure, well knit and minerally. That’s what you’re looking for.

If the tannins are hard, you can stir lees at this stage, which will add structure and also increase your reductive energy. The result is more drinkability and also more longevity. Your lees shuld be pretty broken down by now (assuming there are any). You’d want to stir every week or two until maybe six months, or when they’re all taken up.

musings: 

Comments

mark bunter:

Clark
Although I do leave my very reductive Syrahs in barrel for three years or more, I have bottled some wines much sooner. The bottle closure is an important player in the game. Also, the maker's expectation. I feel safer if part of the animalia stage takes place under a cork, rather than under a bung, assuming a reasonable time in barrel for microbial evolution. I am afraid that if Edmund hasn't had the nerve to taste the wine for a long time, he hasn't topped it for a long time, either. He may have much bigger problems at hand than deciding when to bottle his wine. Like, deciding when to dump it out and turn the barrel into a compost bin. I hope not. mark