A few days of worry

The new year in winemaking has started and it was pretty much clear that the interesting phase for our natural wines is just about to begin. With the wines relaxing in the chilliest corner of our cellar (9°C/48°F) I expected them to ripen rather slowly. But we’ve reached a point where nobody can tell us what will happen from now on (as we’re expecting the impact of not adding SO2 to start playing a bigger role). There are a lot of great people helping and giving advice. But in the end it’s the combination of variety, grape quality, our specific soil and my style making it an experiment. 

My corner of the cellar

The last big question for me was how to deal with stirring the wine as it’s ripening in the barrels. I decided to not swirl following the advice of two natural winemakers I know. And it seems to have been the wrong decision. As you might have read Melanie and I did a tasting a bit more than a week ago noticing that the Silvaner not only turns brown after 90 minutes but starts tasting a lot like Sherry which is a scary indicator for oxidation. Last weekend I tasted again – not only from the barrel but also from one of the glass bowls (where I do store what didn’t fit in the barrel, you see them in the background of the image above). There was significant Sherry flavor as well so it was time to panic. Assuming that the maybe 20l where for the toilet I started getting really concerned about the rest of the wine. Which batch will oxidate next? Will it get worse or better over time? Do I have to give up (a bit) and add SO2 to save what’s left? I slept very badly for a few nights.

I did write a note to our consultant Hermann Mengler asking him for advice. And besides specifying the amount of emergency SO2 to add he asked if stirring hadn’t helped at all. Which reminded me that I had decided not to stir. The same night I went down to the cellar and realized that it’s actually impossible to get the stirring device into the barrel as the ceiling is too low. So I just stirred the contaminated bowl leaving the rest of the problem for the next day. So last night I puled out all the barrels to the middle of the archway the barrels are standing in (the stirring device barely fits in there) and stirred the remaining bowls with a stick. Then I pulled samples again. And boom: the wine which I had almost poured away was fine again. The sample from the barrel I openly left in a glass for five hours became brown but the taste almost didn’t change – no Sherry. Phew.

So I think the lesson learned here was: this wine needs regular stirring and the barrels need to stand on fewer palettes. I sleep better again.

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