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the special treatment

September 30, 2009

multi-taskingWinemaking became a little more intimate today when Brian jumped the wall of a 1-ton open-top vat of van der Kamp Pinot meunier to subject the whole-cluster fermentation to a bit of foot-treading.  Why?  The old-world winemaking technique of pigeage à pied is the most gentle (and practical) method of manipulating the top layer of whole clusters to encourage gentle extraction, release a bit of juice and initiate conventional alcoholic fermentation in the vat.  Most of the clusters beneath the top layer remain intact through their fermentation, which is actually a variation on carbonic maceration (a within-skin, enzymatic fermentation).  Whole-cluster fermentation can contribute significant and unique aromatic and textural components to the finished wine, but the technique is not without myriad crevasses of peril.  Jordan Mackay, author of Passion for Pinot, warns that leaving the stems in the must is “undoubtedly a high-risk gambit”, “chancing the inexcusable green flavors that can result, in pursuit of something more complex and unique.”  The vat environment must also be kept anaerobic with carbon dioxide to deter unwelcome microbes that could get a foothold in the cluster matrix.

Brian managed to multi-task as he took a call from Eric to make some crucial picking decisions – don’t drop the Blackberry!  We’ll blend some of this wine into our 2009 van der Kamp Pinot noir, which Brian promises will be delightfully complex (with beautiful aromatics, and not a whiff of Brian – I promise!)


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