2009 Whites Drinking Nicely

By Posted on Mar 29 2010 | By

All of my 2009 white wines are resting comfortably in the bottle now, to be enjoyed with the arrival of soft summer breezes.

Liar, liar pants on fire.

OK, I admit it. Jean and I have already pulled multiple corks on these wines. But, hey, that’s called quality control. One must monitor the wine to make certain it’s aging properly. Right?

I think you’re beginning to see through this deceptive logic.

Chardonnay Undergoing ML

The fact is, I was running low on white wine and hated to see last fall’s fruit languishing in those six-gallon glass carboys waiting to be consumed.

As mentioned in previous posts, home winemakers often do not bulk age their wines due to limited storage capacity. However, with my white wines, that’s really not an issue since I will not be using any of these vessels until this September.

So honestly, the real reason for early bottling is that I wanted to start drinking the young, fresh and exuberant wines. Generally, there is no winemaking reason to age whites for extended periods. This is true for both the amateur and the professional winemaker. Between now and June, the preponderance of commercial wineries in Virginia will have placed their whites in bottle.

This vintage I focused on three varietals; Seyval Blanc, Chardonnay and Viognier. My Seyval is a spot-on rendition of this French-American hybrid. The wine displays a pale straw color and is crisp and light with nuances of lemon and citrus notes on the palate. Stylistically think Sauvignon Blanc.

I vinified my chardonnays in three different styles: unoaked with malolactic fermentation or ML; oaked with full ML; and a non-malolactic, unoaked version. The latter technique produces a light, crisp white unlike a typical chardonnay. The unoaked, malolactic rendition showcased apple and melon notes without the oak’s toasty influence. And the full ML and oaked treatment is typical of an oaky, buttery California Chardonnay. Together, the three styles offer a nice mélange of Chardonnay styles.

Any mistakes? Of course. I chose to put my Viognier through malolactic fermentation as opposed to the generally accepted approach used by professionals not to. But I was looking for a fuller, richer style of Viognier. Did it work? No. Instead of achieving my objective, I ended up with a wine that was a bit flabby; a trait that Viogner can express on its own even without inducing ML.

But, not to worry. I boosted the acidity of the finished wine through an addition of tartaric acid, a naturally occurring grape acid and widely used in the wine industry. While this did brighten the Viognier, it still has a bit heavier background component on the palate, uncharacteristic of the grape’s best expression.

So was my little experiment a failure? Not at all. I learned how not to treat this grape in future vintages. This is a tale all winemakers can tell; use each vintage to learn a bit more about your craft.

So here it is almost April, and I have all summer to enjoy—and share with my extended family—twenty-five cases of white wines.

Well, actually, twenty-four cases. I forgot about that quality control issue.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES