The way from juice to wine is fraught with all kinds of peril. More times than not, imminent “death” is all in the muddled mind of the tired winemaker, but on other occasions, the invisible nasties that roam the winery are REALLY out to get us.
Our winemaking style at LINEAGE | Livermore Valley and The Steven Kent Winery can be fairly risky. We don’t generally add sulfur at the crushpad when fruit is brought in and we keep low levels of SO2 in barrels while the wine is aging. We also do a fair amount of cold-soaking when grapes are first crushed.
There are different viewpoints about what cold-soaking does for wines (as many
viewpoints as there are winemakers), and there are a great many winemakers out there who want to get fermentation started as early and as vigorously as possible. Apart from the stylistic qualities that fast and hot ferments might bring to wine, there is a lot less risk to these incipient wines when CO2 is present.
For me, taking a slower and colder approach allows for the microscopic bugs that come in on grape skins to add their bit of complexity to my wines before they die their noble deaths in about 2% alcohol. Cold-soaking also allows for gentle extraction of color and tannin.
For all the structure and flavor benefits that we attribute to our early winemaking regime, I’d be a liar if I didn’t exhale a sigh of relief when I lift the fermentor lid up and am knocked back by the scouring breath of Carbon Dioxide. For it is this stuff that throws a protective blanket over our baby wines, chasing fruit flies away and keeping the deleterious effects of oxygen at bay.
We are waging a war everyday against a microscopic army, and CO2 is our missile shield.