Update: 2011 Suisun Valley Old Vine Zinfandel

February 13, 2012 by Jack
StarSan spirals are fun! Except when the foam kills your malolactic bacteria…

The Suisun Valley, CA Old Vine Zinfandel that I crushed in mid-October of last year has been sitting quietly in a corner of my office all this time. By now the wine should be well into its oak regimen, sitting in the cooler basement temperatures, but unfortunately it hasn’t yet finished malolactic fermentation. Well, half of it hasn’t. Paper chromatography tests have shown that one of the carboys finished and the other only sort of started. I think I might have killed half of the bugs the day I pitched them. One of the carboys had lots of StarSan foam in the headspace. I dumped the powdered bacteria into there. MLB is notoriously weak and finicky. This might have been enough to knock it out.

In an attempt to kick start the whole process without buying more MLB (that stuff is expensive!), I decided to stir up both carboys to get the fine lees into suspension, then blend them. I racked half of the finished batch into a clean carboy. I then racked half of the other batch into that same carboy to top it up, then racked the rest of the 2nd batch into the first batches carboy. Hopefully this blending is all I’ll need to do. If the MLB were still viable, they should get back to work and finish the job.

I did all of this a week ago. I should be able to perform a chromatography test in another two weeks to see if things are progressing. Meanwhile I will continue to stir the lees into suspension every couple of days. My concern is that having the wine go this long without adding sulfites and the exposure to oxygen it got from the blending might allow acetobacter to take hold and turn it to vinegar. I’m in dangerous waters right now with this batch. If MLF finishes up without such an infection taking hold, I’ll be able to sulfite the wine and start its oak regimen and I’ll feel much more comfortable and safe at that point.

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