This will be my last blog post for a while as I have now left Catalonia. My wine is now in two barrels and has had malolactic bacteria added to it.
This bacteria has been added in order to start a second fermentation in the wine. This is known as malolactic fermentation (we normally refer to this as MLF). Now, MLF is different from normal alcoholic fermentation because it is performed by bacteria (rather than yeast) and it does not involve the conversion of sugar into alcohol. In MLF, the bacteria convert malic acid in the wine (quite a strong acid that is found in apples – malus is the latin word for apple) into lactic acid (a less strong, softer tasting acid that is found in dairy products like yoghurt).
The overall effect on the wine is that it becomes softer and rounder feeling in the mouth. Depending on the particular bacteria used, it can also result in caramel and chocolate notes in the wine. I have used a bacteria that will create some softness but will not mask the fruit (which I have worked very hard to preserve throughout the winemaking process) with too much caramel flavours.
As with the yeast, I could have just left the wine with nothing added and a bacteria would most-likely have started MLF. However, there are some strains of bacteria which consume other acids in the wine and can then produce off-smells. So, I took the decision to avoid that risk by adding bacteria which I knew would behave as I wanted.
During MLF, a small amount of Carbon Dioxide is produced which will prevent the wine from oxidation. When MLF finishes, this will stop so I will be adding some Sulphur Dioxide to prevent oxidation and also prevent any strange bacteria or yeast trying to make a mess of my wine. Just so that you are all aware, the amounts of Sulphur and any other additions I make are all in line with Organic winemaking practices (actually they are a lot lower than the maximum levels permitted in Organic wine) so we are talking tiny amounts (a WHOLE lot less than a packet of dried apricots for example).
I will be going back to Catalonia to taste the wine in January and to make plans for bottling it next year. Of course, I will keep you all informed of what is happening and how the wine is developing.
Before I go, just to give you a truer sense of this place I have been working in, here is a little bit of local history. The vineyard in Torroja is a beautiful, tranquil place, touched by breezes which are heavy with the scent of fennel, pine trees and wild thyme. I visited it on my last day just to appreciate the peace of it one last time. However, this peace is relatively recent as this area was one of the last bastions of resistance to General Franco during the Spanish Civil War. Members of the resistance would hide out in these hills, in this very vineyard in fact (some grenades were found here less than 10 years ago) and try to mount a defence against Franco.
Apparently, so I have been informed by the local people, Franco bore a bit of a grudge against the Priorat region after that, and so it was always last in line to receive improvements in infrastructure, education and hospitals. This has meant that the Priorat has maintained its character and hasn’t been overly modernised. All of which is great for a visitor but, I suspect, has been pretty hard on the people living here.
If you should finally come to taste this wine, then I hope you will get a sense of the place it has come from, and the history that it has been a part of.
I’d like to thank you all for following this process and I will be back in touch around January.
Merci and adéu,