Merryvale White Winemaking
Step by Step
The art of fine winemaking involves a thousand steps, beginning with the myriad decisions made in the vineyard. Here is a broad overview of how grapes are transformed into fine wine here at Merryvale.
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White grapes (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon) are hand harvested, then hand sorted if necessary to discard defects. Then whole clusters are gently transferred directly to a horizontal pneumatic press.
Pressing is done to maximize yield at the lowest pressure rating.
The juice drips into a pan at the bottom of the press and is then pumped into a stainless steel, temperature controlled settling tank.
Juice is chilled to 50F overnight. The clear juice is pumped off the settlings (lees) into another stainless steel tank (racking), where SO2 and yeast nutrients are added. The juice is immediately pumped to fill 225L French oak barrels for fermentation. Some lots are inoculated with yeast, and others are allowed to ferment with naturally occurring yeast which lends additional complexity and seamlessness.
When the barrels have finished fermentation (7-21 days) they are topped. The yeast sediment (lees) is stirred every month (Chardonnay only) and one month before bottling, stirring stops. Stirring the lees adds silkiness and flavor complexity to the wine. Wine is aged in barrels from 4 to 16 months.
Chardonnay is encouraged to undergo a second fermentation, called malolactic; Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon are not. The secondary fermentation is really a conversion of malic acid to lactic acid. The conversion softens the wine and adds buttery aromas.
Barrels are racked (clear wine separated from lees) with pressure from inert gas (nitrogen)for gentle handling and minimal aerationand the wine is blended into stainless steel tanks.
Some wines are fined with bentonite to remove excess proteins, and isinglass to remove excess tannins and sculpt the mouth-feel.
Some wines are filtered for clarification just prior to bottling.