Well, that was fun! Carl recently included me in a tasting of six barrel samples of 2020 red wines in process. The samples included two each of Allegro Merlot, Long Island Cabernet Sauvignon from RGNY (formerly Martha Clara) vineyards, and Merlot from Kamiak Vineyard in Washington's Columbia Valley. All of the wines came into the winery in October and have been in barrels for a few months, recently undergoing malolactic fermentation. For each wine, we had one sample which was processed our usual way and one sample which had been processed through Allegro's newest wine processing technology: the maceration accelerator which I wrote about in an earlier post, lovingly nicknamed "The Transmogrifier."
The new technology is designed to make more cut edges in the grapeskins during the crush process, which allows for more contact between skins and juice, and more amplified tannins. If the machine does its job well, we'd expect to encounter deeper color and more concentration of flavor in the wines. Did our tasting convince us of the efficacy of the technology? In a word: Yup.
With the Allegro Merlot samples, the differences between the two were the least noticeable. The control tasted a bit harder and thinner than the transmogrified wine, which had a bit more tannins overall and seemed just a tad smoother.
For the Long Island Cabs, the contrast between the control and the "accelerated" wine was quite a bit more noticeable. The second sample had a complete extra layer of flavor. Where the control sample tasted quite light, moving across my tongue in a rather straight shot, the flavor of the second sample made it all the way around my tongue. (It's the tannins binding with proteins in our mouths which gives us a "dry" feeling when we taste tannic wines or tea.)
And it was the Washington state Merlot samples which showed the clearest difference between the lesser-processed and more-processed wines. The control sample seemed tight and light compared to the blood-red second sample, whose tannins filled my whole mouth. It was an exciting final wine to taste, made from wonderful West Coast fruit and destined to be bottled under our new Pinnacle Ridge label.
I guess we can call this "proof of concept," seeing on a small scale the potential real benefits of our step forward in winemaking equipment and processes. Exciting times for Carl as a winemaker, aiming as always toward making the best wines possible. I feel lucky to be on his tasting team--not a bad job at all!