How to Produce Pinot Noir

March 19th, 2010  |  Published in Pinot Facts

Pinot Noir is best hand crafted in smaller lots.  Fermentors tend to be of a smaller capacity which could be fruit bins of food grade material or stainless steel tanks of ½  ton to 4 ton capacity.  The fruit is usually entirely destemmed with the exception of 25 to 35% of the fruit fermented as whole clusters or intact berries.  This helps add more character to the finished wine.

A pre-fermentation, cold soak of about 50 degrees F can last 3 to 21 days initially.  This helps to extract deep color and flavors for the complexity of the wine.

The primary fermentation is started with an inoculation of a yeast culture somewhere between the 2nd and 6th day of the vatting.  Some wine makers will not inoculate with commercial yeasts, but instead rely on the natural yeasts associated with the crop from the mother vineyard.

Pump-overs and punch downs of the cap are performed 2 to 3 times daily and fermentation termperatures typically peak at 93 to 95 degrees F.

Malolactic  fermentation is usually induced toward the last half of primary fermentation.  This helps to soften the wine and adds complexity to it’s flavors.  A single punch down continues through 4 to 5 days of post fermentation maceration which helps to extract all the grapes have to give.

The must is pressed at the end of 18 to 21 days vatting and settled in tank for 24 to 48 hours.  The press fraction is blended back for structure, typically at bottling, and is usually fermented in separate barrels.

French Oak is primarily used in the maturation of most vintages of Pinot Noir.  For our wines, we like to use 40 to 45% new French Oak barrels with each vintage. I like to source from different forests in France for the distinct variety flavors that they bring to the complexity my wines.  For our wines, we have found that the ideal time for barrel aging is approximately 16 to 18 months.  This seems to allow the wine to ultimately develop the unique flavors that originated in the soils our vineyard, as well as express the style of our wine maker and how he pairs that with the French Oak barrels that have been meticulously selected.

When we do bottle the wine, we bottle age for approximately 9 months before releasing the wine to market. Bottling usually occurs in the month of March and by the following December it is ready for consumption.  The wine will continue to develop it’s structure in the bottle with aging over the next one to two years if properly stored.   Because of its low tannin structure, compared to other red wines, most pinots will cellar well for as long as 5 to 10 years.  Pinot Noir wines are extremely versatile with regard to pairing with most food.  You can enjoy with Prime Rib or Steak, to Salmon or Turkey, depending on the occasion. It also pairs very well with cheese, grilled vegetables (especially mushrooms), and prosciutto and olives. Most recently, in wine country, there have been several producers who have made limited bottlings of a Rose of Pinot Noir that have done very well.  It can express itself exceptionally well on the palate and can be extremely refreshing on a warm summer day.  Bon Apetit!

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