Post Fall Creek Vineyards’ harvest and crush, two main procedures follow at the winery: the process of malolactic fermentation on every red wine and the process of filling barrels with wine that deserves them.
One of the two major acids found in grapes is malic acid, the same acid frequently associated with green apples. For reasons not entirely known by scientists, malic acid is metabolized by bacteria to create lactic acid, the acid found in milk. This is a naturally occurring process which microorganisms don’t seem to take any advantage of, other than decreasing the acidity level of the environment they are living in, wine. Since the microorganisms thrive better in a less acidic medium, their benefit is somehow indirect. As mentioned, the chemical process doesn’t yield any kind of energy for bacteria, and for this reason some say this shouldn’t be called a form of fermentation, but I guess the fact that a tiny amount of CO2 is released during the process it was called like this in the first place.
However, from the winemaker’s point of view, the process of malolactic fermentation brings a softening and smoothing to the wine and also brings an increased complexity. Hence, malolactic fermentation is a sought after process for winemakers even though it can take longer than expected at times. Patience is a must once again!
Use of barrels. Either before or after malolactic fermentation, we decide to fill barrels with the wine we think the wine deserves. In fact, the wines themselves “tell” us if they need barrel time. In other words, they show us if they can improve even more while ageing in barrels than in stainless steel tanks. Barrels are not all the same though. They have many differences starting from the origin of the wood, its weathering process at the cooperage, the assembly itself, the toast level, and the age (amount of time used) of each barrel at the winery. So, we hand pick barrels of different ages and origins in order to let each of the wines find the best complement for their maturation process.
Timing is crucial. How long we keep the wine in barrels is in fact one of the most important decisions. Is it six, eight, fourteen months? Again, the wine will tell. The recipe is not a fixed time. It’s not a kind of barrel. It’s not even the barrels themselves. The recipe at Fall Creek is BALANCE.
Fall Creek Vineyards Director of Winemaking