My first batch of white wine in the bottles

Finally, the big day has arrived. Yesterday, I bottled my first batch of white wine, made from the Pearl of Csaba grapes.bottling01

Call me biased if you wish, but I am actually quite satisfied with the result, especially considering that I had never made wine before. I had some concerns about what Pearl of Csaba grapes could produce because, as I had mentioned in an earlier post, the previous owner of the property where I live had given me a bottle of his vintage and it was rather flat. In that article, I had also mentioned that these grapevines had been planted for the purpose of making a Muscat type of wine. My goal was to try to make that kind of wine. Well, the result turned out to be quite different from Muscat. My white wine is more of a medium dry to dry wine. So, let me describe it a bit.

pearl04The colour is a bit of a pale yellow with a touch of green. It still has a bit of a light haze but that is not much of a problem. After all, the wine has not been filtered and since it was almost clear, I did not want to venture in adding bentonite to clarify it. Since I had never made wine before, I’d rather not increase the complexity. My approach was to keep it simple and straight forward. As long as the taste is satisfactory, I would not take any chance to ruin it. Before going into more details about the taste, the first impression is the scent. And I have to say that this wine smells really nice. It has a very floral aroma that reminds me of a Gewürztraminer from the Alsace. Of course, after the smell, the real test is the taste. For as much as the previous owner’s wine was flat, mine holds its taste nicely. The taste has some floral touch reminiscent of a Gewurztraminer but with a more mineral and tingly taste of a Riesling or Sylvaner. The mouth feeling is nice and has some lasting ability, although not quite as much as I would experience with an Alsace wine, but my wife and I both agreed that it actually scores better than all the local whites that we have tried here in the Okanagan Valley. So, yes, I am a bit proud today.

One of the challenges I have found with my wine has been to find a good temperature to serve it. If it is served too warm, the floral aromas are superb but the taste does not last and is on the dull side. If served too cold, the aroma becomes flat and the taste turns mostly dry but with no bouquet. After some trial and error, I came to the conclusion that 8-10 degree centigrade is probably the optimum. Last night, we decided to go a Februarfest at home with all you can eat sauerkraut, sausages, Kasseler chops and smoked pork hocks. The food was great, as we have a great butcher with fantastic meat and sausages (if you are ever in the region, you must go to A&K Grimm in Penticton). My Chateau Christophe Pearl of Csaba turned out to be a great pairing with that kind of food. The combination of flavours actually enhanced the floral characteristics of the wine. The result was a great meal!

Here is how I made the wine. I harvested the Pearl of Csaba at full ripeness. I got a Brix (sugar percentage) level of 19, which according to the neighbour who had planted the vines, is higher than what he used to get. He told me that they had a hard time to reach levels higher than 16. I have no idea if it is beginner’s luck or if my strategy of irrigating sparsely and getting the vines to harden up worked but at least I got a good sugar content. Since I had read that with a Brix below 22, wines are unstable, I had added some sugar to correct the Brix to 22. Also, instead of hoping for local yeast to do the trick, I went down the safe path and treated the must with sulfites and added yeast from the winemaking store. The first fermentation went very well. Actually, all the sugar turned into alcohol in just a week, while I had read it would take a couple of weeks. After that, I just let the wine rest and the sediment sink to the bottom of my carboys. Six month and two rakings later, I was ready to bottle the wine.

The nice part here is that I got quite an encouraging result with a grape variety that has no acidity, which is supposed to be adverse to making good wines. Pearl of Csaba is a great table variety. Yet, we have quite a few wasps around here and they love the Pearl of Csaba, causing a bit of damage on the bunches. So do bees and spiders. Unless I would wrap each bunch individually, they would not look great on the table. But I made quite a bit of juice last summer, and I have to say, the grape juice from the Pearl of Csaba tastes fantastic. I would get more of that next year. With close to 150 plants of that variety, I’d rather diversify than trying to make it all into wine and end up with a mountain of bottles that I could not drink up all on my own. I also had used some of the Bacchus grapes to mix with the Pearl of Csaba to add some acidity in the must. It probably helped but the Bacchus grapes are quite sensitive to mildew and just two weeks before I could harvest they went from beautiful to all molded. So, I am not a big fan of Bacchus right now.

In the meantime, I have also started a batch of the Pinot Noir I have in the vineyard. The wine is still evolving and it will take a while before I can bottle it, but the taste and aroma are really good so far. So, I have good hopes that it will turn out as a decent wine, too.

It is great when the result is positive. It makes all the 5 o’clock in the morning work in the vineyard worth the while.


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