Our Problem Child

Sigh… everyone has one, right? Whether it’s one of your animals, that car that is always in the shop, or an actual child, everyone has their version of a “problem child.” It’s something you love, yet you might just pull your hair out over it.

Moscato is our current problem child (which considering we have a 3 and a 5 year old, I’ll take it!). Over the summer the raccoons just loved our moscato grapes, chowing down every night, easily eating hundreds of pounds of grapes. To put it in perspective, one hundred pounds of grapes would make about forty bottles of wine. Plus, the raccoons damaged other grapes allowing bacteria to grow in some of the clusters. Then the weather started getting cloudy and it was raining a lot, causing the grapes to stall in ripening. Which in turn, had us making the call to pick earlier than I would have liked. But with four more days of rain in the forecast, sour rot in some of the clusters, raccoons too big for our traps, it seemed like the right move. 

We picked and went to press, a press we had only used one other time with a very small amount of grapes. We also used our pump for the first time to move the juice. It was disastrous! The juice was so oxidized it was brown; we didn’t use a screen in our press, so the juice was chunky too. I made some additions, tannin for the oxidation and bentonite to help settle things down. Racked the next day and did it all over again. By day four the juice wasn’t much cleaner and smelled like bruised apple (not a good sign) and nail polish remover, neither are the aromas Moscato is supposed to have (green apple, pineapple, straw). Added yeast, said a prayer and started fermentation. I still remember the wine was stinky until the last couple days of fermentation. Finally it smelled like Moscato! I was even more excited that after racking off the gross lees (dead yeast, some grape matter) and settling out in the cold for a couple weeks, when I put it through the filter it was crystal clear, so aromatic and delicious! Of our 2022 vintage the Moscato was the wine I was most proud of considering where it started.

We bottled, and yet again, had equipment issues. We debated on what to do and I made the call to go ahead with bottling, even though we would not be able to sterile filter day of bottling. I’ll admit my pride in making this call, thinking the wine was clean enough and my bottling line sterile enough that it wouldn’t be a problem. Finished bottling, got labels put on and two weeks later noticed a slight haze in the bottle. Double checked my lab results that yes, the wine was heat stable (most common cause of haze in wine) and cold stable, so that left… I opened a bottle, poured a glass and was rewarded with bubbles. Which had I planned for, would have been perfect! But, since I didn’t plan on it, the bottles are not the right type of bottle to withstand the pressure of a secondary fermentation. I did some testing, figured there wasn’t a lot of yeast since the haze was so minimal and so were the bubbles, that maybe I could get away with it. That just maybe there wouldn’t be enough pressure to push corks out. 

As you can see in the picture, that maybe didn’t pan out the way I hoped. So starting this week we’ll be unbottling, refiltering and rebottling. We’ll learn from our mistakes, double check all our equipment before bottling and be more diligent while bottling. By the time we’re done, we’ll have a different wine in bottle.

The ironic part is that I’ve always wanted to make a bubbly Moscato, just would have rather I’d planned on it. Maybe next year we’ll find a way to do a bubbly Moscato on purpose and hopefully the Moscato will have grown out of its problems and be willing to cooperate by then.