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Target Alcohol?

Target Alcohol?

by Tim Elliott on September 11, 2007

The next question to deal with for our community-generated Roussanne is target and maximum alcohol. This one is somewhat linked to how ripe the grapes are when harvested and which yeast we will use to transform the juice into wine. But we can always “water back” very ripe juice to lower the alcohol if required (not my first choice).

Alcohol gives the wine body and weight on the palate but too much can produce off odors and a “hot” finish. Too low and the wine is thin and watery. The range Crushpad has is between 13-15.5+%. Shall we shoot for 14% but limit to 14.5%, or perhaps aim a bit lower?

  • The evils of “progress” – such efficient yeasts we have to start talking about watering down the wine (horrible idea)

    Overly alcoholic wines, especially with an aromatic profile of herbs and peaches always ends up filrting with acetone notes to me, a fault that has put me off other rhone whites in the past.

    The important thing is to get good ripeness in the grapes (I assume that is a given) and not to mess with it too much. Do you have a choice of yeasts?

    I agree that the lower alcohol levels are more attractive, but would you actually manipulate it to lower them?

    Of course it is a related issue with other factors. One in particular comes to mind. Oak. I’m sure we’ll discuss this further later, but my inclination would be not to oak (it’ll get just too funky) and therefore a slightly higher alcohol to add the body would be good. Just a thought

  • Tim

    Robert: Yes, we will cover yeasts in just a few days… Crushpad has several to choose from and we could also see about native yeasts, too.

    I agree that watering back is a bad idea but it does give us some control over the final alcohol should the grapes be super ripe. We might also be able to harvest the grapes at a lower sugar level, too; we should have the first reading on this later this week.

    Regarding oak: I agree with you sentiment but think we should barrel ferment in mostly neutral oak as the winemakers I have spoken with say Roussanne takes well to barrel reduction. But, as with all the decisions here, we’ll make them together.


  • Radius

    If the Roussannes I’ve had in the past are any indication (I’ve only had, like, 3) 14-14.5% seems to give ample bigness. I could see the acetone problems that Robert is talking about if there’s too much alcohol.

    From what I’ve heard from Crushpad, though, aren’t they thinking that ripeness this year will be like 2 brix higher than the past couple years?

    I wouldn’t be super-against watering down if necessary.

  • Tim

    I’m not sure if the ripeness is the same down in Santa Ynez this year. We’ll know soon enough to harvest earlier, if necessary.

    I’m leaning to a target ABV of 13% with an upper limit of 14% after posting notes on a Rhone blend for WBW 37.

  • DancingDavidE

    14% seems like a reasonable upper limit. I haven’t made a Roussanne trip to Binny’s or Sam’s yet, but 13% to 14% seem to fit well.

  • Michael Brill

    Just a quick note on Roussanne… the sucker ripens late. Last year, Westerly Roussanne was harvested the second week of November. The Roussanne we get from Saralee’s Vineyard in Russian River has never been > 22 brix.

    Also, for the most part, whites tend not to need to go as far as reds as seed/skin maturity isn’t a big issue and flavors are typically there

  • Roussanne, like Viognier, needs to reach higher sugar levels before it achieves those rich and opulent aromas. So, it tends to be a hotter wine. The trick is, if you push it too far, it get flabby. As these white Rhone varieteis are still relaively new in the Central Coast, growers taking them on are still trying to get the hang of the grape. Perhaps a different approch to growing (less aggressive canopy management, for example) might allow for the acidity to persist and keep this wine tasting the ways it should.

    You’re in luck with 2007 as it is a very good year so far and should allow your Roussanne to show its best.

    Good luck!

  • Tim

    Thanks for your feedback, Arthur. I think this will be a very interesting wine from a number of perspectives. We’ll probably just make 13.5 or 14% from what Michael is saying about the sugar levels of this variety. We should know more later this week when the first sugar readings come in from the vineyard.

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