I check my wine each morning and evening. The tank temperature jumps ten degrees during the first two days. Too much heat will create a rapid, volatile fermentation that kills the yeasts. Fermenting faster might seem easier and thus better, but the yeasts need to go slow to carry the fruit’s natural flavors. Otherwise, bacteria, acidity and stewed notes would take over.
I lack fancy stainless steel tanks, with their jacketed walls full of computer controlled coolant. Apartment living (with central heating) is even bereft of caves or cellars. Surprising. In those darker, cooler places, temperature stays unchanged and fermentation can crawl along in a cement vat, old barrel or pithos. In their stead, I open the window to the November tundra outside and learn to wear a sweater. By day two, the yeasts settle into a steady roll at 74 degrees.
Every ten hours sees another percent of alcohol created. There is also no foaming, which follows the traits of the Côte de Blancs yeast. Yet taste tests are still overwhelmed by sweetness, caramel apple and honey notes. Far from the finish, I keep stirring…
Six days pass and half the sugar has fermented. As we near six percent alcohol, the rate of change starts to slow. The yeasts are finding less sugar to enjoy and alcohol is making their world unpleasant. The temperature has dropped a few degrees as well.
Anxiety sets in again. I have to taste it.