Cold stabilization: refuge of the weak-willed winemaker. Simply chill the wine to near freezing temperatures for a few weeks. It should sink haze and lower tartaric acid and potassium, which means better stability along the bottle’s journey to the shelf. Sounds great.
But most winemakers cold stabilize because people freak out. When they find those glassy crystals in the bottom of a bottle or cork they return it. But they will not kill you. Just decant it or slow your pour. The potassium bitartrate salt is the same stuff you ice gingerbread houses or make whipping cream with: cream of tartar. It just precipitates when the bottle gets too cold during shipping. Cold stabilizing precludes this change by mimicking it beforehand in the cellar. As crystals, the tartrates and potassium can be racked or filtered away. Easy.
I want to try it and understand what happens. However, I don’t have a dual-walled, stainless steel tank with adjustable coolant at my computer’s fingertips. I have something cheaper: my brains.
That’s right: with window ajar to winter-y elements, I have plunged my glass carboy into the ferment tank, which is filled with ice and water. Its plastic thermometer starts diving from the sixties into the forties. Not cold enough but better.
One unforeseeable flaw to my genius: ice melts. The days see me waking to squash my face against the tank, suck water and add more ice. Not glamorous, and no, you don’t get a photo or video of that.
As the days crawl, I wonder, why do this?
Most winemakers cold stabilize because it fulfills fashion’s need for clear, stable wines with less acidity. It also removes some risks of losing product to the vagaries of international transport.
However, if we actually care about terrior and expressing a vintage and place, then removing the natural tartaric acid is a lie. Softening that edge dulls the wine’s native character. Yet that style sells.
Whatever, I just want to see if this is all talk by people who never make wine.
A week of fashionable sucking and ice-adding goes by. I am fairly confident that none of this is working. The outdoor temperature is dropping into the twenties. Time to sell out for real…