2012 Harvest Bulletin 7: Big Improvement In Cabernet Sauvignon This Week
October 27th - Winemakers figure it out: 2012 is splendid for wine quality if one modified ones best practices for extracting quality from turgid grapes.
Doug McKesson and Leo McCloskey
Now we know how to make 2012 wine—harvest in October and pay attention to 2005. 2012 is splendid for wine quality for anyone that modified their own best practices.
Best practices are born in great vintages like 2007 and 2008. Problem is these practices did not work in 2012 in Napa Valley. Weather wise this was a cool season. Heat summations are similar to 2005. Later winemakers experienced a 30% drop in 90-point scores in Napa Valley. Elsewhere—Santa Cruz to Sonoma—results were poor. Why?
Now we know wines made in September were low in quality. Turgid grapes were difficult to extract through Fall Equinox—September 22nd. This is what happened in 2005. We recommended a pause in harvesting until October 7th, until we could craft changes to the standard fermentation practices.
With a little luck and a lot of hard work by winemakers, the ingredients of quality proved to be grapes harvested after October 7th and our modifications to the "best fermentation practices," which remain the secret of our customers.
Today, Late Maturing Grape Group (LMGG) quality at drain down is as high as 2007. How high? This week average Enologix Index for Cabernet Sauvignon at pressing was 0.40 with 100% Tannin and 87% Complex Anthocyanin extraction. However, other Bordeaux varietals, namely Merlot and Malbec, are much more difficult to extract through October 26th (Table 1).
Table 1. 2012 Wine Extraction by Varietal
Wine Extraction (of Grapes over 24 Brix)
As winemakers, we need to know whether this 2012 season will be highly rated by the Wine Spectator. To many, thinking about the Cabernet Sauvignon issue, November 15th 2015, may seem outlandish. That’s exactly what we are doing here at Enologix between Thanksgiving and Christmas when we calculate the Q-10 Index for 2012 (more discussion about the Q-10 Index in our November 1st Post Harvest Bulletin.)
In the meantime, If you haven't seen your quality improve at pressing, then now is the time to make a drastic change in your processing. Here’s our advice to winemakers that want high scores in 2012. Put all your energy into extracting as much quality as early in the fermentation as possible to make the highest quality wine. Wines that are beautiful and balanced and genuine in the bottle, must have an Aging Index above 0.80 in addition to a high Enologix Index at pressing. You will need to use every tool in 2012. Contact Enologix for more details.
Merlot Winemaking Performance Today Winemakers solved the Merlot conundrum. Winemakers found and replicated the right fermentation practice. "Merlot dextracted 100% Tannin and 75% Complex Anthocyanin. for the scond week in a row" says Doug McKesson of Enologix. Merlot is by far the most difficult Bordeaux variety to extract. "In 2012 successful wines were made by aggressively managing fermentations down to zero brix."
Table 2. 2012 Merlot Winemaking Performance
Macerations - All
Macerations ≤ 13° Brix
Extraction (Grapes ≥24° Brix)
Extraction (Grapes ≥24° Brix)
Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Petit Verdot Performance The highest quality Bordeaux varietals will be drained this coming week. Winemakers have finally been able to establish their modified fermentation protocols and are producing high wine quality. Cabernet Sauvignon wines improved - extracting 100% Tannin and 88% Complex Anthocyanin for the season. The regions not requiring modified fermentations are Alexander Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains and portions of eastern Napa Valley hillsides. All other regions are requiring multiple modifications to standard practices.