Now is the time when the wine harvested in October has both fermented and also gone through the malolactic fermentation. The latter is not a fermentation, but is the process which softens the red wine by transforming malic acid to lactic acid. The result tastes less harsh to our palates and is a typical process for most red wines and sometimes white wine and takes about a month or so.
Our red wines are resting with us for another 2 years, aging and getting more flavorful all the time. There are plenty of barrels this time of the year in the cellar. The new barrels from 2019 are resting next to the 2018 vintage and the 2017 vintage, soon to be bottled.
Every month we say hello to each barrel, tasting and testing the vital characteristics of the wine. We top up the barrels which means that we fill up the empty space caused by evaporation during the month. Those air pockets create too much air contact for the wine.
Every 6 months we do something called racking. This is a process which clarifies the wine. We remove the wine gently, pumping it out of the barrel, leaving half an inch or so of sediment at the bottom. We turn the barrels to empty out the "slush" and then use 180F hot water cleaning out the inside of the barrels.Then the wine is carefully hosed back into the barrels. . This will clean the wine from particles, e.g. dead yeast cells, grape solids, tartrates etc.. Racking each wine 4 times over the course of two years works just as well as filtering but leaves more flavors in the wine. You can say we use gravity as a filtering system by letting particles fall to the bottom over months and then cleaning them out. This allows us to minimize filtering and keeps the flavors. Since you need a lot of time in this process it is best used for wines which have a long aging process.
I hope you come and visit in March when we open up a barrel or two for pre-bottling tasting. Then you can compare with the finished wines and see what happens in the life of a wine.