Playing with vodka is always fun. We all know this. But in my line of work, I actually get to expense it. Awesome, I agree.
You can run sample trials of whether a company selling corks is likely to sell many corks tainted with TCA or only a few corks tainted with TCA, by steeping many corks in vodka and see which batches give you the best results. Vodka has that magic 40% alcohol that is optimal for extracting flavors and is a neutral spirit. Compounds that will eventually be extracted by our grapes or our wine in a much slower fashion will shine through quicker in these trials and can be tossed when results are less than stellar.
So I was excited to learn a new trick, Napa sourced, whereby you steep your grape stems in vodka for a couple of days prior to harvest to see if you are going to get bitter or mature tannins off of them and if you should, therefore, add stems back to the fermentor or try to keep the must as clean as possible.
Here’s where I went right: I bought cheap yet unflavored vodka. Not always easy to do.
Here’s where I went wrong: I did not wash all of the grape juice/pulverized skins totally off of the stems and I did not dilute the final vodka prior to trying it.
The result was, as you’ve already guessed, totally gross vodka.
All grape matter needs to be washed off first. Grape juice blends in with the vodka whereas stem tannins need to be extracted. The former happens much faster than the latter.
And if you do not dilute the vodka prior to taste trials, it is next to impossible to taste through the 40 proof just to get your conceptual understanding of tannin results. It’s intense and terrible.
There’s always next year.
Have a great weekend, Ashley