RACKING

When fruit is picked for white wine, it is just the juice that is fermented. The fruit arrives at the winery and is pressed. Sometimes the stems are removed first and sometimes not. The juice that runs from the press is cloudy, full of miniscule particles of pulp. The juice is settled for between a few hours and several days, during which time the solids sink to the bottom, leaving the juice sparkling clear. This clear juice is decanted (racked) off the top, leaving the heavy lees behind.

In practice this settling and racking can be manipulated to control the amount of solids left in the juice. By shortening the settling time, or adding a calculated amount of the lighter portion of the settled lees, the winemaker can ferment a cloudy juice. Conversely, by leaving the juice to settle for days before racking, the ferment will start crystal clear.

High solids ferments result in additional layers of flavour, reminiscent of biscuits, especially oatmeal. Very high solids can give something described as a wet pebbles character and a very particular struck match aroma, or worse! This can add some great depth to all kinds of complex savoury whites. Squeaky clean juices make for far more boring fermentations, with not a Frenchman's sock or duck's guts within sniffing distance, but the pure fruit flavours just sing! Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling can work really well this way.