Minimus Wines is a science project for Chad Stock, winemaker at Johan Vineyards. The name reflects his philosophy that to produce the most pure and natural product, one must use minimal interference.
Each wine is the result of experimentation and will only be produced one time. Chad will keep track of each experiment in his journal documenting every aspect of the process including conception, implementation, vineyard site selection, and much, more more. Ultimately, his goal is to grow as a winemaker and craft a book about his winemaking experience.
More About Minimus Wines
Chad's Core Philosophy of Winemaking
Minimus: I chose to name the project Minimus because it reflects the core philosophy that guides all of my decisions during the winemaking process. That philosophy is to produce as natural and pure of a product possible. At a minimum, wine can be nothing more than fermented grape juice in a bottle, nothing added or taken away.
Concept: Minimus is a personal growth project. I consider it to be a continued education of sorts. I just want to be the best winemaker I can be. I am conducting a series of experiments designed to challenge my formal education in Enology. The resulting wines, should they survive the experiment, will be numbered in the order that they are released. Each wine will be produced only once. Eventually I might run out of ideas and I have no clue when or how it will end.
The Label/Package: The ledger image was chosen to reflect the experimental nature of the project. The large number in the upper left corner designates the order with which that wine falls in the series. I always write the bottling date in the upper right corner. The center of the label will bare the name/purpose of the experiment rather than any varietal designation. I do this because I feel that varietals are not the emphasis of the wine and are simply one component of the wine. I personally feel that there are elements to any experience that can be lost when gone into with a set of expectations. A varietal designation can create an expectation for wine based on prior experiences a person has had drinking wines from that varietal.
What I am doing is not meant to emulate a specific wine region, traditional flavor profile, or highlight varietal character. I further attempt to remove any notion of tradition by bottling my wines in the exact same bottle shape whether it is Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, or Pinot Noir. The one exception that I play with is the use of colored bees wax to seal the bottle. The color of the wax is the only indicator to what the wine might be like. I hand color the bees wax to mimic the color of the wine inside of each bottle so you know to expect a dark red wine, an orange wine, a golden colored wine, etc.
The lower left corner of the label lists the five most frequently measured and monitored chemical values important in the winemaking process. I choose to make my wines blind. By that I mean I never measure anything during the process from picking to bottling.
Just before bottling I write down what I think the numbers might be in my ledger. I then send a sample of the wine to a laboratory to get the exact numbers. I compare the difference between my guess and the actual numbers to help me calibrate my palate. I am not saying that I can develop a palate so precise it can measure concentrations. What I hope to achieve is a heightened awareness, or more likely just paranoia, during the process of making wine that will help me make decisions based on what is in front of me and how the wine tastes without outside influence.
Minimus The Future: I have been writing a journal about my results with these experiments. I am trying to capture a record of the full experience including conception, implementation, vineyard site selection, scientific method, selling of the wine, package design, social impact, financial results, planning, and some philosophical reflection. I hope some day to write a craft winemaking book about my experience.
Inspiration: #1: This experiment was done to better understand the use of Acacia wood in the winemaking process. The barrels were constructed in France from Acacia wood also sourced in France. The origin of the exact tree used to make these barrels is the United States. We refer to this tree here as Black Locust. I was inspired to experiment with this wood after becoming a fan of Austrian wines and learning that some of my favorite producers are using Acacia wood for their best wines.
The construction of the barrels came first and the selection of the grapes for the fermentation second. Because the barrels were brand new I risked the possibility of overwhelming the wine with the character of the Acacia, which is a common problem found with Oak barrels. I chose to use Viognier and Sauvignon blanc for the fermentation because they have such strong varietal expression and I thought they might be able to handle higher percentages of new wood.
I macerated the skins with the juice for 3 days prior to fermentation to increase the varietal character of the fruit even further. Fermentation occurred in barrel on full solids with no stirring. Malo-lactic fermentation was blocked to retain acid balance. The wine aged for 7 months in barrel before going to bottle. Initially I did not intend to blend the Viognier with the Sauvignon blanc. I just wanted to see more than one varietal interact with the wood. In the end the two varietals blended together made the best wine. 70 cases were produced.
#2: This experiment was done to experience the effect of a solution phenomenon called Copigmentation. In 2009 I ran into a winemaker in the Victorian Alps in Australia that was applying this phenomenon to help stabilize the color of his Nebbiolo.
Copigmentation is a scientific term used to summarize the color enhancing effect caused by the interaction of a specific set of non-colored organic compounds with colored organic compounds in certain fruits and flowers. Not all fruits and flowers contain these compounds. Grapes do have these compounds and they are what give red wine its color. The type and intensity of a wines color is largely based on the concentration and the ratio of these compounds and how they interact.
Theoretically, there is potential to enhance Copigmentation using a natural method involving the inclusion of white grape skins in a fermentation along with red grapes. The white skins can dramatically increase the availability of Copigmentation precursors and other anti-oxidants allowing an increase in color intensity and stability in the red wine produced.
There are laboratory derived additives that we are legally allowed to use in the USA to achieve a similar effect but that is not something I support. I chose to use Tempranillo for this experiment due to its low acid, high pH, and highly unstable color. The fruit grows in the same vineyard as the Viognier and Sauvignon blanc. After pressing the skins to make wine #1 I shoveled the dry skins into the fermenter containing the Tempranillo. It was not measured I just shoveled until I got nervous and then shoveled in a bit more. I could have used whole white grapes but I did not want to have a “Cote Rotie” like effect on the wine allowing the flavor of the white grapes to have a large influence on the wine. The wine was aged in twice used French oak barrels for 14 months. 48 cases bottled unfined and unfiltered.
#3 This experiment was inspired by the brewing and cider industry. I am attempting my first 100% Brettanomyces fermentation on Viognier. No I am not crazy just hear me out for a second. The idea for this experiment was inspired by Belgian Ales and a particular Basque Cider that I love. Brett for short, is a darling in the beer and cider industry yet it is considered the plague in the wine industry.
Why is that? For starters the flavor and aroma profile are not for everyone. Maybe the flavor of Brett is more properly matched to the flavors of hops, grains, or apples? A recent scientific breakthrough at UC Davis has resulted in a new aroma wheel that is based purely on the contributions of Brett and its metabolic byproducts in wine and lets just say that the results are enlightening. A
ll of this leads me to ask the question why not Brettanomyces in wine? This is not a new question. People have argued about this for many decades since its discovery. But there is a twist. Thoughtful intentional application of this infamous yeast is not the same as unintentional infection that gets out of control when unexpected and undesired. Is there no single application of Brett in the concept of wine that could create something singular, beautiful, and authentic?
I chose to use Viognier for this experiment. While drinking a Brett fermented IPA from Denmark, with pleasure, I was immediately transported to the flavors of Viognier by the flowery stone fruit laden hop aromas. The bitterness from the hops could easily be replicated using skin fermentation on the Viognier. The clove, nut meg, and honey aromas could come from the Acacia barriques I used in experiment #1. It all made sense in my mind so I decided to give it a go.
Unfortunately I cannot ferment this wine in a commercial winery for fear of contaminating the cellar if this goes horribly wrong so I am fermenting it in the woods out side of the winery. The wine at the moment is still fermenting and I am 90% sure that it will be bottled. I hope to have this wine available late summer early fall. Case production 45 cases?