Hijinks on Hold

Having checked (and double checked) that all of the wine is now completely dry, we spent some time storing it away so it’s ready to start the period of ageing before we bottle it. And it is just as well that the fermentations are absolutely complete, as the weather has turned noticeably cooler. Which, if we are being honest, is what is supposed to happen in England. If you are fortunate enough to share our little island, you will have no doubt noticed the icy roads, people wearing hats and coats and the fact that it’s the end of November. You may well also have noted that it tends to get cold at approximately this time every year. And as if to confirm that we stand at the precipice of winter, all television weather people are pretending that this is a huge surprise, before reminding you not to do rally driving on ice or go around wearing sandals and a beach towel.

If you weren’t with us last week, the fermentations have a nasty habit of stopping if the ambient temperature drops too low and, while we are able to negate the damaging effects of a fermentation that is too warm by moving the wine to smaller tanks, warming it up is a little more tricky. Until we buy a heat exchanger. At that point it will just be a case of putting diesel in the generator and switching it on and telling it what temperature you want your wine to be and watching the perfectly controlled fermentations go through in record time, while recalling the fun that we have had doing this in the past and wondering why we didn’t do it sooner. As an added bonus, the cold weather is doing a wonderful job of cold stabilising the wine nice and early this year.

Cold stabilising the wine was another consideration for us when we were delaying the purchase of our heat exchanger, because wine has this nasty habit of forming and depositing little tartrate crystals on the bottom of its container when it gets really cold. If this happens in the winery, all well and good (you can force this to happen with a heat exchanger), you remove the wine from the tank and leave the crystals behind. The crystals are usually welded to the side of the tank so fiercely that it takes a pressure washer and a mug (that’d be me then) to climb into the tank to blast them off. But the important thing is that the wine is no longer capable of producing more of them, so we may refer to it as cold stable.

Tartrate crystals are clear – so are almost invisible in wine – and have no detrimental impact on the quality of it, but they also look a bit like glass in white wine to the uninitiated. And oddly enough, people tend to stop drinking wine that they suspect has glass in it and start shaking their fists and instigating legal action, so it’s best to make sure that there aren’t any in the wine. And this year this has all happened and the tanks are clean before Christmas! So I can get on with looking forward to Christmas, fawning over John Lewis adverts and trying to work out what Black Friday is.

I promised you hilarious renewable energy related hijinks and to meticulously document the sequence of events that will inevitably lead to Lucy kicking me out and my moving into our in no way roadworthy Toyota Hilux; but I have failed. Which is to say that the company I bought it from failed to deliver it. Because they had no record of our order, other than the largish lump of cash that we had beamed into their bank account. Now, in a sensible and grown up person this would have started a stream of consciousness that ended with “This seems like a useless company, I shall not buy anything from them”. Unfortunately, when it comes to renewable energy, I immediately turn into an excited child as we are so enthusiastic about it. This is not because I secretly wish to have hair, so that I may go about wearing it in unspeakably filthy dreadlocks and perform injudicious raids on oil platforms, it’s because there is something magical about it.

From the first time that we plugged a tiny little solar panel into the battery that was running the electric fence, and saw on the multimeter that there was power topping that battery up, from nowhere, I was well and truly hooked. Consigning me to a lifetime of watching wind turbines periodically smash themselves to atoms and Lucy to a lifetime of disapproving looks every time that she turns her hair drier on. Which reminds me, we also bought some house batteries this week that should be arriving any time, which should even be able to run Lucy’s hair iron things. More on this next week.

I digress. The wind turbine eventually arrived yesterday missing two vital parts. One to hold it on the top of the scaffolding pole that passes for a tower and a box full of electrical tomfoolery to turn its special brand of power into something that the batteries can use. What is quickly turning into our least favourite company have promised to send along the missing parts next week; so presumably we will be hijinking then.

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