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British Columbia Wine studio…

2015 April 15
by Zac Brown


First it was Arsenic now it is Cooties in the wine.

2015 April 1
by Gene Fiorot

Oh My God this is really getting serious…

Possible Red Wine Making Additives and Their Uses

2015 March 22
by Gene Fiorot
 By Dave Coleman


I was reading this post,Another Take the Challenge Test and some of Zac’s comments struck me. Zac mentioned some very specific additives with which I was very unfamiliar. This got me wondering about what the additives do, why Lallemand/Scott Labs created them, and how they can better serve me going forward. I did a bit of research and created a psuedo-timeline for the red wine additives in the post below. These additives will serve as tools in my toolbox in case I need to do some tinkering.

If this post serves no other purpose, it will at least be a good reference spot to get to information, technical data sheets, and handout sheets for the products listed.

Here we go!

Possible Additions at Crush

Lallzyme-EX is a Lallemand product which is an enzyme preparation of pectinase, hemi-cellulase, and cellulase secondaries used for maceration and skin contact. Added at a rate of 0.8 grams/gallon to 0.11 grams/gallon of must Lallzyme-EX can:
1. improve the stabilization of color
2. improve the stabilization of tannin
3. improve the release of less astringent skin tannins
4. limit the release of “green” and “vegetal” off-flavor C6 compounds
Reference –

Oak Chips/Oak Beans/Oak Powder are manufactured by multiple companies, but I obtained this information through StaVin. Added at a rate of 2 to 8lbs per ton of grapes (4.5 grams/gallon to 18 grams/gallon assuming 180 gallons per ton of grapes), adding oak at crush can:
1. stabilize anthocyanin (stabilize color) through reactive oak compounds created during the toasting process.
2. reactive oak compounds bind with polyphenolic tannins enhancing the mid-palate of wine for greater mouthfeel.
3. decrease “green” and “vegetal” flavors in wine when combined with macro aeration techniques. StaVin recommends using the high end of the dosing rate in order to deal with “green” and “vegetal” flavors.
Reference -
Reference –
Reference –

Possible Additions When Cap Forms

Fermaid K, Fermaid-O, and DAP are yeast nutrients.
Fermaid K is a blended complex yeast nutrient that provides ammonia salts (DAP), organic nitrogen from SIYs, sterols, unsaturated faty acids, and key nutrients. Fermaid K added at 25 grams/hL (.95grams/gallon) can:
1. provide unsaturated fatty acids and sterols needed to maintain yeast alcohol tolerance and permease activity, which keeps VA low.
2. provide nitrogen, which is needed for protein synthesis and cellular growth and utilized easier than just nitrogen from DAP.
3. absorb short and medium fatty acid chains (which are toxic to yeast) as well as provide yeast nucleation sites to keep yeast in suspension.
Reference -
Reference –

Fermaid O is a certified organic yeast nutrient comprised of autolyzed yeast and organic nitrogen. Added at the rate of 40 grams/hL (1.5 grams/gallon) Fermaid O can:
1. provide efficient level of organic nitrogen (compared to Fermaid K and DAP).
2. produces consistently lower levels of negative sulfur compounds (compared to DAP).
3. help achieve steady fermentation kinetics.
4. supply critical nutrients and survival factors to keep yeast unstressed.
Reference -

DAP is an inorganic source of ammonia salts. DAP is 21.2% ammonia nitrogen, so 100ppm DAP (100g/hectoLiter) provides 21ppm of nitrogen. DAP added at 45grams per hL (1.7grams/gallon) can:
1. provide adequate levels of assimilable nitrogen.
2. increase fermentation temperature and fermentation kinetics.
3. increase must YAN concentration to 94.5 milligrams per Liter.
Reference -
Reference –

Tannin FT Rouge is a Scott Labs product, which they consider a fermentation tannin, hence, “FT”. Tannin FT Rouge is derived from exotic woods and chestnuts. It is typically added at a rate of .75 grams/gallon to 1.9 grams/gallon, but typically 1.3 grams/gallon. Scott Labs claims that Tannin FT Rouge can:
1. help preserve natural grape tannins, which in turn, lets the natural grape tannin bind with anthocyanin to optimize color stability.
2. increase mouthfeel.
3. increase anti-oxidative qualities which inhibit oxidizing enzymes such as laccase. claims that Tannin FT Rouge can increase overall complexity and decrease “green” and “vegetal” off-flavors, but there is no supporting evidence for that claim in the Scott Lab product listing.
Reference –

Noblesse is a Lallemand product, which they call a fermentation activator. Lallemand suggests using in conjunction with Lallzyme EX for best results. Noblesse is an Specially Inactivated Yeast (SIY) and, when added at the rate 1.1 gram per gallon can:
1. limit the release and risk of sulfur off-odors
2. optimize the length of MLF (assuming make it “shorter”, what else would optimize mean?)
3. increase perception of ripe fruit and overall structure
4. increase “round” and “soft” mouthfeel in red wines through an aromatic compound and yeast macromolecule interaction.
5. decrease “green” or “vegetal” off-flavors
6. limit “ethereal”, “chemical”, and “burning sensations” especially in botrytized grapes.
7. display a sensory synergy with ICV D254 and IVC D80 (what the fuck does that mean? I assume it enhances D254 and D80 yeast characteristics? It’s just as bad as “enhances varietal characteristics”)
QUESTION: Lallemand calls the product a “fermentation activator”, but the ICV analysis they performed refers to a late-addition of Noblesse. Why no early Noblesse addition data? Anyone have any data to support this additive as an “early” additive?
Reference –

Opti-Red is a Lallemand product, which they call a unique natural yeast preparation. Opti-Red is an SIY that has undergone refining processes to obtain a high level of polyphenol-reactive cell-wall polysaccharides. Added at the rate of 0.5lbs per ton (roughly 1 to 1.2 gram per gallon) can:
1. have a positive impact on wine by bringing more “roundness” to wine through a tannin-polysaccharide complexing (mostly mannoprotein complexing) during maceration and fermentation.
2. protect precipitation of high molecular weight polyphenol colloids, which in turn leads to less color loss in high polysaccharide wines.
3. provide a small amount of yeast nutrition to fermenting must/wine.
Reference -

Possible Additions at the End of Fermentation

Booster Rouge is a Lallemand product, which they consider a “late-addition yeast nutrient”, and, when added at the rate of 30 grams/hectoliter (1.1 grams/gallon) can:
1. lead to a lower production of sulfur based compounds
2. optimize the length of MLF (again, optimize = shorter?)
3. lead to greater perception of intense volume in the initial mouthfeel due to perceived tannin intensity in red wines.
4. Increase the impression of fruit and freshness, thereby limiting “ethereal”, “chemical”, “burning” sensation especially in botrytized grapes.
5. Stabilize color extraction of botrytized grapes.
Reference -

There you have it. I know there are variations among the additives I’ve listed and many more red wine making additives in general, but as far as a “basic tool kit” goes, these are the one you should have on hand. I’m not trying to spark a “should I or shouldn’t I use XYZ debate”. If you want to debate, don’t let me stop you. I’m just trying to list out some information and reference material in a logical way that people will have easy access to.


O2 Exactly how much do yeast need? Can we settle this once and for all?

2015 March 7

This topic comes up all the time and it never seems quite resolved.   In fact there seems to be at least 2 schools of thought on the subject.  Recently someone wrote this on a forum..

“Yeast is a living organism that requires oxygen to reproduce, and develop in a proper healthy manner. Yeast ferments aerobically in which it develops, then anaerobically at which point it produces alcohol. When snapping the cover down and affixing an airlock at the outset of fermentation the Oxygen is very rapidly driven out of the fermentation vessel. forcing the yeast to develop Aerobically immediately. As a result the yeast develops poorly both in capacity and volume. The fermentation then is being done by yeasties that are inadequate in numbers and poorly formed. The result is wine that is lacking.
You may very well have made wine that is satisfactory for your taste. However, by doing so in the manner you described you may never drink a wine that has achieved it’s full potential. And very well could be facilitating fermentation with yeast in various degrees of stress that could contribute to off flavors in an otherwise great wine.”

Another poster on face book claimed the cure for  H2S was to use a sock instead of an Air Lock.

So let’s start with a few questions.   First how long is the period where the yeast are in the aerobic stage?   Now if we look at red wine production there really is no end to yeast being exposed to oxygen.  Fermenting on the skins and punching down for days introduces plenty of O2.  So as far as making Red wine on the skins this entire subject really does not apply.   But what about juice or White wines.   Now I know from experience they are usually fermented in sealed containers.  Other than O2 that may be dissolved in the juice and the O2 that is present building the yeast culture there is not a lot of opportunity for O2 to enter the fermentation.   So was the O2 during culture building adequate to provide the oxygen needed.  Or is this whole Oxygen thing a bunch of crap.

I know from seeing with my own eyes 1000 gallon tanks of Chardonnay fermenting in tanks with a single plastic bubble airlock.  Am I to accept that this commercial operation, as the poster says, is contributing to off flavors and not making great wine?  So is the Poster correct when he says you have to keep the lid loose on a juice bucket?   I guess you can figure out where I come down on this.

Your thoughts….

You know you have to have one

The Marty Yule Airlock  You know you have to have one

Click here to see  Airlock the Movie IMG_0436

“Rapid Method for Estimating Fermentable Nitrogen in Juice, Wine or Vinegar”.

2015 February 20
by Gene Fiorot

Submitted by Dave Coleman

This upcoming May will be my first time making wine from fresh grapes. I’ve done Brehm Vineyards frozen batches and crafted some very nice wines, but I’m finally stepping into the “big leagues” so-to-speak with my first batch of fresh grapes. I have 180 lbs of Chilean Malbec and 180 lbs of Chilean Merlot on order from the local produce supplier (which, as a brief aside, I’m glad to hear sources some of the same vineyards as M&M).  I know that from reading some posts on WestchesterWineMakers, many of the Chilean sourced grapes suffer from low YAN and H2S can be a problem in some musts.
So, I brought this concern up with my local produce supplier and he pointed me to a “Rapid Method for Estimating Fermentable Nitrogen in Juice, Wine or Vinegar”. (link here: ) This “rapid method” is, in simple terms, a formal (formaldehyde) titration to determine FAN (α-amino acids and ammonia) available to yeast during fermentation.
The aforementioned method used to determine FAN was documented in a 2002 Virginia Tech Technical Brief by Gump, Zoecklein, Fugelsang, and Whiton titled, “Comparison of Analytical Methods for Prediction of Prefermentation Nutritional Status of Grape Juice”. (link here: It’s been years since reading technical briefs during undergrad, but this one is relatively easy to understand and suggests that this formaldehyde titration is a pretty decent option in determining FAN.  It’s important to note that this method will give an approximation of the FAN available, not the exact concentration that would be provided by High Performance Liquid Chromatograph (HPLC) analysis.  The longer paper titled, “Prediction of Prefermentation Nutritional Status of Grape Juice – The Formal Method” by Gump, Zoecklein, and Fugelsang can be found here:  I think the longer paper was easier to understand, but it did take some time to get through.
Since I don’t have a HPLC in the basement, or access to one, I thought that this formaldehyde titration would be a good option to roughly estimate nitrogen availability in order to more closely tailor Fermaid-K and Fermaid-O additions during fermentation for these low-YAN Chilean grapes.  I’ve sourced some 37% formaldehyde reagent at Presque Isle Wine Supply (link here:  There are some safety concerns with formaldehyde as it is a a bronchial irritant like potassium metabisulfite solution and carcinogenic agent which needs to be used in a well ventilated area or under a vacuum hood.  Other than that, all of the other items needed to perform the titration should be very easy to acquire or, already on hand (i.e. pH meter, graduated cylinders, pipets, volumetric flasks, etc.)
I do have some questions related to this titration:
  1. Has anyone else performed this analysis? If so, how accurate was it for your personally?  Any problems with your nutrient additions/H2S/etc.?
  2. What do you do personally to identify FAN/YAN concentrations in must if you don’t have “concrete” YAN numbers?
Hope to get a bit of discussion going to determine how others deal with unknown FAN/YAN concentration levels in must.

Cold Stabilization The latest Conundrum

2015 February 6

A lot has been written about Cold Stabilization.  In fact a search here will bring you a bunch of things to read.  If you have been reading lately you would know the fellows there have their panties in a bunch yet once again.   This comes as no surprise after reading months of tortuous posts on Malo-lactic Fermentation.  Now that the MLF season is over for most, it is only expected Cold Stabilization would be the next conundrum for the forum.   So I leave the discussion up to you.   I will start by saying Cold Stabilization is very useful and sometimes necessary.  So what do YOU tell the newbie?       Let the games begin……

A Tale of Two Cities Winepress.Us and

2015 January 30

If you have been paying attention to the leading Winemaking Forums (cough….)  You should have noticed they have entered in an parallel universe. That is the original poster on a topic posts the same exact post on the other forum.  I suppose you could think that is laudable for a person to exhaust all avenues in their mission to gain knowledge on a subject.  But it does give one a perfect opportunity to compare the responses from the two forums.   So with interest I am following each posting.   Already confusion has built around extended maceration on Evidently they have not heard of this practice.   There have been no moderators in sight so far so there is no telling where the conversation will end up.   Here are the links kiddies .   Have fun and feel free to comment here   LOL!

Another Take the Challenge test

2015 January 21
by Gene Fiorot

Yes I know it is cold in the Northeast and many of you are trying your best to keep yourself warm. Well nothing is better than reading posts and waiting with baited breath for the responses.   Here is what is a concerned experienced winemaker asks the “experts”….

“The general question first: what are a couple of improvements in my process that could make the wine better?
Been making wine from grapes for the last 15 years, on an off. Over the last 5-6 years have been doing it yearly. My goal is to produce red wine on par with the California wines that retail in the$15-$20/bottle range. My varietals of choice are Cabs and Merlots. I am falling short of that goal and am seeking some insight from people that have achieved that, or have come close.
My wines, while drinkable, seem to be ‘thin’ (lacking some body), lack a little color depth, and taste ‘home made’…lack the smoothness for lack of a better word. On the positive side, the wines are clear and have a reasonable bouquet. Below are the steps I follow – I am looking for some suggestions that would have the biggest positive impact on my results.
Get Cab, Melot, and Carignane grapes ordered from California (Pia brand) – I have tried batches of 100% Melot, Cab, and 50/50 of Melot/Carignane and Cab/Carignane over the years.

Grapes are inspected for mold, raisins. Only the good grapes are washed well in tubs and then drained.
Grapes then go into crusher & destemer. Any remaining stems are hand removed.

Juice is then checked for BRIX and acidity. Historically, the natural BRIX content yields 11-12% alcohol without adding any sugar…I’ve never added any sugar. Total acidity is checked by titration and usually falls in the range of 55-65%. On few occasions if the reading was extreme end, I’d correct to try to hit 60% TA. I’ve used ‘Acid Blend’ for correction.

Pitch the yeast (Lalvin RC212) and fermentation follows normal cycle, with fermentation complete in 5-6 days with hydrometer reading between 0.985 and 1.0. Fermentation is done in my garage and ranges in temps from 55-58 during the night to 65-70 during the day. Temp of must gets warm with fermentation – haven’t monitored it. Cap is pressed down and must is aerated (stired) a couple of times a day (morning, evening).

For convenience reasons, the pressing always occurs 7 days after the crushing, e.g. Sat to Sat or Sunday to Sunday. (as an aside, I make 2nd wine but those results are not considered here)

The juice from the pressing is stored in 5 gal glass carboys, filled to top, and fitted with airlock, stored in basement where temp is a fairly constant 65 -68 degrees F, for approximately 13-15 weeks. The wine is then racked into another carboy and sits in same basement for approximately 15 weeks during which I option to add American oak, French oak, or no oak chips – leaving them in for 4-6 weeks, depending on sampling for flavor.
After the 15 week sitting, I either rack into bottles and cork, or I’ve racked into another carboy, let it sit for 2-3 months, then bottle.

All of my equipment is scrubbed & cleaned with Bbrite, and rinsed with a sanitizer (StarSan ). I am anal about cleanliness. Because my spouse is sensitive to sulfites, I don’t use Sodium Metabisulfite or Potassium Metabisulfite duringor after the process.
So, anyone see any areas for improvement? E.g. the silver bullet?

I will not add any comments of my own while I watch and see what develops.  But rest assured his problems are very obvious.  Of course upon writing this the Resident Hoser  John T has already added the following..

1 – do not wash your grapes. This just adds water to the resulting juice and thins out the sugar and acid levels. No doubt 1 reason that your wine is thin.
2 – add an additional racking at 1-2 weeks past your putting the juice into carboys.
3 – go with larger size oak (cubes or beans).

So let me get this right JohnT     an additional racking along with larger Oak ? will create more body and make a 20 dollar bottle.  I can’t wait to read more nonsense….follow along fellows the fun is just beginning….

The Malolactic Conundrum What about Merlot?

2015 January 17


Getting Malolactic Fermentation done is the perennial problem that plagues readers of   It is feared more than H2S or Stuck Fermentation. Winemakers there are so frightened they consider on a regular basis to consider seriously not even attempting to do it.   Nevertheless this may come as a surprise to some there are occasions when Malolactic Fermentation alludes even the most experienced amongst us.

But before we get to that we have to address a few things first.   Bad information is bad for any endeavor one enters into. regularly provides a plethora of bad information.  And worse is the so called expert analysis by ill equipped moderators and inflated ego regular contributors.   The subject of Malolactic Fermentation is no stranger to this assault on common sense and sound experience.   It is too bad lacks both.

So in the interest of providing some information to help out those wrestling with MLF let’s start here.   First you start with a proven culture of bacteria.  One that has excellent working parameters.  You avoid cheap alternatives and you make sure the culture arrives fresh and frozen.  Yes you pay for this and it is not something you can ignore.  Then you have to look at your wine’s parameters.   Here is where you get most of the bad advice.  Just consult the manufacturers  spec sheet and compare with your wine’s numbers.  To be clear your ABV is not a problem if you started at 26 brix and are using VP41.  Neither is your PH a problem if your PH is higher than 3.2.   Now that this is settled let’s move on.

Yes you need a nutrient or two.   Acti Ml to rehydrate and Opti Malo for the wine.  That settles that.   Let’s move on the temperature.   Yes you need 72 degrees if you get your panties in a bunch and have the patience of a middle school female.  You can go to 67 even lower but if you do that please don’t post on WMT all those stupid posts about your incomplete MLF.  OK?

After having done all of this then you can choose the method in which you want to test for your MLF completion.   Vinemetrica SC50, Accuvin Malic test strips, or Paper Chromatography. Take your pick none will give you an orgasm by themselves.  Combined I’m not so sure.  Even though IBglowin gets one all the time.  It must be the paper Chromatography developing solution.

But like so many things in life, if you follow the above paragraphs to obtain a successful MLF there are exceptions to the rule as demonstrated by a poster on WMT who wrote….

“I made five batches of wine from California grapes: Cab Sav, Cab Franc, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot. After alcoholic fermentation was complete I started MLF on each batch using Viniflora Oenos with OptiMalo Plus and they all started nicely. Several weeks later both the Cab Franc and the Merlot got stuck, so I tried to restart with Lalvin VP-41. As I was concerned about providing too many nutrients for the nasties to snack on, I didn’t add any additional nutrient. Neither batch restarted successfully, so I tried again with VP-41 and OptiMalo Plus. This approach was successful for the Cab Franc, but still no luck with the Merlot.

I think the problem with the Merlot is the ABV as the initial Brix was 25.9 and I didn’t dilute the must. Is it too late to add acidulated water? Would it be a good idea to blend it with the Cab Franc (21.1 Brix) as I am planning on blending eventually? The pH of the Merlot is 3.52 and the ambient temperature is 72 degrees.”

As you can see our perplexed winemaker did everything correctly.  Yet his Merlot never completed.   And while the “experts” offered more dumb advice as usual the facts are the ABV and the PH are not a problem and should not cause MLF not to complete.  Except for one anomaly.   It is MERLOT!

Yes it seems Merlot has issues sometimes completing MLF.  Does it happen every time?  NO! Does it happen on a random basis?  Yes.   Why?  Who knows but it does.  I know you are saying, I have made Merlot for years and I have never had that problem.  Is it even a real problem?  Well you know that could have been me saying that  7 years ago when Expert Winemaker Greg Perrucci reported this problem on Winepress.US.   Well it took to get to 2013 for it to happen to me.  I offer no explanations other than to say it would appear the Geniuses on never even heard of it.   I leave the rest to the chemists.

I will say blending another wine with that problem Merlot will make that MLF go to completion.  What is funny is the poster on said out loud he was considering blending his Cab Franc with the Merlot and wondering if that would make a difference.  Which I would have assured him it would.  Too bad the “experts” at Winemakingtalk didn’t tell him that.  Then again, like so many other wine making issues they never heard about  Problem Merlot.

If you want to read the dumbness go here…







Making Adjustments to Wine in 2014

2014 December 29
by Gene Fiorot


With everything put to bed in my Cellar until Spring we enter a very interesting winemaking time period.  Making Adjustments.  Not all is always perfect and many time we are left with the task of making adjustments to new wines that have flaws or issues which need our attention.  Now I know you know blending is used many times to enhance or correct wines.  But there are other issues in which blending is not the exclusive answer.


For me, this year we dodged the H2S conundrum.  At least that is one thing to be happy about. And not that it is ever a problem but unlike last year when we had a Merlot that would not go through MLF,  MLF was completed in record speed this year.   So we count our blessings.


This year has presented to me two different problems.  One is a GSM with some residual sugar and a Pinot Grigio which I feel is too dark.   Ok to deal with the latter first.  The wine tastes fine except on a commercial level it is too dark.   Now I know what difference does it make if it tastes good but as a winemaker I have to believe the commercial guys don’t always end up with perfectly light Pinot Grigio.  And I also know wine this color will not be on store shelves.  So how do we adjust and correct it.   If it is even possible to do on an Amateur level.   Not that I have not had to strip some color before but this time it seems a bit darker than on those occasions.   I have fined with Bentonite as a standard procedure and I have given it a very healthy dose of PVPP.  But I have used PVPP many times and I am not sure if this will be enough.   I know time will tell but I am considering  Casei Plus or Polylact as additional finings to use. Is the possibility of using a Carbon product even in the picture?  My question is not that the wine tastes oxidized but the color molecules could be and is it possible a Casein product will further remove color.   I have never had to resort to this before.


My other concern and I will say a much larger and serious concern is my GSM.  It finished with difficulty due to me negligence in not watering back enough.  So I am left with 1% residual sugar.   It was very noticeable.  Thankfully with a high PH and low TA I added a good dose of Tartaric.  The PH now at 3.62, the wine has lost quite a bit of sweetness and I made another 33% addition of Acid to reduce the Ph even lower with hopes of improving the taste before it tastes like lemons.   I am dealing with the following and in any order you think is best. But first with residual sugar a very low PH will be better for potential bacteria spoilage.  So the acid will help.  Also with the acid addition the taste will improve.  However this wine won’t have wine diamonds when in the bottle it will have a DeBeers Diamond Mine.  So there is a real need to Cold Stabilize.   Now before you say why Cold Stabilize when that will drop acid and you are trying to increase.  My response to that is this.  If I can get the PH below that magical point in the area of 3.5-3.6 where Cold Stabilization will drive PH down not up then I think I have killed 2 birds with one stone.   The wine will be more stable and the wine will have a more acidic taste.


Another thought for this wine is some additional tannin to increase astringency.  Which this wine can handle easily.  The problem with this is most all post fermentation tannins are advertised to increase a perception of sweetness.   So do I use a pre-fermentation tannin to achieve a more positive taste result.


So these are my crosses to bear for the 2014 season.   I thought I would start this post as a springboard for all the concerns you have in your Cellar from this past season you might like to share.


Interesting barrel prepping differences between barrel resellers and cooperages

2014 December 27
by Gaetano

After a horrendous experience dealing with customer service of a well known barrel manufacturer, I am dead set on purchasing any new barrels from pretty much anyone else.
Without going too much into detail and bashing a company for what might have been a really bad day for them, let me start by saying that I own 2-5 gallon, 2-23 liter and 2-50 liter barrels from this same manufacturer, and up to this point I recommended them to everyone…

In short, a good friend purchased a small Hungarian oak barrel, his first barrel, as a new wine maker, he was extremely excited but a bit nervous about hydrating the barrel correctly. I went through the process step by step following the set of instructions provided by this manufacturer. After 3 days it stopped leaking, he chose to leave the water in the barrel another 2 days to be sure; after this he drained the barrel and filled it with wine, everything was fine for a week or two until it started leaking from the middle of a stave on one head, the leak was fairly aggressive, more leaks formed and finally, even after following the manufacturers instructions for sanding, heating, and applying beeswax, the leaks continued to pop up.
I contacted the reseller that I purchased the barrel from, and ultimately after waiting approx. a month to hear from them, I contacted the manufacturer…. I’ve dealt with these people in the past and it was always a very pleasant experience, but this time I was shocked when they started to grill me, giving me the third degree on how I prepped the barrel, cutting me off mid sentence and firing off more questions….I tried to tell them that this was useless since I could read them the steps from their instruction sheet…this must have pissed them off because they tried to prove that I had done something wrong and finally told me to send a few pics and they would determine if they were going to replace it…

What has all this have to do with barrel prepping differences?…lol…In my search to find a new source for barrels (I’ll never give these folks any money again if I can help it), I spoke with an East Coast Cooperage that was extremely surprised to hear that this other manufacturers instructions used boiling water to prep the barrels, they explained to me that they use boiling water/steam to bend their staves and they felt that using boiling water could be detrimental to the barrel, they recommend using tap water.

I’ll be picking up my new 50 Liter French barrel, I have no idea if it will come with any specific barrel prepping instructions, but I plan on using tap water, whats the worse that can happen, it might take me a few days to seal the barrel.

I’m curious on what you use to prep your barrels, I’m fairly certain that those of you with 225 liter barrels don’t use boiling water.

Testing for Malolactic Fermentation Accuvin Test Strips or Paper Chromatography?

2014 December 8


I am sure we have discussed this at some level many times on this blog but I thought it might be a good idea if we revisited the subject and get all the information in one place.  That is one reason for writing this.  The other is another example of the crappy advice given on on a regular basis usually by moderators.  One  moderator in particular we have given a new name.   IBeGlowin is known in these parts as IBeAnAsshole.  And he proves it once again, no surprise here.

In this case the newbie winemaker asks the following about Accuvin Test Strips, “Anyone use these? Seems simple and easy but MLF has been at 160 mg/l according to these strips for 6 weeks. “…”Is this test accurate?”

IBeAnAsshole responds, “No, they are not.” And adds” The key here is YOUR color perception accuracy. If your eyes are not accurate at matching color swatches then the test can be a total crap shoot”

Well if the winemaker has 160 mg of Malic as per the Accuvin you can be sure of one thing.  IT AIN”T DONE. Unless he is color blind.  And the Winemaker tries that on IBeAnAssHole saying, “Well it’s purple—not hard to tell it’s not close. “  Careful Dude you could get banned for arguing with the Moron.  Of course Asshole will have nothing of this common sense reasoning.  For him it is Paper Chromatography or nothing.  And of course all the ass wipes join in with the same advice.

So let’s look at the entire affair.   First neither test holds the trump card.  Each testing method really tests for a different type of result.  The Paper Chromatography test shows the conversion from Malic to Lactic.  How good is it?  Well you can see the two different acids pretty easily.  And you for the most part can see when the Malic region is no longer there. Where you then assume MLF is complete.  But there are many times when MLF is complete and a trail from the Malic to the Lactic region remains.  So then what? Is it done? Can you really be sure?  You have to remember you are not attempting to measure an amount of malic or lactic.  You are just trying to measuring presence. A quality value not a quantity one.

On the other hand the Accuvin Test Strips attempt to be a quantitative test.  The test offers the user a numerical value for remaining Malic.  Also it should be mentioned that Accuvin also produces a Lactic Test Strip.  Determining the numerical value of Malic present is with a color chart. Can there be different interpretations on the sliding color shade chart?  Yes but there is no question when you get below 70 you can be sure you are very close if not complete.  Can you tell that with Paper Chromatography?   Not really.

At the end of the day if you are a winemaker making many varietals or one who is looking to make life easy the Accuvin Test Strips are an excellent test to use to determine MLF. If you are a bit obsessive you can run a Paper Chromatography when all your varietals are complete as per Accuvin and confirm with the Chromatography.  Each testing method has its place and you can chose to use one or both.  Neither is perfect although I lean towards  a dead white Accuvin test strip result as good or better of an indication of MLF completion than Paper Chromatography.  Even better one takes only 4 minutes the other at least 24 hours.

If you want perfect send the wine to a lab for a Photo Spectrometer Test.

I hope this helps when trying to figure out what method to use when trying to determine MLF completion.   One thing for sure reading will not.

M&M Grape Company supplied

M&M Grape Company supplied

2014 Another Year with Surprises. How about you?

2014 November 18
So you might think these are showing completed MLF after 4 minutes as called for by Accuvin.  Actually they are 24 hours later.  I think it is safe to say there is no malic in these wines.

So you might think these are showing completed MLF after 4 minutes as called for by Accuvin. Actually they are 24 hours later. I think it is safe to say there is no malic in these wines.


Every year there seems to be some surprise or unexpected event.  I really can’t remember a year without one or two.  2014 is no different.  But the last few sentences get forgotten when the next season begins.   Maybe it is selective memory or wishful thinking you can get through a season without some issue making you sweat or at least leave you scratching your head for a bit.

Coming up to the plate this year was a variety of issues all different but still requiring attention and one in particular making me wonder.  First up was the PH at the crush.  Not great this year and requiring some adjustment.   So you say what is the big deal. Well being spoiled for the past few years we were not ready for reaching for the tartaric jug.  We did but seriously undershoot the first ferment, the Pinot Noir.  Ending after with a ph over 4 we had to add some hefty amounts of acid just to get it to 3.8.   So while this was going on Al Battista a relatively new winemaker, hearing of the PH issue lamented, ” remember a few years ago when we just finished MLF and didn’t even worry about PH?”   Yes I do too but that was the Beckstoffer Heydays.   Then you only worried about getting H2S in a vat with 10,000 dollars worth of grapes.   Al, a virgin at the time, wouldn’t have appreciated that.

With the getting accustomed again to the Central Valley days the next up  to come along was the ever changing, evolving but more annoying “How much nutrient should I use?” issue.    So we went without DAP this year and the finishes were a little too slow for me.  So I dope them up next year and that puts that issue to rest.   But due to my pushing the time envelop I over heated the Must on the GSM and with its own heat generation combined it hit 94 degrees.  When it got to 3 brix the yeast were pooped.  Not quite dead but certainly wounded and questionable in the ability to get the wine dry.   Not wanting to prolong the issue to find out, I inoculated with Uvaferm 43.   Pressed at 2 brix and 43 took over and the wine was at minus brix in 7 days.   Problem solved and lesson learned, don’ push the envelope the guys can work an additional day and leave their wives to do their nails.

Then we get to the head scratching part of the 2014 season.   MLF.   With the risk of sounding like a MLF Ninnie  contributor, what went on here this year is worth noting.   Armed with years of training and experience and fresh batteries in the flashlight for looking in the necks of carboys looking for micro sized bubbles is the standard procedure all are trained to do.   As far as preparation this year was no different, cultures built 2-3 days before inoculation.  VP 41 re-hydrated with Acti Ml and Opti Malo in the Must.  All pitched this year at 2 brix.  Pinot Noir was in a 300 litre tank with a carboy airlock.  Some bubbling for the first week then the wine was taken off the lees and moved to another tank in a room that is 75 degrees.   Very little airlock action after it was transferred which stopped in a few days.   After 21 days don’t ask me why but we tested it and MLF was completed.  Yippie.   But here is where it gets interesting.  The Cab Sav and the Merlot both pressed and kept in tanks with no air lock action at all.  None, Zero , Nada.   While the GSM looks like a volcano I explained that away as the end of final sugar ferment.   But what to do about the Cab Sav and Merlot both at 75 degrees.  Re-inoculate?    At the same time 2 other members of the club who fermented Lanza Valley Cab Sav and Clone 169 Lanza Cab Sav reported no MLF action.   They too followed my tried and true culture building and used VP41 as well.  One of them had a carboy of my Merlot as well.    On October 24 they reported Purple Accuvin test strips for all their wines.  They too were thinking about re-inoculating.   On November 16th I received a text from one of the winemakers and it went like this, ” You are not going to believe this but the MLF is complete on all the wines!”    Well would I believe it?  Yes if I has seen some bubbles. Think of a 300 litre filled tank expelling some co2 from MLF into a small bubble air lock.  You have to see something at least the water pushed up on one side of the air lock not level water in the lock.  Level airlock water is what there was.  I also had one carboy of each as well, both were dead.

So Monday morning you know where I went after coffee.   Correct, right down to the winery to test the wines.   Chalk Hill Cabernet Done! Ph 3.67 Ceja Merlot Done! Ph 3.3  and the still bubbling GSM Done! 3.8 Ph   Except for the GSM all done without any trace of Co2 ever.   Go figure.   So I call Al with dead carboys as well and ask him to test.  Done!    The only light I can shed on this is the  both wines were in the vats for 9 days after inoculation and before pressing at 80 degrees.  So did most of the MLF  and Co2 happen then?   Did the slow finish I complained about which led to extended vat time contribute to faster MLF.   As an old Alpha user this was the first year I used VP41  exclusively. Does VP41  have a secret I don’t know about?

Ok I am ready for 2015 or am I ?


A Big Thanks to Gene, and hats off to the wine makers!

2014 November 15
by Gaetano

I wanted to give a big thanks to Gene for setting up a great Fall Winemakers Dinner, and a serious “hats off” to all of the wine makers that shared their wine!

For a bunch of wine (and in this case a bunch would be about 50+ bottles) that was supposed to be barrel tasting/young wine, there was a lot of really good wine!

Gene, I couldn’t think of a better place to have the party, Chef Paul Caputo is amazing, but I don’t have to tell you, if you were there, you will agree that every course was amazing, I don’t often say “I was stuffed”!!! The wait staff deserves a thank you as well for dealing will all of us; Javier and the team handled it in stride!

A real treat was being able to meet and discuss barrels with the good folks from East Coast Wood Barrels, these guys are very passionate about manufacturing the best quality barrels available, they will be making barrels to accommodate the home wine maker, they currently have 300 and 100 liter barrels in stock, and plan on making 50 liter barrels as well, using the same Romanian oak used to make the highly sought after French barrels at great prices!

I’m really excited about the upcoming Christmas party, I’m sure that there will be some serious wine there, as our fearless leader said “Bring your best”!

Gene, once again.. Thanks!




Can you believe it?

Can you believe it?

Christina Musto deciding what to eat first

Christina Musto deciding what to eat first

Frank Juice K of M&M Tasting

Frank Juice K of M&M Tasting

no fancy labels only works in progress

no fancy labels only works in progress

Bottles Keep Growing where do they all come from?

Bottles Keep Growing where do they all come from?

Al Battista presents Christina Musto with one of his Custom Pin Striped Wonders.

Al Battista presents Christina Musto with one of his Custom Pin Striped Wonders.

What is going on here? Care to venture a guess?

2014 November 14
by Gene Fiorot

I will elaborate on this in a few days but for now I want to see if any of you can figure out what this is all about.   You can expand the image to get a bigger view and you might notice the black out box which is hiding a sign for the name of this device  and its purpose.

So winemakers have at it….


Time to guess Dudes

Time to guess Dudes