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I love California

2015 June 26
by Gene Fiorot

I love California.   More so I love the people who grow the grapes I make my wine from.   But there has to be something wrong with these good folks if they take this shit.  Yet it seems they do….

The Club 2015 Spring Wine Tasting Dinner… a few observations

2015 May 18

Needless to say the Dinner was a success and it is no surprise the Food at Gina Marie’s Restorante Chianti was spectacular.   While it was not the largest group this time around there was a fabulous array of wines of members attending.   So what were my impressions?

To begin the quality of the wines were incredible.  We had a new member attend and his second wine ever from grapes made from Central Valley grapes proved one point.  You can make a very nice wine with Central valley grapes if you know what you are doing.   There is no question Nick Mandikas knows what he is doing.

The Lanza Petite Sirah was represented by 2 different winemakers.  Both 100% varietal.   If you like them big you or like getting hit over the head by a Two By Four you  need to make this wine.  I am really interested in seeing how this wine develops in the bottle over a few years.

The Lanza/ Musto Sangiovese was  again represented by two winemakers.   But in a Super Tuscan form of varying varietal components.   The takeaway is the Sangiovese is the dominant varietal in the blend even when it was paired with a Lake  County Cab at 50% proportion.  I have made this grape since the first harvest of this new vineyard.   Make no mistake it gets better each year.

Sadly getting Beckstoffer grapes will be a challenge going forward but the 2012 Las Amigas Merlot is off the charts after a 2 year stint in French Oak.  Just bottled it will be fun to see how this develops in the next year or two.

My recently bottled 2011 Alexander Valley Cab Sav finally made its debut.   With the help of some last minute Petite Verdot before bottling the wine is finally balanced and elegant.   Not your Napa Cab by any means.

Looking for a 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon to make?   Look no farther than the new Lanza/ Musto Clone 169 Vineyard.  We tasted the 2014 version and were so impressed with the structure, nose, and character.    It can only be better for 2015.   We have our order locked in already I wouldn’t miss it.  And to be sure the PH and acid makes it a perfect compliment to the Koch Cab which tends to have a higher ph.

I brought out my just bottled 2012 Beckstoffer Georges III Cab Sav.   Back to the future t0 2009  Skipping over the 2010 vintage.  I am excited about the prospect of a redux of 2009 with this wine.  A few years will tell.

There were many other comments and thoughts which were shared that evening.  My only advice is to attend the next tasting dinner and see for yourself.  I might even let you taste my lanza Moscato Canelli.

The Early 2015 Outlook Rumors as well

2015 May 14

Ask me no questions I tell you no lies…

Lodi Hail Storm murders Zinfandel Vines.   Look for higher prices for Lodi Zinfandel in 2015

Almond Milk Craze causes growers to pull out grape vines in Central Valley to plant Nut Trees.  Nuts use more water than grapes.  Go figure.

Market Pressure again increasing on Cabernet Sauvignon   Look for higher prices.

Famous Suisun Grower offering for the first time a new Italian Varietal.    Shhhhh   Barbara   word has it as excellent as the current Sangiovesse from the area.

Make Napa  Gamay while it is still available…. one never knows.

Famous Lodi Packer planting a host of Italian varietals and having a Baby too…  Congratulations Compari

Key M&M Grape Company Staff Member getting married next week.

This winemaker looking at Pinot Noir and Merlot from the Russian River for 2015

Oh and LOL Corrados is still searching for its Chilean  grapes.  I am sure they are somewhere Jimmy if you look hard enough.

Speaking of Chilean Grapes at M&M.  The berries are tiny, the seeds are dark brown, the brix is perfect and the condition of the grapes look perfect.   Congratulations to the NEW grower/packer for doing a great job.   Another attempt at Malbec in 2016 could be in the cards judging by these grapes.

Chuck Wagner planted 30 acres of Cab Sav on the ridge directly above the Koch Vineyard.   What does that tell you ?

Spring Winemakers dinner May 15, 2015   Another Gastronomical Adventure in store.   Be there or Be square.

Stay tuned more to come…..but you know that already you read it here


Beckstoffer off the Charts but maybe not, who am I to say?

2015 May 10

Many of us are not only fans of Beckstoffer grapes,  we have made these grapes into fine wine.  Really fine wine!   Market forces and other considerations took this opportunity away for us after 2012.   But we still have hope one day we will get the opportunity to make these wonderful grapes into wine.   For those just reading this for the first time,  you can search the many of the references to Beckstoffer made on this blog.  For the lazy I can tell you we have made multiple times the Rutherford Georges III Cabernet Sauvignon,  The Oak Knoll Orchard Ave Merlot, The Las Amigas Merlot and Pinot Noir and on one  occasion we made the famed Oakville Missouri Hopper Cabernet Sauvignon.   The latter a stones throw from the Beckstoffer pinnacle,  the To Kalon Vineyard.

I still have kept hope that one day, by some odd turn of events, we would obtain a pittance amount of grapes from the To Kalon vineyard.  Only if to say, We made it!   Sadly, that is not going to happen anytime soon if ever.   Gaetano shared this article with me and I thought everyone who has Beckstoffer anything in his cellar should read this.    I could say some things but I will wait, other than to say, you could have picked me off the floor when I read it.  Read it fellas.

Click here for the article


Sources and Standardization of Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) for Titratable Acidity Testing

2015 April 30

Article Written and Provided by: Dave Coleman

Background and Problem with NaOH Shelf Life

Years ago when I worked at a local home brew and winemaking store in Pittsburgh, PA, one of my many tasks was measuring out 0.1N NaOH to be used as a neutralizing solution for Titratable Acidity testing kits. Now, a fair amount of NaOH neutralizer was sold, but, there was a 10 gallon jug of the shit in the back room that must have been there for years. read more…

Hail Storm Ends hope of Argentinian Grapes at the M&M Grape Company for 2015

2015 April 28

With all the hopes of those making an Argentinian Malbec came this news,

“In Argentina, as harvest approached, a freak storm cell dropped several inches of hail into the vineyards of our Argentinean partner resulting in nearly a 100% crop loss. This loss has meant there will be no grapes from Argentina this 2015 season. The good news is that for those who were interested in switching to Chilean, that option has been available.”

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…