The drought conditions and heat wave in California this season may have pushed harvest up about 3 weeks in some areas, reports of smaller crops have some winemakers concerned, smaller crops usually mean higher prices.
After hearing about potential higher brix grapes several times, including Gene posting about it (I figure that Gene has the inside scoop on grapes), it has me thinking…
How will I work with high brix grapes?
I would think that high brix would be considered 28+ Brix, last fall I didn’t have any issues working with Sangiovese that came in at just over 26 brix, as a matter of fact, I didn’t do anything differently.
With grapes that could potentially come in at 28 Brix or higher, (this is just a number I’m using since no one really thought that 26 brix was pushing the envelope too far, this is hypothetical) I think that the three most likely methods of working with such grapes would be: Ferment at the higher brix , Saignee , or Dilution.
All three methods can pose their own problems –
Fermenting a High Brix must – All of the research that I’ve done online has been focusing on healthy fermentations, everything that we all normally do, using a hydration nutrient, selecting a yeast that has a higher alcohol tolerate, hydrating the yeast at proper temps, tempering the yeast prior to pitching, using a proper yeast nutrient and additions, and adding oxygen,
I realize that none of this is new or earth shattering, but I wanted to emphasize this to make a point that all of the advice given here is spot on and no different than the recommendations given from the experts at Scott labs and Lallemand.
A big issue would be getting a wine with such high Brix through MLF, assuming that we are dealing with 28 Brix, at 15% ABV or higher, it would be pushing the limits of the Alcohol tolerance for most strains.
Saignee – Although I’ve never done this, I can only imagine that after removing a percentage of the wine and adding water to lower the Brix (I assume it would be acidulated water depending on the ), that the biggest concern would be diluting the concentration of acids and overall flavors.
Depending on how much it would be diluted, selecting a MLB with a higher alcohol tolerance would be necessary.
Dilution – Again, I can imagine that the only disadvantage of diluting the must in order to lower the Brix would be diluting the concentration of acids and overall flavors.
Once again, depending on how much it would be diluted, selecting a MLB with a higher alcohol tolerance would be necessary.
I’m interested in hearing your experiences, how would deal with, or how you have dealt with high brix grapes, what were the advantages and disadvantages.
Every year we start off the season with this piece. While it is still early I can report to my fellow winemakers we are in very good shape for the upcoming season. Of course we could have weather setbacks but if all continues as is we can count on the following things. First off Lanza grapes as most others will be in early and all at once like last year. I am told we can expect even better quality from Lanza as the crop load is less than last year which translates into better ripening. One should also consider higher Brix levels as a distinct possibility.
The sources of our Napa grapes remain the same as last year . With the possible additions of Merlot and Pinot Noir from Los Carnaros. I hope it comes to fruition as all of really have enjoyed these 2 varietals from that AVA.
From Alexander Valley there will be the Steward Ranch Cab Sav we made in 2011. Everyone is very pleased how this wine developed so we have the opportunity to go there again this year. But another amazing surprise is in the making from Sonoma from a very old and prestigious vineyard. I am pinching myself hoping this happens.
For a first time Lanza Vineyards will have 2 new varietals this year including Petite Verdot and Mourvedre.
When I speak again to Frank Musto of the M&M Grape Company I will update this page and report all the latest information on the upcoming season. So far it looks like it is going to be a doozie! I wish I could reveal more but I cannot publish it here at this time. Stay tuned
I was reading Winemakingtalk .com for inspiration and oddly enough I found some in a thread discussing fermentation temperatures. The discussion centering around what grape would do best at a certain fermentation temperature. I know the expression “ Nobody is talking about the Elephant in the Room” but this thread was more like a room full of Elephants and the people in the room were trying to get to the other side without even acknowledging any of the Elephants. After reading and biting my tongue a few times I decide to go to the blog and use our search engine to see what we had on the subject.
The Search Results brought up numerous posts going back to 2010 on the subject but while the subject of fermentation temperatures are mentioned and discussed relating to a specific issue there is no stand-alone piece on the subject. So in the interest of providing as much information on fermentation temperature in one place I think it will be a good idea if we have this conversation in depth.
I know there will be many responses and I also know this topic is multi-faceted and loaded with various techniques and styles. So to begin before we all go off in the weeds let’s at least begin with some basic standard information that we all agree on. After we exhaust these then we can get in to the nuances and esoteric stuff if it suits you.
I will begin with the following:
To lock in good color and extraction one should try to get a heat spike of 85 degrees somewhere between 18 and 12 brix.
To avoid residual sugar you are better off fermenting over 80 degrees than below.
You have a better chance of blowing off H2S above 80 degrees than below.
You are better off reducing vegetal character over 80 degrees if grapes are not as ripe as they should be.
As a general rule White Grapes benefit from low fermenting temperatures as low as 65 degrees in some cases. However it is not uncommon for whites to be fermented in the 80’s.
Most yeasts can ferment at temperatures will over the stated temperatures on the product sheet for the specific yeast.
Well I suppose this is a good start for the conversation at least it recognizes the Elephants.
Are the SO2 tolerances accurate or is VP41 just that good?
First a little back story:
At the risk of being laughed off the blog, I’ll admit it, I bought Chilean grapes from our friends at M&M, the Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Cabernet Franc were beautiful, free of any major rot, all coming in at 23-24 brix, while the Merlot wasn’t as nice, much more rot, but with a little help, we were able to discard as much rot as we found.
I tested the PH, TA and SO2 with my Vinemetrica SC-300 using fresh solutions, and again, even though I’ve read about the high SO2 levels that you’ve run into in the past, I really didn’t think that the SO2 levels would be off the chart, I didn’t have to add more than 3 or 4 drops of the titrant before the SC-300 started to beep like crazy indicating that the test was complete. Using the formula to calculate the ppl (or mg/l), this must was registering at 100 ppm or more!
I had no issues fermenting after a cold soak, but I still was very concerned at the upcoming MLF. After the alcoholic fermentation and pressing was complete, I tested the 3 separate batches of wine again getting the exact same results, to be honest, I didn’t think that MLF had a chance, Lalvin lists the SO2 tolerances for VP41 as SO2 tolerance : up to 60 mg/L total SO2.
I decided to use 1/2 gram of MLB per carboy in an attempt to compensate for the high level of SO2, I hydrated with Act-ML and added Opti’Malo to the carboys and hoped for the best. I was a bit shocked when I checked on the carboys the next morning, not only had MLF started, (on all except for the Malbec) it is one of the most active MLF that I’ve seen. I pitched another small dose of VP41 into the Malbec and it started as well.
So again, is “ SO2 tolerance : up to 60 mg/L total SO2“ a tolerance level with a little wiggle room in it, or is VP41 just that good? My guess is a little bit of both, but I’ve been using VP41 on all of my reds and haven’t had any issues so far.
Chr. Hansen claims its new wine culture is a ‘fantastic launch’ that will greatly increase the speed and predictability of malolactic fermentation and remove the need for producers to use sulfites as preservatives
You think you have everything figured out and then someone comes along a upsets the Apple Cart. So now we have a new advancement. Does it apply to us? Not sure but I have some serious questions? With no SO2 how does one keep juice from fermenting for 10 days? And at what temperature does one perform this MLF. Can you trust the competition the ML Bacteria provides? Lots of questions but probably the most interesting development in winemaking procedure in a long time.
Just a side note I never like Chr Hansen Oenococcus Oeni have not used it since Alpha arrived many moons ago. Slow as shit. Always. Just Say’in
Those who know me and those who don’t other than reading this blog I am sure will have no trouble imagining I am as outspoken about Politics as I am about Winemaking from time to time. I try very hard to keep my politics off this blog. And I think I do a good job of that too. Which could be considered quite an accomplishment. Nevertheless when Horse Shit reaches the WineBusinessDaily.com website with a regurgitation of a fear inducing demise of the planet report by a group of scientists who would rather ignore real scientific study and facts I think it is worth commenting about it here.
You can read the demise of Earth here but you probably heard it already on every lame stream media outlet near you.
Take cover we are all goners.
But what you won’t hear or read is this.
I think it would be wise if the editors of WineBusinessDaily.com get all the facts before they join the ranks of the hysterical.
I know it is a bit early for this discussion but maybe not. As we look forward, first let’s look back a bit. Since 2007 and more so in 2009 we have sourced the finest grapes California has to offer to date. We have made wine from some of the most prestigious vineyards in the United States of America. And how did we approach this? As Frenchmen? Not a chance. We made, dare we even think of field blending a Beckstoffer, in the tradition of California, single varietal wines. Beautiful ones at that.
There is no reason I can think of to change that approach for this coming vintage. Simply we go for the best grapes and we make varietals as we have done in the past. Why change? It is hard to see why. But maybe we need to take another look at this from a different perspective or at least give this a thought.
I am drawn to this not trying to become a Frenchman even if my name might lead you to think so. No I am drawn to this from a wine made in 2011. My GSM. This wine a field blend of the standard varietals as stated in the name in Hungarian and French Oak is a gift that keeps on giving. From the first Barrel Sample at one of our wine dinners to the next occasion in the Fall of 20132 where the Hungarian version was a crowd pleaser. Recently the French version of this fabulous wine made its way to our club dinner this April and again it received accolades. Make no mistake I am thrilled because truthfully I love it too. So as the winemaker I think. These were not Napa Grapes or Suisun either. Paso Robles yes and dare I say Lodi too.
The latest experience was this past weekend I had the opportunity to let some folks taste some recently bottled wines. A 2010 G 3 Cab Sav, a Carneros Merlot and the GSM. I was particularly interested in the reactions. The wines were well received but there was a draw to the GSM and the comments while very complementary for all the wines it was the GSM that somehow created the most conversation. So what is with this wine? This got me to thinking.
The only thing besides its approachability is balance. The wine for me is balanced in all respects. So maybe this upcoming year the goal should be to focus on the concept of Balance. I throw this out here for discussion among all of you but for me I am thinking it almost seems a logical step in the evolution of this winemaker. How we achieve this remains to be seen but one thing for sure you won’t find this discussion or thoughts on Winemakingtalk.com
The key word for 2014 Balance
As much as I try I cannot believe the crap this guy JoesWine espouses on WineMakingtalk.com which goes unchallenged. Among his pontificatations including using Raisins during MLF and other advice which defy logic his latest advice to a new fresh grape winemaker cannot go without comment. Joe stick with the kits you make and leave the real winemakers to solve issues as they come up. It is obvious you have no idea what you are talking about. Joe so just shut up. OK?
The winemaker poses the question…and says ….I racked a Pinot Grigio yesterday that was made from a juice bucket I bought in the fall. This was the second tracking while ageing and it still seems to be a little cloudy. This is my first attempt at a white wine. Should I be concerned or will it clear on itself. The pH and S 02 levels are fine .
Here is his advice to a guy who is trying to clear a 1013 Pinot Grigio…. ”
Holy Cow! What in the world?….. http://www.winemakingtalk.com/forum/f60/help-degassing-first-wine-grapes-44931/
Holy Cow! What an evening at Restorante Chianti for the Westchester Amateur Winemakers Club. All winemakers attending, no guests, wives and or insignificant others invited. Purpose, to taste wines of 2013, wines going in Barrels and wines just coming out. Taste, compare, discuss, just give honest feedback. Say what you think, no holding back an opportunity to get feedback and learn. Perfect. Bottles in attendance 80 at least. Glasses who can count but I am sure the dishwasher is glad we don’t do this every week. The food, what can you say besides excellent as usual, I think we are spoiled. But Chef Paul Caputo spoils us every time.
So what stood out. The fellas have the Lanza grapes down to a science. One is better than another. The latest grapes brought in by Frank Musto and M&M from Napa are no slouches to Beckstoffer in any way. The level of quality of the wines produced in general really begs the use on the moniker “Homemade” I hate hearing it and I try to never say it. They are simply seriously crafted wines made by winemakers who have foregone commercial winemaking employment. I like that better. But Amateurs will do. There could be pictures coming, cells phones were popping but I have no idea who took them. Maybe they will email them to me and I can post them here.
Thanks to all who came and we look forward to our Fall Extravaganza. For now we digest and use what we learned going forward. In the meantime I will pray for another shot at Silverado Six and hope we get a Sonoma Cab Sav which at this time I cannot reveal the name. And I didn’t, I guess I wasn’t that inebriated after all.
We all have wine chores to accomplish during the Spring and for me this Spring is no different. With some members help, I bottled my 2010 Beckstoffer Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2011 GSM this time from French Oak and my 2011 Beckstoffer Los Carneros Merlot. We also racked 2013 wines into barrels and racked and filtered the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio for bottling this upcoming weekend. With all this accomplished all that is left to do is to check the refrigeration and make an list of supplies that will be needed in the Fall.
I did have refrigeration issues last Summer and I had some concerns about the wine. All turned out fine and I can tell you I am relieved. I racked the infamous 2013 Malbec into a French Barrel. It is earthy and I am not sure it is 100% cured of H2S. We shall see what the Barrel can accomplish. I remind myself of a 1997 Sangiovese that was the same going in to a barrel and came out 1 year later and won a Gold. So I am hoping patience will be the cure. All else is fine in the Micro Winery.
One thing about making wine just when you think you have it all figured out every so often something comes along to remind you that you are not infallible. Sometimes I think some of our members think this way, I try to warn them but they don’t listen. Now on to a failure and mystery. One of our new members made wine from fresh juice. One of the two varietals one was a Petite Sirah. He followed all the directions and followed the protocols to the Tee. Last month he called me and said of all the juice wines he had made in the past this was the best wine ever. I was happy for him. He came down to the winery this past weekend with samples. The wine was undrinkable. Swamp Water is being kind. Pickling Juice and maybe sauerkraut could come to mind. Not only Taste but odor as well. Was it all the 10 Carboys we have yet to learn this. I can tell you it was not the VA thing nor was it oxidized. At least it didn’t follow the typical nose for those flaws. But this is beyond a flaw. How can a wine do this in 30 days? What is the cause? Is it a bad lactic bacteria from MLF? It is a mystery to me. Any thoughts?
Those of you who read that forum for grins might have noticed in the past months a new contributor and moderator named PumpkinMan. This Pumpkinman was a quick study, rising from a contributor to Super Moderator within weeks. Quite an achievement since the moderators on that forum usually are threatened by anyone who posts intelligently. And make no mistake PumpkinMan did exactly that. His posts were both educational and helpful to Amateur Winemakers who had the misfortune to find WinemakingTalk.com and believe in some of the lousy advice constantly reported there. But like anything which might be positive and good for Amateur Winemaking it has a very short life on that forum. Typically and expected PumpkinMan was BANNED FOR LIFE. He joins an austere group of Amateurs who met the same fate at the hands of the morons who run that forum. But PumpkinMan fear not you are in good company now. I also think it is worth mentioning there are 2 moderators from WinemkingTalk.com who for lack of their own expertise have discovered a new way to provide information. They regularly go to WinePress.us and pose a question and then return to their forum and post as if the information was theirs. At least they could site their source. I guess at least they are disseminating good advice which in its self is progress. But with all the bad information there how could anyone tell. Now it is my understanding one of our members Gaetano has some very interesting information on PumpkinMan’s demise.. We wait with baited breath to here the sordid details……..
I was speaking to Frank Musto the other day and he informed the M&M Grape Company was gearing up for the Chilean Grape Season. He was excited as it has been an excellent growing season and could prove to produce some very fine wines. He also mentioned he had obtained some Argentine Grapes. I know some of you are wondering if I am going to make wine from Chilean Grapes this year. The answer is no. The only way I can make these grapes is to have them destemmed and frozen as I am not in New York when they arrive in the Spring. This involves additional cost. If there is a real call by the Club to make Malbec, which is special to Chile and can’t be duplicated in California, then I would consider making the wine. Furthermore we had H2S problems last year and it is not fun. But you can encounter H2S with any grapes from anywhere so that should not be a reason to not make these grapes. We have made Chilean Malbec without issue in the past.
Step-by-step recipe for a poor mans wine bottler
I am sure some or most of you have one of these, but I figured I would throw in my two cents.
I have put together my own two-spout wine bottler (based on Genes original 3 spout build) and included here a list of parts and my suggestions for your own easy build.
List of necessary Parts and tools:
- Vacuum pump
- In-line Vacuum pressure regulator (optional)
- Complete Enolmatic Nozzle (part number 1020 – $65.00, available at stpats.com)
- 18” 3/4 inch ID galvanized piping (amount of pipe will depend on # of spouts)
- 2 2×4’s cut to a minimum matching length, I suggest 10 inches for two spouts. Or if you have some scrap 4×4 lying around that will do just fine.
- 1/4 and 3/8 inch ID food grade hoses (1-2 foot length for the 1/4 inch hose)
- A ½ inch deep plastic cutting board (for a base) or a piece of scrap shelving
- Spray paint
- Pipe cutter, to trim the threaded ends off the pipes to 16”
- Circular saw (adjustable depth to 1&1/8 inch)
- Powered drill, not a battery powered one – you will need the torque
- 1/2 inch drill bit, 5/16 inch drill bit capable of boring thru metal
For the purposes of this conversation, I will refer to the two-spout bottler I built.
1. Cut the pipe threads off to make the pipe(s) 16” end to end. File to take the edge off.
2. Take a 1/2-inch drill bit (to cut metal) and drill a hole one inch on center from what will be the top of the pipe – straight through. This hole will hold the nozzle assembly. Rotate the pipe so you are drill square against the top hole. Take a 5/16-inch drill bit (to cut metal) and drill a hole 6 & 1/2 inches from the top, this is for the tension spring on the nozzle assembly.
3. From the bottom of the pipe, using the 5/16 inch drill bit drill two more holes, again, square against the top hole at ¾ inch height and 2 inch height. These will allow for the screws to attach the pipe to the support block.
4. Take your 4×4 block and cut a 1&1/8 inch square notch into the block to stand the pipe into.
5. Take some construction adhesive (I have been watching too much DIY) and attach the block, pipe and nozzle assembly to a cutting board.
6. Run 3/8 ID tubing from the side of the nozzle assembly to a 3/8 ID vacuum tee.
7. Run 1/4 ID tubing from the top of the nozzle assembly to 1/4 x 1/4 x 3/8 vacuum tee (found them online at granger supply – available in a pack of ten only!)
After several minor adjustments, I left extra tubing around the sides to allow for play when taking bottles in and out of the assembly. I originally had the tubing much shorter and found that the nozzle assemblies would shift against each other with the shorter tubing.
The galvanized pipe will be slightly over sized for the assembly, so you will have to use zip ties to keep the nozzles attached to the pipe. The proper nozzle assembly attachment pieces will not be long enough to accommodate the pipe diameter.