877.812.1137

pH probes: Basic care and storage

When it comes to setting up your home wine lab, there is a lot to learn. You’ll discover that the proper care of something as basic and simple seeming as your pH probe will make a world of difference when it comes to producing reliable, repeatable numbers. Even if you don’t have access to any other means of wine testing at home, having a pH meter is a necessity.

Do

  • Store your pH probe in the proper storage solution
  • Calibrate your meter – and use fresh calibration solution each time
  • Rinse the electrode before and after use. You may see salt deposits form – this is OK, just rinse them off too.
  • Be gentle at all times

Do not

  • Store your pH probe in distilled water. 
  • Mix any of your buffer solutions with one another. This may seem obvious but it’s easy to get a drop of one into the other if you’re not paying attention.
  • Hit the pH probe against anything. This is especially important if using a stir plate and magnetic stir bar – don’t let it hit it!
  • Pour buffer back into the bottle after use

Proper storage solution fill height

Tips

Kimtech wipes are delicate tissues that reliably clean up liquid and small particulate from sensitive lab equipment such as pH probes. They’re a great addition to any home lab.

A probe can look clean but be contaminated with various coatings – this is why consistent cleaning and proper storage is very important for continued accurate readings.

You will need to replace your probe over time regardless of how well you take care of it, but the more carefully you clean and store it, the longer it will last.

Muscat: An ancient and beautiful grape variety

Fruity. Floral. Aromatic. Golden. Perfumey. Unique.

Meet Muscat.

What’s so great about this grape? With tons of variations and seemingly even more names, it’s known all over the world for producing an absolutely delicious wine.

It can be made dry, sweet, or even fizzy. With its beautiful floral aromatics (think orange blossom, white flower, honeysuckle) you’re bound to make a wine that impresses!

Muscat Winemaking Recipe

  1. Crush/destem and press your Muscat into your fermentation vessel
  2. Add potassium metabisulfite to kill off any native yeast present on the grapes
  3. Let sit for 12 hours.
  4. Add Cinn Free and stir well.
  5. Add Booster Blanc and Opti-White to the juice.
  6. When the juice reaches about 65 degrees, pitch your yeast. QA23, Vin13 and Alchemy I are good options for keeping the aroma in this wine alive and bright.
  7. When you see the Brix drop by 2-3, add Fermaid O and mix well.
  8. Check Brix daily – when Brix drops by 1/3 of the starting number, add Fermaid K
  9. Rack off gross lees when alcoholic fermentation is complete and add potassium metabisulfite

Helpful tips:

  • Don’t lose out on Muscat’s incredible aromatics by exposing it to excessive oxygen. Be sure that as soon as alcoholic fermentation has completed that it’s not sitting out without an airlock.
  • Focus on yeasts with the most aromatic potential
  • Since this is low acid grape, you’ll want to retain any acidity or semblance of freshness present within the finished wine. Do this by preventing malolactic fermentation from occurring (which can drop the acid) by being sure to add potassium metabisulfite as soon as fermentation ends.
  • Consider sweetening your muscat if you’re looking to try making a wine style different than fermenting to dryness.

Musto’s Wine Analysis Services

If you’ve ever found yourself wondering…

  • How do I get accurate numbers on my wine samples?
  • Can I trust the readings I’m getting?
  • How do I even do this test?!

…fear not! Musto Wine Grape Company can happily assist you with all of your wine analysis needs.

Samples to be tested – a truly beautiful sight!

What analyses do we offer?

  • Brix, pH, TA
  • Free and/or total SO2
  • Alcohol
  • MLF
  • YAN
  • Sensory analysis

Why is analysis important?

  • Knowing the Brix, pH, and TA of your juice sample is the most important first step pre-fermentation. Depending on these numbers you may need to acidulate (add acid) or ameliorate (add water) to your must or juice before initiating fermentation.
  • SO2 levels will indicate how well protected your wine is. You may need to add more or less depending upon the reading.
  • Alcohol % (ABV) is an important number to confirm, especially if looking to confirm the final number for a wine label.
  • The presence of malolactic bacteria will indicate whether or not MLF has completed in your wine.
  • YAN numbers will tell you the amount of yeast assimilable nitrogen levels will help you decide how much nitrogen/nutrients you may want to add throughout the alcoholic fermentation.
  • Sensory analysis entails our highly knowledgeable and skilled staff conducting a taste test on your samples. This is especially helpful if you are looking to see how to improve upon your current wine, or how to sharpen your winemaking skills for future vintages.

pH and TA are important numbers to know as they will affect the entire winemaking process from start to finish

 

Interested in getting your wines analyzed at our lab?

Great! There’s one of two ways to get your samples to us:

  1. Drop by to say hello and give them to us directly. You can fill out a lab analysis form from our website to bring in with you.
  2. Send them in with the above lab analysis form. Be sure to include all of your contact information!

Acid titration

Any other questions? Give us a call at 860-278-7703. We’re always happy to help you make your wine the best it can be!

How to Pick a Press

How to Pick a Press

Which kind is right for you?

One of the most visually iconic and useful tools in winemaking is the wine press. It is the device that will separate the solids and skins from the precious juice or fermented wine. There are a couple different kinds you have to choose from, though they are at their core the same in that they use pressure to push hard against the skins to extract the remaining juice or wine that has not already become separated from the skins.
But upon investing in a wine press, how does one select a size and style? Here are some tips on selecting your first wine press:

Picking a Style

There is more than one way to press a grape! For home winemakers, there are two main styles of wine press that you can choose from: ratchet press or a bladder press.

  • A ratchet press often has wooden sides and lid that hold in the grape must with a steel center rod and bottom juice tray. The grapes are loaded into the center of the press and large blocks are stacked on top of make up any lost volume. Then the lid is ratcheted down, applying vertical pressure from the top down upon the grapes. This style of press does an excellent job with extraction. The user must be careful not to exert too much pressure on the must as they are liable to crack seeds, which can release bitterness into the wine.

The ancient and traditional ratchet press

  • A bladder press is similar in shape to a ratchet press but operates differently. Bladder presses have metal sides and lids to hold in the grape must along with the traditional metal bottom. They work via water pressure. Simply attach a garden hose to the inlet valve and the water will inflate a center bladder which exerts horizontal pressure against the grape must. This style of press exerts more gentle and even pressure to the grape must. The press must be filled up to the top to avoid “mushrooming” and bursting the center bladder.

Pressing red using a bladder press. Note the stainless steel exterior.

Considerations

Choosing a reasonable size

When selecting a new press, the size options can be overwhelming. There are many different sizes of press, often measured in liters. Always take into account the must volume versus your end produced volume. If you anticipate to make 10 gallons of finished wine, you should anticipate on having 12-13 gallons of must, as the skins take up an additional 20% of the volume. You can always fill the press multiple times, but you should average at least an hour per press fill. Rather than do a huge load and then a much smaller one, it is preferable to split up each load so they will be pressed in roughly equal amounts. This will aid in giving the pressed juices/wines more uniformity.

Will your production size increase over time?

Also factor in the possibility of growth when selecting a press size. Winemaking is contagious and you may want to increase your batch size when you begin to drink your delicious results! It’s often wise to purchase a slightly larger ratchet press to accommodate for growth. If you purchase a slightly larger bladder press than what you may currently have for must, you can add rice hulls to the must to increase volume to properly inflate your bladder.

Other considerations

If you’re not a “sanitation is key” winemaker (and hopefully you are!) then a ratchet press may not necessarily be the best of these two choices. Since wood is porous, if you don’t remain cleanly every step of the way, then you may find yourself dealing with some very unwanted spoilage bacteria down the road. Getting a stainless steel bladder press will make it easier for you to be certain that every surface is completely cleaned and sanitized both pre- and post- use.

A “cake” is the press aftermath when using a ratchet press.

A wine press is a fundamental tool in home winemaking. It can dramatically increase your yield and quality. Knowledgeable staff at Musto Wine Grape can help you pick out the press that is the right fit for you!

The Joys of Racking Your Wine

The Joys of Racking Your Wine

Racking your wine is a necessary evil.

We know it can be tedious, but in the end it is so worth it.

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Things to keep in mind when racking:

  • Cleanliness: We cannot express this enough. The cleaner your cellar, the less risk you have of spoilage, the better your wine will be. Aka SANITIZE EVERYTHING!! (however if doing MLF rinse with hot water as not to agitate the ML bacteria)
  • Primary Racking: Rack after your primary fermentation is complete. This protects your wine from any initial microbial fermentation issues.
  • Secondary Racking: Rack after fermentation has finished. At the second racking you will want to rack your wine into an aging vessel. Whether that is a stainless steel tank or an oak barrel. Don’t forget to sulfite, unless you are doing MLF.
  • Third and/or Fourth Racking: Is used more clarification purposes.
  • Using a pump makes life so much easier. You can pretty much sit back and relax with a glass of wine while your juice in being transferred. If you don’t have a pump the best way to rack is by using a siphon and the gravity method. Put the primary vessel up some place high and rack into your new vessel.

Christina’s Black Muscat Rosé Recipe

Working with a new grape for the first time can be a little scary. But having a recipe to use a jump off point can help ignite creativity and make the winemaking go a lot smoother. Check out Christina’s Black Muscat Rosé Recipe for some Rosé winemaking inspiration.

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Black Muscat Winemaking Recipe:

  1. Crush the Black Muscat into vat
  2. Add Potassium Meta to kill native yeast, let sit for 12 hours
  3. Add Cinn Free, stir must, let sit for another 12 hours
  4. Press juice after 24 hours on the skins
  5. Add Booster Blanc and Opti White (dilute in spring water, mix like pancake mix, dump into must, mix up)
  6. Pitch yeast after 24 hrs on skins, make sure juice is at 65 degrees. If not let it warm up. Use VIN13 yeast.
  7. Next Day: Add Fermaid O
  8. Monitor Brix levels daily
  9. At 1/3 of a drop in Brix (10-8 Brix) add Fermaid K

Please Note:

The color might be light. It darkened up over time. And if it doesn’t darken up enough to your liking I have some “pixie dust” that will help with the color during the aging process. Also, after fermentation I added Noblesse at my first racking. This is because I thought the acid was a little high and it helped soften the mouthfeel. Every year is different, so you might not need to do this. Taste it after fermentation and then decide.

 

Wine Tasting Notes:

On the nose there is passion fruit, guava, sweet strawberry, sweet cherry, and papaya. The aromatics continue through the palate with a touch of crisp acidity. As a dry wine this light bodied Rose is full of complexity and flavor. If you’re more of a sweet winemaker, adding about 1-2% Residual sugar to this wine would make for a very aromatic and balanced sweet wine.

Frank’s Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo

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GRILLED CHICKEN FETTUCCINE ALFREDO

For the chicken marinade

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar or fresh lemon juice
  • 2 table spoons fresh chopped herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, parsley)
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Vegetable oil for oiling the grill plate

For the fettuccine and Alfredo sauce

chicken-alfredo-pasta-wine-make your own wine

  • 8 ounces fettuccine pasta
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk, or half and half
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley, for garnish

Instructions

To prepare the marinated chicken:

  • Mix all the marinade ingredients together (olive oil, vinegar, herbs, garlic, salt and pepper) in a gallon-size zipper-lock plastic bag. Add the chicken breasts and turn to coat. Refrigerate, turning a few times, for at least 3 hours up to 24 hours.

To grill the chicken (can be made ahead):

  • Preheat gas grill on high with the lid closed for 15 minutes or until very hot. Clean the grill grate with a brush. Using tongs and paper towels soaked in vegetable oil, wipe the grates with the oil to prevent sticking.
  • Turn the heat to medium and grill the chicken for about 6-8 minutes, then turn and continue cooking for another 5 minutes or until clear juices are visible and the chicken is cooked through.
  • Tent the chicken with foil and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. Slice and keep warm while preparing the Alfredo sauce. The chicken can also be made ahead of time and refrigerated until needed. If refrigerated, bring the chicken to room temperature for 30-minutes before adding to the sauce. There is no need to rewarm as it will be added to the hot noodles and sauce in the end.

To prepare the sauce:

  • Heat a large pot of water on the stove to cook the fettuccine while preparing the Alfredo sauce
  • Pour 1 cup of milk, ½ cup of heavy cream and the butter in a medium sauce pan. Cook over medium heat until the mixture simmers. Reduce the heat to medium –low and simmer gently until the mixture is reduce to about ¾ cup, about 20 minutes. Off heat, stir in the remaining ½ cup of cream, salt and pepper.
  • Meanwhile, add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until done (according to package instructions.) Reserve ¼ cup of the pasta cooking water then drain the pasta. Return the fettuccine back to the large pot and add 2 tablespoons of the reserved pasta water. Toss to coat and cover to keep warm.
  • Return the cream mixture to simmer over medium-high heat, and then reduce to low and add the parmesan cheese. Cook over low heat until the parmesan is melted, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of pasta water to the Alfredo sauce and pour over the cooked fettuccine. Toss the pasta and Alfredo sauce using tongs to mix. The sauce may seem a little thin but will thicken as it cools.
  • Divide the fettuccine between 4 warm bowls and top with ½ a sliced chicken breast on each serving. Serve immediately garnished with chopped parsley leaves, fresh ground pepper and more parmesan if desired.

Notes

Alfredo sauce does not heat well in the microwave. If reheating Alfredo sauce on its own, allow for it to come to room temperature and then add hot pasta or vegetables to the sauce. That should warm it enough. If necessary, you can reheat in the microwave on low power. Do not overheat.

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Wines that pair well with Chicken Alfredo

What you eat impacts the flavor of the wine you are drinking with it, and some wines might even overpower the food you are eating. When pairing your wine with your food, it’s important to balance the flavors of each. Chicken Alfredo is a heavy, creamy and cheesy dish, so you’ll want a heavy, full bodied wine to match.

Pinot Grigio

Pinot grigio from Italy’s Friuli region tends to be acidic and crisp with a pronounced minerality, which pairs well with the creamy, buttery Alfredo sauce. Lanza Pinot Grigio from Suisun Valley California is light and refreshing, with notes of floral, fresh lemon and pear. Its great mouth feel makes it food friendly, and since pinot grigio has a decent amount of acid, it can stand up to the savory personality of the Alfredo sauce without it losing its refreshing flavor.

Barbera

There is no rule book that states you have to pair a white wine with your creamy chicken Alfredo. Red wine definitely has its place next to this dish, and an Italian Barbera is the perfect wine to step outside the box. Since parmesan cheese is prominent in the Alfredo sauce, it can be rather strong on the pallet and Barbera has the high acid content to compliment this savory, cheesy dish.

Chardonnay

As long as it hasn’t been aged in oak, Chardonnay will pair nicely with Chicken Alfredo. Creamy pasta dishes and oaked wine just do not mix. A chardonnay with more restraint is a much better choice. Most Chardonnays have a buttery characteristic which goes perfectly with the buttery flavor of the Alfredo sauce. A great choice would be an unoaked Chardonnay from the Burgundy region of France. For a tasty restrained Chardonnay, try some Mettler Ranch Chardonnay from Lodi or the Wooden Valley Winery Chardonnay from Suisun Valley.

Viognier

An appealing wine partner for chicken Alfredo is a dry Viognier. It tends to be bone dry and high in alcohol, which allows the wine to hold its own when paired with a strong Alfredo based dish. Violet, apricot and spice are a few characteristics of Viognier’s flavors that give it its full body feel. California produces a delicious Viognier, but some of the best comes from the Northern Rhone region of France.

 

Making your own wine to pair with your homemade

Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo

Musto Wine Grape Company, LLC is New England’s largest supplier of home winemaking products and services. Come visit us at 101 Reserve Road in Hartford, Connecticut to shop for all your wine grape, juice and equipment needs! Select your grapes from our fine variety, and we will help you every step of the way – from crush to bottle. Never made wine before? No problem! Sign up for our Winemaker’s Bootcamp, where you can learn all the ins and outs to winemaking. Call us at (860) 278 – 7703 or email us at sales@juicegrape.com to get started. We look forward to hearing from you!

How to Improve Color and Mouthfeel When Making Red Wine

No Wimpy Wines!

How to Improve Color and Mouthfeel when Making Red Wine

red wine-making red wine-how to make red wine-musto wine grape

A more common complaint amongst home winemakers is that their red wine lacks the depth of color and full body and mouthfeel that they would prefer. Everyone loves a wine that has a heavier mouthfeel, giving the sensation of whole milk or cream on the palette. While it is not always an indicator of quality, many folks associate deeply pigmented red wines with being higher quality. Both color and mouthfeel can be easily managed or enhanced at fermentation through the following factors:

Physical Manipulation:

wine press-winemaking-how to make wine

When selecting the grapes for your batch of wine, it is important to know what kind of wine characteristics that they generate naturally and how that matches up with your personal indicators of quality. If you favor very deeply pigmented wines, perhaps the integration of a very dark grape into your blend will help to boost color, right from the crush. Even a 10% addition of a deeply colored grape such as Petite Verdot, Petite Sirah, or Chambourcin can enhance the overall color of your batch and not detract from the primary varietal’s unique flavor character.

Cold soaking the grapes is another way to physically manipulate the grapes to achieve better color extraction. After crush, grapes can be lightly sulfited, and then allowed to cold soak, provided that they are kept around 40°F. Keeping the must around 40°F is important to inhibit yeast or bacterial growth in the must. There are many ways to keep the grapes this cold, including putting them in a refrigerator, using dry ice, using frozen sanitized jugs of water, or creating a small chilling closet with air conditioning and temporary walls. The extended cold soak will allow the condensed grape skin tannins to leach out and help lock in color by binding to color pigment molecules (anthocyanins). The addition of pectic enzymes during the cold soak will also aid in the color securing process.

Nutrient Additions:

wine yeast-wine nutrients-wine fermentation

The additions of various supplemental nutrients will affect the color and mouthfeel positively. Booster Rouge and Opti-Red are supplemental nutrients for red wine fermentation that help to increase mid palette mouthfeel and enhance color stability. Opti-Red is high in polysaccharides that will help to lock in color pigments and create a more intense color. Booster Rouge is a yeast derivative nutrient that helps to contribute mid-palette volume and firmer structure to wines. Both of these nutrients also help with creating a smoother tannic profile to red wines.

Tannin Additions:

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The addition of tannins at crush to the grape must will help to contribute to the overall mouthfeel of red wines, but more specifically to the mid-palette volume of the wine. Products such as FT Rouge or Oak Dust can be added to the must at the beginning of fermentation to act as sacrificial tannins for the yeast to consume throughout their metabolic process. Rather than have the yeast consume the grape tannins, they will consume the oak tannins, leaving the preferred grape skin tannins. This will help to increase the overall preferred tannin content of the wine, increasing the overall mouthfeel and perceived palette volume. FT Rouge is also very effective at locking in color pigments, working synergistically with the previously listed nutrients.

Every wine we make has the opportunity to be the best vintage yet. Following these tips may help you to improve your wines potential for greatness!

Setting up your stainless steel tank

Once the home winemaker has mastered the art of getting just the right amount of wine into dozens of different sized carboys, they may be wondering if there is an easier way to ferment and bulk age their wine. Enter the stainless steel tank!

While getting a stainless tank may seem like a big next step, it’s likely one of the best decisions you will make, assuming production levels are high enough. If you’re a home winemaker who has a couple carboys sitting in the cellar, your goal probably isn’t a larger tank. But if you’re making anything more than that, it may just make your life that much easier (and fun!)

A variety of sizes

Stainless steel tanks come in many sizes, from 100 liters (26 gallons) to 10,000 liters or more! Unless you’re looking to start their own large scale commercial winery, you’ll likely start your search in the 100L+ range.

Variable capacity or fixed volume

Part of the beauty of stainless tanks is that unlike carboys, demijohns, and barrels, they are oftentimes variable capacity. What does this mean? It means you don’t have to worry about constantly topping up, blending other wines into your batch to allow it to reach the neck of the vessel, the threat of oxidation, or employing inert gas to keep the head space at the top of the vessel blanketed. Some winemakers prefer fixed capacity tanks, but again, the downside is that you really need to stay on top of keeping them full the entire time you’re bulk aging.

A fixed capacity tank. These will usually have a hatch at the top rather than a variable lid that can be lowered or raised.

A variable capacity tank with floating lid

Time to set up your stainless steel tank

Setting up your tank is very simple to do. The basic setup will include a stand, valves, tasting valve, and maybe a thermometer and a thermowell. The tank may come with a stand or leveling feet which elevate it from the ground. Even the most simplistic, small tank may come with these, though some will only be basic enough that they get placed directly onto the floor or a pallet. The smallest tanks will not have a manway, since you can easily reach in from the top for cleaning or extracting the juice or must post fermentation. Some will have a valve on the bottom and some will not.

 

A thermometer gets inserted into the thermowell for constant temperature readings

What else might I need to set up on my tank?

  • A manway
  • 1 or more valves
  • Sight gauge (plastic tube on side of tank indicating volume in tank)
  • Racking port and drainage port (higher and lower ports, respectively)
  • Gaskets and clamps (most common are 1.5″ / 2″ / 2.5″)
  • Gasket and pump (for variable capacity tank)

Musto Wine Grape is happy to offer a wide range of Marchisio stainless steel tanks, from 100L capacity onward. Come see us and we will be happy to speak with you in detail about what tank is the best for you!

Winemaker Lab Skills Class – October 9th

Musto’s Winemaker Lab Skills Class will be held on Wednesday October 9th at 7:00PM.

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Want clarification on TA, pH, and Adjusting Your Wine?

Then this is the class for you!

Professor Frank Renaldi will go over the following lab skills every winemaker needs. It can be difficult to feel comfortable testing your wine. However, Frank has some easy tricks and tips of how to test and adjust your wine.

Class Outline:

 

Sign up today and start sharpening your Winemaker Lab Skills!

Sign up via the website HERE or give us a call at 877-812-1137 to sign up over the phone. We look forward to seeing you in class. Cheers!