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The Winemaker’s Think Tank: Vol 18 – Tips for Racking Your Wine

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What’s the Winemaker’s Think Tank?

Every Thursday we will post about a few frequently asked questions that our winemaker has answered. If you have a winemaking question you would like to have answered, please email us at support@juicegrape.com and we will try to get into next week’s post. Cheers! :)

The Joys of Racking Wine….

Racking your wine is a necessary evil. We know it can be tedious, but it the end it is so worth it.

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 kill the ML bacteria) Use a solution of potassium metabisulfite dissolved in warm water. Add 2 tbsp to a 5 gallon bucket of water. Make sure that everything that will touch your wine (siphon, hosing, carboys, stirring rods) are all rinsed with this solution. Do not rinse it off with water, just shake off any excess droplets.

Primary Racking: Rack after your primary alcoholic fermentation is complete. This protects your wine from any initial microbial fermentation issues. Getting the new wine off of the dead yeast cells in important for the health of your wine to prevent off aromas.

Secondary Racking: Rack after the Malo-Lactic 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 for clarification purposes. Solids and fining agents (if used) will fall out of suspension and form a layer on the bottom of your aging vessel. Racking every 2-3 months, will consistently clarify your wine.

Using a pump makes life so much easier. You can pretty much sit back and relax with a glass of wine while your juice is 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 (a table) and rack into your new vessel on a lower surface (floor).

We hope this information helps with your winemaking. If you have any follow up questions or winemaking questions in general, please email us at support@juicegrape.com.

Chilean Wine Grape Update: Arrivals & In Stock

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As of 5/2/2017 the following is in stock…

Juices:
ALL Chilean Varieties
ALL South African Varieties

Grapes:
Malbec
Carmenere
Merlot
Petite Verdot
Syrah

To Arrive 5/5/17….

Juices:
ALL Chilean Varieties

Grapes:
Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Franc
Carmenere
Pinot Noir
Petite Verdot
Malbec
Merlot
Syrah

Please feel free to contact us at sales@juicegrape.com or 877.812.1137 to schedule your pick up!

We are looking forward to working with you this Spring Harvest! Keep an eye on our Facebook Page and Harvest Tracker for more harvest information and upcoming wine classes.

The Winemaker’s Think Tank: Vol 15 – How to work with Frozen Must

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What’s the Winemaker’s Think Tank?

Every Thursday we will post about a few frequently asked questions that our winemaker has answered. If you have a winemaking question you would like to have answered, please email us at support@juicegrape.com and we will try to get into next week’s post. Cheers! :)

Simplifying Your Life with Frozen Musts

Life gets hectic. We totally understand. As the Fall and Spring wine grape harvest seasons approach, not everyone can just suddenly stop their normal life and shift into winemaking mode. Kids, vacations, work, weather and a myriad of other obligations can impact the ability of a winemaker to start a particular year’s vintage. And let’s not forget about those grapes – unfortunately they don’t seem to care much about your schedule. They ripen and arrive when it’s convenient for them, not for us. Fortunately there is a way to work with grape varietals anytime you choose by using frozen must.

Frozen must is exactly what it sounds like – fresh grapes that have been crushed and destemmed on site into must and then immediately frozen. Working with frozen must is very similar to working with fresh grapes, but there are some differences that winemakers should be aware of. With frozen must there is no need to take your crusher/destemmer out of storage and lift those heavy boxes of grapes into the machine. This part of the process is done for you already. If you were working with fresh grapes, the resulting must would be adjusted and then the winemaker would start the fermentation process. Yet by freezing this must we are basically halting the winemaking process by putting this must into a deep freeze – then the winemaker can thaw the must and continue the process when it is convenient for them.

frozen must 1

Besides the convenience of making wine around your schedule ( with less equipment and less preparation/cleanup), there is another helpful benefit when working with frozen red varietals – cold maceration! During the freezing and thawing process the prolonged skin contact at cooler temperatures can maximize color extraction. Additionally, the tannins extracted during this time are water soluble and will be softer than the harsher, alcohol soluble tannins imparted during primary/post fermentation maceration. Now that we have touched on the benefits of using frozen musts, let’s transition to working with it.

When you receive the pails/drums of frozen must, we need to get the must thawed and up to fermentation temperatures safely. All of our musts are sulfited to 50ppm – this will help to control any oxidation that may take place during the thawing process and also help to limit the formation of bacteria in the grapes. However it is still possible for some freezer-burned or moldy grapes to be present – remove any grapes that look questionable. Some winemakers like to slowly bring the must up to temperature over the course of several days, while some recommend getting to pitching temps as quickly as possible. A slow temperature rise will prolong cold maceration and its benefits, but remember that the must is susceptible to unwanted bacteria and other bugs until primary fermentation starts. We recommend keeping the pails at room temperature – they should thaw out in 2-3 days.

It is important to stir the must as it is thawing. During the freezing process it is common for the natural sugars and potassium bitartrates to settle at the bottom of the pail (very much like the frozen Italian ice cups you can buy in the supermarket. The best part is the bottom of the cup where all the sugary, sweet goodness has settled to). Stirring the must with a clean and sanitized utensil daily will help homogenize it so that it thaws evenly. Once the must is at pitching temperature, empty the pails into your primary fermenter and treat it just like you would freshly crushed-destemmed grapes. Remember to get all the juicy bits and tartaric crystals from the bottom of the pail! We recommend taking pH, TA, brix, and S02 readings and adjusting accordingly. These readings can vary based on the temperature of the must and how well it has homogenized during the thawing process, so it is best to wait until the grapes are at room temperature. While we will always recommend using commercial yeasts to help with a steady, clean fermentation, it is very important to use these types of yeasts when working with frozen musts.

So there you have it – using frozen must can simplify a winemaker’s life by making it easier and less hectic. Isn’t that what we all hope for during the harvest season?

(A big thanks goes out to Robert Herold for his original article Winemaking From Frozen Must which appeared in the December 2012 issue of Winemaker Magazine)

We hope this information helps with your winemaking. If you have any follow up questions or winemaking questions in general, please email us at support@juicegrape.com.

Notes from our Winemaker Frank Renaldi about the Chilean Sauvignon Blanc: Primary Fermentation

Notes from our Winemaker Frank Renaldi about the Chilean Sauvignon Blanc:

Primary Fermenation

“Wine fermenting for 7 days slow and steady. Down to 4 brix. Nice nose and color as we wind down. Wine did get near 65F. I wet a bed sheet twice a day with cold water and wrapped around stainless tank. This helped keep the temp at 60F – nice and cool for a white wine.  Too hot and you will blow off the nose.”

Don’t forget to sign up for the Spring Bootcamp with winemaker Frank Renadli! Learn how to make great wine at home in just 5 weeks!

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Notes from our Winemaker Frank Renaldi about the Chilean Sauvignon Blanc: After the Press

Notes from our Winemaker Frank Renaldi about the Chilean Sauvignon Blanc:

After the Press

“Adjusted Brix to 21.5 (11.8% alcohol). Adjusted with Tartaric Acid to get pH = 3.24 and TA = .60. Will have to acidify after fermentation. Could have adjusted further, but ta would still be low (desired .7 – .9). Used Vin13 yeast – Very slow start. Took over 24 hours to get started. Still at 58 degree with a slow cool fermentation. No big nose yet. Looking forward to reporting more on the results once fermentation has completed.”

Don’t forget to sign up for the Spring Bootcamp with winemaker Frank Renadli! Learn how to make great wine at home in just 5 weeks!

sauvignon blanc_chile_musto wine grape_winemaker_winemaking

 

The Winemaker’s Think Tank: Vol 12- Common Winemaking Faults and Flaws

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What’s the Winemaker’s Think Tank?

Every Thursday we will post about a few frequently asked questions that our winemaker has answered. If you have a winemaking question you would like to have answered, please email us at support@juicegrape.com and we will try to get into next week’s post. Cheers! :)

In this week’s Winemaker’s Think Tank we outline the difference between flaws, faults, and how to identify them.

  • Flaws
    •  Flaws are a mistake made in the winemaking process that leads to a property in the wine that is not characteristic of the varietal
    •  Stylistic Choice vs. Flaw
    •  Imbalance Flaw
      • Acid vs Sugar, Oak Levels, Alcohol Level
    • Visual Flaws
      • Haze, Sediment, Effervescence, TA Crystals, Floaters, Lack of Color Saturation
    • Aroma/Bouquet Flaws
      • Lack of Aroma, Non-varietal aroma, Over-oaking
  • Faults
    • Faults are often a microbial or chemical reaction within the wine in some part of its life that significantly alters a wine, eventually leading to the point of spoilage.
  • Oxidation Faults
    • Acetaldehyde – oxidation of Ethyl Alcohol smells like sherry, or old apples, browning
      • Causes: headspace, low sulfites, poor corks, bacterial contamination
    • Acetic Acid – Vinegar
      • Causes: Acetaldehyde, Acetobacter bacteria react with ethanol, Fruit Flie
    • Ethyl Acetate – Nail Polish Smell
      • Oxidation of Acetaldehyde and Acetic Acid
      • Causes: headspace and bacterial contamination
  • Sulfur Faults
    • Hydrogen Sulfide – Rotten Eggs Smell
      Causes: lack of yeast nutrients, yeast stress, sulfur sprays, yeast bi-product, high temps
    • Sulfur Dioxide – Burnt Match Smell
      Causes: over sulfating, wild yeast
    • Complex Sulfur Faults- Mercaptans, DMS, DES, DMDS, DEDS
      Causes: Hydrogen Sulfide reacting with Ethyl Alcohol
  • Microbial Faults
    • Brettanomyces – Barnyard, Horse Saddle, Antiseptic Ointment, Band-Aids, Bacon, Clove
      • Causes: spoilage yeast cells that are incredibly dangerous and difficult to eliminate. Most often found in contaminated barrels, winery cleanliness, resistant to acid and SO2
    • Geranium Taint – Fresh cut geranium leaves
      • Causes: Reaction of potassium sorbate with Lactic Acid Bacteria in the presence of Ethyl Alcohol
    • Refermentation – Fizzy wine, popped corks
      • Causes: Yeast or microbial fermentation of residual sugar
  • Other Faults
    • Cork Taint – Wet basement, wet old newspaper, mildew
      • Causes: strain of trichloanisole on cork (cork taint); mold that contacts chlorine and wood
    • Heat Damage – Cooked fruit smell, brick red color, similar to oxidation
      • Causes: leaving wine in a hot car, in the sun, etc.

We hope this information helps with your winemaking. If you have any follow up questions or winemaking questions in general, please email us at support@juicegrape.com.

The Winemaker’s Think Tank: Vol 10 – Making Wine from Pinotage Grapes

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What’s the Winemaker’s Think Tank?

Every Thursday we will post about a few frequently asked questions that our winemaker has answered. If you have a winemaking question you would like to have answered, please email us at support@juicegrape.com and we will try to get into next week’s post. Cheers! :)

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We all know that feeling. You made it through the holidays, your wines are resting peacefully in your cellar, but there’s something missing. You’re getting that “itch.” You go down to your cellar and see that a few of your barrels are empty, and that French oak barrel shouldn’t be empty too long . . . so you start Googling and then you find that there is a spring wine season! Your prayers are answered! You can scratch that winemaking itch and get moving on your next vintage. Believe me, your French oak barrel will thank you.

Not all winemakers know this but Musto Wine Grape brings in wine grapes and juices from South America and South Africa in the springtime. Specifically Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon from South Africa, Malbec from Argentina, and Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Merlot, Malbec, Petite Verdot, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, and Viognier from Chile.

Making wine from these grapes and juices is very different than the California grapes and juices. The grapes have a much longer ride and the regions where the grapes are grown give off very different characteristics. Argentinean and Chilean grapes tend to have a lot of fruit-forward notes, dark berry flavors, with cigar and earthy undertones; as opposed to the South African grapes that have a brighter fruit profile such as cranberry and raspberry.

In the spring of 2016 we decided to make a Pinotage. Neither of us had ever made one before and we were excited to try out a new wine grape variety and region. Pinotage is a red wine grape that is South Africa’s signature variety. It was bred there in 1925 as a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault (also known as Hermitage) – thus the name Pinotage. It is the second most planted grape in South Africa.

As a winemaker it was very exciting to get a chance to make wine from South Africa. It was also exciting to make a wine we have never made before. The grapes came in 20 lb. (9 kg) cases and were simply immaculate. The berries were in very good condition with no mold or decay. The one thing we did notice about the grapes is the skins were different in texture. They chewed for a long time and can almost be described as leathery. We have never seen that on a California or South American grape before.

The initial numbers on the grapes were workable. The Brix came in at 25, which would result in an alcohol of 13.75%. There was no adjustment needed on the sugar level. The pH and titratable acidity (TA) came in at 3.91 and 6.2gm/L respectfully. Tartaric acid was added to get the pH to a desired level. One thing we have learned is every grape is different – they cannot be handled by mathematical formulas only. Always bench test your adjustments; the results are not always linear. Our goal is to get the pH AND the TA to the ideal levels. This is not always possible, but an experienced winemaker will have to make the best decisions.

After adding tartaric acid, we ended up with a pH of 3.5, which is an ideal number. The TA only rose to 7.5 gm/L. As we stated above these grapes did not show the linear relationship between the pH and TA – meaning it is not always true what the pH goes down, the TA goes up.

So these were good starting numbers to release the grapes for fermentation. Something Frank and I swear by is always making your adjustments before fermentation. Once fermentation starts it is a moving target. And once the wine has completed fermentation, you really should not be making major pH/TA adjustments. We went with D254 yeast, simply because it always does a good job and we have never made these grapes before. Next year we think we might try the BDX yeast.

We processed these grapes with the same protocol as a California vinifera. We cold soaked the grapes 3–4 days. Cold soaking not only gives you time to work on the wine before fermentation, but allows the wine to “bleed out” and stabilize. The skins break down and you get the tannins and color to stay with the must. While the grapes were in a cold soak we made the Brix, pH, and TA adjustments. We also added normal additives such as tannins, Opti-red, oak powder, etc.

The fermentation went well. A normal 3–4 punch downs a day is a good protocol. We checked the temperature every morning and evening. It ran from 70–80 °F (21–27 °C) the entire fermentation, a good temperature for reds.

The pressing went well. The skins were still like little pieces of leather – we will never forget that about Pinotage. The fresh pressed juice had a cotton candy nose to it, which we found unusual but pleasing. It has faded off to a bright red berry nose as time has gone on.

Once the wine was racked 2–3 times, it was moved to a Hungarian barrel for 8 months. It is now back in the tank for final adjustments before bottling. The final numbers are all good. The pH is 3.52, the TA is 0.62 and the alcohol level is 14%.

Tasting Notes:
The nose has red berries such as raspberry and cranberry. It is a clean nose with a “fruity” character.

The palate had red licorice and tobacco, and reminds me of a Pinot Noir. The tannin level is medium, which we find perfect for this wine. Big tannins would have overtaken this particular lot of Pinotage. It is an easy drinking wine. It has a sweet fruity presence, yet there is no residual sugar. This will make a good red for the summer for those red drinkers who refuse to go to whites at that time.

So there it is. We made our first South African wine from grapes. It was exciting and a learning experience for both of us. Each season we will try to process them differently to create other sides of this wonderful wine — Pinotage!

You have many winemaking options during the spring winemaking season. Don’t let a unique winemaking opportunity pass you by! If you have any questions about the spring wine season feel free to email me at cmusto@juicegrape.com.

Article by Christina Musto & Frank Renaldi for Winemaker Magazine.  You can see the entire article by clicking HERE.

We hope this information helps with your winemaking. If you have any follow up questions or winemaking questions in general, please email us at support@juicegrape.com.

The Winemaker’s Think Tank: Vol 7 – Grape Yield

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What’s the Winemaker’s Think Tank? 

Every Thursday we will post about a few frequently asked questions that our winemaker has answered. If you have a winemaking question you would like to have answered, please email us at support@juicegrape.com and we will try to get into next week’s post. Cheers! :)

When it comes to making wine, often there is nothing more exhilarating than sampling the fresh grapes as they come in and selecting the varietals that will best suit your individual winemaking needs. Once you have selected the varietals that you would like to make that season, the most often the next question is “How many grapes will I need to make my desired amount of wine?”. The answer changes slightly depending on the origin of the grapes. South American producers fill their crates with 18lbs of grapes. This typically requires the winemaker to purchase 4 crates (18lbs each) to yield 5 gallons of wine. The same formula roughly applies to South African grapes as well, with their grapes being packed 20lbs per crate. Obviously this will yield the winemaker a bit more juice, but the overall formula is applicable.

Fall harvest from the northern hemisphere gives us slightly different guidelines to follow for estimating yield. North American producers have larger crates, packed 36lbs/crate. On average, each crate yields 2.5 gallons of juice, the winemaker needing two crates per five gallons of desired wine. Seasonal growing conditions apply to the yield as well, rainfall having the most profound effect upon juice yield. Also, premium growing areas where the grapevines grow under stressed conditions, resulting in premium fruit will yield significantly less juice than grapes grown in irrigated fields. We suggest purchasing one additional crate per desired 5 gallons of finished product. The two crates per five gallon rule is a safe assumption when estimating juice yield, as it is more of a conservative estimate of juice yield. We often hear reports of a higher yield rate for certain west coast varietals. Berry size will affect the yield of juice as well. Pinot Noir and Grenache berries are significantly larger than Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Syrah berries, often yielding up to 10% more juice. While a certain level of experience and research can aid in the estimated juice yield from your grapes, the basic rule of 4 crates per 5 gallons for South American/African produce and 2 crates per 5 gallons for North American produce is an easy means of determining how much produce you will need.

We hope this information helps with your winemaking. If you have any follow up questions or winemaking questions in general, please email us at support@juicegrape.com. 

The Winemaker’s Think Tank: Vol 4 – What is the best way to sanitize my equipment?

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What’s the Winemaker’s Think Tank? 

Every Thursday we will post about a few frequently asked questions that our winemaker has answered. If you have a winemaking question you would like to have answered, please email us at support@juicegrape.com and we will try to get into next week’s post. Cheers! :)

What is the best way to sanitize my equipment?

It is important to differentiate between cleaning, sanitizing, and sterilizing. Cleaning is removing any dirt, grape debris, or build-up from your equipment. Sterilizing is the process via heat or chemicals of eliminating all micro-organisms, which is nearly impossible in a home winemaking environment. Sanitizing is the goal for home winemakers. Sanitizing is the removal of harmful micro-organisms from the winemaking equipment. This will give the winemaker the healthiest environment possible for their wine. One of the most chemically and cost effective ways to sanitize winemaking equipment is by using potassium metabisulfite. Potassium metabisulfite works best in an acidic environment. To create a strong sanitizing solution, mix 2 tbsp. of citric acid and 1 tbsp. of potassium metabisulfite with 5 gallons of warm water. Mix all of these in a 6 gallon pail. You can now use this solution to sanitize all of your equipment. Submerge or rinse all of the equipment in this solution. This solution will sanitize the equipment of any harmful bacteria that could spoil the wine. Any tool, vessel, or hose that touches the wine should be rinsed thoroughly with the solution to prohibit contamination.

Also, check out our Youtube Video where our Bootcamp Professor Frank Renalid weighs in on sanitation

 

We hope this information helps with your winemaking. If you have any follow up questions or winemaking questions in general, please email us at support@juicegrape.com.