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Old 06-12-2008, 07:56 AM   #1
stevecaaster
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Default "all grape" winemaking

Hey everyone, i am a seasoned homebrewer who is intrigued by the idea of making my own merlot. I am wondering though, I see the kits at the LHBS that include a grape juice concentrate, but are there any home wine makers that press their own whole grapes?

( I cant help but feel i am reverting back to the extract domain if I buy one of these expensive kits.)

also, am i going to have to sneak out to the vineyards one night to steal a few bunches of merlot grapes? or does any seasoned "all grape" wine maker have a better idea of where i can score some grapage?

The whole idea of not using grape juice is very important to me, any help with this is appreciated
thanks for the help

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Old 06-12-2008, 10:03 AM   #2
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It's simple, really; go to a vineyard and ask if you can buy some of their grapes. I believe it takes 150 lbs of grapes to make a 6 gallon batch.

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Old 06-12-2008, 11:50 AM   #3
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You don't have to resort to a midnight trip to the local vineyard. Home winemaking has a long tradition here in the US and there are several suppliers of both fresh grapes and juice. M&M Grape Company in CT is one of the most reputed companies supplying grapes the the Eastern half of the country. It might be better to start with a frozen juice pail from Brehm, though.

Keep in in mind that fuel prices, as well as a late frost in CA this year, will mean a huge price increase for grapes this year. What cost $30/lug last year, may well be over $40 (and possibly pushing $50) this year.

As for quantities, it depends on the varietal.It can take anywhere from 12 to 16 pounds of grapes to yield a gallon of wine. Juicy, thin-skinned grapes (e.g Pinot Noir, Zinfandel) would be on the lower end of that range, while thicker-skinned Cabernet or Petite Sirah will come out closer to the upper range. Three to four lugs, at 23 lbs per lug, will be enough for a 6-gallon batch.

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Old 06-21-2008, 10:49 PM   #4
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OK...even though I'm a rank newbie in the world of brewing anything, I have been doing tons of studying.

I don't like the idea of using kits, concentrates, extracts, etc. I don't know how to determine when grapes are ripe and therefore optimally 'ready' for harvest, and use for making wine, even if I had access to fresh, vine ripened grapes.

If anyone here knows, and will share the SG reading of the juice of vine ripened freshly crushed red grapes, and white, if they read differently, then we could go to the market year round, buy grapes, crush them, test the SG of the juice, add enough sugar to bring the reading up to optimal, then proceed with our process.

Right!

This seems so simple, and since I thought of it, it has to be flawed!

Comments, anyone?

Thanks,

Pogo

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Old 06-22-2008, 02:08 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pogo View Post
If anyone here knows, and will share the SG reading of the juice of vine ripened freshly crushed red grapes, and white, if they read differently, then we could go to the market year round, buy grapes, crush them, test the SG of the juice, add enough sugar to bring the reading up to optimal, then proceed with our process.
Making wine from fresh grapes is a complex process. If you've been reading a lot then you already know that. There's a huge difference in the quality of wine made from grapes from Wal Mart and making wine from kits. There's just as much difference in quality between a $50 kit and a $150 kit. The next step up from kits is frozen juice and must harvested a couple of months before you receive it. In fact, the quality of the frozen pails is frequently better than wine from freshly picked grapes because the quality of the original product is better.

I see you live in Alabama. The closest place for you to source fresh grapes is likely Northern North Carolina or Virginia and I doubt you could find grapes there that are the quality of a Brehm's frozen pail.

Anyway, to answer your question:

Winemaking starts with inspecting the grapes. Make sure they are ripe by squishing up a good double handful, straining the juice and measuring the sugar level with a hydrometer, a handy device you can buy at a winemaking supply shop. The sugar density should be around 22° Brix - this equals 1.0982 specific gravity or 11 percent potential alcohol - and the fruit should taste sweet, ripe and slightly tart.

Try this article, called "Your First Wine From Fresh Grapes".
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Old 06-22-2008, 03:45 AM   #6
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summersolstice -

Thanks for the prompt response.

Oh, yes...I totally agree, fresh?!?! grapes in our local markets in the spring from Chile (or even in the fall from California), means grapes that were cut green, and ripened as they were stored and shipped to a local destination near us.

This has to mean some significant losses in sugars, taste, etc., the whole gammut!

But, if one is curious about the results, across the whole spectrum of options, one will have to try a little bit of it all before being convinced and/or satisfied, right!

My LBS insists that all major labels use the concentrated juices just like those available in the kits, just on a larger scale.

Twenty years ago, when I lived in a wet county, I could go by any wine vendor in the county, and consistently find any one of several labels that I prefered, say a Vin Rose by Gallo, year around.

Now, living in a dry county, surrounded by dry counties, whenever I do make the grand effort to venture over to a wet county to pick up something once every month or two, it is a total crapshoot. Out of five or six labels, I MAY find ONE that I would call decent. And, the next trip when I go looking for more of it...GONE, never to be seen again!

In a dry county, my LBS can't have a 'wine tasting' where we can sample the end results of any of the kits they offer. And, I'm sorry, I'm just a little bit leary of coughing up $180 or so, on a shot in the dark.

Anyway, thanks for the link, and the SG reading. This frozen bucket you referenced just may be, ultimately, the way to go!

Thanks,

Pogo

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