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-   -   Concord grapes (http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f25/concord-grapes-133245/)

gmay10 08-21-2009 11:38 PM

Concord Grape help- any knowledge will be appreciated
I need a little help. We have concord grapes and we normally make grape juice from them but I want to make some wine with them this year. We live in Lancaster PA and I am not sure when to pick them. I think we picked at the correct time (we have only been in the house for 3 years) but I am not sure.

Secondly- After we pick the grapes we use a NORPRO 11.7Qt Stainless Steel Steamer/Juicer/Cooker to get the juice. Do I need to add any water to this type of juice or do I just throw in 6 gallons to make the wine? Do I have to add any nutrients?

Third- I can't remember who I had this conversation with but they were from the State College area- he made a comment about using concord grapes but when you juice them it comes out white juice. He says it makes some of the best wine he has ever tasted and he has won a few awards for his other wines. Have any of you ever heard anything like that?

Thanks for any help!!

gmay10 08-23-2009 08:01 PM

just going to give this a little bump. I am guessing not many people know much about making wine with concord grapes?

gregbathurst 08-23-2009 09:06 PM

With grapes its very important to test sugar content, preferably before you pick them. You shouldn't pick before they reach 19-20 brix, preferably up around 25 (sorry not sure what that is in SG) Don't add water, just ferment the juice like any other wine. Use some camden tablets and bottle when it stops throwing deposits and is fully degassed.

soulie 08-23-2009 10:13 PM


I've not fermented with concord grapes before although I have to admit that I have thought about it. I moved froma location near some wild vines before I could try it myself. I have since been cautioned against it by another wine maker because despite being quite sweet I was told they "lack complexity" after fermentation. This is is no way intended to dissuade you: in fact I want to try it all the more having been told that myself.

I'll speak to how I make wine with other grapes (zinfandel, specifically). This procedure should be similar for your concord):

For a red wine you may wish to remove stems from the grapes. Leaving them in will extract a bitterness in the wine that may be unpalatable. Truthfully, my first several batches I left the stems with the skins and juice to ferment and while they were drinkable, it is a noticeable difference to ferment without them.

Crush the grapes and place in fermenter. If you pick enough grapes you will not need to add any water. They should contain enough themselves and adding water may only dilute the flavor. In fact, the whole mass of skins and juice (known as he must) will transform from a thick sugary solution to what you will recognize more as wine after a week or so of fermenting.

While it is very common to adjust acidity and sugar at this phase (right after crushing), I might not worry about it on a first try. You can certainly add some potassium metabisulfate (as a powder or in the form of a campden tablet) to kill the wee beasties and then pitch your own yeast if you want depending on how adventurous you are.

While fermenting is happening, each day push down the cap (the fermenting mass of skins and yeast) into the liquid. This will help complete fermentation as well as to prevent drying out. Once fermentation is complete: press the liquid and age!

As for the color: if the grape skin is red but the flesh is white, you can actually press before fermentation, extracting the sugary liquid and leaving the skins behind. This will result in a white wine. The skins are what will give it the red color while fermenting in the case of a clear-flesh and red skin.

I hope that helps! Please, those with more experience please chime in!

Also, thanks for this post. I've been lurking a while. It feels good to contribute something. :-)

gmay10 08-24-2009 01:42 AM

How do I test sugar content? I have made about 10 batches of homebrew so I at least understand the entire brewing process. I am guessing wine is kind of the same except if takes a good amount longer

mmadmikes1 08-24-2009 05:57 AM

I know this is low tech, I pick concord when they taste good. All the vine around here became houses in last 10 years, I have to use store juice now.I can assure you you will know when eating the grapes. My problem is I have to pick alot more because I love eating them. I planted veins this year

soulie 08-24-2009 09:31 AM

You can test sugar content by taking a gravity reading. I prefer a refractometer because you only need to crush one grape to take a reading vs. crushing many in order to use a hydrometer.

Honestly, I have no idea what the final qualities of a concord grape wine might be so I might not really worry a great deal about trying to exactly match sugars, acids, and pH. So I guess I'm siding with mmadmikes1 here and suggesting that it might be ok just to experiment.

As a side note, I would really recommend buying a refractometer for use with both beer and wine. It makes taking gravities so much easier and they are all very simple to use. It is well worth the investment, IMHO.

gregbathurst 08-24-2009 10:22 AM


Originally Posted by mmadmikes1 (Post 1503059)
I know this is low tech, I pick concord when they taste good. All the vine around here became houses in last 10 years, I have to use store juice now.I can assure you you will know when eating the grapes. My problem is I have to pick alot more because I love eating them. I planted veins this year

If you have much to do with viticulture and winemaking you realise that grape ripeness has a huge influence on the final wine. If you are estimating ripeness by tasting you are really just guessing - it doesn't take much effort to sample some bunches and put the juice in your hydrometer, and the potential improvement in quality is well worth it. The human palate can't tell between juice at 17 and 23 brix, but the difference in the final wine will be very obvious.

gmay10 08-24-2009 02:41 PM

so 2 questions remain- I have a hydrometer but do not know the the reading should be for the sugar content?

2nd- has anyone ever made clear grape juice with concords? I will have to call the guy who told me about it. He had a store near state college somewhere but I will have to do some research to find him.

Yooper 08-24-2009 02:50 PM

I've made wine with a concord-like grape. I end up adding water and sugar, as the grapes are not terribly sweet, and are so acidic that they need to be diluted. I think they are actually "catawba" grapes, but I don't know that for a fact. They taste very much like concord grapes.

Fermenting them on the skins give me a dark rose' wine. Fermenting them without the skins gives me a white wine.

I have done pH testing with these grapes, and also added calcium carbonate to help precipate out some of the excess acid. Even so, fermented alone they just aren't that good. They make good jam and jellies, but really need some additions to make a decent wine. I've found that putting it through MLF doesn't improve it much, but adding grape concentrate (found in wine making shops) does smooth it out some, as well as raise the SG to a more acceptable level. These grapes are around 8-10 brix alone, occasionally a bit higher.

Using wine grapes is different than these native table grapes, so I find that using a "fruit wine" recipe works well, rather than 100% grape wine procedures. They also need a tiny bit of tannin added to them.

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