In need of SERIOUS help! EXPERTS NEEDED!!
I need experienced wine makers to save my wine!!
Long story short - I was pulled into a group of winemakers that make wine from grapes every year. I mentioned to one of them a while back I thought it would be cool (I make beer), but I'm not a huge wine drinker and I never asked them to buy the raw materials for me when they do their annual wine making.
Well I get a call that "their grapes are in and that they have grapes and a barrel for me". Well this is a costly investment as you know but it gets worse....
Still in shell shock from my investment that I didn't want to make....I find out that this group of guys are about as rouge as it gets and I'm way to anal for their liking. Each of the 10 guys had 8 "boxes" of grapes and on day one they/we crush the grapes....stems and all. Well after putting up a fight I refused to crush with the stems so I fought them and spent ~8 hours destemming my grapes. They crush directly into large tubs with a loosely fit lid for a week, stirred daily, and today, one week later, they pressed off the grapes (my grapes included).
I now have all of this juice and not sure what to do next. At this point the group of "wine makers" put the wine into their full barrels w/ an airlock in a drilled rubber stopper and let it ferment NATURALLY. They pull and drink directly from the barrel when its ready (beginning in Jan 1 they said).
I know there are acid and sugar checks...and then there's that whole pitching of the yeast thing but I'm not sure what to do at this point. Can someone please help salvage my wine?!?!!?!
- Would you let the wine ferment naturally???
- Should I add Potassium metabisulfite this late(remember the grapes were crushed on 10/11)?
- Should I pitch a pure yeast strain? If so how much and what kind? I had 8 apple/banana box sized boxes of grapes crushed and they are using that amount to fill a full wooden barrel (59 gallons?)
- Should I check acid and sugar/gravities at this point with crush and initial fermentation beginning on 10/11?
- Should I add additional sugar? These guys add 100lbs of table sugar and don't check gravities, BRIX, acid levels, etc.... If I should is it OK to use table sugar, because we don't in home brewing beer...
- How long should I let the must sit and ferment? After they pressed it today I went to their house and picked up my wine because they put it directly into their barrels at this point. So my wine was crushed on 10/11, sat in a large "trash can" for a week, and was pressed and strained today (10/18). It now rests back in the "trash can" the must was in. Also is the head space, or lack thereof critical as it is in beer making?
- Would you ferment in the barrel?
Please help!!! I've looked for information online and everything I've found is very basic and assumes you are starting from day one with fresh grapes which I am obviously not...
I need to know what I need (and buy) to make the best out of the situation that I'm in....
I just want to clarify a couple of things.
1. When you crushed, you didn't add yeast?
2. You still haven't added yeast?
3. Potassium Metabisulfate is added to stop fermentation "permanantly" and Sulfur is added to "stun it".
4. I would ferment in the barrel very easily.
5. I would use a yeast that will make sure to take over anything that is in that juice. I would personally add 30ppm of sulfur and then wait a day to add the yeast. That way if anything has taken off you might be able to get it under control so that your yeast has a clear go.
6. Dependant on the grape, I would use a very strong yeast such as an EC-1118 or some other strain of PDM. My reasoning is because depending on the brix, you might have more trouble with other yeast strains. Without knowing the brix, I wouldn't add something that will take four days to get going and would falter at the end of fermentation.
7. You should have checked the acid, but it is not needed. 60 gallons though will make you want to check it. You want between 3.4 and 3.9 to begin and then after Malo Lactic fermentation you will have between 3.5 and 4.2. The less acid means the less you will age, so drink up!
8. Yeast is typically added at 2lbs/1000gal, so for a barrel you are looking at about 3oz (get a calculator to make sure). Make sure to add some nutrient as well dependant on brix.
9. Top the barrel one week after the beginning of fermentation and make damned sure to keep it topped at all times. The wine will fail if you don't top it soon enough after the fermentation has ended. Which for the most part is when the wine stops making that Rice Crispies sound (about a month) when you put your ear to the bung hole. That is when you add the sulfur at about 50ppm. Also, you will need another 5-10gallons of wine to top off the wine along the way. Two Buck Chuck is a great topping wine that only costs about $10/gal
I still can't believe you spent 8 hrs destemming...
Regular checking of the SG is the most important thing. It can stay in a bucket while fermenting but once it stops it has to be kept away from air. What grape variety was it? what was the OG after adding sugar? It should be fermenting already, keep checking the sg and keep tasting it.
Wine is a very different animal than Beer...
Here's the deal... You are probably too far along to stop and redo it! What you described them doing is HOW YOU MAKE WINE the Old way... and Your Wine just completed Primary Fermentation! It is a *Very* traditional way to make wine.... Literally over 10,000 years old.... and It Works!
If you are curious... pop a Hydrometer in there and check out the SG. I bet their recipe targeted around 1.090+ OG (If anyone ever checked it...) -- 1 week later, I bet it is running below 1.03 -- which means fermentation is right on schedule to transfer over to the Secondary. When it ferments dry.... You will end up with a wine Alcohol content that runs ~13% -- which is too much alcohol for all the nasty beasties that cause trouble with Beer and other weaker beverages....
The key to the whole thing is them buying their special Wine Grapes from a real Vinyard. Those grapes have been specifically bred over the last 15,000 years to make Wine! They even come with their own "Wine Yeast"... Free of charge.
Good luck with your new batch.
Greg - You can't believe that it took me 8 hours to destem the grapes (as in it shouldn't haven't taken that long) or you can't be I had the patience to destem the grapes by hand?
Thanks John - I know this is the traditional way of making wine and that there are wild yeasts that are capable of fermenting the wine. I was just surprised that for a group of guys that put this much money into it do it this way every year....
I was just surprised by their process (not de-stemming, not checking gravities or acids, and blindly dumping 100lbs of sugar in.
Thanks for your reply and recommendation.
1. No I did not add yeast - they let the wild yeast ferment their wine
2. I did not add yeast. I was asking if its too late to add yeast at this point
Thanks for your suggestions!
Depending on the type of grapes leaving the stems on is one scheme to bump up the tannins in the wine.... There is also some Laziness factor in play here too...
I guess the only "In Hindsight" thing I can think of...
How do you like their wine? Have you sampled "Vintages" from the past few years? Did it seem like it was pretty high quality overall? I think if you liked their wine from past years... there is a pretty good chance this year's wine will be fine....
Next time..... If you want to exercise a little more control, etc... Freeze your grapes until you are ready with all your supplies, yeast, etc. It also makes that final pressing quite a bit easier.
Ok... 3-months later... I am sure you have racked it at least 1x by now...
How is it tasting?
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