November 30, 2010
This year, I grabbed 300 pounds of Petite Sirah grapes. I've found that these single varietal dry reds use quite a different process than fruit wines. The vineyard will wait to harvest the grape until it reaches the ideal brix for that varietal so to the winemaker the variables are a bit more controlled than that of a typical fruit wine where the variables are all over the place.
One of the things we do in red wine is undergo malolactic fermentation. This is where malic acid is converted to lactic acid... contributing to more rounded flavors and mouth-feel.
We need to know when malolactic fermentation is completed and we do this through the use of paper chromatography. In this video, I demonstrate the test and explain it as best I can. Hope it's helpful.
November 08, 2010
I told myself 'this year, I will not just step over the walnuts, but I'll collect them with my son and do what my dad once did with me'
Processing walnuts reminds me when I was a kid... when my dad made us all help him :) All of us--my friends too. There was a time I felt I was in danger of loosing my friends because of all the "chores" my dad made them help with. Simple nostalgia drives often drives me to do the things I do. I told myself I wasn't going to step over the walnuts and forget them this year.
In our family, there was always a bowl of nuts on the table... through the winter. Maybe I did it just to have some nuts layng around. Black walnuts have a hard shell that takes a hammer (or a heavy duty cracker) to bust the shell. I recall using a hammer and my dads anvil to crack black walnuts and tediously pick the nuts out of the shells for hours when I was a kid. But the reward was something else. It is something I crave more now as an adult then I did when I was a kid. Here, in our my back yard... the best quality nuts for the taking, and all I need is the desire.
My dad would collect them when they were soft and mushy and would drive over them with the truck to loosen the hulls. I took a more precise approach. Here's the process I employed. I clamped a drawknife in the vise and rolled the walnut over it to cut the husk in half. Then, using both hands (with latex gloves on,) twisted either side of the hull in opposite directions. The greener ones came right out... the darker, harder ones took rolling them on the ground under my shoe.
Cleaning the gunk off is a multi-day process. Put them in a bucket of water and use a paddle on a drill or something to agitate the goo off. The water will be black. Again, this will stain your clothes and hands. I got some holes in my gloves and had black fingers for weeks. Still on my hands as I type as a matter of fact. Nothing will take the stain out, except time.
Afterwards, I put them under some screen or wire to let the sun hit them and dry out. After the hulls are clean enough, bring them in side and store them in a cardboard box in the corner... even near the fireplace. The nut will contract and be easier to get out of the shell.
Do this with your kid, but allow them to become bored and don't force them to appreciate this process like you do. It's only important to expose them to it, so that one day, they may look back as I have... and maybe take it up on their own. Afterall, us Morgan's become a little nuts over time. Take a look at the pictures to see the process.
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November 02, 2010
The home winemaker will typically use a basic acid titration kit to measure acidity in wine because other manners can be quite expensive.
While not 100% accurate, it's close... and it's a test whose results I do not ignore. You can rely on it especially when you have become consistent enough in the process of conducting the test. This video shows you how.
Just to clarify... once I have achieved the color change that is described in the video, I will subtract the amount of sodium hydroxide that remains in the syringe (3 cc's) from what I started with (10 cc's). So the result is 7 cc's and each cc is approximately .1% acidity (expressed as tartaric acid, TA)
So, we started with 10cc's and we consumed 7cc's, leaving 3 cc's. So that gave us an acidity reading (expressed as TA) of .7% for this white, Sauvignon Blanc.
Update: I said Cabernet Sauvignon in the video, but it's obviously a white wine. I meant to say Sauvignon Blanc :) Happens to the best of us, right?
November 22, 2009
If you are diligent in tending your wine, you may never experience ozidation. However, if you are like me and tend to experiment a lot, you might have more wine going than you can sometimes keep track of. Don't get me wrong--it's not at all that I put it off... I just have way more obligations than one man should have. As such, while wine generally takes care of itself, sometimes I may check in on it a little later than I should. Meanwhile, perhaps the S02 levels may drop while I'm not looking. But let me be clear, I definitely won't neglect my prize batches.
The reality of the situation is, I keep a cellar that is like a big test tube of experimentation. Tehy say a good winemaker has a lifetime of experience. I believe that. My goal is to pack in more experience in less time to produce a better wine, sooner. So I experiment a lot and log everything.
I have experienced oxidation a time or two. The best way to describe oxidation is to cut up an apple and watch within seconds while it turns brown. There are several facotrs that can contribute to oxidized wine. The two most common are too much headspace in your carboy, or too low of S02 levels in your wine. Be sure to mind these two things, and you may never experience oxidation.
Many people think when a wine has oxidized, its bad. Really, oxidation can be reduced, and in some cases eliminated by the use of powdered skim milk. Mind you, it won't win any awards, but it can become a good, drinkable wine again, reminicent of the base you fermented. That is better than dumping it down a drain. Try this before you dump it.
The procedure is as follows:
- Calculate the amount of wine to be treated, in litres, and for each litre of wine measure out 0.5 gm of powdered skim milk into five (5) mL of cold water. Stir into a solution making sure all the skim milk is dissolved. NOTE: It is important that you use powdered skim milk, not de-creamed whole milk or malted milk/
- Now bring the SO2 level of the wine up to the required amount with respect to the pH.
- Stir the wine vigorously and while it is swirling, add the skim milk solution by making sure that it enters well below the surface of the wine. There may be a bit of foaming, but it will dissipate. Continue to stir the wine to ensure all the skim milk is well distributed. It is important that the skim milk solution enters well below the surface. If you pour it on the surface, little, or nothing, will happen. Once the skim milk is fully distributed, brown curds will develop in the wine and will ultimately settle out.
- Replace the airlock and allow the wine to settle for 2-3 days. Meanwhile, prepare a fining agent for fining the wine.
- After 2-3 days, rack the wine off the oxidase curds into a clean carboy and stir in the fining agent. Allow this to settle for about 10 days, then rack the wine off the lees. Add an airlock. Filter and bottle.
November 01, 2009
A lot of people ask me questions about wine making and it frustrates me that I can't give them a specific answer. The reason is because the answers are not always the same.
Example, "how many apples or how much grapes does it take to make wine?" Or, "how much sugar do I add to my wine?" "What all equipment do I need to make wine?"
I use the leftover apple cider from our cider smash to make 3 gallons of apple/pear wine and at the same time, attempt to answer some of these questions. I also talk a little about acidity in wine, fermenting fruit and how the hydrometer can tell you how much sugar to add to your wine (must).
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