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 18, 2010
Many have asked about it... others didn't but still got to hear me blather about it. Here's my story from the truck to the carboy. To appreciate it as I do, you must REALLY like red wine... and then appreciate that it's made right here. I just pressed the grapes off the skins today and it's rollin' in the cellar. I already can't wait to do it again next year. But next year, I think we'll shoot for a clean 500 lbs. Hope you enjoy.
November 09, 2010
That's about 1000 pounds of Petite Sirah right there. I wanted to jump in it, but it was cold out.
I hope to make wine from my own grapes one year, but until I do, I have to buy them. I've been growing grapes, planting a new row and variety each year, for about 5 years now. I battle with the deer, the black rot... you name it, about everything that has prevented me from bringing in the bounty. This year, however, I brought in my first lot of Concord grapes, but there wasn't enough worth making wine with, so we made pies and jams and froze the rest.
Speaking of buying grapes, I brought home the last bounty on Saturday. 300 pounds of Petite Sirah and I am very excited about this one. It feels almost like--ok, time to stop messing around and make some good, red grape wine. So, this Petite Sirah has been somewhat of a project for me delving back into books, picking brains and talking to people.
I really appreciated the help from my friend Dave whose been a student of winemaking lately as well. Dave makes excellent wine and so I wanted to really get a up-close look at his process. When I was in Art School, we were told to "copy the masters". Doing so may not make complete sense at the time, in fact it seemed like plagiarism, but looking back, I found that it brought me up to a plateau where I could look back down to where I really was to see where I did good, or bad. For me, I'm a quick study in most things, mainly because I have no problem admiting that I don't know it all and then asking someone to tell me everything they know.
Ultimately, I choose to stay on that higher plateau because afterall, it's the place to be, right? Knowing what i know now... is better then what I never knew. You heard that here first.
Anyway, I hope you enjoy these pics of the fine people I get to mingle with when we take off on a cold morning to smash grapes, eat pizza and drink wine! Cheers.
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?
October 27, 2010
About everyone has heard me complain that my wine has too much alcohol. I should say *HAD* because I have refer to my latest wines as my "next generation" wines. My next generation wines are made with more care, criticism, thought and intention. All of them are made with the promise of not messing with sugar and letting the fruit shine through. I want to substantiate my self-criticism and feelings about my early wine with something I found on Jack Kellers blog today. It sums it all up perfectly. I like how I even used the same adjective to describe high alcohol wine, "HOT" - Here's the excerpt from his site;
"This was a great question, asked casually at a wine tasting in Alamo Heights, an incorporated area surrounded by San Antonio. The gentleman tasted a Pinot Grigio, made a face denoting displeasure, picked up the bottle and announced "Too much alcohol" while scanning the label. "Ah," he said, "14.6% -- too much." His companion asked, "What percent is too much?" His response was both illuminating and totally correct.
To paraphrase him, he essentially said there is no magic number, but 14.6% for a table wine is almost certainly too much. Certainly it is too much when you taste the alcohol over the fruit, when the heat from the alcohol burns the taste buds, and when the winemaker is obligated to sweeten the wine to attempt to achieve balance and fails in the attempt. What you have here is an overly sweet, hot wine. You have to search for the flavors, which in this particular wine were quite nice, he admitted, but you shouldn't have to search for them. The fruit, not the alcohol, should be up front.
The gentleman was absolutely correct. Alcohol creep began in earnest about a dozen years ago, when growers began letting their grapes hang longer to develop the full flavor of the fruit. The general consequences were higher Brix and lower acidity. In big reds, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, these can result in a rich, chewy wine, but one that can pack a whollop when the bottle is empty. In whites, the lower acidity can result in hot, flabby wines. I would not have called that Pinot Grigio "flabby," but it was "hot" on the tongue.
In home winemaking, one has a certain amount of control the commercial winemakers may lack. We can dilute a high Brix must or chaptalize a low Brix in areas where this is not allowed for commercial producers. When making non-grape wines, we have complete control over the chemistry, limited only by our knowledge and the means to achieve that control. Means in this sense refers to laboratory analysis and equipment.
Yet the greatest abusers of excessive alcohol tend to be novice or young home winemakers. The first group mistakenly believes that more is better while the second group is just seeking a quick buzz without regard for balance or any concept of what a good wine really is. I know. I was among them once, as were many other experienced winemakers. I'm not sure when one grows out of that phase. In my case it occurred when I tasted a truly great, nearly perfect Zinfandel and noticed the alcohol was a few decimals below 13%. For others it might occur when they begin competing and receive feedback from conscientious judges.
But to be fair, I know two local winemaker who have developed a taste for high alcohol wines in much the same way as another friend has developed a taste for moonshine. I do not judge them. They like what they like. But they know what I and most judges will say when we judge their wines."
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