Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Malbec Mid-Fermentation Update

Seems like just a few days ago that I had added the yeast culture starter to the malbec fermenters and was anxiously awaiting the first signs of fermentation--oh, wait a moment, it was! The yeast took about 18 hrs to get going, and they haven't looked back since! Each fermenter has warmed up to about 76 °F just from the fermentation activity. The rise in temperature is good for color extraction and setting. I honestly was hoping for a little higher temperature, but that's the best I could do without external heating. After only 3 days of fermentation, the Brix sugar levels have dropped by more than half. I'm hoping to pick up my syrah grape order this weekend, but I think I will also be pressing the malbec wine off the skins on Saturday or Sunday if this fermentation rate keeps up. So far, I'm very pleased with the result. Very, very dark color--looks like ink when I'm punching down the cap. And no sign of H2S formation thus far.

a Wine Student.

Prior Chilean Malbec 2008 posts:
Chilean Malbec Grape Crush
Malbec Fermentation Has Commenced!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Malbec Fermentation has commenced!

Just a quick note--malbec fermentation has commenced in good form! Woke up this morning to find a very thick cap of grape skins that had been pushed up by the CO2 gas produced during the yeast fermentation. Gave each fermenter a good punch down and checked for sugar levels (Brix = 21-21.8) and temperature (66.7-68 °F). Juice looks incredibly dark!

a Wine Student

Prior Chilean Malbec 2008 posts:
Chilean Malbec Grape Crush

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Chilean Malbec is here!

Memorial Day weekend has turned out to be far more exciting that I would have thought! My Chilean grape order from M&M Produce finally arrived--or at least the malbec part of it! Silly me wanted to make a syrah (because I love a big, rich syrah). However, due to weather conditions in the Curico Valley this year, the syrah harvest was delayed past the 2nd week in May ETA. The very nice folks at M&M try to combine a person's order into one shipment so you wouldn't have to make multiple trips. Last week, I got the notification that the malbec grapes would be here on Tuesday, May 20, but the syrah was still delayed until May 27. I decided to screw the gas prices and go get the malbec and at least get that fermentation going.

I took Friday, May 23 off from work and drove down the Hartford, CT and finally located M&M Produce. Having never been there, I didn't know what to expect, so I was a little surprised to find that M&M is located in the Regional Produce Market alongside several other produce wholesalers (wonder if they'd help me obtain some Montmorency cherries?). Very nice folks--they quickly loaded me up with 270 lbs of malbec grapes and sent me on my way. The trip back was uneventful besides some brief rain showers a few miles from home that made me glad I had bundled my 15 cases of grapes under a tarp.

I had brought everything I needed up into the garage the night before so all I had to do was to give Vinia (my crusher/destemmer) a good cleaning and sanitize my other equipment before I started crushing grapes. The grapes were actually picked on April 2, but they looked to be in pristine condition with very few leaves. Tasted like plum jam, with greenish-brown seeds. They had been packed with a pad of sodium metabisulfite packets on top of the grapes. You can see my crusher/destemmer setup in the picture. The grapes fall into the Tupperware bins underneath, while the stems fall out into the bin at the rear. I quickly found that lifting a bin of 36 lbs of crushed grape must was about all I could handle without making a mess as I poured into my Brute trashcans that I use as fermenters. I also found that I couldn't simply lift the crate and dump in the grapes because the tissue paper that they were wrapped in would fall into the auger in the receiving bin and go through the crusher! I ended up scooping up handfuls of grapes and tossing them in. One other discovery--I had to elevate the must receiving bins to right underneath the crusher. Otherwise, the must would get sprayed all over place!

Took me about 2.5 hours to get everything crushed. I ended up splitting the must between two Brute fermenters (8 cases in one, 7 cases in the other) to allow for expansion of the must during fermentation. Sugar levels of the must was decent (Brix = 22- 22.5, PA = 12-12.5%). I treated each fermenter with Lallzyme EX, Opti-Red, and pectic enzyme to aid in color & juice extraction. I opted not to add sulfites to suppress wild yeast growth at this point and instead added 4 gallon jugs of ice to do a 12 hr cold-soak. The biggest pain of the whole operation was the clean-up!

The next morning on Saturday I removed the ice jugs and did my pH and acid tests. The pH was a little high (3.56) and total acid was a little low (4.5 mg/mL) so I added tartaric acid to raise the pH = 3.30-3.49 and TA = 5.9-6.6 mg/mL (the range is for the two Brutes and will be averaged out when everything is blended together). I made some yeast starters with RC-212 yeast and added to the Brutes after a couple hours of vigorous starter growth.

Sunday update--beginning to see some signs of yeast activity. The must was a little cool when I added the yeast and the garage didn't get much over 60 °F on Saturday. It's much warmer out today and I left the garage door open to get things warmed up a bit.

Looking good so far...
a Wine Student

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hidden Lake Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2006

It accorded to me earlier this week that I haven't spent a lot of time describing the results of my previous winemaking trials in this blog. Allow me to correct that deficiency with a review of one of my favorite white wines that I made in 2006 during my Hidden Lake Cellars days.

Hidden Lake Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Country of origin: USA
Appellation: Central Valley
Stats: 11.5% ABV, dry (RS = 500 ppm), pH = 3.56, TA = 0.85%, 75 ppm malic acid

Light clear yellow
Aroma: Pineapple, pears, honeysuckle (I can recognize that aroma having grown up with a honeysuckle vine outside my window), and a hint of green asparagus.
This wine starts with a smooth fruity & floral burst with good body and a lightly buttery, tart finish.

This wine was made from CA Central Valley grape juice that I purchased from Home Winemaking in Dundee, MI. The juice was fermented with Cotes de Blanc (Epernay 2) yeast over 13 days. After clearing for 3 months, I had to add some chitosan to help clarify the wine. I did not add anything to expressly prevent malolactic fermentation from happening after bottling other potassium metabisulfite. A year later, I think the wine is beginning to undergo spontaneous ML fermentation in the bottle, resulting in a slight effervescence and light buttery taste. Fortunately, I only have 5 bottles left. If my faithful readers have a bottle on hand, I'd suggest drinking within the next 3-6 months. Spring is a perfect time to enjoy this wine!

a Wine Student

p.s. I took this wine to a Christmas Party that we were invited to shortly after moving into our new house in Westford, MA. Big hit!! And my wife likes it, so I think this was a winner!