Mordazini 2007 Vintage – Merlot
As I mentioned in my first post of today, yesterday Jim and I went to Purple Pearl Vineyards in Dixon to get this year’s vintage of Merlot grapes.
After last year’s effort to muddle through picking out stems and leaves, we decided to make a trough to move the must from one tank to another. It was a much better, and easier task this time. We bought 1200 lbs. of grapes this year, because Rory (the vintner) told us the juice is lower in this vintage, and I wanted to make sure we have enough wine to get 75 gallons again. So… this year we have 4 tanks of must instead of three.
It took us from 10am to 4:30pm to crush all 1200 lbs of grapes, and pick out all the stems and leaves. After cleanup and return of the crusher, I started the testing. In the last 3 years, I have found that TA and pH are closely connected, so I will check TA before adding yeast today, but I didn’t check it at all yesterday. I had a pH of 4.02 in the must, and Brix of 25.5. Based on previous experience and calculations I knew that I needed at least 4 oz. of tartaric acid in each of the tanks (this year they are closer to 30 gallons than 35).
After adding 4oz. of acid to each tank – the pH went down to 3.50 – exactly where I want it.
At 6:30pm, I added 2 grams of SO2 (tablets) to each 30 gallons of must rather than 5 grams as I did last year. I checked it this morning to make sure it’s not starting a fermentation on its own because the inoculation is lower, and it looks/smells wonderful.
I am publishing this post now, and will add to it as I go through each step of making this vintage.
The ML fermentation has settled, so I added 10mg (2 tablets) of SO2 to the barrel on Wednesday, October 31st. I have had to top the wine in the barrel (about 8oz) each day since.
I have been topping the wine in the barrel every day (about 4oz or 1/2 glass of wine) due to evaporation. I have a humidifier running in the cellar and refill it with a quart of water each day.
I felt the boil-over was finished so I replaced the breathable bung plug with a closed bung plug. BIG MISTAKE! With the rains we have had the past couple of weeks the wine started to work again, and it blew the bung plug out of the barrel and sprayed wine all over the back wall. WHAT A MESS!!
Lesson learned – leave the breathable bung plug in the barrel for at least 6 months or until the effervescence is no longer in the wine.
The taste is good but seems a bit high in acid to me even though the readings are 0.7. Time will tell – so I’m not doing anything for at least 6 months.
After returning from St. Augustine, FL on Business and before leaving for my 2nd business trip on September 24th, I went to the welding supply store to buy a tank of CO2 because the dry ice idea was too much work. We had to buy it every day because we have no way to store it.
Jim kept the must covered with CO2 gas after each punch-down (2 times each day). It is MUCH easier with the gas than it was with the dry ice.
I returned from my business trip to Dallas, TX and Scottsdale, AZ last Saturday, the 29th of September to be greeted by Mom, Dad & Jim. Mom & Dad came once more to help us with the pressing this time, but Mom seemed disappoined when I talked with them before they left to come here because they weren’t going to be able to participate in the Crush – so I arranged to get another 1/2 ton of Cabernet Sauvignon for the following Monday.
Jim had rented the press on Saturday morning, so at 1pm, shortly after I arrived, we started pressing this vintage. It filled one barrel, and 5-each of 6.5 gallon carboys (glass containers), and 2 one-gallon jugs. Plenty for topping the barrel later. AND, now that I have CO2 I won’t have to be concerned about air getting to the topping wine as I use it!
I mixed the ML starter to 2/3 cup of wine, and added some to each container proportionately.
We cleaned up, and took the press back.
TA is 0.75 – it tastes a bit tart for me, and i’ll let it settle a while before I decide whether to bring it down or leave it alone. pH = 3.89 and Brix = 0, so we should have an alcohol content of about 14.5%.
To accurately measure alcohol I will use this method before bottling:
The procedure is to take a hydrometer reading, record the SG , then to place a small drop of wine on the refractometer prism and record the resulting brix reading. Those two numbers are then placed into the following formulae to obtain alcohol and solids content.
Alcohol (vol %) = (B * 4.16 – SG + 1000) * 0.365
Solids (g/L) = (SG – 1000 + ALC * 1.264) * 2.52
Where SG is in 3 or 4 digits, ALC is in vol %, B is the brix reading. To expedite the calculation, the formulae can be entered into a programmable calculator, or into a PC program in BASIC, C or PASCAL. It should be kept in mind that solids are made up of mostly sugar, but also the acids and other minor solid components in wine. When dealing with sweet wines, nearly all of the solids can be assumed to be sugar. The measurement accuracy is affected by temperature. It is essential that all involved items are stabilized at the same temperature, preferably in the 15 – 18 degree Celsius range. I have been asked if the method would be suitable for following the fermentation progress. In principle, yes, but the cloudiness of fermenting wine blurs the refractometer reading, making it difficult to obtain meaningful numbers.
We have been punching down the crown approximately every 6 hours every day. The garage has been between 68F and 75F every day (temperature varies between punchings). This vintage has never had the sulphur smell that the other vintages did in the early stages of fermentation. The smell and color are excellent.
I tested Brix, pH and TA today at 2:30pm. Brix = 7, pH = 3.74, and TA is still high at 1.10%. I believe I will need to add some potassium carbonate before transfering the wine from the tanks to the barrel to bring the acid down below 0.9% or it will be too tart for my taste. I’ll be very careful and take lots of time, one tank at a time.
As I mentioned earlier, I plan to leave this vintage on the skins 2 weeks after fermentation is over (at least until the 29th of this month). So I inquired from one of the wine makers at Mondavi (Marteen), who told me to buy some dry ice from Baskin Robbins, and put it in a styrofoam cup and simply set it on top of the must between each punching to keep the oxygen out of the must. That seems easier to me than finding a tank of CO2 gas and trying to put it in the tanks. I’ll be gone for the next two weeks giving marketing seminars to clients, so Jim has volunteered to tend to the must while I’m away. I am so grateful for him and his participation in this hobby that I can’t thank him enough! THANKS JIM!
Footnote to TA. I read in “From Vines to Wines” by Jeff Cox (ISBN: 1-58017-105-2), page 128 – he wrote:
“TA correction with tartaric acid has a beneficial effect on high pH, bringing it down, but the correction is always made to adjust the TA, not the pH. If the TA is just right but the pH is a little hight, a smart wine-maker would leave it alone. TA has 10 times more effect than pH on a wine’s taste, so it’s TA that’s adjusted, and pH is left to fend for itself.”
The fact that I didn’t check TA the first day, and only checked the pH, was a mistake. If the pH is between 3.3 and 3.7 it should ferment well and be ok. He also wrote, “A high pH wine is also much more prone to oxidation, which reduces flavors and adds browning colors to both red and white wines. Finally, reds with a pH of less than 3.3 tend to resist malolactic fermentation.”
Judging from the color and taste at this point, I believe I’ve got a chance for a great vintage, despite my panic on Sunday evening. Like Jim says, “PATIENCE, Randy”.
Punched down the crown again @ 11:30am, 6pm and 11:15pm yesterday – room stayed close to 70F all day. This morning at 6am at punch-down time the room was 68F – crown of 4″, and at Noon was 71F and another 4″ crown. The high acid taste is gone but won’t test for TA again until fermentation is over. The smell is WONDERFUL – better than any other vintage, and the color is already deep purple – darker now (at 3 days) than any other vintage was – even when they were transferred to the barrel.
At 6:45am there was a crown of 2″. The fermentation has begun. The room was 68F. Now I’ll punch down the crown every 6 hours until fermentation is over. I’ll check the acid when I have 0 Brix, and decide what to do with TA then.
I have found another way to measure acid. This one doesn’t require the boiling of water first, and less pH indicator. It is not as finite as the other, but for a quick reading to determine if it’s between .6 and .7 this will work nicely
1. For most kits you add a 15 cc sample of wine or must to a clear bottle or drinking glass.
2. To this is added 3 drops of pH indicator (phenolphthalein)
3. Fill a 10 cc syringe with titrate solution (sodium hydroxide)
4. Add the titrate solution ½ cc at a time to the must and swirl.
5. When a colour change takes place (pink for white wines, gray for red) note how much titrate solution was used; i.e., if you started with 10 cc and finished at 4 cc, you used 6 cc of solution. For each cc of solution you used, the must contains 0.1% acid. Your wine, therefore, contains 0.6% acid.
I have been surfing the internet about how to lower acid, and discovered a few things that have already made my heart a little lighter.
1. I read that it takes red wine must 6-12 hours to completely absorb tartaric acid added to the must. That explains why it seemed perfect the night before, and was low yesterday evening.
2. You can lower the % of acid by doing one of these three things:
3. You should test the sodium hydroxide solution, because it has a 6-month shelf-life by using a solution of 5.0 grams of tartaric acid made up to 1.0 litres with water. Using a 15 mL sample of this, check its TA as you would for wine. It should, of course, read 5.0 g/L. If it reads much over this – for example, a reading of 6 would mean your measurements will be 20% too high – then get fresh sodium hydroxide solution.
OUCH – I think I goofed. As Jim put it, “Maybe this wine making is trying to teach you patience.” – I must admit I am often like a freight train. It takes a lot of energy to get me moving, but once going down the track, it takes just as much or more energy to slow me down or stop me.
It was nearing dinner time yesterday and I wanted to get the fermentation started before we ate so I started at 4:30pm to add the yeast. 6-packets per tank, mixed in warm filtered tap water (just like last year).
After adding the yeast, I remembered that I hadn’t tested the TA yet. In a panic, I raced to test it (which should have been done BEFORE adding the yeast. 150ml boiling filtered water in a beaker, add 15cc must, 5 drops phenolphthalein (pH indicator), then add sodium hydroxide in 1cc increments while swirling the beaker until the mix turns grey-green. The measurement was 7cc – then multiply by 0.075 and the resulting TA was .525.
Oh, my! I needed it to be closer to .70 – I checked the pH and it was 3.71. now I was more concerned because pH needed to be 3.5. The fact is I was safe at these readings, but I have read that low acid and high pH can be a problem later with the growth of undesired qualities in wine.
Now, didn’t know how adding acid after adding the yeast would affect the fermentation process, but I didn’t want wine that was flabby, brownish in color or full of H2S, so I decided to add it to the must and take my chances.
In my “freight-train” rush down the tracks, I didn’t take time to double-calculate properly exactly how much acid to add, and my first calculation indicated I needed 3oz of tartaric acid per 30 gallons. To raise acid 0.1% in 5 gallons, you need 37.5ml, or 7.5 tsp, or 35.6g. of acid. I knew I needed to raise each tank of 30 gallons at least 0.17%, so foolishly I did the math in my head and came up with 8.5oz. per tank. I knew from experience that I should go slowly, so I added only 3oz. per tank – so that’s what I did.
Still rushing down the tracks I added the acid to all 4 tanks before taking another reading – what was I thinking? I should have remembered that if you get acid too high you can balance it back down by mixing from one tank to the other – but no, This train was headed down the tracks at full speed!
My next reading resulted in 1.13% TA.
After getting the high reading I my heart sank, and I decided to just test pH and hope for the best. The pH in each tank was between 3.17 and 3.22. That’s still between the pH of 3 and 4 allowable, but I hope the acid absorption in the must will bring it down at least below 0.9%.
I checked the must at 11pm, and the yeast hadn’t started to work yet. It’s now 5:30am, and I don’t want to wake my dogs yet so I’ll give it another hour before I check it.