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13 pounds of Wild Grapes...what now?

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DuderNoob

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So I've been home brewing for 7 years and have the fermentation process down...have made some mead too. Basically, I'm familiar with fermentation.

With that, the river by my house has tons and tons of wild grapes. Big, luscious, plump purple ones. I went and collected about 13 pounds. I'm going to be juicing them tonight or tomorrow, but as I've been looking up recipes I see a ton of different stuff. Some things I'm confused on:

Add water and sugar and boil?
Use camden tablets?
Pitch yeast and let it sit for 2 weeks?
Leave peels in for a while or no?

I'm pretty confused despite always hearing that winemaking isn't too difficult. If anyone can help me out with a simple step by step recommendation, I'd be really grateful. Thanks!
 

Luse_Cellar

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Sounds like they must be red grapes, and if the skins taste good it'd end up being the most flavorful and interesting wine if you fermented it on the skins. Use some sulfite (35-50ppm), crush up the grapes (avoid crushing the seeds), take them off the stems if you're so inclined, and add rehydrated yeast. If you have the capability to check and adjust acid and sugar levels that'd make things even better. Once it's almost done with primary fermentation, get rid of the solids (Drain and press), and a day or so later rack it off it's gross lees (smaller solids that collect on the bottom). Then, decide if you want to put or let it go through malolactic fermentation, and how you want to age it. If you don't want to put it through ML, make sure you get some more sulfite in there and keep it cool. If you do want to, don't sulfite a second time till it's done with ML.
 

DuderNoob

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Ok, I have read thru your response many times and looked up everything I didn't know about. I washed and picked all the grapes from the stems today and will do everything else tomorrow (grapes in the fridge currently). So here is my process I will execute with a few questions for you along the way.

1) Crush the grapes, lightly, as to not crack the seeds.
2) Take a BRIX reading (hoping for a 22-25 range)
I only have the pH strips, will this work for testing acid?
3) Pitch yeast (do I need to "sanitize" the grapes of their wild yeast before pitching yeast? Let the must sit in metabisulfate or something?)
4) after 5 days, rack off solids, press solids.
5) 1.5 days later, rack off the sludge at the bottom of carboy
6) pitch malolactic bacteria
7) wait until that is done, use metabisulfate to stop yeast activity and bottle

Am I missing any major steps in there? Also, I read about TA but that seems kind of hard and I don't want to be into this endeavor for a ton of money on supplies.

Thanks for your help, it's much appreciated.
 

Luse_Cellar

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Ok, I have read thru your response many times and looked up everything I didn't know about. I washed and picked all the grapes from the stems today and will do everything else tomorrow (grapes in the fridge currently). So here is my process I will execute with a few questions for you along the way.

1) Crush the grapes, lightly, as to not crack the seeds.
2) Take a BRIX reading (hoping for a 22-25 range)
I only have the pH strips, will this work for testing acid?
3) Pitch yeast (do I need to "sanitize" the grapes of their wild yeast before pitching yeast? Let the must sit in metabisulfate or something?)
4) after 5 days, rack off solids, press solids.
5) 1.5 days later, rack off the sludge at the bottom of carboy
6) pitch malolactic bacteria
7) wait until that is done, use metabisulfate to stop yeast activity and bottle

Am I missing any major steps in there? Also, I read about TA but that seems kind of hard and I don't want to be into this endeavor for a ton of money on supplies.

Thanks for your help, it's much appreciated.
2. Brix is a good measurement, how are you planning on measuring that, hydrometer I assume? If so, it's best to temperature correct the measurement (vinoenology.com is a good resource for this). What is the accuracy of your pH strips? If they are only accurate to 1 pH they won't tell you too much. If they are accurate to 0.5 it's better than nothing. If by chance they are accurate to .1pH that's pretty awesome. You want your pH to be in the range of 3.2-3.8. As far as brix go, that seems like a pretty good range. You don't want to adjust the sugar level too far because it'll impact the flavor of the final wine quite a bit but ~5 brix adjustment or so is generally fine.

3. Nope! The amount of SO2 you add at the beginning will take care of that well enough. Don't wash the grapes either, just ferment them dirty. Any microbe on there that could hurt you will die in the fermentation process, and any dirt or other debris will improve your terroir :ib

4. I wouldn't do it that early unless your fermentation is done by then. You want to get the fermentation pretty much completed before doing this, unless you want a really light wine.

5. I would do one racking 1 day after pressing, and another 2 days after that then again maybe 3 months later.

7. Metabisulfite in a normal dosage will not kill commercial yeasts and some "natural" yeasts are also not very inhibited by it. It will take care of most all bacteria though.

The other thing I failed to mention is that when fermenting on the skins you will need to "punch down" the cap of skins that will float to the surface. Basically, just push the skins back into the juice and get them wet. You'll want to do this 2-3 times a day until you press off. Don't worry about TA, it mostly affects how tart the wine tastes and not as much it's microbial stability. pH is critical in terms of understanding the microbial stability of your wine, but TA isn't too important with that. Also, yeast nutrition is pretty important and I'd imagine your wild grapes are pretty nutrient deficient, so make sure and add some or else your yeast will probably get stressed and make your wine smell like rotten eggs. I'm subscribed to this thread and it helps me learn to talk things out with others on what they're trying to figure out. I'm in college for this so I should at least know the basics, so feel free to reply to this thread with any questions (and updates, pictures, etc.).
 
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DuderNoob

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Thanks so much for following the thread and willing to talk it out with me. Few more questions:

I'm going to my local brew store to buy the following. Let me know if there's anything else I may need:

Yeast (nutrient/energizer as well? DAP? GO-Ferm?)
Malolactic yeast (do they sell this at places)
Campden tablets (is this my SO2 or do I need to also buy that?)

Questions about fermentation: do I need to make a yeast starter or just sprinkle in the yeast on top of the must?

Also, when "at the beginning" do I add my SO2 (and how much)? I read somewhere that people will get their must, add the campden, wait a day, then pitch the yeast. Is this the typical process?

To answer a few of yours: I'll be using a refractometer to read the brix. My pH strips go in increments of 1, I'll see if they have any better than that at the brew store. Also, I had already plucked all the grapes and lightly washed them before you mentioned it. Hopefully it's not too much of a bad thing.
 

marquettematt

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As far as fermentation goes, I can't help you more than anyone else but If they're the species I believe they are, consider using additional acid reducing techniques. What was the TA?
 

Luse_Cellar

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Thanks so much for following the thread and willing to talk it out with me. Few more questions:

I'm going to my local brew store to buy the following. Let me know if there's anything else I may need:

Yeast (nutrient/energizer as well? DAP? GO-Ferm?)
Malolactic yeast (do they sell this at places)
Campden tablets (is this my SO2 or do I need to also buy that?)

Questions about fermentation: do I need to make a yeast starter or just sprinkle in the yeast on top of the must?

Also, when "at the beginning" do I add my SO2 (and how much)? I read somewhere that people will get their must, add the campden, wait a day, then pitch the yeast. Is this the typical process?

To answer a few of yours: I'll be using a refractometer to read the brix. My pH strips go in increments of 1, I'll see if they have any better than that at the brew store. Also, I had already plucked all the grapes and lightly washed them before you mentioned it. Hopefully it's not too much of a bad thing.
No problem at all!

I would get Go-Ferm to rehydrate the yeast with, and Fermaid-K as a nutrient. If you wish you could get some DAP, I don't think that'd be a bad idea. Fermaid-K has DAP in it already but I'm betting those grapes are real low in Nitrogen so more DAP may not be a bad idea.

Malolactic bacteria is likely available but expensive and only sold in 60-gallon doses usually. Ask them what they have or what they would recommend, they may be willing to sell you a small amount of it. You don't need that yet though.

Campden tablets are usually sodium bisulfite. This will work but potassium bisulfite is generally better. If they have ionodose tablets those are supposedly pretty good. Campden tablets are fine though, and standard for home winemaking.

You will want to rehydrate the yeast with Go-Ferm ( http://www.scottlab.com/uploads/documents/downloads/59/YeastRehydration_Lallemand.pdf )

This is a typical SO2 process, yes. At the beginning meaning right after the grapes are picked, so basically as soon as you can. I'm assuming you've had the grapes in the fridge since you picked them?

What's your current refractometer reading? I would recommend picking up a hydrometer if you can, during fermentation a refractometer is convenient to have for quick checks but a hydrometer is much better for looking at how things are progressing. They aren't too expensive though you will want a graduated cylinder to go with it, or a hydrometer cylinder. Go ahead and check it with those strips but if you can get better ones that's even better. The only reason I recommend against washing them is that you dilute the flavors somewhat and if you let them dry afterwards before crushing them they're more likely to grow mold or mildew. I'm sure it's fine, I wouldn't worry too much about it but next time you might have better results just fermenting them without washing them off.
 

MisterEd

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Thirteen pounds will only generate about a gallon of wine typically. Going forward I would recommend picking upwards of 70-75 pounds to make a 5 gallon batch. The more you have on hand the better chance of having a good end product.
 

DuderNoob

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Hey fellas,

Okay, so here's where I'm at:

Brix of 24
PH is between 3 and 4

At the brew store the guy was pretty knowledgable. I bought some Go-Ferm and Fermaid K, plus the Red Star dry yeast.

He told me the malolactic culture was pretty expensive, especially if I am only yielding 3 bottles of wine in the end. I checked out the pH meter tool, but it was $100. I'll probably pony up and get it eventually as it will help with brewing beer in relation to my water mineral content, but passed on it today.

I do have a hydrometer but didn't know where it was. I found it tonight though, so I can take a reading in the morning. What will that tell me that the refractometer will not?
 

Luse_Cellar

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Hey fellas,

Okay, so here's where I'm at:

Brix of 24
PH is between 3 and 4

At the brew store the guy was pretty knowledgable. I bought some Go-Ferm and Fermaid K, plus the Red Star dry yeast.

He told me the malolactic culture was pretty expensive, especially if I am only yielding 3 bottles of wine in the end. I checked out the pH meter tool, but it was $100. I'll probably pony up and get it eventually as it will help with brewing beer in relation to my water mineral content, but passed on it today.

I do have a hydrometer but didn't know where it was. I found it tonight though, so I can take a reading in the morning. What will that tell me that the refractometer will not?
Well those numbers sound promising. I would leave the sugar content alone. At least you know your fruit is in the range of acceptable pH. Unfortunately, the difference between 3 and 4, or even 3.7 and 4 is quite large when it comes to SO2 additions, but perhaps you will be OK making up a number.

Awesome, the hydrometer won't (or shouldn't) tell you anything different yet. As fermentation goes along, the refractometer becomes less accurate due to CO2's affect on it's accuracy in reading. Hydrometers, of course, are also affected by this. With a hydrometer though, this can be mostly taken care of by spinning the hydrometer as you put it into the wine, displacing any CO2 that may keep it floating higher. The other advantage is that hydrometers go to negative brix measures, whereas refrac's don't. This will be key in the final stages of fermentation.
 

dorfie

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Where are you located? I am wondering because those readings are interesting for wild grapes, it would be interesting to find out what species they are. If you have any pictures of the plants and leaves you should post them!
 

Maynard123

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I know I'm entering this thread a bit late but is it possible that you live some where in the south? If you do your grapes could be muskadine grapes. As they grow wild and can be great to make wine with, I have been making wine with them for several years now. If you do a google search there are lots of recipes out there for making wine. Some people also call them Scuppernong grapes. As for color there are lots of different varieties and can be Bronze, red, purple to black. If you would like some interesting information google The Mother Vine, which is located on Roanoke Island N.C.
 
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marquettematt

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Where are you located? I am wondering because those readings are interesting for wild grapes, it would be interesting to find out what species they are. If you have any pictures of the plants and leaves you should post them!
How much do you want to bet it's riparia? lol
 

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