Quantcast

2020 Merlot-heavy Bordeaux blend

Wine Making Talk

Help Support Wine Making Talk:

winemaker81

wine dabbler
WMT Supporter
Joined
Nov 5, 2006
Messages
812
Reaction score
736
Location
Raleigh, NC, USA
Last year I purchased 5 lugs each of 3 grapes. While I love the outcome, it's a bit of a juggling issue with relatively small amounts of 3 wines (~2 carboys each).

This year I decided to do it differently. I settled on a Merlot-heavy Bordeaux blend. I'm not making enough of the secondary grapes to make a carboy of each, so I decided to roll the dice and make a field blend. The plan was 12 lugs of Merlot and 1 lug each of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.

In late August the wife & I toured the Biltmore Estate in NC (USA), and my favorite wine was a melange of Bordeaux and Rhone grapes ... with Zinfandel. At the last minute I chose to buy 4 lugs of an old vine Zinfandel, and reduced the Merlot to 8 lugs. I made both the Merlot and Zinfandel last year, and am highly pleased with both.

The grapes arrived Saturday and I have them in 4 fermenters -- 2 Merlot, 1 Zinfandel, and 1 "other". One Merlot and the Zinfandel have 1 pound each of medium toast shredded American oak for fermentation, while the other Merlot and the Other have 1 pound each of French oak. I'm experimenting to see how if the oak makes any difference in fermentation. Supposedly it doesn't in fermentation, so we'll see.

I have a 54 liter neutral barrel and am buying a second, so the Merlots and the "Other" will go into the barrels. Depending on the amounts produced, I may have to add some Zinfandel to fill the barrels, and expect to need some for top up.

The barrels are 10+ years old so I'll be adding French oak cubes, probably 6 oz each. I'm undecided if the Zinfandel (which will be in carboys) will get French or American, or possibly Hungarian.

In the spring I will bench test blends to see how much (or if) I want to blend the remaining Zinfandel into the barrels.

EDIT: Following are links to my online records for this year. At this point I'm tracking the 4 batches separately. However, once blending begins (post-fermentation), I'll condense the records, and will update this list.

2020 Merlot 1 (American fermentation oak)
2020 Merlot 2 (French fermentation oak)
2020 Zinfandel
2020 Red Blend (Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot)
2020 Sauvignon Blanc
 
Last edited:

Boatboy24

No longer a newbie, but still clueless.
Joined
Mar 18, 2012
Messages
14,194
Reaction score
11,376
Location
DC Suburbs
Sounds good to me. I did two field blends last year - both of which I'm very pleased with so far.

FWIW, I thought I'd read somewhere that oak in primary helps with sacrificial tannins and reducing vegetal characteristics. I always use oak chips in primary.
 

winemaker81

wine dabbler
WMT Supporter
Joined
Nov 5, 2006
Messages
812
Reaction score
736
Location
Raleigh, NC, USA
FWIW, I thought I'd read somewhere that oak in primary helps with sacrificial tannins and reducing vegetal characteristics. I always use oak chips in primary.
I read that -- it may be one of your posts that spurred my thought on this. I didn't know how much I'd need, so I ordered four 1 lb packages of shredded, toasted oak. The package said 2 to 3 cups for 5/6 gallons. Since I should get 10-12 gallons initial volume, I went with 6 cups per fermenter. Each package had maybe 1/2 to 3/4 cup left, so I dumped it in.

I'm interested if the American vs. French makes any difference.
 

winemaker81

wine dabbler
WMT Supporter
Joined
Nov 5, 2006
Messages
812
Reaction score
736
Location
Raleigh, NC, USA
As with last year, I'll be making a second run on the pomace. I'll ferment each of the 4 separately, but will combine them post-fermentation. I did that last year with the 3 wines, and I'm highly pleased.

Last year I lightly pressed the 1st run wines, fermented 2nd run, pressed lightly, and then pressed hard. I kept the 2nd run light and hard pressing separate, with the light going into the barrel. The light and hard press are completely different wines; initially the hard press was harsh, but it mellowed out and has a lot more body than the light.

A friend did the above sequence, having the 1st run in a pair of 50 gallon barrels, and the light press second run in a 3rd barrel. He took the hard press (which he called Squeezins') and divided it between the 3 barrels, as it contained a lot of body, color, and flavor. I'm going to try that this year.
 

winemaker81

wine dabbler
WMT Supporter
Joined
Nov 5, 2006
Messages
812
Reaction score
736
Location
Raleigh, NC, USA
I've always just gone w/ French, just a preference. It would be interesting to do some side by side experiments though.
I'm intending to reserve 4 liters from each of the 4 batches, setting them aside for comparison when I'm ready to fully mix in the Zinfandel (or not) next summer. These wines will not receive any aging oak, so I'll be able to do a real comparison

All reds are above 1.030, and since I'm going to press at +/-1.000, I'm guessing Monday, maybe Tuesday. I checked temperature on the Zinfandel -- it registered at 82 F on a digital kitchen thermometer. The room temperature is 72 F.

In addition to the reds, I've 7 gallons of Sauvignon Blanc in progress. Our group collectively purchased a 50 gallon barrel of Sauvignon Blanc. One guy backed out, so 13 gallons were available, so my son and I snagged 7. I wanted the entire thing so we'd each have a carboy, but someone else was interested so we split it.

The Sauvignon Blanc is currently just north of 1.020, so I expect to rack Saturday or Sunday.

EDIT: I updated the first post to include links to my notes.
 
Last edited:

winemaker81

wine dabbler
WMT Supporter
Joined
Nov 5, 2006
Messages
812
Reaction score
736
Location
Raleigh, NC, USA
I checked SG on all 4 fermenters this morning while racking the Sauvignon Blanc. I have not been checking SG on all 4, as it's messy and the batches are all (more or less) in step. However, I'm getting close to pressing so I checked each. The Merlots are at 1.010 and 1.012, and both the Zinfandel and red blend are at 1.008. It's looking like I'll press tomorrow or Tuesday.

While I rack kits at ~1.010, I'm going longer with these for more skin contact.

Taste testing all 4 shows highly positive results. Both Merlot, well, taste like slightly sweet Merlot -- this is a good thing, I have high expectations for them. In comparison the red blend is very peppery. I think either on their own will be very tasty, and the blend will be a winner.

The Zinfandel is very fruity in comparison and I'm going back-n-forth on blending it in. However, to fill both barrels, I will have to, which forces my decision and stops the waffling. ;)

I want to reserve a gallon of each wine for later comparison, but I to fill both 54 liter barrels, that may not be possible. In any case, I will reserve at least 1.5 liters of each and will bottle in splits to make them go farther.

Among other things, I want long term comparison of American vs. French fermentation oak for the Merlot. The reserved wines will be unoaked so I can make that comparison.

The picture below is one of the Merlot, it's got nice color, and it's the lightest one -- the red blend looks like ink.

merlot-in-glass.jpg
 

winemaker81

wine dabbler
WMT Supporter
Joined
Nov 5, 2006
Messages
812
Reaction score
736
Location
Raleigh, NC, USA
This morning the Zinfandel was done fermenting (cap started to droop) and the other three were at 0.998. At 3 PM I started pressing ....

No helpers today, so it was all on me.

I also changed my plans. I re-figured the amounts I expected to get, and realized that I had mis-calculated. The Zinfandel will have to go into the mix initially as I don't have enough of the others to hold it back. Oh, well, not a biggie.

I pressed the Red Blend and the Merlots first, putting ~ 5 gallons each of free run wine into a 54 liter demijohn. This wine will go in one barrel. Among my experiments -- I'm doing one barrel free run, one barrel pressings, to see if there is much difference. While barrel 1 will be topped up with pressings containing Zinfandel, that will be a minority. I may homogenize them before bottling ... or not. I'll decide a year from now.

blend in demijohn.jpg

All 3 are pure ink -- the ScottZyme ColorPro enzyme I used for color extraction REALLY did the job.

I also saved a gallon of free run wine from each of the 4 in jugs, and have a gallon of pressings from 3 of the 4 (I forgot one of the Merlot). My intent is to have the original wines for comparison during bulk aging, and I want 5 bottles of each. The plan is to taste test the individual wines and the overall blend at 1 year marks, starting a year after bottling.

It's amazing how much sediment the pressings drop! This happened in less than an hour.

red blend sediment dropping.jpg

I ended up pressing all the wines harder than I did last year, resulting in drier cakes. I also changed the formula for the second run wines. For each Merlot and the Red Blend, I put 2 tsp tannin, 5 tsp acid blend, and 5 tsp Fermax in the fermenter and added a gallon of hot tap water. Then I added 10 lbs sugar, and swirled the fermenter to mix it as much as possible. Next I added 2 more gallons of hot water, swirling between each addition -- the sugar was mixed in. Next I added 2 gallons cold tap water, then the pomace, stirring as well as I could.

I didn't make a second run on the Zinfandel. Instead, I divided the pomace by 3 and added it to the other batches. I pressed the pomace harder, leaving less "good stuff" there, so compensated by adding more pomace. I thought this through and expect I'm going to get 20 gallons from this, and 8 cases is plenty to drink while the first run is aging ....

My butt is whooped! I celebrated 6.5 hours of labor by taking a shower and enjoying a glass of last year's Zinfandel while typing this ...
 

winemaker81

wine dabbler
WMT Supporter
Joined
Nov 5, 2006
Messages
812
Reaction score
736
Location
Raleigh, NC, USA
I had a plus and a minus during today's effort. First the plus ...

I built a jig for racking that eliminates chunks. I took a 2' piece of PVC and drilled a bunch of holes in one end. To use, I wrap it in a nylon straining bag and plunge it into the must. The racking cane goes inside the PVC, which fills with wine while the bag keeps out pulp and oak. It worked like a champ!

pumping jig.jpg


Now the minus. I purchased the Super Sucker wine pump. The preliminary test was great, it moved K-meta at a rate a bit above 1 GPM (Gallon Per Minute). I looked at other water pumps, they all were WAY too fast.

The first half of today's effort was great!

The second half? Not so much.

The pump's switch is cheap plastic and it broke. I was able to mess with it and get it to work, although it was a pain in the butt. Also, the auto-priming stopped working, so I had to mess with it more. And it appears to be wired incorrectly, or at least poorly, so moving the pump turned it off.

DO NOT BUY THIS PRODUCT.
 

winemaker81

wine dabbler
WMT Supporter
Joined
Nov 5, 2006
Messages
812
Reaction score
736
Location
Raleigh, NC, USA
I've always just gone w/ French, just a preference. It would be interesting to do some side by side experiments though.
Yesterday we racked most containers of the 1st run and pressed the 2nd run.

The Merlot fermented with French oak tastes & smells markedly different from the American oak. The American is very fruity tasting, while the French has oaky tones and a richer nose. Which is better? Neither. It's all going to depend on individual taste, as I like both.

Plans for the 1st run are finalized.

1. Preserved 4 liters each of each batch (Red Blend, Zinfandel, American Merlot, French Merlot) with the intention of bottling them as-is (no aging oak) so I'll have 5 bottles of each. These will be used for comparison to the main blend over the next few years.

2. Free run mix of both Merlot (2/3) + Red Blend (1/3) is in 54 liter barrel. The choice of 1 lug each of the other Bordeaux grapes was a good one -- this already has peppery tones. My son and I are both highly pleased with this, so far. I'll be topping this barrel, as far as I can, with non-Zinfandel blend. In hindsight, I should have saved an additional 2 gallons for topping, but am not fussing too much about it.

Next Level Oak plans to produce a bung to fit barrels, and if this comes to fruition, I'll try their French oak. Otherwise I'll use 6 oz medium toast French oak cubes.

3. Everything else. I've got three 5 gallon carboys plus odd gallons of the remaining blend, which is approximately 40% Zinfandel, 40% Merlot, and 20% Red Blend. At this time it's a hodge podge -- I have no idea what percentage of blend is in any container. At pressing I put ~5 gallons of each Merlot + Red Blend in a 54 liter demijohn, then started filling carboys with the remainder. During yesterday's racking things were haphazardly mixed to ensure full containers.

At the next racking I intend to rack all into a 32 gallon brute to homogenize the wine, then 14 gallons will go into a neutral barrel, and the remainder into various jugs. This barrel with get 6 oz oak cubes; I'm considering Hungarian, but may go with French. Either way I don't decide for another month (at least).

2nd run

We got 19+ gallons from the 2nd run, pressing the cakes HARD. Hard enough we had to work at it to reverse the ratchet (#40 press). I expect the volume will be reduced by ~2 gallons at the first racking. The color looks good, better than last year, although until it clears I won't know for sure.

I will be testing and comparing Next Level Oak's American, French, and Hungarian products. Each carboy will get a different one -- I'll be testing to see how quickly each absorbs oak, how long they last, and if one treatment is enough, etc., and will publish my results.
 

winemaker81

wine dabbler
WMT Supporter
Joined
Nov 5, 2006
Messages
812
Reaction score
736
Location
Raleigh, NC, USA
Yesterday I purchased a used 54 liter barrel from the couple from whom I purchased a barrel last year. Stamped on the end is "2010", so this is the 11th year of usage.

Today I moved 3 carboys of "Meritage Plus" into the barrel, with a 750 ml and 375 ml left over. I lost very little to sediment. The picture below shows the color I got using ScottZyme ColorPro. This product is permanently on my list of things to use.

first run (1).jpg

Barrel #1 contains Meritage, a blend of 2/3 Merlot, 1/3 Vinifera Blend.

Barrel #2 (plus extra containers) is Meritage Plus, a blend of 40% Merlot, 40% Zinfandel, and 20% Vinifera Blend.
 
Last edited:
Top