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FrontenacMan

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Hi all,
New to the forum. I have just finished my first wine from homegrown grapes. I have 6 three year old vines. Three are Frontenac and three are Frontenac Gris. I harvested and pressed 5 gallons each of juice this past fall. I've bottled the Gris and I think it will be good (fermented with no skins using Pasteur Cotes de blanc). Both were acidic (ph of 3.5) and were tart. Okay for the Gris as preferable for a white but not for the Frontenac (red). So I performed an MLF as is recommended for cold hardy grapes. Using a malic acid test kit it read about 400 at the start and now (1.5 months later) it is almost 0. Tartness is reduced considerably but I would like to back sweeten a bit. With MLF sorbate, of course, is out of the question. I don't want to use sugar. Would prefer to use a concentrate... perhaps Alexander's but which one. Any suggestions/recommendations?
 

Boatboy24

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Even with concentrate, you're still adding sugar. So I wouldn't go that route.

Have you tested the pH? If its too low, you may try potassium carbonate, followed by cold stabilization.
 

FrontenacMan

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Hi Jim and thanks. The PH is now at 3.6 so I don't think I want to drive it any higher at the risk of turning the wine too flat tasting and from what I've read also making it more susceptible to spoilage (apparently that's why kits have you add potassium sorbate before bottling). The SG started out at 1.89 (21 BRIX). I ended up with a SG of .98. I was thinking that using concentrate to backsweeten would add in some interest as opposed to sugar which just adds sugar taste (if that makes any sense). Learning as I go here and research revealed that my best bet would have been to reserve some original juice but alas I was happy to get 5 gallons this year. Hopefully I will get more next year. In hindsight and in researching I think I picked a bit too early as a BRIX of 25 is not uncommon for Frontenac. But a pesky possum (yes, not birds but a possum) was raiding my little vineyard and forced me into picking a little early out of greed.
I was wondering if anyone out there has worked with Frontenac and might have advice on what grape (concentrate) might pair well with it. It's my understanding that the Frontenac is a sibling of the Pinot Noir grape (I think). Perhaps that would be a good choice to use? I was also told that Syrah is a fairly neutral grape?
 
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Julie

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Adding a concentrate is the same as adding sugar, you are going to possibly start fermentingthis all over again. You would need to add sorbate before the concentrate but since you put the wine thru MLF you can't add sorbate because that will cause off flavors.
 

FrontenacMan

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Thanks Julie but respectfully I would have to disagree. If concentrate were the same as sugar then we would all be making wine from simple syrup (sugar water). The fact is that concentrates (which wine kits are made of) carry the properties of the varietal from which they are derived. Those properties are what distinguishes a Cabernet from say a Malbec. I would posit that those same properties if introduced into a finished wine would impart those same properties. As far as restarting fermentation, if I understand the process correctly, yeast dies under two conditions. 1). It runs out of food (sugar) or 2). It can’t tolerate the (high alcohol) environment. Given my beginning and ending SG level I calculate an alcohol level well over 13% which according to what I’ve seen on the yeast strain I used is beyond what it can tolerate. Given this situation I think the risk of refermentation is probably low. And though sorbate is out of the question, I will still be adding metabisulfite (to a level of 50 ppm) to stabilze. From what I read, large scale wine makers backsweeten all the time.
 
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ibglowin

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They also sterile filter to remove all yeast. You add any sugar without sterile filtering you will have a high probability of bottle bombs in your future.
 

Boatboy24

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You are right about the concentrate adding properties of the grape. But it still contains sugar. No matter what, you're adding sugar. And unless you are 110% positive you won't have a refermentation, adding any kind of sugar is something I would strongly recommend against. If your wine went dry and there were no off odors, that yeast was most likely still ready and willing to consume more. Bulk aging is fine, but what is going to happen during bulk is most or all of the sweetness from the concentrate will be gone as the yeast consumes the sugar, bumping up your alcohol and making the wine more harsh. Or the yeast will try to consume the sugar, but due to alcohol toxicity will be stressed and produce off flavors and odors.

My two cents is I'd try to simply age the wine to see if you can get that perceived acidity down. Your pH is right about where it should be. And with your wine only being a couple months old, it needs some time to mellow - a year or so.
 

FrontenacMan

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Again thanks Jim. I think you've convinced me that trying to get a sweeter wine isn't worth the risk. As they say (harsh but true) garbage in garbage out. My brix being on the lower end to start resulted in a wine made from less mature "green" grapes and lack of a sweet taste. A learning experience for next years harvest.
I will age and hope for the best. Do you subscribe to my bulk aging approach? The environment will be my cellar which holds a pretty constant 55 to 60 degrees. One additional point, l did oak on medium toast American oak spirals through secondary fermentation and MLF.
 

Boatboy24

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I think bulk aging is the best approach at this point. This early on, I'd almost expect the wine to be a bit harsh. Sounds like your cellar is just about perfect.
 

grapeman

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Welcome FrontenacMan. Frontenac is one of the most difficult grape varieties there is to work with the acid levels. The biggest piece of advice I can give is to let it ripen, and when you think it is ripe, let it hang some more. A pH test is not enough with this one. You need to test for g/L acid as TA and try to get it down around 12 g/L before picking. Some years that is just not possible. I have seen it picked as high as 22 g/L TA before and those grapes are just so acidic that MLF isn't even likely to occur. Most cold climate grape growers begin with Frontenac and almost all of them drop it soon after getting grapes because of the acid levels. To me it sounds like you are experiencing what beginners to the variety deal with all the time.
 

FrontenacMan

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Thanks grapeman. Absolutely true. I was reading a thread in the Grape Growing and Vineyard forum where one person is combining Frontenac with Valiant which is a very low acid grape. This counteracts the high acidity of the Frontenac. That sounds like a plan I can work with. I probably would have been better off with Marquette but at the time I started my vines that variety wasn't available here at the local nursery. It is now. I will let the grapes ripen more this year. I just need to figure out how to keep the possums away from them.
 
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