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Barbera Harvest Acidity

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JamesdNorcal

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Hello - This is the first year I’m getting grapes from my 90 vines (3rd year vines) at my home vineyard of Barbera. I’m expecting about 200 lbs this year. This is my first year of making/trying to make wine.

I’m in northern cal with lots of sun and 90+degree days recently my Brix is at 24. Some grapes are softish starting to turn to raisins while others are firm staring to soften.
I’ve tested my PH and it’s coming in at 2.85 (compared to Brix 21 and PH 2.75 last week) I’ve also tested the TA and it’s at 1.6-1.7.

I know Barbera is higher acid and I was targeting a harvest ph of 3.2 and target it to finish at 3.5. I’ve read I can add potassium bicarbonate to increase ph but it changes the taste.

Any advice on what to do about the high acid?

I was planning on harvesting as late as possible at 26-27 Brix I might get more raisins and less grapes and keep my fingers crossed ph goes up and acid down at the end.. Or I could harvest sooner at 24-25 and maybe PH is 2.90-3.0 more grapes/less raisins but need to add the potassium bicarbonate.

thanks, James
 

NorCal

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Hey James, Welcome. Where in NorCal are you? I'm situated in Placer County (Loomis). 24 brix? We still have a month or so to go in our local vineyards. How many gallons per week are you watering? Are the clusters exposed to the afternoon sun?

You can lower acidity through additions, but I’d really work to keep the grapes on the vine longer. I suspect you have a mixed bag within the clusters. Look at the seeds, are they brown? Does the skin pull away from the flesh of the grape easily? These are signs if they are really ripe.
 

JamesdNorcal

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Hi -

I’m in El Dorado Hills Serrano. We are on a hillside facing south with lots of sun. I’ve been watering 30muns daily for the past few mo. ( 1gal emitter. in the last week I bumped it up to 2xday because of the heat. Yes, some of the grapes are uneven in ripining but most are 22-24 but a few are 19. The soft ones are 26 and the real soft ones at 30.

I’m thinking I’ll wait as long as possible and maybe make 2 batches of 100lbs each and take the ripest ones first.. and not get into adding the pottisium carbonate to reduce the acid.

here’s a few pics. Appreciate any advice.
Thanks!
 

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NorCal

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The leaves look healthy, like the vines are getting sufficient water and those clusters look like they are pretty far along. We are watering 2.5 gallons at a time, twice per week. Forces the vine to grow deep to get the water.
Check the seeds, they are a good indicator of ripeness. I’m just not seeing grapes in the 20 acres of vineyards I help manage being close to ripeness, so I suspect sun exposure vs. the grapes ripeness.
I like your approach. If the grapes are truly reached the best they are going to be, they should be picked and discarded or make the best wine possible. The two passes may make sense. I’d even look to pick to pH @ 3.3 or 3.4 vs brix.

Barbera is the only red variety that I’ve made that held its acidity well in our area. It makes a fantastic wine. @4score won best of show with his Barbera from our area. It is a great variety for our area.
 

JamesdNorcal

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Thanks.
Here’s a pic of a typical riper cluster. The Brix is 26-27.. PH is only 2.90-2.95..I figure I’ll give them/clusters like this a few more days some will be wrinkled. The Brix will probably get to 27-28, hopefully the PH jumps to 3.1. Yeah the seeds are brown/crunchy. I’ll try and get 100lbs of these and then wait for the clusters that are 22-24 another 1-2 weeks and harvest another 100lbs at 27-28.

what would you do if I harvest in the next few days and Brix 26-27 but ph 2.95-3.0? I guess I could dilute with water or add the potassium or do nothing and adjust later still low?

Btw, My yeast is VRB. I’m planning lazalyme and then opti-red. Would you also look at booster rogue later in fermentation?
 

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NorCal

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That is crazy acidity and early ripeness. If it were me I’d hold out until the grapes couldn’t stand another day, harvest, water back to 24. Go through fermentation, mlf, cold crash over the winter and then and only then look at adjusting based on taste, not a pH number.

I’m not one for additives, don’t use them unless there is a problem.
 

Snafflebit

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Wow so early. You have me worried. I’m going to check on the merlot tomorrow!
 
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JamesdNorcal

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Thanks NorCal. I’ll go with that plan and let them go as long as possible before harvesting. We’re getting cooler weather and actually had fog this AM so hopefully that helps. Let you know how it goes.
 

Snafflebit

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pH should raise 0.1 to 0.3 after ferment. And some yeasts like Lalvin 71B can raise the pH which gets you to 3.1 worst case. Seems doable. Maybe with a water addition
 

Joe B.

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I grow Barbera and those numbers look off. Check your PH meter and what ever you are using for a sugar reading. I'm in the Sierra foothills and usually get a higher PH especially at that Brix.
 

JamesdNorcal

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I’ve calibrated and checked the PH meter a few times to confirm. I’m using the apera60ph meter.

with the cooler weather last week the ripining has slowed a bit. A few grapes/clusters have turned to raisins but the ph has climbed. My latest sample is Brix 25 and PH at 3.08. I’ll give it a few more days where I think the grapes can’t take anymore and go for it. My harvest goal is Brix 26 and PH 3.2. With fermentation and MLF and possibly water down if Brix too high, PH should get toto 3.5 ish?
Make sense? Thanks
 

Joe B.

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Half of my grapes are still green and just turning the lower PH is a good thing. I few raisins I've found not to be a problem and years with a lot make a big wine, It is going to get hot near the end of the week and will speed up the ripening. Be careful will watering back I've screwed that up before so my self I would go with the 25-26 brix but that is your choice as winemaker..
 

JamesdNorcal

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Hi All - Just an update on my barbera.
I picked 100lbs yesterday. I thought the Brix would be closer to 25 based on my samples. We crushed by hand and the Brix was 23 yesterday and PH 3.0. I put in the lalkyzme ex towards the end of crushing and let them sit over night. The Brix is now 25.5 and PH 3.25 which is now in the ballpark.

I ended up getting 2 5gal buckets of must.

Is it normal for Brix and PH to rise that much after crush, I guess soaking gets out more sugar?

I plan to do opti-red this AM. Then pitch nutrients and yeast this afternoon. This is my first time/first year with grapes. Thanks for the advice!
 

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JamesdNorcal

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Btw, I also added 3 Camden tablets during crushing. A few hours before the lallyzyme. The book I have says with a PH around 3.0 add less sulfites. I’m only at about 38ppm sulfite which is a little low? With the grapes coming from my yard I know what I have and the grapes were in good shape.
 

Snafflebit

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The skins contain phosphorus which acts as a pH buffer which brings acid or alkaline closer to 7.0 The phosphorus gets released during crush and cold soak. I do not know why brix would increase. MLF will raise your pH some more, CH-35 works better in low pH wines
 
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stickman

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I think you mean the skins contain potassium; the potassium causes the pH to rise during skin contact.
 

Johnd

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Hi All - Just an update on my barbera.
I picked 100lbs yesterday. I thought the Brix would be closer to 25 based on my samples. We crushed by hand and the Brix was 23 yesterday and PH 3.0. I put in the lalkyzme ex towards the end of crushing and let them sit over night. The Brix is now 25.5 and PH 3.25 which is now in the ballpark.

I ended up getting 2 5gal buckets of must.

Is it normal for Brix and PH to rise that much after crush, I guess soaking gets out more sugar?

I plan to do opti-red this AM. Then pitch nutrients and yeast this afternoon. This is my first time/first year with grapes. Thanks for the advice!
Its pretty typical to see your readings change a bit overnight as the grapes release the goodies stored inside. When running your prefermentation tests,it’s a good idea to run some must through a blender and then strain the juice out of the resultant. This juice will give you good readings that you can act upon on day 1, make any adjustments, and get your yeast on board.
 

Johnd

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Btw, I also added 3 Camden tablets during crushing. A few hours before the lallyzyme. The book I have says with a PH around 3.0 add less sulfites. I’m only at about 38ppm sulfite which is a little low? With the grapes coming from my yard I know what I have and the grapes were in good shape.
With fruit that is in good shape, I never add sulfites to it. First, it’s unnecessary. Second, the less chemicals the better for me. Third, it’s a possible impediment to running MLF on my wine, which I do concurrently with AF.
 

JamesdNorcal

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Thank you guys! I’m seeing my PH starting to rise a little to 3.16. Must be the potassium helping.
 

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