Blackberry wine postmortem

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Stressbaby

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This thread is a little embarrassing but I'll post it anyway because maybe it will help me or someone else down the line. Sorry for the length.

I recently submitted six wines to a wine competition. I did OK, two bronze (elderberry rosé and lemongrass mint) and one silver (lychee). Two other wines didn't medal but the scores weren't bad and the judges had nice favorable comments.

But the 2015 blackberry was terrible and it was reflected in the scores. Don't ask me what prompted me to send this wine, not sure what I was thinking. At no time would I have said it was a gold medal winner, however, and now I know why.

Two main flaws...first it was oxidized. Second, there was a geranium odor or, as one judge wrote, "sorbate-flawed MLF"

I have one bottle left, so I opened it. Brown, clearly oxidized. Not sure how I missed that when bottling.

As to the aroma, the smell of crushed geranium leaves to me is distinct, having been imprinted into my brain when I was a child playing with my mom's potted plants. This is NOT that smell. It doesn't smell good though, and so I've spent the last 2 hours smelling it, trying to burn that smell into my brain, because to me it doesn't smell like geraniums.

I looked at my notes. Straight juice. I adjusted the pH preferment up to 3.4. Yeast was 71B. Six weeks postferment pH was 3.5. I used a little oak (cubes) but not until the wine was 6 months old. I added kmeta preferment, but then I didn't add kmeta again until 3.5 months after fermentation. Then I didn't add kmeta again for another 3.5 months after that. I added the sorbate and backsweetened in July about 2 weeks after this dose of kmeta, but didn't bottle right away; I waited another 3 months, dosed again with kmeta and bottled in October.

So what went wrong? My thinking is that the SO2 levels got too low, and between the relatively high pH and inadequate SO2 levels, it got oxidized. Maybe there was some malolactic activity as well, which would be consistent with both the rise in pH and the end result after adding sorbate. I'm interested in thoughts on this.

I checked 2016 blackberry to compare. I didn't push the pH so high preferment, and the postferment pH was 3.17 which should provide some protection. I hit it with kmeta at thaw and again 6 weeks postferment - probably not soon enough, but certainly not as late as last year. It has been oaked (cubes) and another dose of kmeta since then. SO2 is sitting at 50. The color is not bright purple like my elderberry and red grape wines. It is not brown like the flawed wine, but it is still a little brick colored. I was under the understanding that blackberry wine tends to do this - it tends to sort of lose that nice purple color when exposed to light or just with time. But now I'm having trouble telling whether or not it might be oxidized too. The aroma to me is of blackberries, oak, and a little of smoked meat...pleasant, nothing foul like the flawed wine.

I'd like this year's blackberry to not suffer the same fate as last years. This wine will need some backsweetening, so my thoughts are first, don't fall behind on the SO2; second, sterile filter before backsweetening, rather than using sorbate. Other thoughts?
 

Tnuscan

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Sorry to hear the bad news. If you didn't add sulfite after racking off the gross lees, you may, have open a door for trouble. I'm wanting to doubt it though.

Something surely happened for it to oxidize, whether headspace issue(which I doubt) it could of had a bad seal at the bung to glass contact or one at the airlock to bung contact area.

The only way I see a contamination from mlf would be from using a utensil or maybe reusing oak cubes that were from a wine going through mlf. If you were doing a mlf at or around the time of this batch , then maybe it could be possible.

All it takes is an enviornment like high pH or low SO2 to invite the bad bugs in.

Using 1/4 tsp of k-meta at each racking, I feel, by not knowing the actual ppm needed we are adding a little extra at evey 3 month racking even at 3.5 which would require 40ppm, but there should be a little left there from the last racking. Even so, all should be well.
 

Tnuscan

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Oh.. I just reread and saw straight juice, was this a fruit base as in pasteurized?
 

Stressbaby

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Hi Tnuscan,
No, it was 100% fresh fruit, frozen then thawed. I wasn't doing any MLF at the time.
 

Rodnboro

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I entered 2 wines in the Greater Kansas City Cellarmasters competition last month. One medaled and the other didn't. The one that didn't was a blackberry. I always taste a bottle of my entries before sending and the blackberry was good to me. One judge said it was oxidized. I wonder if he was just going by color and not taste. His overall comment was a flawed wine. I'm not complaining though and understand that some judges don't appreciate fruit/sweet wines.
 

Stressbaby

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I entered 2 wines in the Greater Kansas City Cellarmasters competition last month. One medaled and the other didn't. The one that didn't was a blackberry. I always taste a bottle of my entries before sending and the blackberry was good to me. One judge said it was oxidized. I wonder if he was just going by color and not taste. His overall comment was a flawed wine. I'm not complaining though and understand that some judges don't appreciate fruit/sweet wines.
This was the same competition. I had NOT opened a bottle of my 2015 blackberry in the 3 months before I sent in my entry. I will not make that mistake again.

Regarding blackberry - as above, I have been under the impression that blackberry wine holds its color poorly, and that this is not simply a matter of oxidation; that it can have the appearance of an oxidized red grape wine when in fact it is light exposure or some other factor. Is that true? If not, then I have a problem with this year's blackberry as well.

Regarding the GKCCM Wine Classic - I thought the feedback was good. One particular judge, who evaluated 3 of my wines, didn't write anything. But the other judges' comments were very helpful. Two of my wines were marked down as being "too dry" or "needs more sugar." I think that there is a bit of Pepsi/Coke thing going on with the fruit wines. Remember the blind taste tests Pepsi did years ago where people liked Pepsi better than Coke? The issue was that Pepsi is sweeter, and after the first sip, Pepsi scores better. But by the end of a glass, Pepsi is too sweet, and that's why the first sip test is not valid. I think I'm making Coke.
 

Tnuscan

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Do you add k-meta when you rack off of the gross lees?
I saw @ 6weeks post ferment and it made me curious?
 

Stressbaby

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Do you add k-meta when you rack off of the gross lees?
I saw @ 6weeks post ferment and it made me curious?
I didn't with this wine. I do now. I only started doing that last fall. Not sure why it took me 3 years to figure out that fermentation blew off most of the SO2.
 

Tnuscan

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This years crush has really taught me the importance of pH and so2 additions. Through the years I've followed the 1/4 tsp rule. Not realizing how important the differences in pH affects the addition levels needed for different wines, I feel has hurt me in my finished product.

How do you test your so2?

And Thanks, your posts and answers, along with many others, are helping me to become a better wine maker.
 

Stressbaby

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This years crush has really taught me the importance of pH and so2 additions. Through the years I've followed the 1/4 tsp rule. Not realizing how important the differences in pH affects the addition levels needed for different wines, I feel has hurt me in my finished product.

How do you test your so2?

And Thanks, your posts and answers, along with many others, are helping me to become a better wine maker.
Likewise my friend.

For SO2 testing, I've been using titrettes. However, I'm going to have to move to a more advanced method. I've got a batch of Chambourcin right now that is so dark you can't see when the titrette changes color.

Thinking of going with this one: https://morewinemaking.com/products/vinmetrica-sc100a-so2-analyzer-kit.html
 

wildhair

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I don't know enough to offer any insight, but I am curious about the mention of lemongrass mint wine. I grow both and made some 3 mint wine (applemint, peppermint, spearmint) last year that I think will be very nice. Do have any recipe for the lemongrass mint that might be useful to a complete beginner? Not trying to get off topic or hijack a thread - apologies if this violates protocol.
 

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