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Extended Maceration: 3 Weeks

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Kitchen

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Hello Group,

I am pitching yeast today to a high quality amount of grapes that have been cold soaking for three days. I was considering allowing an extended maceration for at least a week, but maybe as long as 3 weeks before pressing. So total skin contact of 15 to 32 days. Any advice.

I have read that an additional week is okay, but will become overly tannic. At three weeks, the short tannins start bonding to proteins in the skins and fall out, leaving smoother long chain tannins, not to mention more intense flavors.

My primary fermenter is just a 22 gallon food grade trash can (filled with about 18 gallons of must) with a lid, but not an air tight lid. So after fermentation my plan was to place the lid on top and weight it down. I am concerned about O2 exposure and I do not have any inert gas.

Any advice or opinions?

PS., Actually 4 weeks from today would work well with my barreling schedule. Maybe I should try to get some CO2.
 
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jgmillr1

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My primary fermenter is just a 22 gallon food grade trash can (filled with about 18 gallons of must) with a lid, but not an air tight lid. So after fermentation my plan was to place the lid on top and weight it down. I am concerned about O2 exposure and I do not have any inert gas.
If you *really* want to do the extended maceration, I'd try to seal up the top of the trash can before it has finished fermenting so it displaces the residual air with CO2 and can hang for a couple more weeks with less risk of oxidation/spoilage. Maybe toss in your MLB with your last punchdown at around SG of 1.005 and seal her up. A thick plastic garbage bag duct taped around the top of the bin should do the trick. (There are few things that duct tape can't fix.) This is not something I've tried, but I suspect would work fine.
 

Kitchen

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It is a field blend of Merlot, Cab Sav and Cab Franc. Coak soak was at 45F.
 

Kitchen

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I think I have a solution. I will be adding weather stripping to the lid for a seal, two rubber grommets (one for an airlock and another for an access point) and using 6 clamps to make an air tight seal. I will then use the access to pump in argon from some handheld canisters I got to prevent oxidation for three weeks. I will plan on performing a punch down once a day after fermentation has ceased.
 

Ajmassa

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idk man. This seems hella risky. Protection wise- as long as you rigged up a functional system and utilize gas then i suppose it should be fine. But keeping on the skins & lees for another 3 weeks after dry (and after an extended cold soak before fermentation) could lead to a multitude of negative effects.

Firstly, there won’t be a cap forming anymore so there won’t be anything to punch. Skins will already be submerged so to perform daily stirring/mixing would’nt improve extraction much. However a 21day argon protected EM with daily stirring will:
-kick up the gross lees/dead yeast up into suspension
-blow off the co2 early.
-introduce o2.
My true suggestion would be to not do it as it’s super risky. But if you do it then I’d keep it under the microscope big time. And at the first sign of any type of off smell or tannin overdose or something then I’d be quick to cut it short —->**depending on how much I cared about the wine**<—-.
Lately I’ve been making 2 wines a season. One to play around with new ideas, and another more expensive one I’m much less riskier with. If your looking to push the boundaries as a little experiment then more power to ya. Love that. Otherwise just be careful and know you are greatly increasing the probability of jacking the wine up somehow. Could be a lot of different things —-overly tannic requiring a decade+ of aging, gross lees causing nasty odors, h2s forming, bacteria etc etc
 

Ajmassa

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——————————
For some comparison:
I recently read an article with the winemaker from Caldwell in Napa. ($100+ bottles) They take their must and coldsoak it in upright barrels with dry ice for about 3 days.
Then after fermentation, as it approaches dryness in the tank, they stop punching,
seal the tank and fill the headspace with co2. It sits untouched until that remaining cap drops on its own naturally— which takes a few days. At that point it’s transferred and pressed.

Or another from Monte Bella ($100+ bottle), they do a natural “cold soak” (not really tho) with cold grapes, just allowing the natural yeast to ferment which takes about 2-3 days before it’s active. And they press before dry to avoid a tannin bomb. He said they did an EM trial one year on the recommendation of a colleague, resulting in a tank filled with undrinkabke wine. Podcast was linked up here recently. I’ll try to find it and repost.

But both these wineries have control over their vineyards and have a whole LOT of years perfecting their process on their own grapes. They know their grapes better than anyone. Known YAN levels. Known everything levels with full labs. Napa and Santa Cruz produce vastly different grapes- so what works for one doesn’t work for all. I admire the adventurous style- just don’t wanna see an expensive wine ruined. So have fun but be careful! High risk/high reward.👍

Another idea is to maybe pull out 6 gal (about half) at the end of AF and EM the rest. Will have a direct comparison and also can blend in if the EM wine is way too tannic and needs to be knocked down.
 
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zadvocate

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I did it before. used saran wrap going down the side and across the Cap With a large block of wood cut to fit the circular opening. You can buy one at Home Depot. I didn’t have any problems the first time I did this. The second time after a couple of weeks I thought I smelled some funny smells and decided to stop. I haven’t done it since that was a few years ago and I’m not really sure that it did much but then again I’m just an amateur.
 

CDrew

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I am in complete agreement with @NorCal and @Ajmassa. Your plan sounds risky. Risky enough, that I wouldn't do it. 3 weeks is an eternity. You are likely going to make vinegar. You are trying to do with amateur equipment, on a small scale, with no experience, what huge experienced wineries with decades of experience and professional equipment, do cautiously on a large scale. Maybe you're thinking that 18 gallons of must is nothing, but if it's all you have, you are going down a blind alley. Just make a decent wine you can drink. Don't try and make some mythical wine of the ages. Do that with 5 or 10 years of experience. It's a risk vs reward thing.

If I had an experimental 18 gallon ferment, than this is cool. But if this is all your home made wine this year, your plan is not sound. It's more likely to be bad than good. So if you're ok tossing it all out, then proceed. If this is what you'll be drinking in 2-3 years, I'd be cautious.

THey do make maceration enzymes that basically do the same thing with far less risk. Why not go that route? Some Lallezyme EX or EX-V will accomplish the same in 24 hours, pre-fermentation, with minimal risk of vinegar production.
 

Ajmassa

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I am in complete agreement with @NorCal and @Ajmassa. Your plan sounds risky. Risky enough, that I wouldn't do it. 3 weeks is an eternity. You are likely going to make vinegar. You are trying to do with amateur equipment, on a small scale, with no experience, what huge experienced wineries with decades of experience and professional equipment, do cautiously on a large scale. Maybe you're thinking that 18 gallons of must is nothing, but if it's all you have, you are going down a blind alley. Just make a decent wine you can drink. Don't try and make some mythical wine of the ages. Do that with 5 or 10 years of experience. It's a risk vs reward thing.

If I had an experimental 18 gallon ferment, than this is cool. But if this is all your home made wine this year, your plan is not sound. It's more likely to be bad than good. So if you're ok tossing it all out, then proceed. If this is what you'll be drinking in 2-3 years, I'd be cautious.

THey do make maceration enzymes that basically do the same thing with far less risk. Why not go that route? Some Lallezyme EX or EX-V will accomplish the same in 24 hours, pre-fermentation, with minimal risk of vinegar production.
The plan of punching/stirring daily is what I think would be the riskiest aspect. If just left to sit on the skins undisturbed with argon protection in a DIY sealed vessel probably decreases the risk factor quite a bit. And it’s not just o2 to worry about- sitting with everything can develop funky odors easily. So the less you disturb the sediment the better—- in my very amateur opinion. Nothing to gain by daily mixing and everything to lose. And ya can just let it go, well protected, closely monitoring.

Also regarding extended maceration I believe it’s almost exclusively left undisturbed. From kit wine EM in Better Bottles to commercial multi-ton tanks. I definitely may be wrong, but I have never seen an instance where the wine was agitated during an EM.
 

sour_grapes

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For my part, I agree with those who urge caution. In particular, I question how well you will be able to purge the head space using your argon from handheld canisters. You should be aware that there is no such thing as an argon "blanket," and any O2 left in your headspace after argon purging will have full access to your wine.
 

Ajmassa

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I have read that an additional week is okay, but will become overly tannic. At three weeks, the short tannins start bonding to proteins in the skins and fall out, leaving smoother long chain tannins, not to mention more intense flavors.
Never read of this before but Its certainly intriguing. Based on that article it sounds like— go 3-4 weeks minimum, or go none at all Achieving complexity and tannins that have been allowed to explode then transform back into something unique and enjoyable- but with no shortage of variables to account for in getting there. If you still have that article I’d be interested in reading as well.
 

stickman

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The link below is a good podcast on Tannin, there are discussions regarding tannin management with Cab at a couple different vineyards, and another about tannin with Pinot which is also very interesting. They talk about extended maceration. There is always something new to learn. I still would have to agree with many of the comments above regarding extended maceration, it can be exciting to try something new, but it can be risky for beginners that don't have good experience with the particular fruit on hand, and may not be able to devote the time at the moment the wine needs to be pressed etc.

 

VinesnBines

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Jeff Cox in his book Vines to Wines gives his example of extended maturation. He covered the fermenter with plastic and used CO2. He punched down daily. I played with submerged cap. You could do that and the CO2 on top.
 

Kitchen

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Well it certainly is a risk, and I am not to sure how far I will take it. The wine last night was at 1.000, so I will be checking it again today, starting MLF, giving a taste and making a decision.

Below I posted a video talking about the process and, as you can see, the wine maker is using an open fermenter he covers with two layers of shrink wrap and a lid, and he gasses, so it certainly will need to be protected.

He, along with an short article I read with an interview from a wine maker in Bordeaux, both seem to imply that if you half way, it was a waste of time and will produce a worse wine then if you pressed it sweet. But if you take it all the way, it will produce a better mouth feel.

Maybe I will separate out 7 gallons and only perform it to that, depending on how it tastes. Appears that EM kills any fruitiness in the wine. You also need a low PH wine for this to work, so I will be checking that as well.

How long do you keep red wine in contact with skins?
 

Kitchen

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Just teasted and tasted the wine. Now at 0.998 with a PH of 3.7. The wine is still a bit sweet and fruity, more fruity then I like. I will be letting it sit for a while.
 

buzi

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I love to cold soak the grapes, but I do it before fermentation. It is typically between 5 and 10 days depending on how the grapes and must smell and look. Risky, yes. And I have lost a few batches for it. I agree with the rest of the team - plus, there are plenty of organisms that can live in an anaerobic environment. Can you keep it chilled at 38-40 F? That would help keep microns at Bay but it is still to risky for my blood! Good luck!
 

Kitchen

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Well I just shrink wrapped the whole container and pumped in as much argon gas as I could, so here is hoping. SG is 0.996 and still a tad bit sweet.

Here is the hoping. Two weeks to go ...
 
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Kitchen

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Now at day 16, and 10 days after fermentation ended (although I did a 12% whole cluster and still a lot of whole berries in there) on the skins and it is starting to lose the fruitiness, nice tannins developing. I have been double shrink wrapping and pumping argon gas each time I test, every 3 or 4 days now.

Fingers crossed; it is tasting pretty nice so far but not yet full enough of a body.
 
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