First attempt at Asoleado

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JTS84

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Last year I wanted to try making an Asoleado wine in a similar method to what I learned and tried in Chile, but from MN grapes.

I started with approximately 120lbs of frontenac gris grown about two hours from my house. Why this variety? It is what I could get.

In Chile they now hang the grape bunches on wires strung under porches to let them dry. I set up high tensile wire in my sunroom strung between 2x4's screwed to the walls. We then reviewed every bunch to make sure grapes were firmly attached to the stem and started hanging them on the wires.

After about 80 lbs, one of the 2x4s split in 3 and it all came crashing down to the floor. There are still screws in the wall. The sunroom also has carpeting. My wife was less than content. The kids laughed.

To salvage the situation we raided the shelving out of the greenhouse to make makeshift tables. Then we reviewed all the bunches for loose grapes, which there were a lot, and put the intact ones on the tables to dry.

The loose grapes were crushed, pressed, and fermented separately.

The grapes sat out there for about 3 weeks until they looked and tasted right. Definitely sweeter, slightly wilted. The kids and I then picked all the grapes off the stems and pressed them.

Once pressed I moved the must to a used MN rye whiskey barrel. Why? It was available and half the price of a new barrel. Plus the barrel and the whiskey were made in MN, so I went with it. I also figured that the whiskey would have sucked out a good amount of the oak flavor which would be very good for my purpose.

That barrell came with a note about not fermenting in the barrel. Cesar said it was important that Asoleado is fermented in the barrel due to the interaction of increased pressure with fermentation. I looked at the barrel construction, felt safe enough, and poured the must in. I'd estimate it was a little less than 4 gallons in a 5 gallon barrel.

To keep the bung in, I wrapped zip ties around the barrel. The barrel was placed in a semi protected space just in case. It built up pressure fast. The next day pushed the zip ties to the side and the bung shot up and smacked me in the forehead. I'm glad it was silicone. Translating from Chile, they use cement to keep the bung sealed on the barrel, at least that would be the literal translation. I haven't figured out what that actual "cement" is as it would need to hold under pressure.

After about a week fermentation was over. (This was done in the basement at about 65 degrees) I checked it, it looked and smelled good, then sealed it back up in the barrel.

In Chile they would leave this wine in the barrel undisturbed for 2 years. About 50% would be lost to evaporation. The resulting chilean wine is oxidized, very thick, sweet but balanced by high acidity.

After 3 months I decided to open the barrel and check progress. I didn't know what to expect for evaporation rates in my 5 gallon barrel compared to 52 gallon barrels in SA. I had about 2.5 gallons of wine left with little white bits floating on top. Fearing the worst I transferred to a 3 gallon carboy which I topped off with the other fermented frontenac gris I had on hand and sulfited.

Trying it now, it is still sharp. My wife can detect the flavors of late harvest that she likes along a with just a hint of whiskey. She also tastes a bit of "fermentation and vinegar like it's not ready yet". I couldn't get a good picture deep in the barrel to be 100% certain that it wasn't flowers of wine, but if it was it wasn't much showing.

I'm going to let the wine sit in the carboy and revisit when it gets close to a year. I also didn't like the plain frontenac gris after fermentation, but it was definitely improved 10x when I bottled it and am looking forward to opening one of those at closer to 1 yr.

The barrel has a sulfite solution in it now, I will be disassembling and refurbishing in the near future.

With other projects I have followed advice and instructions.on this forum with good success. This was my personal experiment, and I'm now ready to get other opinions. I know this project went against many of the typical winemaking processes, but I have also have also tasted the results from when it works.

I'm ready to get thoughts from others. What do you think, how do I do this better? The end result should be a sweet dessert wine similar to a late harvest.
IMG_20200920_190835.jpgIMG_20200923_200152.jpgIMG_20210118_171414.jpg
 

Tim3

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Very interesting. I’m not sure about the traditional way of producing Asoleado but the process as you described seems very risky on several accounts. I don’t want to be critical, but my concerns range from exploding barrels to vinegar production. That said, my interest is piqued and maybe you can help me understand why you would choose to hold down the bung during primary fermentation. Since you’re aging for months after primary it can’t be for carbonation. So does it somehow contribute in another way? Also, what’s the rationale for only partially filling the barrel during aging? As far as I know there are only 2 reasons, either for purposeful acetic acid production or sherry production (though without flor inoculation the spontaneous creation is extremely rare). Lastly, you indicated the goal was to produce a sweet wine, but you didn’t mention anything about either stopping fermentation early or back sweetening. Did you get the sweetness you were hoping for?
 

JTS84

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@Tim3
The process described to me in Chile was that it was supposed to ferment under pressure. "The yeast, sugar, and pressure should all be fighting each other in the barrel to make the wine." I thought I remembered something about the interaction of yeast under pressure in the Pambianchi book, but I wasn't able to find it quickly.

The barrel was filled prior to fermentation, but due to the collapse of the hanging system I lost a good amount of grapes of the stems. I lacked the juice to fully fill the barrel prior to fermentation. That's the only reason. The barrel is not topped up as the end result is supposed to be an oxidized wine. I'd guess like unfortified sherry?

Today I found a 375 of frontenac gris wine that I left for topping up the carboy which allowed me to do a side by side comparison. They were completely different! The Asoleado was definitely heavier bodied and had much more concentrated flavors. It was much less sharp/acidic than the plain frontenac gris and sweeter. I would not call it a sweet wine though, but we may be approaching off dry.

I will say that after trying it today my wife and I now in agreement with her thoughts from last night. It's not an award winner yet, but it is better than I thought.

I'll try and post some more thoughts later tonight.
 

JTS84

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Asoleado translates into suntanned and refers farmers harvesting the grape clusters then placing them on top of the bush trained vines to "tan".

The process that I think is going on is that by partially drying the grapes increases the solids and sugar content by decreasing the water content. The must that is then fermented should be thicker and have excess sugar some of which should be left over after fermentation.

My chokecherry from last year was that way, I added sugar to must, then fermented and after fermentation it was still sweet. My only regret is that I didn't make 10x more.

Through evaporation in the barrel the wine should be further concentrated. I wish I could have known the PH and Brix values that Cesar started with in Chile to try to match that myself

The grapes in Chile were also huge compared to what I get to work with, but that is outside of my control.

I believe 2020 was the first year that in wines in Chile could be labeled Asoleado to differentiate them from Late Harvest.

For '21 should I try again:
1)try a different variety of grapes (itasca, briana) if available
2) dry all grapes on tables, forget hanging
3)make sure I have other than ec118 at home
4)fill new whiskey barrel completely (we both like the subtle hint it left in the wine)
5) let the barrel sit for 6 months without opening instead of 3
6) keep my notes in a secure location so that they can be maintained for future reference
 

JTS84

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My only comment is that I hope there is video of some parts of the story.


...and Good Luck!
Sorry to say there is no video. I didn't even get photos of when the grapes were hanging.
 

JTS84

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I also forgot to include that I am thinking of back sweetening the current wine, but I want to see how much magic time works by leaving in the carboy for another 6 months.
 

JTS84

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Fascinating! I found an interesting article on the history of Asoleado at The Lost & Mysterious Asoleado Wines of Chile - The Wine Diplomats I would like to try some but I suspect I would have to go to Chile to get any.
It took me 4 years to finally get my hands on a bottle, and that was at the vineyard. There was only one place in Santiago selling it, but we didn't venture to that sector of the city.

Interesting to read some more history on the subject. Almost all my knowledge came from conversations in spanish at the vineyard. I would like to say that prior to the 2015 vintage the wines were sold as Late Harvest. I have 2 bottles of "late harvest" Erasmo in my basement which led to my questioning and discovery of Asoleado. I didn't know a D.O. existed, which makes me wonder what the previous labeling issue was.

Once you leave the metropolitan area of the country, you can find a lot of traditional wines for sale. All advertised with simple wooden/cardboard signs and most sold in plastic pop or water bottles. It is definitely a fun but semi-difficult place to explore.

I now feel more motivated try to make another Minne-soleado this fall.
 

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@JTS84 You really need to ask yourself, what should the pressure be during fermentation, and what is the pressure rating of the barrel? It's risky if you can't answer those questions. Safety should be a major concern, not to mention your wife isn't going to be happy if the barrel ruptures in the house. Even if by some remote chance the barrel held the pressure during fermentation, the result will be highly carbonated wine, so opening the barrel would have to be done carefully after chilling to near freezing temperature. Removing the bung at room temperature will probably allow a geyser of wine to erupt violently, and yeast, pulp, and other particulates including tartrate crystals make the CO2 release more difficult to control.

gushing.png
 

JTS84

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@stickman
I don't disagree with you on the potential for issues, and I don't recommend that others try fermenting in sealed barrels.

I have been considering fermenting in barrel without it being sealed, or with a pressure relief valve for this year. Last year the barrel did have it's own separate concrete room to sit in should an issue happen and there were some other precautions in place. I just can't think of what kind of cement would form that good of a seal with wood to keep the pressure in and still be removable - especially if it was traditional.

Coming up with a pressure rating for a barrel might be something I tackle next winter. To do it I need to disassemble my existing barrel which tentatively have plans to do next week.
 

Tim3

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I feel like this experiment belongs on “Mythbusters”! I can’t think of any positive reaction that would occur with the barrel under pressure like that, but as long as you prepared for the worst it’s all in good fun. I do want to thank you for introducing this wine type to me, as my favorite wines are the appasimento method ones. Amarone being my favorite big red, but Recioto being my favorite dessert style. Maybe Asoleado could rank up there if I could ever get my hands on one!
 

cmason1957

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Now ain't that something. I was reading something else and stumbled (hurt my toe on it as well) across this article about Asoleado Wine. One major difference between what @JTS84 is trying to do and this article is I don't see the barrel ferment mentioned in this article. Perhaps that was a local thing only and not done everywhere. Who knows. Anyway - The Lost & Mysterious Asoleado Wines of Chile - The Wine Diplomats
 

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I feel like this experiment belongs on “Mythbusters”! I can’t think of any positive reaction that would occur with the barrel under pressure like that, but as long as you prepared for the worst it’s all in good fun. I do want to thank you for introducing this wine type to me, as my favorite wines are the appasimento method ones. Amarone being my favorite big red, but Recioto being my favorite dessert style. Maybe Asoleado could rank up there if I could ever get my hands on one!
I haven’t been able to find anything about fermenting wine under pressure but found several indications it’s done in the beer world to be able to ferment at higher temperatures and limit the production of esters. So maybe it’s meant to reduce the fruitiness of the finished product in the case of Asoleado? Fermenting Under Pressure | MoreBeer
 

JTS84

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I had some other discussions during the week which led to an 1898 paper that studied the effect of increased pressure on fermentation. The conclusion was that increased pressure even at low levels reduced bacteria and spoilage organisms while good yeast was not affected. It would then make sense to me that the process has simply been continued due to tradition.

Given that I can be better at cleanliness and sanitization, not to mention I have to review the grapes twice before pressing, that gives me confidence that I can potentially create a similar wine without using high pressures.

Fermentation is done in the bodega where the rest of the vineyards wines are aged. So this would be a cool temp fermentation. I'm really thinking that the barrels are not sealed as tightly as I previously thought.
 

JTS84

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Saw this on instagram today, Pais grapes sin drying in the vineyard. Being this is from Viña Erasmo, this should become Pais Asoleado.
 

Cynewulf

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Saw this on instagram today, Pais grapes sin drying in the vineyard. Being this is from Viña Erasmo, this should become Pais Asoleado.
That’s a beautiful photo, though the birds and wasps would make short work of those in my little vineyard. I wonder how they manage.
 

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