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Garage Winemaking in South Africa

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Wilhelm

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Good day, though I've been brewing beer for about 4 years, I am brand spanking new to winemaking. I'm now busy with my first batch and will post my progress and comments here for anyone interested. Any comments and feedback welcome.

So the first wine is a Winexpert Riesling Kit. I chose this because I wanted my first batch to be something that is made to be enjoyed fresh as I do not wish to wait up to two years to find out where I've screwed up. So hoping to gain some experience a bit faster with this kit and will start a red wine in the coming month.

The kit was bought in South Africa where I reside. This brand is the most expensive kit I could find locally and I went with this as the other options were extract tins, which I'm not so sure will provide a high quality product. Hopefully I'll be able to find more options going forward. The kit came with EC1118 yeast. Coming from a beer background, I opted to also purchase some fresh Mangrove Jacks CR-51 as I'm not certain how well the kit yeast was stored/transferred to reach it's destination. As the kit is 23L and my fermenters are only 24, I split the kit in two and fermented both with half packets of both of the yeast strains (was surprised to see that the yeast formed almost no crausen so I'm not certain how much headspace is truly necessary - purchasing some 27l glass carboys now for future winemaking project). Temp was 22 degrees C when I pitched the yeast but I put my fermentation chambers to chill it down to 13 degrees C where most of primary took place. The temp drop didn't seem to affect the yeast, which was showing signs of fermentation 12hrs later. I also added a tablet of yeast energiser into each fermenter.

I do not yet know what the negative impact would be, if any, of possibly over/under pitching yeast in wine. Nor do I know if pitching high and bringing temp down has any negative impact on the character of the wine. It is clear that wine yeast doesn't react in the same way as beer yeast and it's not yet obvious to me how much knowledge is transferable between the two fields.

10 days later and the SG of 1.090 is down to 1.009. I transferred fermenting liquid from both fermenters to a 23l PET carboy and popped back into the fermentation chamber which I now set for 16 degrees C. Fermentation still going pretty solidly so it appears as though the yeast is happy and healthy and should finish the job well. Expecting to take another sample in 7-10 days to confirm fermentation is complete so that I can start with clarification.
 

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salcoco

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fermenting this white wine at a cool temperature is correct. it allows the fermentation to go slowly and prevents the aromas of he wine to escape. there is no over/under pitch rate on wine yeast. if under pitch the yeast will eventually grow to start fermentation. over pitch if occurs just start fermentation sooner. normal dosage is one gram of yeast per gallon. yeast nutrient is 1.25 grams per gallon given once fermentation starts. suggest fermentation monitor to at least sg= 1.00 or less. rack three day post fermentation to remove wine from gross lees. then rack again three weeks later. age for three moths thereafter. at three day racking add k-meta and fining additions from kit. enjoy. oh one other thing some wine yeast will not cause a lot of foam as you experienced. monitor with hydrometer necessary to insure fermentation is going on.
 

Wilhelm

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Thank you for this response and confirming some points that I've read in other sources. The kit instructions were to transfer once reaching 1.01 or lower, so I just followed with that recommendation. There's clearly still a lot of yeast in suspension at this stage and expecting still quite a lot of sedimentation to occur. If understood correct, I agree with your proposed method of rather waiting for sg=1.00 or less as I think it could reduce the number of transfers needed. I shall add k-meta and finings as per your instructions which is in line with kit instructions. Does the temp at which you age over the three month period make a difference or can one just leave it at room temp and then do cold stabilisation for two weeks following the three months? I really do not want crystals forming in the bottle so I see this as quite a critical step.
 

salcoco

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Wilhelm

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Thank you for the input and education. It was my understanding that cold stabilisation is best practice for all white wines. I will do the required reading and decide from there.
 

Wilhelm

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So it took another week for the airlock activity to die down, surprisingly long time. Will be taking a further SG reading tonight to confirm that the fermentation has reached terminal gravity. Didn't want to take another SG reading until I was confident that fermentation is done. Trying to keep interaction/oxidation with the fermenting wine to a minimum.

Wondering what everyone's thoughts are with regards to de-gassing with a drill attachment and oxidation. I personally would prefer putting negative pressure but not sure if it's really much of an issue here and that a drill attachment might just be a simpler and faster solution.
 

Johnd

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You shouldn’t fear exposure to oxygen to the point where you’re concerned about waiting to take a SG reading, particularly in the ending stages of AF, where plenty of CO2 protection is still around.

As for degassing, it will occur naturally in time if left to its own devices. If you must speed it along, vacuum degassing is fine, as no little oxygen exposure takes place.
You’ll expose your wine to lots of oxygen in the whipping process, lots of folks do this successfully with no ill effects, it’s a winemakers decision.
 

Wilhelm

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Thanks for the response Johnd! I guess you are right concerning the risk of measurements over that phase. Was clear that fermentation was still busy and though some might not care, I don't really like losing 80ml of product for hydrometer readings. I suppose more readings could help with detecting a stalled fermentation. Fingers crossed I won't be sitting with that issue as it was still going steady for a week from a reading of 1.01.

Would prefer to enjoy the Riesling pretty fresh but if the drill attachment is too much of an oxidation risk, I might have no choice but to wait it out.
 
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Wilhelm

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Yes, am sure you can get away with it most of the time. Not sure it's best practice. Probably best I should just keep quiet and go purchase a refractometer.
 

Johnd

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Yes, am sure you can get away with it most of the time. Not sure it's best practice. Probably best I should just keep quiet and go purchase a refractometer.
It's a perfectly acceptable practice, most folks use this method for testing when they can't just float the hydrometer in the must due to solids. As Paul said, sanitize your equipment and you'll have no issues.

A refractometer for testing sugar content will have its readings distorted by the presence of alcohol in the must, and is much less reliable than a hydrometer. While there exist some charts which purportedly allow you to adjust the distorted reading, a simple, inexpensive hydrometer won't leave you guessing..........
 

Wilhelm

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Thanks for the great advice. You all clearly have a lot of experience in this and I clearly have a lot to learn on the practicalities of winemaking apposed to brewing.

Though it appears my hydrometer isn't printed correctly for measurements below 1, the results of the FG appears favourable and sitting at 0.995. Will give it a couple of days before I start with clarification etc.

Not sure it's worth noting the taste characteristics of the sample at this stage but it certainly tastes promising, surprised with a bit of grape flavour still left in the background and not sure if that will fade away with some time.
 

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sour_grapes

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Though it appears my hydrometer isn't printed correctly for measurements below 1, the results of the FG appears favourable and sitting at 0.995. Will give it a couple of days before I start with clarification etc.
Good news on your progress.

I am not sure why you think your hydrometer is flawed. FYI, that "90" would correspond to 0.990, and that "80" would mean 0.980.
 

Wilhelm

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Thanks for confirming my suspicions. Other hydrometers I've seen reads "990" in the space where mine reads "90". But assumed that it must be the way in which you described, which would put the gravity at 0.995. Would have preferred slightly lower but that should be ok and might still come down a point.
 

buzi

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Thanks for the great advice. You all clearly have a lot of experience in this and I clearly have a lot to learn on the practicalities of winemaking apposed to brewing.

Though it appears my hydrometer isn't printed correctly for measurements below 1, the results of the FG appears favourable and sitting at 0.995. Will give it a couple of days before I start with clarification etc.

Not sure it's worth noting the taste characteristics of the sample at this stage but it certainly tastes promising, surprised with a bit of grape flavour still left in the background and not sure if that will fade away with some time.
You are off the a great start! IMO, I have started tasting notes beginning middle and end. I was trying to understand what I am tasting in the beginning and how it relates to the end flavors. Obviously there is a lot in between that can affect those flavors but you gotta start somewhere! Keep up the good work!
 

Wilhelm

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So the genius that I am, I seem to have thrown away the rest of my additives with the packaging of the kit... Luckily I've got a packet of Potassium Sorbate and Campden Tablets on hand. Will need to use gelatin to clarify. So will rack the wine off the lees (this is a second racking) will then add the potassium sorbate and campden and close carboy with airlock. Will then drop temp of the wine before I fine with gelatin - again fining with gelatin is done at cold temps with beer, not sure how you all approach this.
 

Wilhelm

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So it's been just over a month since I've added the Potassium Sorbate, Campden Tablets and gelatin. Certainly not yet 100% clear but I'd say we are about 70%-80% there. Decided not to rush the process and will bulk age it for a while longer to degass rather than to force it out with a drill.

For the most part I'm a bit surprised with the amount of colour of the wine. Looking more like an amber ale than a white wine at the moment... Do you all recon this could be normal for a Riesling? Can't see how I could have influenced the colour so it must have come from the original juice extract?

Was further wondering if you guys add sulfur periodically when bulk aging or is it just a once off addition that you then leave till bottling?
 

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Wilhelm

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Also found a supplier of grapes for the coming harvest in 2020 from Stellenbosch so looking forward to making wine with actual grapes next year. Huge amount to learn!
 

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I missed this thread the first time through-welcome.

I too started out brewing beer, and feel there is a lot of carry over between whole grain brewing and wine making from grapes. You are already familiar with liquid transfer, sanitary practices, precise measurement, hydrometers and a whole bunch of other useful skills in wine making.

Also smart to do a first kit as practice and from now on do grapes. When I first saw this thread, I was like why not grapes-SA is known for great wines. But I realize your harvest is off set 6 months from California.
 

Wilhelm

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Yes correct. Didn't want to wait for harvest which is Feb-March. Added difficulty is that grapes will be coming from the cape so it's about a 1500km (900+ miles) to get it up to Johannesburg where I stay... Kind of feel like you need to do at least one or two barrels to make it worth it. Will do less this season though as it's my first try with grapes. If I'm happy with result and my skill/knowledge base, I'll scale up in the 2021 season.
 

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