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Great Grandfather's Recipe Grape Variety Help

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Over9k

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So I recently started getting into wine making but my family has made wine for generations. The tradition seemed to fade with the selling of our vineyard when my grandfather lost interest and sold the land. To my knowledge I am the only one who has taken up interest in wine making since my great grandfather. I recently have made a few simple batches to get the concepts down and wanted to try a family recipe but all I could track down was a scrap of paper that my great grandfather gave to an old family friend that reads 100 lbs sugar per 15 gallons squeezed grape juice. I was wondering if anyone familiar with grape varieties in southern Indiana could help me narrow it down and fill in the gaps for this recipe.

Any help is appreciated
 

ceeaton

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... that reads 100 lbs sugar per 15 gallons squeezed grape juice.
There is a handy dandy free application called FermCalc. I used it to see what 100 lbs of sugar would do if added to 15 gallons of water. Your final volume would be 22.47 gallons at a SG of 1.202. I think that is a good recipe for rocket fuel as you SG will be much higher using actual pressed grape juice.

I'd suggest maybe starting out with the grape juice and use just enough sugar to raise the SG to the 1.080 to 1.095 range and go from there.
 

NorCal

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It sounds more like a recipe for something that would go through distillation, or purposely meant to not ferment dry. The result would be an 18 abv, sweet "wine". Big alcohol, sweet...but I've drank my share of worse. I would really look at nutrients and I would even consider step feeding the sugar in, keeping the brix at 5% as long as possible.
 

PhilDarby

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I tend to agree with the other posters, although, I haven't worked out the exact figures, as, ceeaton has, also, I tend to agree with norcal, in that you will end up with a very strong alcohol content, which is basically very sweet, this used to be fairly common practice, I have some vintage wine making books, which, tend to stipulate excessive amounts of sugar, as norcal suggests, this was in order to retain some sweetness, after final ferment has finished and after the yeast has exhausted its ability to convert sugar into alcohol, there are inherent dangers in this practice, such as fermentation re starting after bottling, also, it can stiffle the yeast, into inactivity, so, adding the sugar in batches is very likely a good idea, making sure you keep a record of how much you have added, for your own records.

You can, also, divide the amounts down , if you want to make a test batch, so, for example 5 gallons, would need 33 1/3 pounds of sugar, using your grand fathers recipie, as an example, which, thinking about it, is actually a ridiculously high amount of sugar, as, a general rule I personally use around one kilo gram or about 2.2 pounds of sugar per gallon meaning, around 11 pounds in 5 gallons, which is probably a good ball park figure, for a dry wine, the recipie your grand father was using, will definitely make a very sweet drink, which may have been his preferred type and was fairly normal one time for country style wines.

The family friend who gave you the scrap of paper, might be an interesting person to chat with, for example, red or white grapes ? how your grand father sourced them (eg) shop bought them, or, obtained purely from their own land, friends etc, once you have that knowledge it should make it easier to retrace his wine making steps, then, when your wine is finally made, maybe have a glass or two with them, it might also, transpire he used differing sources, depending, on the availability of stuff.
 
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JohnT

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As a rule of thumb, I believe that 1 pound of sugar will raise 1 gallon of water by 6.5 brix.

So, 100 pounds of sugar added to 15 gallons of grape juice (or 6.67 pound per gallon) will raise your juice by at least 43.33 brix! And that does not even take into account the fact that your grape juice might contain anywhere from 12 to 26 brix. Taking the average, we can assume that your final brix is 62.

That is an insane amount to sugar, almost like a grape syrup. I do not know if yeast will even survive in such a high sugar environment.

The sweetest wines that I have seen contain somewhere around 8 brix residual sugar (syrupy-sweet dessert wines). even if the yeast would survive in a 62 brix environment, the max sugar consumed during fermentation by the strongest of yeasts would be around 30 brix, leaving residual sugar of 32 brix. Again, this is assuming that there is no sugar in your grape juice.

If all does go well, you will end up with a wine that is insanely sweet, syrupy, and VERY strong!

My advise is to forget about tradition. My experience was almost the same as yours and it took a number of disasters to finally admit that one cannot have any success in winemaking based on hearsay. I would first learn how to make wine using modern techniques, then alter what you do to produce a wine close to what your grandpa made.

Try making a dry wine, then use the technique of "back-sweetening" to raise the wine to your desired level of sweetness.
 
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salcoco

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back to original question I would hazard a guess that the grape variety is Concord. Pre Prohibition wines were very alcoholic and sweet. Concord and the sugar amount suggested would fir the bill.
 

knifemaker

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back to original question I would hazard a guess that the grape variety is Concord. Pre Prohibition wines were very alcoholic and sweet. Concord and the sugar amount suggested would fir the bill.
You're probably right on that, but if I were to take a guess, 100 lbs of sugar to 150 gallons of juice would be a lot better target. Dale
 

Over9k

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There is a handy dandy free application called FermCalc. I used it to see what 100 lbs of sugar would do if added to 15 gallons of water. Your final volume would be 22.47 gallons at a SG of 1.202. I think that is a good recipe for rocket fuel as you SG will be much higher using actual pressed grape juice.

I'd suggest maybe starting out with the grape juice and use just enough sugar to raise the SG to the 1.080 to 1.095 range and go from there.
I actually downloaded that app the night before starting this thread but thanks for the tip!

It sounds more like a recipe for something that would go through distillation, or purposely meant to not ferment dry. The result would be an 18 abv, sweet "wine". Big alcohol, sweet...but I've drank my share of worse. I would really look at nutrients and I would even consider step feeding the sugar in, keeping the brix at 5% as long as possible.
I have considered that it could be something for the distilling process but to my knowledge was not pure alcohol.

I tend to agree with the other posters, although, I haven't worked out the exact figures, as, ceeaton has, also, I tend to agree with norcal, in that you will end up with a very strong alcohol content, which is basically very sweet, this used to be fairly common practice, I have some vintage wine making books, which, tend to stipulate excessive amounts of sugar, as norcal suggests, this was in order to retain some sweetness, after final ferment has finished and after the yeast has exhausted its ability to convert sugar into alcohol, there are inherent dangers in this practice, such as fermentation re starting after bottling, also, it can stiffle the yeast, into inactivity, so, adding the sugar in batches is very likely a good idea, making sure you keep a record of how much you have added, for your own records.

You can, also, divide the amounts down , if you want to make a test batch, so, for example 5 gallons, would need 33 1/3 pounds of sugar, using your grand fathers recipie, as an example, which, thinking about it, is actually a ridiculously high amount of sugar, as, a general rule I personally use around one kilo gram or about 2.2 pounds of sugar per gallon meaning, around 11 pounds in 5 gallons, which is probably a good ball park figure, for a dry wine, the recipie your grand father was using, will definitely make a very sweet drink, which may have been his preferred type and was fairly normal one time for country style wines.

The family friend who gave you the scrap of paper, might be an interesting person to chat with, for example, red or white grapes ? how your grand father sourced them (eg) shop bought them, or, obtained purely from their own land, friends etc, once you have that knowledge it should make it easier to retrace his wine making steps, then, when your wine is finally made, maybe have a glass or two with them, it might also, transpire he used differing sources, depending, on the availability of stuff.
I was also shocked at the amount of sugar and had ran through the same calculations that you did thinking I would just make a 5 gallon batch with no certain grape variety. I haven't pulled the trigger on this experiment yet but depending on my work schedule here soon I might just for fun. As for the family friend contact it is two generations down from the original friend of my grandfather that he shared the recipe with. I personally don't know them well but my parents do and the recipe that he found was by pure luck and they don't do anything in regards to wine making. Soooo dead end there!
 

Over9k

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As a rule of thumb, I believe that 1 pound of sugar will raise 1 gallon of water by 6.5 brix.

So, 100 pounds of sugar added to 15 gallons of grape juice (or 6.67 pound per gallon) will raise your juice by at least 43.33 brix! And that does not even take into account the fact that your grape juice might contain anywhere from 12 to 26 brix. Taking the average, we can assume that your final brix is 62.

That is an insane amount to sugar, almost like a grape syrup. I do not know if yeast will even survive in such a high sugar environment.

The sweetest wines that I have seen contain somewhere around 8 brix residual sugar (syrupy-sweet dessert wines). even if the yeast would survive in a 62 brix environment, the max sugar consumed during fermentation by the strongest of yeasts would be around 30 brix, leaving residual sugar of 32 brix. Again, this is assuming that there is no sugar in your grape juice.

If all does go well, you will end up with a wine that is insanely sweet, syrupy, and VERY strong!

My advise is to forget about tradition. My experience was almost the same as yours and it took a number of disasters to finally admit that one cannot have any success in winemaking based on hearsay. I would first learn how to make wine using modern techniques, then alter what you do to produce a wine close to what your grandpa made.

Try making a dry wine, then use the technique of "back-sweetening" to raise the wine to your desired level of sweetness.
I have started to work my way up to this point as far as knowledge of wine making and have a long way to go until I get good or even close to good hahaha but I more or less am in it for curiosities sake at this point. The closer I can get to the original the better but I'm not afraid to fudge the recipe a little. I definitely am going to play around with the sugar levels due to the fact that they are insanely high but I would like to know the grape type used as sort of a base to build on.
 

Over9k

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back to original question I would hazard a guess that the grape variety is Concord. Pre Prohibition wines were very alcoholic and sweet. Concord and the sugar amount suggested would fir the bill.
I might try multiple batches with different grape types but Concord is definitely on my top picks to start with. I've also heard Marechal Foch was popular locally any idea if it would work with that kind of sugar?
 

Over9k

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Thanks to everyone for the responses and help I appreciate it!:h I have dug up some more clues after talking to my dad for a bit on the subject he said that grandpa kept the wine in used whisky barrels. Does that sort of flavoring point to any type of grape?
 

Over9k

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And just because I'm bored at work here's a pic of my edworts I'm about to bottle/test tonight



20170103_202649.jpg
 
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Masbustelo

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It is popular in some mead making circles to step feed until the yeast quits and then sweeten to 1.020-1.030. Maybe that is what they used to do with wine. It might be an interesting experiment with grape must.
 

grapeman

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I would imagine that the recipe was for using pretty acidic grapes common back then such as Norton's, Chambourcin, Muscadine or even unripe Concord. Not all wine was super sweet and a way to reduce the acid levels was to add water. That part of the recipe was probably omitted as it might have been assumed back then that you dilute to bring the acid level down to an acceptable range and would vary from year to year. This is all a guess but is a possibility for why so much sugar. If you began with 15 gallons of juice and added 15 to 25 gallons of water, it would get you in a desirable range. I know an old winemaker that still does this and he can stretch a small amount of highly acidic grapes into a LOT of wine. The tradeoff is less flavor and less body, but it is drinkable. I think the current trend of beginning with better grapes and adding no water is a much better way to go.
 

Over9k

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I would imagine that the recipe was for using pretty acidic grapes common back then such as Norton's, Chambourcin, Muscadine or even unripe Concord. Not all wine was super sweet and a way to reduce the acid levels was to add water. That part of the recipe was probably omitted as it might have been assumed back then that you dilute to bring the acid level down to an acceptable range and would vary from year to year. This is all a guess but is a possibility for why so much sugar. If you began with 15 gallons of juice and added 15 to 25 gallons of water, it would get you in a desirable range. I know an old winemaker that still does this and he can stretch a small amount of highly acidic grapes into a LOT of wine. The tradeoff is less flavor and less body, but it is drinkable. I think the current trend of beginning with better grapes and adding no water is a much better way to go.
Would this method be something used with froch grapes ? This method would make sense with the storing it in barrels maybe to get some of that watered down body back?
 
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