Harvest Day…

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David Engel

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May 20, 2019
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Western Washington
Hi All,

Wow what a day. Harvested the vinyard (7 vines 😆) that amounted to about 55lbs of grapes and ended up with a tad over 6 gallons of must which should turn into about 3.9 gallons of juice (give or take). The crushing and de-stemming went well (really see the need for a crusher 😁).

As I suspected (mentioned in other forum topics) the brix was not near where it should have been for merlot. So I did the sugar computations and got the brix up to 23 or so. Then went on to check the ph… here’s where things went doo-doo. Started with a ph of only 2.25. Added Calcium carbonate and got the ph up to 2.95 (ran out of calc carb). Did not do an acid test. The taste reminds me of sweet tea with lemon added… tart but sweet.

I will add the yeast tomorrow and proceed.

Any suggestions on the ph level?

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My first thought is to recalibrate your pH meter and check again. Your initial reading may be correct, but it's outside of bounds enough that rechecking is good.

My second thought is that 2.95 is FAR from ideal, but it's within bounds. I've had bad results using calcium carbonate and you added a lot. I would not add more. Use a yeast that eats acid, such as Renaissance Avante, which eats malic.

In your place, I'd push decision making off until after fermentation and at least 3 months of bulk aging. This is a small amount of wine which you can cold stabilize in the fridge.

At bottling time, adding glycerin will take the edge off the acid.

While some will cringe, there's nothing wrong with backsweetening Merlot to handle acid. A small amount of sugar will take the edge off, and the wine won't taste sweet.
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Calcium carbonate is slow reacting, it has a tendency to sink to the bottom and needs to be mixed up periodically. ex over a month, you may over shoot if you actually used calcium.
potassium bicarbonate is quick reacting and will produce a finished pH in a few seconds. My next step on wine with excess potassium would be to cold crash and pull potassium bitartrate out. One can do this on the juice with the side benefit of having a cleaner low solids juice.

Your volume is similar to mine. I have the milk crate like you, the best 100% grape crusher I found is a TastieFreeze (small kitchen screw as in a grinder). If you find something better I am interested. My real need is something small to crush crab apple (60% efficient) or goose berry (95% efficient) and other country wine ingredients.
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Calcium carbonate is slow reacting, it has a tendency to sink to the bottom and needs to be mixed up periodically. ex over a month, you may over shoot if you actually used calcium.
This is an important point.

When punching down, stir up lees on the bottom. After fermentation, check pH again.
Hi All,

Thanks for the replies and suggestions! Today I rehydrated the yeast and at 1200 PDT… wine has begun. I’m sure all of you do, but even though I did not know what I was doing the 1st two years, I kept a journal of what I did do. Wow… no wonder all I made was a bottle of sour liquid 😆. After patiently waiting for the harvest and finding out what kind of yields (bulk, must and liquid) I’d get out of 7 vines and then estimating for 10, I invested in some equipment, i.e. testing instruments, a good carboy selection and a press and maybe a hand crank crusher for next year.

Updates as they happen. 👍

I have been following along with your troubles with the ripening. It has been quite a year on the west coast. Some of my grapes are pushing 28 Brix with neighboring clusters full of green seeds and smelling vegetal. Ugh.

Good record keeping pays dividends and I try to put all my measurements and additions in a spreadsheet, then make a copy and update the copy for the next year.