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wertygrog

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Hi there, I have a large grapevine in my Long Beach California backyard that is yielding about 100 small clusters of purple wine grapes. I'd like to make wine with these grapes, even if the outcome will not be great, as a way to get introduced to the hobby and see if I enjoy it. Is this a bad idea, if not, how would you suggest I get started? I know I could just buy a kit (Finest Wines, etc.) but for me a large part of the attraction is the viticulture aspect. Indeed I planted a small Merlot vineyard in San Diego before moving to Long Beach for work...

I am detail-oriented and can follow instructions, but have no experience with this other than the research I've been doing on forums such as this one.

Cheers, Brent

Grapes.jpg
 

BernardSmith

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Hi Brent, and welcome. Two or three quick thoughts.
Is there any wine or brewing club in your neck of the woods. If there is I would contact them. What you want to do is make sure that when you harvest thse grapes they are at the peak of ripeness. If you can borrow (or buy) a refractometer that can tell you how much sugar is in any one grape and you are looking for around 21 - 25 brix of sugar.
I have made wine from grapes very few times but I believe that you will need about 15 -20 lbs of grapes to produce about 1 gallon of wine. A gallon of wine weighs about 8lbs and depending on the amount of grapes you have you will need buckets or food grade containers to hold the juice (and fruit) you will be fermentiing.
You need to crush the grapes and remove stems first and then perhaps add pectic enzymes to help break down the cells and help extract more of the juice. You add wine yeast and make sure to stir the must (the juice and fruit) several times a day to keep the surface soaked and prevent it from drying out.
After about two weeks you can remove the fruit and press it to squeeze out the juice (crushing is done early to give the yeast access to the inside of the fruit and pressing is done after the fruit has been allowed to macerate and extract color and tannins into the juice.
You will want to ensure that the WINE you have at this point is in a carboy (a vessel with a narrow neck) that you can fill right up to the top. You want this vessel to be sealed with a bung and an airlock that is filled with water. The airlock will allow gas (CO2) to escape, but not allow O2 and fruit flies to enter.
Again, if there is a wine club near you they can help you assess the acidity of the wine (pH should be around 3.2 3.5, and TA should be around 6-7 g/L.
I gotta say that working with grapes as a novice wine maker without anyone helping you may not be the best approach. But if you can find a good book that covers wine making with fresh grapes and which assumes you know nothing THAT would be a good start.
A better approach might be to begin with a kit but kits will have removed the need to crush and press and will also have had the juice modified so that it will make a good batch of wine with you adding only the water and the yeast. BUT to make a kit you need to buy some hardware - a container, a carboy, hydrometer, siphon tubing , bung airlock, sanitizer etc. (and then you will need bottles and corks and a corking tool.
Good luck.
 

wertygrog

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Hi Paul, according to the landlord this grapevine started as a cutting that his mother smuggled back from Italy back in the '80's. Other than that, I have no idea. I tried comparing the leaf shape to images online but couldn't find an exact match. It was a total grapezilla when I moved in last spring, but since then I have trained it carefully. Thanks for the resources, I'm reading through the first one currently.

Hi Bernard, thanks for the high-level overview. I'm sure there are local people making wine, so I'll check that out. Maybe I can donate these grapes to a local winemaker in exchange for learning the process and a bottle or two of the outcome. :)

Cheers, Brent
 

BernardSmith

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That would be a great deal especially if they asked you to help them make the wine and so you saw exactly what they did , when and could ask why...
 

Rice_Guy

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Welcome to wine making talk Brent

For starters you have some time before picking, the stage where you are mixed green and purple is called veraison. With Midwest varieties I would expect four weeks more hang time before picking. A quick and dirty “now is the time” is that yellow jacket wasps are eating the fruit, but you also can taste against ripe/ sweet table grapes.

Grapes want to turn into wine/ ferment and the historical process was safe from a food point of view. Read as noted above and think if I am sloppy I will have a wine but if I follow every step I can have a good wine that has a few years shelf life.
The hobby is fun!
 

Ajmassa

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I think it’s a great idea for giving the hobby a try. Many will start with kits or juice buckets and work their way up to grapes. But grapes don’t have to be on a pedestal. Can keep it incredibly simple like the old timers used to do (still do) and just refine your process as you progress.
Would only be a couple gallons worth from the vine so no need for fancy equipment. 100lbs of grapes makes about 10gal of crush->6-7gal finished wine. Just Guessing 100 clusters you’ll get a coupke gallons of crush. Can be as involved as you want it to be. Or as simple:


1. crush ‘em
2. Ferment and stir 3x daily
3. 7-10 days later separate off solids into glass vessel and hand squeeze skins
4. Few days later Rack off the sludge into another clean vessel. (Or if 1 jug just rack into a bucket, clean the sediment and go back into it)
5. Let it clear and degas naturally. Just make sure at this point there’s no air space.
6. Bottle hopefully by may and drink next summer

You can literally just mash em up with a 2x4 in a bucket and allow it to ferment from the natural yeast present on the skins. Stir it up a few X a day (“punchdowns”) and about a week later it’ll be dry. Separate the free liquid and you can hand squeeze the skins in a mesh bag or something. Put in properly sized container so there’s no air space and the sediment will fall out to the bottom. “Rack” it off the sediment to a clean jug and then give a few months for the co2 to disipate and let the wine clear. You can bottle and drink once it’s clear and no more co2. The longer you wait the better it gets.

There’s a million things that can be done to improve it along the way but all requires more equipment more research etc. Things like acid testing & adjusting, sugar addition up front to target a preferred abv, commercial yeast, fermentation nutrients, fermentation tannins, oak adjuncts for aging, sulphite management, malolactic fermentation etc etc etc.

wines pretty resilient so between the co2 generated, the wines natural acids, eliminating headspace while aging, and of course the abv— you’ll be plenty protected for an early drinking wine. Any Additional precautions like sulphide or acid management will only help your cause.

* I often read here about 1st timers challenging themselves by trying to learn & do everything all in one shot. But It’s alot of testing, and gear, and $, and info to retain. With none of it is familiar yet.

Cool part about the hobby no 2 winemakers have the same exact process. and short of ruining the wine there’s kinda no ‘wrong way’ —sorta.

IMO That guide to red winemaking-aka your BIBLE & this forum are worth their weight in gold. I lean on both heavily.
 

winemaker81

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@wertygrog, update the Location field in your profile to display your location -- as already noted, it will be helpful if you can connect with local winemakers who can provide guidance specific to your climate.

I suggest you post in the Grape winemaking forum, asking for folks local to Long Beach.

The advice you've received so far is top notch. I suggest you read the references @sour_grapes pointed out, then re-read the advice in this thread. There's a lot to learn and re-reading a few times will help you pick up details. You've got time so relax and enjoy the trip!
 

Obbnw

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Hi there, I have a large grapevine in my Long Beach California backyard that is yielding about 100 small clusters of purple wine grapes. I'd like to make wine with these grapes, even if the outcome will not be great, as a way to get introduced to the hobby and see if I enjoy it. Is this a bad idea, if not, how would you suggest I get started? I know I could just buy a kit (Finest Wines, etc.) but for me a large part of the attraction is the viticulture aspect. Indeed I planted a small Merlot vineyard in San Diego before moving to Long Beach for work...

I am detail-oriented and can follow instructions, but have no experience with this other than the research I've been doing on forums such as this one.

Cheers, Brent

View attachment 76634
I've got Malbec, Tempranillo and Baco Noir - yours look more like my Baco Noir which is a hybrid.

I wouldn't be too scared of just going for it - what do you have to lose? Just from a planning standpoint I figure I need 2.5lbs of grapes per bottle of wine. I lose about 25-30% of the initial volume by the time I bottle. I made my first wine with blackberrys in a small bucket, 2 gallons. I just reused wine bottles and caps to start but I also wasn't aging them. start small and grow...
 

VinesnBines

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I wouldn't be too scared of just going for it - what do you have to lose?
I have to agree. You have a lot of good advice but starting with grapes is not hard. When they are ripe (taste them) crush, toss some yeast (any red wine yeast will work but so will EC 1118), stir every day or twice a day for at least a week. Squeeze out the juice and put it in one or two jugs (carboys) to the neck. Invest in a stopper and airlock or two. Let it age. You can add Campden tablets (one per gallon). Leave it a month or 3. Siphon to another jug, if 3 months, add another Campden per gallon and let it go another 3 or 6 months. It ill turn into wine. Keep the jugs full (not more than an inch from the stopper). It ought to be drinkable. Once you are hooked on the hobby you can go whole hog.
The world has been making wine since the first people discovered the fermented juice of fruits tasted good. Chemicals and testing are new inventions to the wine making world.
 

mainshipfred

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Please take this with a grain of salt. I'm not a grower and I know very little about it. It has always been my understanding an individual vine should only have a certain amount of clusters on it and there should be a certain amount of leaves per cluster. Some quality growers actually cut off clusters to produce a better quality fruit, that would kill me if I did that. I truly hope someone comes on and disputes my understanding. I also agree you should go for it but if it doesn't come out to your liking I wouldn't give up. There is definitely a learning curve we all had to go through.
 

winemaker81

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@mainshipfred, your understanding is correct, the intent is to produce less fruit of better quality, to make better wine. This is a major reason why table grapes don't make the best wine.

I recall reading an article about when French producers started expanding in South America -- they had a very difficult time convincing the local growers to produce better fruit by producing less. IIRC, the French had to reject a lot of unsuitable fruit to get the message across.
 

wertygrog

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Hi all, great info being shared. Most importantly, you gave me the confidence to try it out!

You are right about number of clusters vs. vegetative growth vs. quality. I have too many clusters and not enough leaves on this vine for best quality, but I still might as well use them for practice.

Not sure how much volume I will get from these clusters. Therefore, my plan is this:

-Read a lot
-Get a refractometer and bucket, pick and crush grapes per the correct Brix
-Based on volume of must, order a right-sized winemaking kit from Labelpeelers or similar. Probably 1 gal I'm guessing.
-Proceed according to written guidance

Missing anything? Sound good? :)

-Brent
 

G259

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Sounds pretty good, sanitation is a must (pot. meta powder and water on everything!)
Wine is pretty forgiving, so if this one is not exactly perfect, the next one might be (or the next one!)
Trust me, 1 gal. (how I started) turns into 4-3 gal., turns into 10-6 gal.!
 

Rice_Guy

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you have two uses. As a fermentor you WILL want a hydrometer. As a farmer you MAY want a refractometer.
As a farmer Growing grapes for twenty years I still haven’t needed a refractometer/ don’t own one, but as a wine maker this year I have five hydrometers, , , and test juice 100 ml if I want the farmer number. My picking decision using northern hybrids is basically let grapes on the vine as long as possible to get the acids as low as possible, ,,,, however I could also read WMT and see when the neighbors as Wood or Handy Andy are picking
-Get a refractometer , , , , Missing anything?
 
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wertygrog

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Hi there, making some progress! I purchased a 1-gal winemaking kit which came with the usual stuff (fermenter, glass carboy, bung, airlock, racking cane, chemicals/yeast) and also a refractometer and Star San. If this turns out to be too small I'll run to the local wine/brewing shop and get more containers/airlocks.

My grapes are now around 17 Brix. So I think I have a few more weeks to go.

A couple questions at this point in time, if anyone can help:
-I'm in socal, and it's been around 75-78 ambient temps during the day. Is this too high and should I put the fermenter in the basement under the house which is about 5 degrees cooler?
-Currently I'm thinking to use the refractometer w/ alcohol adjustment factor to track specific gravity. Or would I be better served by getting a hydrometer?
-Should I try to measure the TA or the pH of the must, if so what is the best-but-economical approach to measuring these for this red wine?
-To keep this simple, I'm not planning on a specific MLF step. Should I reconsider?

Cheers!

BrentGrapes_Aug7.jpg
 

mainshipfred

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Your temp range for fermenting should be fine although the basement couldn't hurt since the must temp raises during fermentation. It's hard to tell but looking at your original post your fermenter might be too small. Any food grade container would work just fine. Simply because they are more accurate and fairly inexpensive you really should get a hydrometer. However, using a refractometer to just to monitor the progress of the fermentation works just fine and you don't have to worry about the adjustment. It's always nice knowing the pH (I'll get in trouble for this but don't worry about the TA) but if you don't intend to adjust it's really not necessary. Though if you do decide to get a pH meter I would recommend at least a mid priced one. As far as economical goes test strips should be fine just not very accurate. MLF is your choice and fairly expensive for such a small batch. If you do chose this route don't get the liquid bacteria, it just doesn't work very well and do not add sulfites to the must or wine. Once fermentation is complete and you pressed the wine you can always try going with the native LAB. Just make sure the vessel you have the wine in is topped off to the max. I don't go native and I do measure the progress but I also let it go through MLF for 3 months no matter what the chromatography indicates.

BTW, the grapes look very nice, good luck.
 

Rice_Guy

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* a kit is an easy way to collect hardware,
* for short term storage (as a month) any narrow Mouth food grade container will work. If you have wine/ alcohol in a milk jug six months it will develop sherry type flavor. This isn’t toxic but many don’t like the taste.
* there are easy low tech start ups as a balloon over a bottle mouth or a hose which just is submerged into a bowl/ yoghurt carton of water. I will routinely do something like this with a silicone bowl cover on a seven gallon Big mouth Bubbler since I never get the 120mm lid tight enough.
* key in the storage phase oxygen is your enemy, ,,,, ie when not actively pushing out CO2
* a plastic milk crate bottom makes a first destemmer. A bucket in a bucket makes a first press, ,,, mom used a flour sack hanging on the cabinet and twisted/ squeezed it
* my low tech pick date is if yellow jacket wasps are getting the grape it is as good as it will get
* I live with pH making country wines, ,,, grape evolved to have a pH in the 3.5ish area so unless you are hot climate (high pH and high sugar) or northern climate (low pH and low sugar) it should work reasonably well without the number
* I like gravity, ,, brix will be similar, ,,,, the key is use the tool to look see if it is changing or stable. When stable we do methods to reduce air exposure.
* graigs list is good for equipment, ,,, and I read my first post of the year for 20 gallons of free Frontenac wine grapes this morning.

Your grapes look good, ,,,, Have fun with it!
 
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winemaker81

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Hi there, making some progress! I purchased a 1-gal winemaking kit which came with the usual stuff
Do you have any idea how much grapes you'll get? A 1 gallon fermenter doesn't hold much, and the kits are designed for liquid, so the amount of grapes that will fit will not fill a gallon carboy with pressed wine.

Without having an estimate of the amount of grapes, you have no idea what hardware you need. The 1 gallon kit probably has a short racking cane, which will not work for larger batches.

A good option for fermenters is Rubbermaid Brute garbage cans. They are #4 plastic and fine for fermentation. I use 32 gallon Brute for larger batches, and admit that for the batches I do the 20 gallon will probably suffice. But IMO better too big than too small ...

In your case, IF you have 100 lbs of grapes, a 10-12 gallon Brute will probably work.

IMO -- get a hydrometer. Actually get 2. If you buy one, you'll break it. If you buy 2 the spare will set unused in a drawer, which is good!
 

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