Homemade vs. Commercial and what I am doing to close the gap

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MiBor

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I follow this thread more than any other threads on this forum. My goal is to make the best possible "big red" wine at home, with the understanding that a commercial winemaker has tools and can employ techniques that are cost prohibitive for the home winemaker. I looked a lot into temperature control and how it influences the quality of red wine, but lately I've been intrigued by some french techniques that are possible to use in a home setting: saignée and délestage. (For those who don't know, saignée involves the removal of a proportion of juice from a tank of crushed red grapes. This technique increases the amount of skins relative to juice in the tank and typically results in a concentration effect, producing richer wines with more color and tannin. Délestage consists of draining off the wine after fermentation has begun and straining out some of the seeds from the juice. The removed wine is sprayed into a second tank to aerate it. After all the wine juice is removed from the first tank it is pumped back in over the top of the cap. This achieves a second aeration and helps ensure a complete fermentation.)
I know that some of the more experienced winemakers on this forum are using these methods and I was wandering if anyone would like to share their experience and findings. In my opinion the distinguishing characteristic of a "big red" wine is concentration (of color, flavor, tannins, alcohol, etc.) and that level of concentration and extraction can't be achieved without changing the skin to juice ratio, along with managing the tannin extraction from grape seeds.
 

cmason1957

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I would say do be careful with the saignee method, don't remove to much. Before you ask, I don't know how much is to much. I do know I had 300 lbs of St. Vincent, which is a hybrid red grape grown in the midwest, drained off enough juice to make 6 gallons of rose. While the rose was very good, the main wine was horribly over tannic and very recently my wife and I decided it was best fed to the Gods of the drain.
 

Ajmassa

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I would say do be careful with the saignee method, don't remove to much. Before you ask, I don't know how much is to much. I do know I had 300 lbs of St. Vincent, which is a hybrid red grape grown in the midwest, drained off enough juice to make 6 gallons of rose. While the rose was very good, the main wine was horribly over tannic and very recently my wife and I decided it was best fed to the Gods of the drain.
Interesting. that’s about 1/3 juice removed. I’m about to do 1/4 removal. Fingers crossed

I did load up 300lbs worth of once lightly pressed skins Into 6 gal of juice before. Fermentation was sludge. Resulting wine though was an incredible improvement in color and body than typical buckets.
And if going the saignee route I guess ya gotta anticipate a heavy boost in tannin. My understanding is that to do this proper ya wanna have high acid and Brix to match that tannin for a balanced big red.
Although not every commercial big red has numbers that agree with that thought so who knows
My spring grapes are usually low 3’s ph and I’m not against bumping brix. Hoping 25% extra skins isnt too heavy.
 

1d10t

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I would say do be careful with the saignee method, don't remove to much. Before you ask, I don't know how much is to much. I do know I had 300 lbs of St. Vincent, which is a hybrid red grape grown in the midwest, drained off enough juice to make 6 gallons of rose. While the rose was very good, the main wine was horribly over tannic and very recently my wife and I decided it was best fed to the Gods of the drain.
Not even a candidate for blending or topping up?
 

CDrew

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Like AJ, I did this last year as well. Removed 100 pounds out of a 400pound Mourvedre crush and made Rose with it. The Rose is done/bottled/very good and I plan to do it again, though I may follow @cmason1957 and just dump the skins. I'll make that call in real time.

You can read about it here if interested:

The skins were returned to the main fermentation. The resulting wine had an unrelated issue and I tossed half of it. The other half with a different yeast is decent. It's been blended with 2 gallons each of Primitivo and Syrah. The extra skins did not make it too tannic, though I really can't tell what good it did. I am going to do it again this year but with more attention to chemistry, and better grapes.

If you want a big wine, I'd suggest you start with the highest quality grapes you can get, use enzymes, to extract more flavor from the skins, and make sure the brix is 24 or better before you start fermentation.

Regarding delestage, that would be pretty easy to do on a home scale-I think @stickman does that with a bottom valve and a bucket, but I can't see how it's that much better than a thorough punchdown. But I don't really know and would encourage @MiBor to try it. Good luck!
 
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mainshipfred

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My understanding is it's gentler on the seeds and you don't get as much of the harsher seed tannins. When I punch down I make sure I don't hit the bottom.
 

MiBor

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MiBor

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It looks like délestage and seed removal are not the same process, but are done at the same time. Seed removal is what I'm most interested in doing because I believe most of the bitter tannins are extracted from the seeds during AF. And with a 15-20% saignée the level of tannins is going to be high. My approach would be to remove the seeds as much as possible and let the skin tannins (softer) be extracted instead. A 2" PVC valve installed close to the bottom of a brute ought to be good enough for what I'm trying to do.
I found this PDF online with a quick description of the process, from Ronan Sayburn:
http://ronansayburn.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Delestage.pdf
 
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My understanding of délestage is that many of the seeds come out as the wine is moved to another container and are separated using a straining device. If you have a filter inside your fermentation tank, seeds won't come out. After the liquid has been removed it is returned to the fermentation tank with half the seeds (or the portion you choose to add back), and then the process is repeated daily, or every other day, until fermentation is complete.
 
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stickman

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I have run batches using delestage with and without an internal strainer. Without the strainer the 1.5 inch outlet on my tank will plug up, but can easily be poked through from the top with a plastic rod, and once flowing freely the tank will drain without trouble. The seeds are easily removed from the bottom of the receiving pail after dumping the wine back to the fermenter. I've played around with removing the seeds in a few past batches, but I prefer a fairly tannic wine and found that removing seeds, at least with the grapes I'm using, wasn't the direction I wanted to go. I don't really want to have to add tannin from a bag. Maybe the seeds are more of an issue with extended maceration, certainly the seeds may be a problem if they are under ripe, or possibly removal is beneficial for the early to release fruit forward wine discussed in the article. Once again it comes down to the type of grapes on hand and the wine style you are after. I'll admit my wines are a bit rustic and they do take a few years in bottle to come around.
 

NorCal

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I continue to watch last year’s wine in barrel, the Cab Franc blend, where I deployed many of these techniques to close the gap. Even though it is still in barrel and a year away from enjoying, I am confident in saying that it is the best wine I’ve ever made.
So, what about this year, the 2020 vintage? What else can I do to make my wine this concentrated, deep wine that has deep, lush, long lasting flavors, that is smooth as silk on the back end? There are two additional steps I would like to do:

1. I would love to do a cold soak for 3 days, but when making a barrel quantity of wine, I cannot figure out an economical, garage based way of doing this.
2. Use free-run juice only. On the 2019 Cab Franc Blend, I used a higher % of free-run juice to pressed juice, but fell short of committing to 100% free-run. I think I can still get enough tannin structure to make the wine I want to make out of the tannin in the skins, with the varieties I use without using the pressed juice.
 

cmason1957

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One of the wineries that my wife and I are wine club members of has been doing virtual tasting for several weeks now. They have been done by the winemaker, which is very interesting. This winery is probably small to medium sized they have 1,200 acres with about 400 planted. Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Merlot, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Primitivo, Sangiovese, Barbera and Dolcetto and probably a few others. I tried to find a picture of the barrel room to include in this post, but was unable. Suffice to say 6 (or maybe 8) barrels high, probably 20 barrels deep and I am going to guess well over 50 rows like that.

One big difference that I heard the winemaker talk about that is nearly impossible for us as homewinemakers to duplicate is variety of barrels. They will put the same wine into 4 or 5 different types of barrels, some one barrel only different and by different types, I mean from a different producer, different place the wood comes from. On the last tasting the winemaker (Hoss) talked about using this particular barrel because it imparts a particular type of spice note, but then he also puts some in this other barrel for a different spice not. If any one is interested, you won't have the wines to taste, but you can remedy that, if you so desire.

If you wish to view the taste-in-places here is a link to them: Virtual Tasting — Brutocao Cellars
The last three Barbara, Sryah, and Sangiovese he goes into some detail about the barrels.
 

jsbeckton

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I did a 3 day cold soak on my Syrah this year but my scale is small. I use 2 chest freezers that I can fit about six 5 gal buckets in. I could probably double that by removing the lid, adding a 2x10 “collar” and then replacing the lid back on top of the collar to let me stack buckets on top of one another.
 

mainshipfred

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I did a 3 day cold soak on my Syrah this year but my scale is small. I use 2 chest freezers that I can fit about six 5 gal buckets in. I could probably double that by removing the lid, adding a 2x10 “collar” and then replacing the lid back on top of the collar to let me stack buckets on top of one another.
It's not that hard to do, Instead of using 2x material I ripped and doubled up 3/4 " plywood and raised it 12". 2x material is not always the straightest and with plywood you get a nice seal. The hardest thing is lifting the lower buckets out of the freezer and you do have a different temperature at the different levels.
 

mainshipfred

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I continue to watch last year’s wine in barrel, the Cab Franc blend, where I deployed many of these techniques to close the gap. Even though it is still in barrel and a year away from enjoying, I am confident in saying that it is the best wine I’ve ever made.
So, what about this year, the 2020 vintage? What else can I do to make my wine this concentrated, deep wine that has deep, lush, long lasting flavors, that is smooth as silk on the back end? There are two additional steps I would like to do:

1. I would love to do a cold soak for 3 days, but when making a barrel quantity of wine, I cannot figure out an economical, garage based way of doing this.
2. Use free-run juice only. On the 2019 Cab Franc Blend, I used a higher % of free-run juice to pressed juice, but fell short of committing to 100% free-run. I think I can still get enough tannin structure to make the wine I want to make out of the tannin in the skins, with the varieties I use without using the pressed juice.
In this months issue of WineMaker Magazine there is an article on small glycol chillers. I'm not saying they are economical at around $800.00 to $1,000.00 but they are a lot less expensive than I would have thought. This brought me to dig a little deeper (very little digging) and found water chillers for much less the cost. I have no idea what size, flow or temperature would be required. I have a meeting on Tuesday with the contractor installing the chillers at the winery I'm working on and I was going to pick his brain on the topic. @stickman and some of the others could probably have some insight on this. I know the winery is only going to have one larger chiller and somehow this can individually control the tanks, the tank room, barrel room and case storage. Can't say I'm personally going to pursue a system but it's certainly making me think.
 

stickman

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I've worked in chemical plants for 20yrs and during that time specified equipment for several reactor cooling projects. Most of the time there is a main cooling loop as you indicate, and each major piece of equipment or tank etc. will have a separate coil circulation pump. This way you can maintain a uniform high rate of circulation through the jacket and set a jacket or coil temperature set-point to be maintained for each tank. Separate jacket circulation systems aren't always needed for very simple applications, but are a real advantage for sensitive products where the actual coil or jacket temperature is critical. An example might be a main cooling loop running at 25F so that cold stabilization can be done in various vessels, but at the same time it wouldn't be desirable to try to control a red ferment at 85F by trickling a little 25F fluid through the jacket, you would end up with an uneven jacket temperature, basically a little cold spot at the jacket inlet. I could go on and on all day, but don't want to bore people with this kind of stuff.
 

mainshipfred

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I've worked in chemical plants for 20yrs and during that time specified equipment for several reactor cooling projects. Most of the time there is a main cooling loop as you indicate, and each major piece of equipment or tank etc. will have a separate coil circulation pump. This way you can maintain a uniform high rate of circulation through the jacket and set a jacket or coil temperature set-point to be maintained for each tank. Separate jacket circulation systems aren't always needed for very simple applications, but are a real advantage for sensitive products where the actual coil or jacket temperature is critical. An example might be a main cooling loop running at 25F so that cold stabilization can be done in various vessels, but at the same time it wouldn't be desirable to try to control a red ferment at 85F by trickling a little 25F fluid through the jacket, you would end up with an uneven jacket temperature, basically a little cold spot at the jacket inlet. I could go on and on all day, but don't want to bore people with this kind of stuff.
I think there would be a lot of us not considering it boring. Maybe over our heads butt not boring. 😂
 
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