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

Discussion in 'General Wine Making Forum' started by NorCal, Nov 1, 2019.

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  1. Nov 3, 2019 #21

    jgmillr1

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    Keep in mind that those retail-priced $25 commercial wines also cost $5 or less for the winery to make (plus overhead, of course). While considering how great some of the commercial wines are, also don't forget the number of "meh" wines you've bought off the shelves.

    My $0.02 for the things that differentiate amateur vs. commercial wines, in rough order of importance:
    • Knowledge of proper winemaking techniques. (Serious winemakers like @NorCal clearly have this one down)
      • Proper dosage of ingredients based on the volume you working with.
    • Knowing what to do and when to do it (pressing, nutrients, oxygen elimination, etc...)
    • Knowing how to quickly spot and resolve issues (H2S, astringency, too hot/cold, etc...)
    • Record keeping
    • Experience in managing the wide variety of grape chemistry you get year to year and vineyard to vineyard
    • Close relationships with vineyards to ensure quality fruit is picked at the desired time
    • Cleaning and sanitation protocols
    • Having quality equipment (this is where more space and money go than most amateurs have to play with)
    • Stainless vessels & oak barrels vs. Brute trash cans & oak chips
    • Pumps, presses, filters, bottling equipment that efficiently process the wine while minimizing oxygen exposure
    • Lab equipment and the knowledge of using it to measure pH, TA, SO2, brix, etc...
    • Temperature control
    • Inert gas sparging
    • Separation of production and aging spaces with their own environmental controls
    • Volume and breadth of production (This is where it is hard for amateurs to compete with the scale of commercial operations)
      • Large batch sizes in large tanks ensures uniformity and minimizes oxygen exposure
      • Large variety of batches allows for blending out faults and insufficiencies while blending in complexity and depth to the wine
    Having known many winemakers around here, once you get them talking candidly they will gripe about how their own batches turned out also. You will always be your own worst critic. Complacency will never improve your wine, so we all strive to critique and improve what we do. Keep on brewing.
     
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  2. Nov 3, 2019 #22

    JoP

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    Hi NorCal,
    I wonder how realistic is to try to make a high quality wine for 5 dollars a bottle?
    Do you buy your grapes, or do you have your own vineyard?
    Even if you buy the grapes, do you factor in the cost of the work you put in?
    Not to mention the automated and streamlined process a commercial winery has, as well as the high volume of output that lowers the overall cost.
    Anyway, if you succeed, let us know.
    In my case, I make about 35 gallons of Cab every year from my own grapes and it doesn't come inexpensive.
    If you factor in all the expenses with the vineyard maintenance such as pruning, spraying, fertilizing, weeding by hand (if you don't want to use pesticides), picking, crushing, pressing and all the aditives, plus the wine making , it will come out to not less than 20 dollars per bottle in my case.
    Some times you can't put a price on a hobby you enjoy so much.
    Good luck!
     
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  3. Nov 3, 2019 #23

    NorCal

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    Thermodynamics has never been a strong suit, so I’d struggle to determine if something this small could change the mass I would be fermenting, when I needed it, in any significant way. Great idea that warrants further investigation.
     
  4. Nov 4, 2019 #24

    sour_grapes

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    I hear ya!! Same for me.

    If I have done this calculation correctly, the cited 1400 W cooling capacity of the unit @jgmillr1 has cited would translate to 4777 BTU/hr. This means that, ideally, every hour, you could reduce the temperature of 600 gallons of must (~4800 lbs) about 1deg F.
     
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  5. Nov 4, 2019 #25

    jgmillr1

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    And even that could be enough to keep up with the heat produced during fermentation, if that is the goal. For cold stabilization, it would take couple days to get down to temp. Definitely the tortoise in the race.

    It all comes down to using the right tools for the job at hand and the budget.

    If you go the small industrial chiller route, just be sure the lower temp range is where you'd want it. I stabilize my wines at 24-26'F set point on the chiller. I had to follow the chiller manual to switch a jumper and adjust the refrigerant low pressure cut off point to achieve this. Be sure to use propylene glycol (food grade) rather than ethylene glycol.
     
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  6. Nov 4, 2019 #26

    mainshipfred

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    This sometimes comes up as a debate but I never consider my time when I'm doing something as a hobby or daily chore. When I play golf the cost is the greens fee and not the 4 hours it takes to play or time get there. Similarly when making dinner the cost is the cost of food not the prep time, etc. If it's your lively hood or it takes from your lively hood then you time should be taken into consideration. Just my opinion.
     
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  7. Nov 4, 2019 #27

    NorCal

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    I’m talking all costs except for my time. I make 100-200 gallons per year. I buy grapes from local commercial and private vineyards, new bottles, corks, capsules, label, barrel/oak, electricity to store, etc. All in, it’s under $5 per bottle.
     
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  8. Nov 4, 2019 #28

    CabSauv

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    In addition to what you already seemed to identify to help bring out the depth, have you considered doing a smaller batch than what's called for in the recipe - meaning run off 10% or so of the juice? Maybe it's not that simple or I am too new to winemaking but it seems like a simple addition to what you're already doing and may help quite a bit?
     
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2019
  9. Nov 4, 2019 #29

    sour_grapes

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    NorCal did put in his original list:

    Is this what you had in mind, or something different?
     
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  10. Nov 5, 2019 #30

    jburtner

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    What kind of temp ranges and timeframes might you want to complete AF and extended maceration? At lower temps and slower AF is oxidation more of a concern due to less CO2 and do we need to also consider NO2 blanketing the must? I could be talked into a dedicated tank and glycol unit for this kind of protocol if it produces significantly better product... I've been looking at CD's for next fall, a bladder press, and larger tank options. I think oak adjuncts are fine and you can take apart a barrel and toast the staves yourself for better oakonomy.

    Cheers!
    -jonny
     
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  11. Nov 5, 2019 #31

    CabSauv

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    Nope, that was it. I must have missed it.
     
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  12. Nov 5, 2019 #32

    1d10t

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    @NorCal Put this on your list yet? ;)


    CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A dozen bottles of fine French wine arrived at the space station Monday, not for the astronauts, but for science.

    The red Bordeaux wine will age for a year up there before returning to Earth. Researchers will study how weightlessness and space radiation affect the aging process. The goal is to develop new flavors and properties for the food industry.

    https://apnews.com/a1f6e241e7324ba7ab4ee1a05ddf39f8
     
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  13. Nov 5, 2019 #33

    NorCal

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    I bet the wine is out of this world.
     
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  14. Nov 5, 2019 #34

    mainshipfred

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    Extended maceration has always scared me a little so I never really tried it. The only thing I could recommend is whatever temperature you decide to go with make sure your yeast is compatible with it.
     
  15. Nov 5, 2019 #35

    Chuck E

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    What are "CD's"?
     
  16. Nov 5, 2019 #36

    CDrew

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    Crusher-Destemmer?
     
  17. Nov 6, 2019 #37

    4score

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    My local favorite commercial winery is Runquist, in Amador. They make wines that always motivate me to try harder. The owner, Jeff Runquist, has been fairly open with me about his approach to his award-winning wines. His Barbera, for example. He told me the precise Brix (and pH) to harvest, combined with a slight water-back strategy. He gave us his pressing strength (gallons per pound) and crushing on top of fine oak chips. He was nice enough to give me a bucket or two of the very same chips he uses.

    Temperature control is the biggest gap for us. As NorCal said, this year was the exception as things ran late and we got to ferment in nice cool weather (for a change).

    I'm a big believer of trying a non-sacc yeast (engineered, not wild) and then switching over to a proven Saccharomyces yeast. I did this last season using Prelude yeast, followed by Avante. So far, there is a mouthfeel difference versus another barrel I did with just the Avante, but I still think we need more time to evaluate. Last season, we only let the Prelude go for the initial 3 or 4 Brix. This year, with our Cab, we went deep with the Prelude (from 26.5 to 7.5) before switching to Avante. Should be a good sample!

    NorCal and I want to try a farm-to-bottle Franc-off next year. Perhaps a few other locals as well. All harvest from the same vineyard. Grab enough to make a carboy of wine and off you go. Let's try different (well documented) strategies and meet back in a year with your respective (non-blended) bottle of CF. Blind tastings and rankings. Winner gets the "pot"! (Pot tbd). Please don't give NorCal any more tips, just private message me! :)
     
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  18. Nov 6, 2019 #38

    jsbeckton

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    There is a website in the brewing community called ‘brulosophy’ where seasoned amateur home brewers do fairly ‘scientific’ experiments to put all of the things that homebrewers argue over to the test. They make a control batch and a test batch, then serve 20-30 people a triangle test of 2 control and 1 test beer and ask them if they can first pick the different beer. Then if they are correct they then ask which they prefer.

    The results are pretty interesting and sometimes pretty unexpected. For the most part it seems that no single variable makes a significant different according to the data from the individual experiments.

    Some may say that means that all of these little things we obsess about don’t really matter as much as we think they do. I think that it might actually be that there is no one single ‘key’ that separates a great beer from a decent beer but rather it’s all the little things collectively that make the difference.

    I often wish there was a similar website for wine making (let me know if I’m just not aware of it). Of course the turnaround time for beer is much faster and it can be made year round so I guess it’s a lot more practical than it would be for wine.
     
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  19. Nov 6, 2019 #39

    jburtner

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    Temp control seems achievable on a small scale even if a little pricey. Are slow ferments lasting multiple months for a red that much of a thing? Would it necessarily be the longer slower activity of the yeasties or more about the extended maceration? How about then raising the temp for another month+ to complete mlf?

    Cheers!
    -johann
     
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  20. Nov 6, 2019 #40

    CDrew

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    Runquist is a favorite of mine too. He is unapologetic about not being a grower, but makes really great wines from grapes he buys from other vineyards, which he typically names on the bottle. I've been a wine club member there for years. I'd like to be included in the 1 pick, 1 carboy competition.

    I'm interested in the Prelude concept too, but not sure I'm brave enough to go there yet.
     
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