How do I leave residual sugar in a full bodied red?

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GalleonsLap

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I live in a temperate region in the US and grow French-American Hybrids because I can't grow vinifera. As you may know these are much higher in acidity than vinifera varieties, and end up pretty acidic, even harvesting as late as possible (which is impossible most times because of weather conditions and insect pests) and using acid reducing yeasts and ML fermentation. The wines aren't balanced and I don't like the outcome. I'd like to balance out the high acidity, which is unpleasant in the dry version I end up with, with sugar, but I can't seem to find info on how to add sugar without restarting fermentation.

I've made good white wines by backsweetening after fermentation and adding sulfites and potassium sorbate, but this is not possible with the ML full bodied red wines because it causes off flavors. I've read that I could use sulfites and filtering, but there is always the possibility of fermentation in the bottle, which I've had happen before when I tried this. You'd think that given all the sweet, semi-sweet, and off dry red wines out there, it would be possible to find information on how to do this. You'd also think that wine yeasts, which I've understood can't tolerate high alcohol concentrations, would stop fermenting at some point instead of restarting with the addition of sugar.

Should I chaptalize and bring the initial sugars up past the level of potential alcohol I'd like to have and then stop the fermentation with sulfites and/or filtering? Would this even be possible? Any other suggestions? Anyone know how most wineries do this (and do I really want to know)? Even something like a Shiraz has a lot of residual sugar.
 

VinesnBines

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As usual, I have more questions. What varieties are you growing? How many seasons are we talking about? Are you adjusting the acid before fermentation, trying to tame the acids with oak, finishing tannins, fining, blending? I know you are hampered by weather and pests but have you tried leaving some grapes to hang longer?

As to how commercial wineries produce sweet red wines or reds with residual sugar, they sterile filter. Alternatively they make port style and the addition of spirits stops the fermentation.

You can experiment with chaptalizing and step feeding until the yeast poops out but then you have a higher alcohol wine. I've found the only foolproof way for me to prevent re-fermentation is to bottle dry and backsweeten upon opening. That makes it difficult to give wine away.

I'm sure others have better ideas.
 
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Rice_Guy

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* my experience is that a nine month old wine usually will not referment after adding sugar and a year old has always been safe (so far)
* you could copy cider folks and pasteurize to kill the yeast, note this is a series of temperatures. A milk line might do 180F for a second, cider 140F for 40 minutes and in Mo a warm garage 125F for a week.
* rhubarb and cranberry will sometimes be treated with calcium carbonate to neutralize the acid, this is slow reacting so I might add it just after malo. Potassium bicarbonate is also used for tweaking but for major changes I would use calcium, or lab grade sodium hydroxide.
* there are yeast that help. 71B is rated as 33% malic reduction and Malavurn B is rated 55% malic reduction. Again running malo lactic fermentation can remove all the malic.
* some of the folks in the vinters club will chill the carboy in a chest freezer with an ink bird controller set for 30F or even 28. This produces large flakes of bitartrate. I have frozen grape juice till I am ready and siphoned off a lower acid juice, this produces fine dust like crystals.
* I am farther north than you, there are some very low acid grapes as Itasca. You posted organic methods so I should point out this variety will take spraying, (maybe all vinifera genetics requires spraying) There were some vineyards growing red vinifera in Traverse Mi, the grapes take that level of chill.
* I will mention Petite Pearl. I did a vineyard blend mostly whites with about 10% PP. it turned out to be a tannic red. I am impressed at how full bodied that grape is.

* acid can be balanced with sugar as in the graphic below.
 
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GalleonsLap

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As usual, I have more questions. What varieties are you growing? How many seasons are we talking about? Are you adjusting the acid before fermentation, trying to tame the acids with oak, finishing tannins, fining, blending? I know you are hampered by weather and pests but have you tried leaving some grapes to hang longer?

As to how commercial wineries produce sweet red wines or reds with residual sugar, they sterile filter. Alternatively they make port style and the addition of spirits stops the fermentation.

You can experiment with chaptalizing and step feeding until the yeast poops out but then you have a higher alcohol wine. I've found the only foolproof way for me to prevent re-fermentation is to bottle dry and backsweeten upon opening. That makes it difficult to give wine away.

I'm sure others have better ideas.
Thanks for the response! The varieties I'm talking about are Norton, Frontenac, and some Leon Millot. I don't know of much I can do to adjust the acid besides dilute and chaptalize. I do this for some sweet Concords I make. I'm hesitant to add chemicals that will change the flavor too much just to bring the acid down, but if there is one that doesn't negatively affect things, I'm open to trying it. I do MLF and use oak chips, but don't add tannins. I have found that the flavor is better if I destem so the tannins are lower. I have used egg whites for fining, and lately I've blended all these varieties. In the past, because Frontenac is earlier I was making a nouveau from that using partial carbonic maceration, but wasn't satisfied with the quality either, so I've decided to just blend it all in a full bodied red.

The problem with leaving the grapes to hang longer is that we have juice sucking bugs like stink bugs that will suck literally all the juice out if I leave them too long. I've found that if I leave them too long I'll harvest and the clusters are so light because they are empty of juice. I don't spray pesticides because I'm organic.

Ideally I'd like to be able to make finished wines that are sweet in the bottle. I have added sugar after opening the bottle, like I'd do with tea. Does sterile filtering involve heat? I might just need to filter and hope that doesn't change the flavor too much.
 

GalleonsLap

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There's a few things you can do:

1. Cold stabilize the wine to drop excess tartrates. This may not fix the problem, but it should reduce it.

2. Add lysozyme to deal with the MLB -- search the forum for information on this.

3. Bulk age for a year -- at that point the yeast should be dead.
Thanks for the suggestions! I do cold stabilize my whites and usually because of where I store my carboys, the reds get that too, but I don't intentionally ensure cold temps to drop tartrates. I'll try that. So the lysozyme will prevent the off flavors when you add potassium sorbate? I will try the bulk aging. My wines tend to sit close to a year after fermentation in carboys. I usually empty them and bottle just before the new vintage. Maybe I should be adding more sulfites.
 

GalleonsLap

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* my experience is that a nine month old wine usually will not referment after adding sugar and a year old has always been safe (so far)
* you could copy cider folks and pasteurize to kill the yeast, note this is a series of temperatures. A milk line might do 180F for a second, cider 140F for 40 minutes and in Mo a warm garage 125F for a week.
* rhubarb and cranberry will sometimes be treated with calcium carbonate to neutralize the acid, this is slow reacting so I might add it just after malo. Potassium bicarbonate is also used for tweaking but for major changes I would use calcium, or lab grade sodium hydroxide.
* there are yeast that help. 71B is rated as 33% malic reduction and Malavurn B is rated 55% malic reduction. Again running malo lactic fermentation can remove all the malic.
* some of the folks in the vinters club will chill the carboy in a chest freezer with an ink bird controller set for 30F or even 28. This produces large flakes of bitartrate. I have frozen grape juice till I am ready and siphoned off a lower acid juice, this produces fine dust like crystals.
* I am farther north than you, there are some very low acid grapes as Itasca. You posted organic methods so I should point out this variety will take spraying, (maybe all vinifera genetics requires spraying) There were some vineyards growing red vinifera in Traverse Mi, the grapes take that level of chill.
* I will mention Petite Pearl. I did a vineyard blend mostly whites with about 10% PP. it turned out to be a tannic red. I am impressed at how full bodied that grape is.

* acid can be balanced with sugar as in the graphic below.
Thanks for the suggestions! Good to know about the yeast mortality in the aged wine. I didn't know those were certain or likely but winemaker81 said something similar. Cold stabilization is an option and that was suggested too. Tartaric acid isn't as harsh as the malic. I did two batches of reds last year, and I used some 71B in one and it did end up better than the one I used Pasteur Red in, so maybe I'll stick to using that yeast to bring down the malic acid, since that's the harshest acid. There might be some newer varieties of grapes I could try.

I've been experimenting for about 15 years with varieties that can handle no spray (because spraying sulfur and copper, which are allowed in organics, does almost nothing even at the best) and can handle our shallow topsoil and degraded land. I've been amending the soil and these varieties I grow do fine. This year has been very wet and despite all the claims about Frontenac being disease resistant, almost all the grape clusters are shriveled up by now. Norton is perfect every single year no matter what, so the genetics for organic grapes in the midwest do exist. There may be newer varieties that have lower acid and are disease resistant. I haven't tried some of the newest cold hardy hybrids.

Thanks for the link on balancing acids. I've definitely got some ideas for new things to try!
 
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@GalleonsLap, I recommend cold stabilization as the first choice, as it's typically the easiest (if dealing with small quantities) and it as no negative side effects.

Lysozyme kills or inhibits MLB, so there's no interaction with sorbate.

Since you're bulk aging nearly a year, I suggest you try backsweetening and bottling a gallon with just K-meta, no sorbate. Put the bottles in a warm location for a month and monitor for renewed fermentation. You may have solved the problem without knowing it.
 

GalleonsLap

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@GalleonsLap, I recommend cold stabilization as the first choice, as it's typically the easiest (if dealing with small quantities) and it as no negative side effects.

Lysozyme kills or inhibits MLB, so there's no interaction with sorbate.

Since you're bulk aging nearly a year, I suggest you try backsweetening and bottling a gallon with just K-meta, no sorbate. Put the bottles in a warm location for a month and monitor for renewed fermentation. You may have solved the problem without knowing it.
Thanks for your help! I'll try those things. Good to have new options.
 

heatherd

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I live in a temperate region in the US and grow French-American Hybrids because I can't grow vinifera. As you may know these are much higher in acidity than vinifera varieties, and end up pretty acidic, even harvesting as late as possible (which is impossible most times because of weather conditions and insect pests) and using acid reducing yeasts and ML fermentation. The wines aren't balanced and I don't like the outcome. I'd like to balance out the high acidity, which is unpleasant in the dry version I end up with, with sugar, but I can't seem to find info on how to add sugar without restarting fermentation.

I've made good white wines by backsweetening after fermentation and adding sulfites and potassium sorbate, but this is not possible with the ML full bodied red wines because it causes off flavors. I've read that I could use sulfites and filtering, but there is always the possibility of fermentation in the bottle, which I've had happen before when I tried this. You'd think that given all the sweet, semi-sweet, and off dry red wines out there, it would be possible to find information on how to do this. You'd also think that wine yeasts, which I've understood can't tolerate high alcohol concentrations, would stop fermenting at some point instead of restarting with the addition of sugar.

Should I chaptalize and bring the initial sugars up past the level of potential alcohol I'd like to have and then stop the fermentation with sulfites and/or filtering? Would this even be possible? Any other suggestions? Anyone know how most wineries do this (and do I really want to know)? Even something like a Shiraz has a lot of residual sugar.
For all reds I would let fermentation go dry, let MLF complete, then add k-meta and k-sorbate, then backsweeten. It is tough to try to stop fermentation so better to let it finish.
 

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've been experimenting for about 15 years with varieties that can handle no spray (because spraying sulfur and copper, which are allowed in organics, does almost nothing even at the best) and can handle our shallow topsoil and degraded land. I've been amending the soil and these varieties I grow do fine. This year has been very wet and despite all the claims about Frontenac being disease resistant, almost all the grape clusters are shriveled up by now. Norton is perfect every single year no matter what, so the genetics for organic grapes in the midwest do exist. There may be newer varieties that have lower acid and are disease resistant. I haven't tried some of the newest cold hardy hybrids.
I'm growing Marquette (among other varieties) and it is supposed to be cold hardy and disease resistant - even marketed as "no spray". It was the first variety of mine to have signs of black rot - just as bad as Vidal so I have concluded there is no variety that is "no spray". I do spray because in the mid Atlantic, no spray or organic isn't really possible.

My Norton have a few bunches but have not started producing well.

Frontenac is a high acid grape and your climate may make it higher.

Sterile filtering is done with a plate filter like the Buon Vino Mini Jet. I don't filter so someone else needs to explain; i think you filter through course then finer filters until you get the finest/sterile filter. The idea is to remove all the potential yeast cells. Time is good but not foolproof. Like Winemaker 81 suggested, you can bottle a gallon and see if refermentation occurs. I've had it happen and not push corks for many months though - even up to a year before it pops a cork.
 

GalleonsLap

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For all reds I would let fermentation go dry, let MLF complete, then add k-meta and k-sorbate, then backsweeten. It is tough to try to stop fermentation so better to let it finish.
The only issue with that is that the K-sorbate will add off flavors because of the MLF. winemaker81 suggested adding lysozyme to prevent the off flavors.
 

GalleonsLap

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I'm growing Marquette (among other varieties) and it is supposed to be cold hardy and disease resistant - even marketed as "no spray". It was the first variety of mine to have signs of black rot - just as bad as Vidal so I have concluded there is no variety that is "no spray". I do spray because in the mid Atlantic, no spray or organic isn't really possible.

My Norton have a few bunches but have not started producing well.

Frontenac is a high acid grape and your climate may make it higher.

Sterile filtering is done with a plate filter like the Buon Vino Mini Jet. I don't filter so someone else needs to explain; i think you filter through course then finer filters until you get the finest/sterile filter. The idea is to remove all the potential yeast cells. Time is good but not foolproof. Like Winemaker 81 suggested, you can bottle a gallon and see if refermentation occurs. I've had it happen and not push corks for many months though - even up to a year before it pops a cork.
Yes, I ordered some grapes and I think I was given a couple of Marquette, given that they were not what I ordered and the nursery only sold several different varieties, one of which was Marquette, and the mystery grape fit its description. It is the first to leaf out in my vineyard, so is susceptible to late frosts, and it is very susceptible to bunch rots. Super vigorous in my soil though. I think some of these resistances vary depending on region. Like Frontenac may be pretty disease resistant up in Minnesota where it was bred, but not down in Missouri, where I am.

Norton takes longer to get established, but once it does it's not going anywhere and it seems indestructible. Definitely the healthiest, most productive vines in my vineyard in shallow, heavy clay soil.

Good to know about the possibility of activity in the bottle even after a long time in the carboy. I'll do a test portion. I don't remember how long the wine had been bulk aging the last time I tried backsweetening a red, but it had unfortunate results. Bottles spraying bubbly wine all over. That's why I've been searching for a better way. Maybe I'll have to invest in filtering.
 

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Yes, I ordered some grapes and I think I was given a couple of Marquette, given that they were not what I ordered and the nursery only sold several different varieties, one of which was Marquette, and the mystery grape fit its description. It is the first to leaf out in my vineyard, so is susceptible to late frosts, and it is very susceptible to bunch rots. Super vigorous in my soil though. I think some of these resistances vary depending on region. Like Frontenac may be pretty disease resistant up in Minnesota where it was bred, but not down in Missouri, where I am.

Norton takes longer to get established, but once it does it's not going anywhere and it seems indestructible. Definitely the healthiest, most productive vines in my vineyard in shallow, heavy clay soil.

Good to know about the possibility of activity in the bottle even after a long time in the carboy. I'll do a test portion. I don't remember how long the wine had been bulk aging the last time I tried backsweetening a red, but it had unfortunate results. Bottles spraying bubbly wine all over. That's why I've been searching for a better way. Maybe I'll have to invest in filtering.
We have late frosts so I had nothing last year from Marquette but this year they are already turning.

Good to know that Norton will eventually get established. I have vines galore but few grapes on the Norton. Some varieties are simply loaded.
 

Rice_Guy

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Frontenac in Minnesota is extremely subject to disease, it is a fast growing high work variety. I cut mine off at ground level. Marquette is better but still has lots of disease pressure.
My current favorite old variety is Millot. BUT I have basically given up on organic rules.

Going organic rules, have you tried diatomaceous earth? I should help with sucking insects. Using organic rules you could use insect netting. Pyrethrum falls under organic rules. Keeping chickens in the vineyard falls in organic rules.
I am first a country wine maker. Mulberry when adding high bottle recommendation tannin will make a big red wine, it is low acid/ pH 5 so you might try freezing some mulberry juice then blending 1:1 with your high acid grape juice.
 
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heatherd

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The only issue with that is that the K-sorbate will add off flavors because of the MLF. winemaker81 suggested adding lysozyme to prevent the off flavors.
I have been making wine and doing MLF for awhile and have never found that k-sorbate adds off flavors in reds - have you had that experience? @winemaker81, have you had that issue? I ask because k-sorbate is a widely-used ingredient so easy to get and work with. K-sorbate is what I use when back-sweetening.
 

GalleonsLap

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Frontenac in Minnesota is extremely subject to disease, it is a fast growing high work variety. I cut mine off at ground level. Marquette is better but still has lots of disease pressure.
My current favorite old variety is Millot. BUT I have basically given up on organic rules.

Going organic rules, have you tried diatomaceous earth? I should help with sucking insects. Using organic rules you could use insect netting. Pyrethrum falls under organic rules. Keeping chickens in the vineyard falls in organic rules.
I am first a country wine maker. Mulberry when adding high bottle recommendation tannin will make a big red wine, it is low acid/ pH 5 so you might try freezing some mulberry juice then blending 1:1 with your high acid grape juice.
Good to know about Frontenac up north. It was advertised as super disease resistant a while back. Maybe it was too early to know. I do have some Millot but if we get rain after veraison they can split and then I have to harvest them early. Another reason my wines can end up acidic.

I haven't tried diatomaceous earth or insect netting. I spend a lot of time putting up bird netting because if I didn't, I wouldn't get a single grape. I used to have chickens in chicken tractors in the vineyard, but they were a lot of work. Maybe I can look into DE and pyrethrum. I know pyrethrum kills bees and other beneficials so you have to be careful with it. We are starting to get an invasion of Japanese beetles, which we never had before last year. This year they were really bad. But they eat the leaves and weaken the vines, and don't affect the berries.

We do have mulberries everywhere on our land. I've thought about using some other berry juices with my grapes. I haven't fiddled around with it much though I used to make a lot of fruit wine.

thanks for the suggestions.
 

GalleonsLap

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I have been making wine and doing MLF for awhile and have never found that k-sorbate adds off flavors in reds - have you had that experience? @winemaker81, have you had that issue? I ask because k-sorbate is a widely-used ingredient so easy to get and work with. K-sorbate is what I use when back-sweetening.
Info I've found says that it can impart a "geranium-like" flavor on the wine. But some sources say that as long as the MLF is fully complete you should be okay. I never tried it because I thought the off flavor took a while to develop. I know they say that with aging the k-sorbate will add off flavors, so you have to drink the wine young if you add it, even if it isn't a wine that has undergone MLF. That also doesn't allow for aging, but I suppose you could barrel age the wine and backsweeten after using k-sorbate. Might be worth a try if it's just a matter of time.

MLF should be complete fairly early in the winemaking process. I'm guessing the lysozyme mentioned just destroys any leftover bacteria from that process. Lyso means break, so it probably breaks the bacterial cells and kills them.
 

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Info I've found says that it can impart a "geranium-like" flavor on the wine. But some sources say that as long as the MLF is fully complete you should be okay. I never tried it because I thought the off flavor took a while to develop. I know they say that with aging the k-sorbate will add off flavors, so you have to drink the wine young if you add it, even if it isn't a wine that has undergone MLF. That also doesn't allow for aging, but I suppose you could barrel age the wine and backsweeten after using k-sorbate. Might be worth a try if it's just a matter of time.

MLF should be complete fairly early in the winemaking process. I'm guessing the lysozyme mentioned just destroys any leftover bacteria from that process. Lyso means break, so it probably breaks the bacterial cells and kills them.
For what it's worth, my real experience for the past ten years of making wine has not found that to be true. You have to be sure that fermentation and MLF are complete before you add k-meta or k-sorbate and then back-sweeten.
 

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I know they say that with aging the k-sorbate will add off flavors, so you have to drink the wine young if you add it, even if it isn't a wine that has undergone MLF.

I have not found this to be true in my wines. All my reds get MLF, sorbate (even without back sweetening), and 12+ months of bulk aging with no problems. This summer I opened my last bottle of 2017 Barolo and it was outstanding.
 

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