Making wine in an old world style

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kravi

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Hi folks,

I'm new to making wine, though I've been making beer and mead for some time now. While books are on the way (and reading one right now), I do have a couple of wine questions. If any of y'all can help me out, I'd be obliged.

1. I've always preferred old world style wines to the new world, fruit forward style. This isn't a snob thing, I've had a few California wines done in the old world style which are absolutely amazing, and a few new world style wines from Europe which were, well, fruit forward. I would like to vint (is that a verb?) an old world style wine. Can anyone explain the differences in process to me? I like the tannins, and the silky smooth flavours of old world wines, because mostly that is what I was raised with. How can I replicate this? I heard something about leaving some stems in the process (the brown stems, not that green ones). What else? Maybe fermentation temperatures? I understand old world wines were fermented warmer than is now popular over here.

2. What are options for killing the wild yeast prior to adding in the good yeast? Campden tables or sulfite crystals? What is the difference? Is there anything else I can use?

Obliged! I found me a farmer who grows wine grapes for a living, and he's promised me around 80 pounds for my 6 gallons of wine. I am still not decided on the varietal, as I'm waiting closer to harvest time to see what is good.

Cheers,

--kravi
 

garymc

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With respect to the difference in Campden tablets and potassium metabisulfite crystals, the practical difference is that the tablets are very accurately measured for 1 tablet per gallon. This makes it easy to do one or two gallon batches. The crystals or powder is dosed at one quarter teaspoon per 5 gallons. So, trying to measure one fifth of a quarter of a teaspoon would be difficult. Having said all that, a quarter of a teaspoon in 5 or 6 gallons gives a little more leeway for lack of precision than a one gallon batch. I'll be curious to see what the discussion brings in defining "old world style."
 

MDH

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Old world is terroir centered. What does this mean? It means nature takes its course and the winemaker does little to try and mess with it.

Ideally, that's wild fermentation, long maceration time on skins (and as you point, stems), a long malolactic fermentation for non-aromatic whites and for most reds, the bare minimum necessary sulfite levels (or CO2 instead of SO2) and, especially in France, harvesting at lower brix (20-21 vs 24).

How would the wine be? Exactly as however it turns out. And the second I start adding or subtracting acid, using enzymes to cajole new flavors out of the must or throwing in champagne yeast to try and coax more alcohol out of it, I'm not doing old world.

New World is different. Say I want to make a desert-dry fruit bomb: I would do a choice harvest of say Muscat of Alexandria or Siegerrebe at 23 Brix, go a little heavy on the press to get good aromatics out of the skins, add Lalzyme enzymes (e.g. BETA) to the juice, sulfite the juice and ferment using some carefully selected non-saccharomyces strains, then finish off with a good high attenuator and perhaps experimentally for fun, something like Saccharomyces Trois. The result would be an extremely fruity wine, perhaps so fruity that it's like an inappropriately high alcohol children's drink.

This isn't the strict definition of old and new world, but describes more the approach taken by one vs. the other.
 

NorCal

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@4Score and I did an old world vs. new world tasting. We tasted a dozen wines. The differences to me;

Old World
Lighter flavors
Earthy flavors and smells
Smooth, refined

New World
Heavier, bigger
Deeper, darker fruit
Cleaner taste

How to make? Pick at 22 brix, let native yeast do its thing, make sure pH is 3.3-3.4, (it's all about the terroir), look up battonage and delastage, age for 18 months in a French oak barrel, light handed on the SO2 and racking.
 

MDH

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Also worth mentioning the reason why so many old-world French reds need a lot of aging: The tannins and acid that result need to form esters with the alcohol. When the wine is young these add bite and astringency. This is why most very young Bordeaux, and definitely ALL young Barollo, is almost undrinkable. After 10, 20, 30 years of the acids, tannins and other compounds reacting with alcohol, some interesting flavors such as mintiness or cinnamon begin to appear.

New World wine does not, by necessity, hedge its bets on these reactions, though it too can benefit from them. Instead it relies on the fermentation and harvest conditions to kick the fruit into gear so the wine is drinkable in one year or three.
 
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balatonwine

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As a new world kid now owning an old world winery, from my humble experience from both sides of the pond, I say that MDH and NorCal pretty much have the answer covered.

A few more details would include for old world vineyards are they are usually not irrigated so the vines are more at the mercy of the elements how the grapes will ripen (so are more vintage based wines). And European wine Appellation rules are very strict at times, so tradition is actually the law (no adjustments or experimenting allowed). And the wine cellars where the fermentation occurs are cold and moist, which is why not only long maceration of reds occurs naturally, but even my whites can take months to ferment to dryness. And long fermentations do affect the final wine -- and makes me smile when some here write here to ask why their batch is still fermenting after 2 weeks; which is the time some of my spontaneous fermentation just starts to get really going well.
 
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BernardSmith

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With respect to the difference in Campden tablets and potassium metabisulfite crystals, the practical difference is that the tablets are very accurately measured for 1 tablet per gallon. This makes it easy to do one or two gallon batches. The crystals or powder is dosed at one quarter teaspoon per 5 gallons. So, trying to measure one fifth of a quarter of a teaspoon would be difficult. Having said all that, a quarter of a teaspoon in 5 or 6 gallons gives a little more leeway for lack of precision than a one gallon batch. I'll be curious to see what the discussion brings in defining "old world style."
So the simple solution is to make say, a mixture for 20 gallons (using your measure 1 t dissolved in say 20 ccs of water ) and so add 1 cc per gallon. You gotta think outside the box:b
 

salcoco

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another solution for measuring K-Meta, go to a kitchen utensil store and buy measuring spoons. some are marked in metric make it even better.
A note on wild yeast fermentation, actually wild yeast , the yeast is resident in the winery and started living there after years of use of commercial yeast. not really wild just domesticated.
 

kravi

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Wow, thanks for these fantastic responses! Can I lean on y'all a little bit more to help me put together a runbook for my first (very small) batch? To be honest, I'm just going to start by making ~5 or 6 gallons for my first attempt. But I'd like to put a game plan together.

1. For the initial fermentation, I assume I'll still be adding commercial yeast, just not sterilizing the must with campden tablets, allowing potential flavours from the wild yeast to effect the end result. Is this correct?
2. What temperature should i do the primary fermentation? My experience with mead, depending on the wine yeast I was using, was relatively warm. Say upper 60s. Is this still correct? Or should I ferment the primary stage slower at a lower temperature as well? I have a full temp controlled environment I can use with +/-1 temperature consistency.
3. I'm assuming the "good" stems and the skins should be present at this time? Hey, I'm new at this and honey has no skins or stems :)
4. Same question for the secondary fermentation? What temp, and how long? I'm assuming by this point that the skins and stems are out, or should I add them back in?
5. With the small amount i'm doing, a french oak barrel does not seem to be possible (all that air would be bad juju methinks). French oak whittle sticks (or whatever they are called), untoasted? Toasted? I do not like over-oaked; in fact I tend to prefer just the minimum of oakiness. Perhaps use only half of one of those oak sticks but longer? Pre-soak it to remove the strong character and then leave it in for months? Thoughts are appreciated.
6. How many times should I rack it in the secondary fermentation stage? I'm assuming it will be at a colder temp, so it will last longer than the standard books (which seem to be new world oriented) by a lot.

Thanks folks!

--kravi

EDIT: Apparently I don't now how to put consecutive numbers down correctly...
 

NorCal

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1. Yes, the commercial yeast will quickly crush the native yeast. Hopefully there isn't too much bacteria that the SO2 otherwise would have taken care of.
2. Check the specs on the yeast you are using 65-85 are typical ranges.
3. I would avoid stem inclusion unless you like vegetal/tannic wine.
4. Secondary I do 65-69 degrees, since there is still no SO2 protection.
5. French go light on oak. Add staves/spirals and check every few weeks.
6. I press, settle, rack, mlf done rack, 3 months later rack, before bottling rack (11 month cycle). Some would say a bit heavy handed, I say I like clean wine.
 

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