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MLF in or out of barrel? Very new at wine-making

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sct1984

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Coming up will be my first attempt at wine from grapes (Cab Sauv and Cab Franc blend - Niagara grown), and my 2nd wine ever. First was a Strawberry wine started this year, which I am very happy about so far.

I have been developing a process throughout the last month or so by (what feels like) a lot of research, and I am expecting to learn a lot by going into it no holds barred.

One thing I am undecided about in the process is in what vessel to perform MLF - in the barrel, Carboy, or both, and for how long for each. I have read several places that oaking during MLF is beneficial, though at the end, I would bulk age in Carboys.

I will have approx 50L of juice, give or take, which will be enough to fill my 30L barrel (medium toast, French Oak), and enough left over to fill a 5 or 6 Gallon Carboy.

My idea of the process would be something like:

1. Finish Primary-Ferm, then let sit 12-24 hours
2. Rack off Gross-Lees (30L into barrel, balance into appropriate carboy)
3. Add Lalvin MBR-31 to each (started with Acti-ML)
4. Monitor MLF
5. Once complete (verified by Chromatography), Measure/adjust SO2, and rotate Carboy / Barrel volumes (transfer from barrel to fill same sized carboy and replace with volume from carboy completed MLF).
6. Monitor barrel volume and transfer to Carboy once ready (bench testing)
7. continue to monitor carboys/adjust as necessary
8. Blend before bottling

All advise is appreciated - would this seem about right as a fairly high level process?

One concern I have is whether the MLF will go on for longer than it should remain in the smaller barrel
 
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MisterEd

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To be safe make sure your pH is over 3.5 and room temp is at least 70 DF. Once MLF starts it is wise to give it at least two-three months for it's life cycle before sulfiting. I suppose if your confident w/ the chromatography results you can add SO2 earlier.
 

sct1984

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I am just wondering if generally it would be wise to perform the MLF in the smaller barrel. I had thought that a 30L (8Gal) barrel would generally show characteristics approximately (very approximately) up to 5 times faster than a standard barrel.

That being said - do I risk starting MLF in the barrel and then have to interrupt/rack before it's complete, in the case that the wine is taking on too much of the oak?

I get this wouldn't be a problem with larger barrels and an intention to age 1-2 years, but what is generally done when smaller barrels are used?
 

MisterEd

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That being said - do I risk starting MLF in the barrel and then have to interrupt/rack before it's complete, in the case that the wine is taking on too much of the oak?
Racking the must after it's been inoculated w/ MLF is not a problem AFAIK. If it is active it should just start back up after settling into the new vessel for a day or so.
 
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1) You must stir the lees while conducting MLF (start 2 x/week x a few weeks and then 1x/week until complete) or the LAB will settle into the bottom and be less likely to finish. Also, you do not want the lees to get "funky."

2) I WOULD NOT rack post-innoculation. Why would you pay $$$ for LAB, that are peculiar organisms that need to be coaxed to do their job and a) throw a bunch of them away by racking, b) expose them to/introduce air that kills them? Use the correct vessel that can hold the wine until spring.

3) PATIENCE. MLF is often sloooow, and might need until spring to finish if your location is less than 70 degrees.. Hence the criticality of a FULL vessel and Do Not Disturb sign.

The way I manage MLF is using a stainless keg with a TC fitting. I fill it to the tippy-top, inoculate, close it and tip the keg, never opening for months.
 
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sct1984

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1) You must stir the lees while conducting MLF (start 2 x/week x a few weeks and then 1x/week until complete) or the LAB will settle into the bottom and be less likely to finish. Also, you do not want the lees to get "funky."

2) I WOULD NOT rack post-innoculation. Why would you pay $$$ for LAB, that are peculiar organisms that need to be coaxed to do their job and a) throw a bunch of them away by racking, b) expose them to/introduce air that kills them? Use the correct vessel that can hold the wine until spring.

3) PATIENCE. MLF is often sloooow, and might need until spring to finish if your location is less than 70 degrees.. Hence the criticality of a FULL vessel and Do Not Disturb sign.

The way I manage MLF is using a stainless keg with a TC fitting. I fill it to the tippy-top, inoculate, close it and tip the keg, never opening for months.
That sort of confirms my original feeling, that it should not be disturbed until finished MLF - mostly due to minimizing risk due to extra air exposure - perhaps it would be OK - but why risk it unnecessarily when I can certainly still rack into the barrel once MLF is complete.

My instincts would tell me generally that less is more, unless absolutely necessary.

That being said, I think I have decided to perform MLF in the carboys, then once MLF is complete, rack 30 L into the barrel, until delicious, then monitor taste/feel of the non-oaked carboy and make a decision from there - whether to oak it, leave it un-oaked, or create some blend.

I have time though, so still appreciate comments/suggestions!!
 

whippetgood

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Nice thing about mlf in carboys is that you can see the process going on. Real fine bubbles rising. No bubbles seen then its either done or stuck.
 

sct1984

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Not always. I have had Mlf progress and complete in 60 days and never saw a bubble at all. It isn't predictable.
see - much to learn lol All part of experience I suppose, but for now, I feel I need to use more technical indicators, and over time develop a feel for how those indicators translate to taste. So in 30 years - I might produce some drinkable wines!
 

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