Need help with tart wine

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Khristyjeff

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I have a Petite Pearl wine from grapes started 9/15/20 (pH started at 3.11). I ran it through a malolactic fermentation starting 9/29/20. Taste is still tart today although it has gotten slightly better over time. Latest pH reading is 3.18. I have a couple extra jugs that just measured 3.36 (this one tasted better) and 3.21. These measurements for a red wine should be more in the range of 3.5-3.7, yes? Some have suggested cold stabilization to drop out some of the tartaric acid. Does that process reduce tart taste? Or will time and patience fix this by itself? I appreciate your thoughts.
 

Steve Wargo

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I have a Petite Pearl wine from grapes started 9/15/20 (pH started at 3.11). I ran it through a malolactic fermentation starting 9/29/20. Taste is still tart today although it has gotten slightly better over time. Latest pH reading is 3.18. I have a couple extra jugs that just measured 3.36 (this one tasted better) and 3.21. These measurements for a red wine should be more in the range of 3.5-3.7, yes? Some have suggested cold stabilization to drop out some of the tartaric acid. Does that process reduce tart taste? Or will time and patience fix this by itself? I appreciate your thoughts.
Are you sure the Malolactic fermentation finished? The Ph seems low and maybe the malolactic bacteria didn't like the low PH environment? How did you test for the Malic acid content in the wine Before adding and after adding the Malo? The cold crashing suggestion will help with tartaric acid reduction, thus lower total acid. How much? I dunno. I've done it with white wine with success.
--- I made 6-gal Petite Pearl this past September 2020 from grapes that I picked from the vine. The beginning PH of the must was near 3.0, but the brix was high and the grape juice from crush was heavy-bodied and the wine color was like black ink. I added distilled water to raise the PH, and it didn't seem to negatively affect the body, or change the wine color. The wine finished at about 13+%. The last time I measured the PH it was 3.4. The PH is still a little on the low side, but the wine tasted very good considering where it was in the aging process. Reminded me of dark Spanish wine. It's aging in a carboy. I know a winery that uses 71B for hybrid cold weather grapes because it's supposed to remove (eat) about 30% of the Malic acid from the wine during fermentation. It's a fairly new grape and I think most winemakers are experimenting with the grape when it comes to making wine using the Petite Perl grape. At this time I think Petite Perl can withstand Ameliorating the wine before fermentation and still maintain an excellent body. So what do you do now? I think to test the wine for malic acid content. Then decide what to do next. Good luck
 

Rice_Guy

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pH is misleading when you are looking at tart taste, Titratable acidity is the main contributor to acid taste, example cola soda with a pH of 2.5 tastes balanced/ refreshing since the TA is 0.2%. ,,,, Cold is your friend at this stage, Sugar will also balance the taste. The traditional model is that tannin reacts with time improving the flavor balance, but unless we do something the acid molecules stay in the bottle.
cold stabilization to drop out some of the tartaric acid. Does that process reduce tart taste? Or will time and patience fix this by itself? I appreciate your thoughts.
You are in Illinois therefore moving the wine into you garage for a month is worth while, we have some club members here who let northern hybrids in the garage all winter.
 

Khristyjeff

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Are you sure the Malolactic fermentation finished? The Ph seems low and maybe the malolactic bacteria didn't like the low PH environment? How did you test for the Malic acid content in the wine Before adding and after adding the Malo? The cold crashing suggestion will help with tartaric acid reduction, thus lower total acid. How much? I dunno. I've done it with white wine with success.
--- I made 6-gal Petite Pearl this past September 2020 from grapes that I picked from the vine. The beginning PH of the must was near 3.0, but the brix was high and the grape juice from crush was heavy-bodied and the wine color was like black ink. I added distilled water to raise the PH, and it didn't seem to negatively affect the body, or change the wine color. The wine finished at about 13+%. The last time I measured the PH it was 3.4. The PH is still a little on the low side, but the wine tasted very good considering where it was in the aging process. Reminded me of dark Spanish wine. It's aging in a carboy. I know a winery that uses 71B for hybrid cold weather grapes because it's supposed to remove (eat) about 30% of the Malic acid from the wine during fermentation. It's a fairly new grape and I think most winemakers are experimenting with the grape when it comes to making wine using the Petite Perl grape. At this time I think Petite Perl can withstand Ameliorating the wine before fermentation and still maintain an excellent body. So what do you do now? I think to test the wine for malic acid content. Then decide what to do next. Good luck
Thanks Steve for the detailed response. I tried the MF because I had read it might help. To answer your questions, I really don't have a way of knowing if MF finished. My understanding is that to test for that is out of my price range. Are you aware of a good way to test? I also had a slight rotten egg taste/smell early on and that is gone now so we're making progress!
Interesting and helpful that you started your Petite Pearl at the same time and our pH levels were about the same. The Vineyard where I picked the grapes listed the Brix but I don't remember for sure--maybe 21-23? I don't remember mine being heavy bodied after crush (but this was my first time from grapes) and didn't add any water like you did. In hindsight that maybe would have helped?
For now I've got it on the front porch and we'll see what happens. BTW, did you add any oak to yours? I had read where one winemaker did this and won some awards.
 

Khristyjeff

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pH is misleading when you are looking at tart taste, Titratable acidity is the main contributor to acid taste, example cola soda with a pH of 2.5 tastes balanced/ refreshing since the TA is 0.2%. ,,,, Cold is your friend at this stage, Sugar will also balance the taste. The traditional model is that tannin reacts with time improving the flavor balance, but unless we do something the acid molecules stay in the bottle.

You are in Illinois therefore moving the wine into you garage for a month is worth while, we have some club members here who let northern hybrids in the garage all winter.
Good information @Rice_Guy about the Titratable acidity and pH. I didn't know that. You mention tannins; I did oak this for awhile. Could that help things over time? Or are you thinking I should add powdered tannins? I know often times less is best, so. . .
I've moved the wine to our front porch (temps today in the upper 30's). On a side note, my basement wine storage area has been in the 50's, and one of my kit wines dropped a bunch of wine diamonds. Hopefully with the even lower temperatures we'll have success with the Petite Pearl. Thanks again for your help.
IMG_2395.jpeg
 

Tim3

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Thanks for the tips. I'll keep the potassium bicarbonate in mind if the cold crash doesn't work.
I wouldn't add potassium bicarbonate. You should only add that if your initial PH is below 3.0. From where you started you should have been able to get your final PH up to 3.38 by doing nothing other than primary fermentation and MLF. The ONLY other recommendations I would make would be to use an acid reducing yeast like Anchor Exotics, keep a cool ferment below 86 degrees, use an acid tolerant ML culture like OSU-2 to make sure it completes, and then cold stabilize after MLF. Doing those additional steps could increase your final PH a bit more to around 3.46.
 

Khristyjeff

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I wouldn't add potassium bicarbonate. You should only add that if your initial PH is below 3.0. From where you started you should have been able to get your final PH up to 3.38 by doing nothing other than primary fermentation and MLF. The ONLY other recommendations I would make would be to use an acid reducing yeast like Anchor Exotics, keep a cool ferment below 86 degrees, use an acid tolerant ML culture like OSU-2 to make sure it completes, and then cold stabilize after MLF. Doing those additional steps could increase your final PH a bit more to around 3.46.
Thanks @Tim3. Here's what I used for the Malolactic Fermentation. Wyeast 4007 Malolactic Blend
It was supposed to handle the conditions at the time. I believe I got it foaming before putting it into the wine because I was afraid it might not be good (it was to be kept refrigerated and it took longer to get here than the supplier had planned and was warm upon arrival). But since it foamed, I assumed it was good.
Are you suggesting trying another MF using the one you mentioned? Since the small jugs measured a bit higher pH, I'm also hoping the 6 gallon carboy may just take a little longer.
 

Tim3

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Thanks @Tim3. Here's what I used for the Malolactic Fermentation. Wyeast 4007 Malolactic Blend
It was supposed to handle the conditions at the time. I believe I got it foaming before putting it into the wine because I was afraid it might not be good (it was to be kept refrigerated and it took longer to get here than the supplier had planned and was warm upon arrival). But since it foamed, I assumed it was good.
Are you suggesting trying another MF using the one you mentioned? Since the small jugs measured a bit higher pH, I'm also hoping the 6 gallon carboy may just take a little longer.
Sounds like the ML you used was definitely active when you put it in the carboys. But ML bacteria is a little sensitive to PH so I only recommended that strain because it's acid tolerant. You should be able to see or hear (if in barrel) the MLF working. It'll be a slow but steady "fermentation" that looks like tiny bubbles right at the top of the carboy, until you have no malic acid left. Of course you could also do a Malic acid test if you wanted to know for sure whether it was done. If you've inoculated and waited about a month and you never saw any activity in your carboy I would recommend doing a malic acid test and re-inoculate with an acid tolerant strain if the test shows significant malic acid.
 

Khristyjeff

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Sounds like the ML you used was definitely active when you put it in the carboys. But ML bacteria is a little sensitive to PH so I only recommended that strain because it's acid tolerant. You should be able to see or hear (if in barrel) the MLF working. It'll be a slow but steady "fermentation" that looks like tiny bubbles right at the top of the carboy, until you have no malic acid left. Of course you could also do a Malic acid test if you wanted to know for sure whether it was done. If you've inoculated and waited about a month and you never saw any activity in your carboy I would recommend doing a malic acid test and re-inoculate with an acid tolerant strain if the test shows significant malic acid.
I also put 1/4 tsp of K-meta. Will the strain you mentioned still work?
 

Tim3

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I also put 1/4 tsp of K-meta. Will the strain you mentioned still work?
Did you add the K-meta before adding your other ML bacteria too? That could be the problem. You added about 40 PPM so any ML strain is going to have a hard time working through it. Usually we’d only want to add K-meta when we knew MLF was complete. I’d recommend racking once to remove some of your free S02 and trying again with that PH tolerant strain. Wait a month (or 3) to see if it worked. The free sulfite levels will drop over time as well. If all else fails, sorbate and a little sugar could help balance it.
 

Khristyjeff

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Did you add the K-meta before adding your other ML bacteria too? That could be the problem. You added about 40 PPM so any ML strain is going to have a hard time working through it. Usually we’d only want to add K-meta when we knew MLF was complete. I’d recommend racking once to remove some of your free S02 and trying again with that PH tolerant strain. Wait a month (or 3) to see if it worked. The free sulfite levels will drop over time as well. If all else fails, sorbate and a little sugar could help balance it.
I did not add K-meta before the first MLF. Since I just racked it a week ago and added the sulfite, maybe I wait a couple months before trying the pH tolerant strain? BTW, thanks for answering all my little questions. I really appreciate it.
 

Tim3

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My pleasure! That’s what this forum is all about :)

Technically if you just added the sulfite last week now would be the time as most of it is still volatile and would dissipate rapidly while still inhibiting oxygenation. Either way there is nothing wrong with waiting a few months before or after inoculating.
 

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When I am post fermentation, mlf and sulfited, I toss the meters. I am looking to make a wine that I enjoy, not one that hits a number. I'd cold crash first and see if that makes the wine taste to your liking. Before I would buy more MLB and attempt a re-innoculation, I would test to see if you have any malo acid left.
 

Eric Huser

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All great suggestions. My favorite is the Oaking one. Seems to cure my overly tart wines over time. Even 30 days can sometimes help.
 

Mcjeff

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I got my Chromatic test kit from Presque Isle several years ago and has done the job consistently every year to let me know where MLF stands with my french hybrid grapes.
 

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There is a recent thread on cold stabilization/crashing. IIRC, for best results, the wine should be held below freezing, maybe 26F?

From practical experience, if you can chill the wine and if the tartaric acid is oversaturated, the crystals will drop. My cellar is 58F in the winter -- yesterday when I racked, most containers had a thin layer of crystals. Note that my wines are not highly acidic, but crystals formed anyway.

Temperatures approaching freezing will get the most result, but anything below 60 F may help.
 

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