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Red Thompson Still on the Vine...

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Jbu50

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Here's the story. The season is over. But, last week I bought an old manual destemmer that I found online. The next day I found an ad for grapes in the Niagara region. They said their grapes are still on the vine. I was surprised that in the middle of November there would still be grapes for sale and that they were still on the vine. I wanted to test out my destemmer machine before next fall so I ended up picking up 6 bushels (300lbs) of red Thompson grapes. To make a long story short, the destemmer worked fine. It didn't come with a stand so I just propped it up on two cement blocks. My plan was to de-stem the grapes and press right away. Once I filled the press basket and started to press I experienced something I've never experienced before. The skins were slipping out between the rib cage and slipping out above the top blocks and slipping out everywhere. It was impossible. Seems like the skins were slimy and too slippery. So I had to abandon the press entirely and threw everything into the fermentation barrel to ferment. My hope is that after fermentation the skins will lose their slipperiness and would be able to be pressed. But, I have a feeling that these grapes have been out on the vine for too long and have changed their composition to the point of no return. It's about 12C in the garage, the fermentation is going nice and slow, healthy cap, with a big fruity aroma, but along the way there is a funny smell in the garage that I've never experienced in wine making before - it smells like, dare I say it, rot? At this point I'm looking for some advice. I'm afraid of a few things. #1. That I won't be able to press these skins, that they won't lose their slipperiness. And, #2. I'm afraid that the whole thing starts to rot away on me. I'd appreciate any advice you guys can offer, thanks!
 
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Bossbaby

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Hope it works out for you in the end, let us know how it turns out, I've wondered how late season grapes turn out..
 

salcoco

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there is an enzyme for slip skinned grapes similar to Concord. try researching Scottlabs.com for it and see if it can be purchased at morewinemakinig.com in smaller quantities. use lots of rice hulls in with the grapes to assist in pressing. if the off odor persist post fermentation consider infusion of some spices to overcome same.
 

Jbu50

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Not sure where to find rice hulls. Is there anything readily available that can be substituted for rice hulls? The local animal feed store carries large bulk bags of rolled oats and barley for cheap. That might work?
 

salcoco

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no go to you wine supply store or on line such as More Wine, Northern Brewer or Label Peelers here is an example from More Wine Rice Hulls | MoreWine
 

Ajmassa

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Digging the new toy. I know that feeling of finally getting a C/D and looking for any excuse to use it! Love the trash bags for transporting the grapes too. Just seems that much more local. I envy anyone who gets to pick em themselves. Just seems fun. Niagara/finger lakes area def seem like a legit spot.

good luck with the slippery grapes. Not much insight to offer aside from instead of rice hulls you can also use stems. Every so often can add a layer of stems when filling the basket. Gives the wine channels to flow.
 

franc1969

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Not sure where to find rice hulls. Is there anything readily available that can be substituted for rice hulls? The local animal feed store carries large bulk bags of rolled oats and barley for cheap. That might work?
I found out that the commercially available rice hulls are the same sold for winemaking purposes and soil amendment/ seed starting. I would buy from a wine supply, if you are getting less than the 50 pound bag. Otherwise, same sealed bag of dusty steamed hulls.
 

Jbu50

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Digging the new toy. I know that feeling of finally getting a C/D and looking for any excuse to use it! Love the trash bags for transporting the grapes too. Just seems that much more local. I envy anyone who gets to pick em themselves. Just seems fun. Niagara/finger lakes area def seem like a legit spot.

good luck with the slippery grapes. Not much insight to offer aside from instead of rice hulls you can also use stems. Every so often can add a layer of stems when filling the basket. Gives the wine channels to flow.
Yes, thanks. It's a funny story. The farm I bought the grapes at are new owners and they are learning the business, they have some apples, plums, etc., and a vineyard of Thompson grapes which are normally purchased yearly by Welch but this year the deal didn't happen so the grapes stayed on the vine and they had no buyer except for folks who responded to their online Kijiji ad... At least now I know what "slip skins" are! I kept all the stems that my new old destemmer kicked out so I'll be definitely putting them back into the press. I also picked up a big bag of straw ($10 vs $60 for rice hulls + shipping) and will see how it goes.
 
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Jbu50

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I found out that the commercially available rice hulls are the same sold for winemaking purposes and soil amendment/ seed starting. I would buy from a wine supply, if you are getting less than the 50 pound bag. Otherwise, same sealed bag of dusty steamed hulls.
Thanks. I'll keep looking but no luck so far with wine supply. The beer guys sell it but its $$ and not close by...
 

salcoco

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the intent of the rice hull is to form canals for the juice to flow and also to keep the slip skin iin place. I am not sure that straw will work. is it wheat straw or hay? might work if wheat straw
 

Jbu50

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the intent of the rice hull is to form canals for the juice to flow and also to keep the slip skin iin place. I am not sure that straw will work. is it wheat straw or hay? might work if wheat straw
I think you're right again. I bought fine straw but looks like that won't work as it is absorbent. I had the TSC store manager try to recommend something but that's all we came up with. So, I might have to bite the bullet and order the rice hulls.
Actually, I just placed an order and got $10 off so thanks for your persistence!
 

Jbu50

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I don't know if this is helpful. Shipping might be a problem. But:

Presque Isle rice hulls #50. Could be more economical.
Great link, thanks. Not sure why this stuff is so expensive up here. I checked with another major brewing supply and they were also expensive. Otherwise, the smaller shops only sell rice hulls by the pound with no bulk bag. Thanks again.
 

JohnT

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ok, so you are going from the crusher straight into the press?

Because you are not macerating the must, a lot of the juice is "locked" into the pulp and it takes more pressure to get the juice out. Here is my two cents worth of advice.

First, go SLOW. use gentle pressure (at first) to provide just a trickle out of the press. As more and more juice is squeezed out, the contents will get firmer and firmer. As it firms up, you can ratchet up the pressure.

Another thing to do is to provide an escape route for your juice by adding a layer or two of stems as you fill the press. again, use light pressure at first and the ratchet up the pressure as the contents firm up. There really is no concern about exposing the stems to the juice for such a short time.
 

Jbu50

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ok, so you are going from the crusher straight into the press?
Initially that's what I was doing but I was unable to press because the skins were slipping out in every direction so I abandoned pressing and threw all the crushed and destemmed skins into the fermentation barrel. Your advice on pressing is appreciated. I'm going to put both the stems and rice hulls into the press when I go to press this once fermentation is done. I'll check the condition of the skins this week to see if they have changed at all in their composition - I'm hoping they lose some of their slipperiness because of the fermentation. I did add some pectic enzyme and oak powder so we'll see...
 

Ajmassa

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Initially that's what I was doing but I was unable to press because the skins were slipping out in every direction so I abandoned pressing and threw all the crushed and destemmed skins into the fermentation barrel. Your advice on pressing is appreciated. I'm going to put both the stems and rice hulls into the press when I go to press this once fermentation is done. I'll check the condition of the skins this week to see if they have changed at all in their composition - I'm hoping they lose some of their slipperiness because of the fermentation. I did add some pectic enzyme and oak powder so we'll see...
How big is your press? I once filled a large “brew bag” with the skins, tied it in a knot and pressed it while in the bag. Worked perfectly fine. The mesh bag was the largest sold at the LHBS. Large enough to line a 7.9gal bucket. Paint strainer bags also work for this.

You can also shrink wrap the whole outside of the press too. I did that once & worked great. And just make sure to have a couple strainers over the receiving bucket. Using 2 is perfect because as one gets gunked up needing to be rinsed off you can remove it without missing a beat. (The Double strainer tip comes courtesy of @Johnd). The basket will be messy as hell with shrink wrap, but it holds everything in well.
 

Jbu50

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Great advice, thanks. I have some big empty malted barley bags. I'll see if I might be able to use them. And, I was also thinking about the shrink wrap. If you say you've had success using it then I'll try it but my initial thought was that it wouldn't be strong enough to hold the slip skins back from popping out. I've never seen anything like it. Anyway, I attached a pic of my press. Not sure how big it is officially. Its about a medium size. There's also a pic of it in my avatar which is holding 12 x 36lb cases of grape skins - which was filled to the max. So, if you have a good estimate as to how large it is I'd be interested in knowing. I'd guess that its about 13 Gallons? For this project of 300lbs I'm estimating i'd have to press two separate loads of skins to get the job done.
 

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Jbu50

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With regards to the slip skins, and now that they've been in the fermenter for 11 days, they feel a lot less slippery. The fermentation is going very well, but slow as the temp is at the low end of the EC-1118 yeast so its 12C in the garage. But, when I dunk my arm in there to punch down the skins are definitely feeling more and more like regular skins so the fermentation and the enzymes are doing something.
 

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