Short Primary Fermentation Italian American Tradition?

Winemaking Talk - Winemaking Forum

Help Support Winemaking Talk - Winemaking Forum:

winemanden

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 30, 2009
Messages
631
Reaction score
1,334
Location
Banbury UK
My youngest son used always wanted to try whatever I was tasting. I don't know if it put him off wine because he's a balck stuff (GUINESS) man now.:D:b
 

Dustwheel

Junior
Joined
May 2, 2021
Messages
22
Reaction score
16
One theory is that the old timers would wait two or three days to get a vigorous activity of wild yeast then press and put into demijohn's to finish the process. Maybe this had to do with reducing bitterness from stems. I don't recall any crusher de-stemmers years ago in Italian American households. Definitely the Alicante Bouchet/Muscat blend was popular.
 

Nebbiolo020

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 8, 2019
Messages
213
Reaction score
204
I have been involved in winemaking in all capacities from stripping grapes from the bunches as a child of 8 in 1950 to making my own wine from grapes, then juice and finally kits. We did not differentiate a "primary" and "secondary" fermentation, it was all just fermentation. This started in an open barrel and lasted from 10 to 14 days. Wine was removed from the fermenting barrels via a plug near the bottom of the upright barrel and moved to barrels supported on their side with the bung hole open. First run wine was segregated and marked, "Per La Famiglia." Occasionally, a "second wine" was made by not pressing the grapes at all, just capturing the free run and then adding water and sugar to the unpressed grapes (I don't recall the amounts as this was my grandfather's method) to restart fermentation.

The wine would continue to ferment closed ended barrels, with the CO2 escaping through the open bung and the level in the barrel was filled more than once a day as wine was absorbed by the barrel or evaporated. The process usually began
We use starters. It usually takes between twenty four and forty eight hours before I pitch the starter. The wild yeast usually show signs of fermentation before the starter goes in. Are you suggesting to allow the wild yeast to continue for another day or two or until they peter out? Then follow up with commercial yeast?

Is it the wild yeast on the grapes that takes hold first? Or is airborne? We're on the eastern side of the country. California grapes are sometimes four or five days out of the vineyard and cold when we get them.
You can, but what I’m saying is that wild sacc yeast will take over naturally if present once the abv kills the other wild yeast.
 

Nebbiolo020

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 8, 2019
Messages
213
Reaction score
204
One theory is that the old timers would wait two or three days to get a vigorous activity of wild yeast then press and put into demijohn's to finish the process. Maybe this had to do with reducing bitterness from stems. I don't recall any crusher de-stemmers years ago in Italian American households. Definitely the Alicante Bouchet/Muscat blend was popular.
My 3x great grandpa who came over from Italy to California around the 1850’s grew wine grapes and had a commercial winery and he planted Alicante bouschet among other grapes in a field blended vineyard in the 1880’s he planted mission and Alphonse lavallee that we know of. Don’t know the rest of the vineyards composition. I’m just continuing the family wine tradition.
 

Dustwheel

Junior
Joined
May 2, 2021
Messages
22
Reaction score
16
I think it was a pre-industrial technique to avoid a potential stuck fermentation. If they felt that the fermentation was complete, of course without using scientific equipment, they would rack that must into demijohns and possibly get a stuck fermentation moving forward. So it became a practice to catch the fermentation at a vigorous point, rack and press into demijohn's and the fermentation would continue until complete.? Any thoughts?
 
Last edited:

Cynewulf

Senior Member
Joined
May 19, 2019
Messages
291
Reaction score
397
Location
Northern Virginia
I think it was a pre-industrial technique to avoid a potential stuck fermentation. If they felt that the fermentation was complete, of course without using scientific equipment, they would rack that must into demijohns and possibly get a stuck fermentation moving forward. So it became a practice to catch the fermentation at a vigorous point, rack and press into demijohn's and the fermentation would continue until complete.? Any thoughts?
I’m not from an Italian American family but I’d suggest they may have pressed after 3-4 days because they wanted a lighter red wine that would be ready to drink relatively young. The use of ambient yeast wouldn’t impact the decision of when to press/rack.
 

Dustwheel

Junior
Joined
May 2, 2021
Messages
22
Reaction score
16
I’m not from an Italian American family but I’d suggest they may have pressed after 3-4 days because they wanted a lighter red wine that would be ready to drink relatively young. The use of ambient yeast wouldn’t impact the decision of when to press/rack.
I'm relatively new to the science behind wine making. But wouldn't that racked must continue to ferment until the sugar is gone? Technically still be in primary fermentation even though it was pressed and put into demijohns with an airlock?
 

Dustwheel

Junior
Joined
May 2, 2021
Messages
22
Reaction score
16
I also vaguely remember something about the majority of the color and tannins in the must are extracted from the skins within the first three days of contact when temperatures are correct...78f - 82f
 

sour_grapes

Victim of the Invasion of the Avatar Snatchers
Joined
Sep 19, 2013
Messages
13,817
Reaction score
15,747
Location
near Milwaukee
I’m not from an Italian American family but I’d suggest they may have pressed after 3-4 days because they wanted a lighter red wine that would be ready to drink relatively young. The use of ambient yeast wouldn’t impact the decision of when to press/rack.

I'm relatively new to the science behind wine making. But wouldn't that racked must continue to ferment until the sugar is gone? Technically still be in primary fermentation even though it was pressed and put into demijohns with an airlock?

I'm not @Cynewulf , but I believe that here, "lighter" means, "less dissolved solids," not lower alcohol. Yes, it would continue to ferment, but there would not be as much extracted from the skins, etc.
 
Joined
Nov 5, 2006
Messages
6,011
Reaction score
15,189
Location
Raleigh, NC, USA
I also vaguely remember something about the majority of the color and tannins in the must are extracted from the skins within the first three days of contact when temperatures are correct...78f - 82f
Color and aroma, yes. Tannins, no.

Search on "extended maceration". Color and aroma are extracted mostly during the first 3 to 5 days. While tannin extraction happens, it continues for potentially weeks.

If a red is pressed at SG 1.020, it will be light. Even down to 1.000 the wine will be lighter in color, body, flavor, and aroma than if left longer.
 

Trevisan

Supporting Members
Supporting Member
Joined
Nov 23, 2018
Messages
32
Reaction score
73
Location
Northern California
I have been involved in winemaking in all capacities from stripping grapes from the bunches as a child of 8 in 1950 to making my own wine from grapes, then juice and finally kits. We did not differentiate a "primary" and "secondary" fermentation, it was all just fermentation. This started in an open barrel and lasted from 10 to 14 days. Wine was removed from the fermenting barrels via a plug near the bottom of the upright barrel and moved to barrels supported on their side with the bung hole open. First run wine was segregated and marked, "Per La Famiglia." Occasionally, a "second wine" was made by not pressing the grapes at all, just capturing the free run and then adding water and sugar to the unpressed grapes (I don't recall the amounts as this was my grandfather's method) to restart fermentation.

The wine would continue to ferment closed ended barrels, with the CO2 escaping through the open bung and the level in the barrel was filled more than once a day as wine was absorbed by the barrel or evaporated. The process usually began during the second week of October (when wine grapes from California were available in Pittsburgh) and the barrel was sealed with a bung early in December. The wine would be drinkable at Easter, and it would improve with age. Early on we had no carboys or demijohns (although they came later), no yeast was ever added nor were any other additions made. Then, sometime in the 1960's a minor miracle occurred with the availability of Sodium Metabisulfite. We had to send to somewhere in New York for the chemical and the cost was outrageous, about $5 for a tube which may have contained 2 or 3 tablespoons full.

The wine was a very good table wine from 75% Zinfandel grapes and 25% Muscat grapes, co-fermented. On at least one occasion we used Alicante grapes in place of Zinfandel (can't recall the reason why but likely because my grandfather thought they tasted better). I should also mention that the fermenting barrels were 53-gallon, former whisky barrels from Schenley Distillery outside of Pittsburgh which we purchased for $5 each, and they probably had $5 worth of whiskey still in them!
I can relate very well to Rocky's posting; just about spot-on. My parents were from Italy. I fondly remember as a child preparing the redwood fermentation tank in late September for the arrival of Zinfandel grapes in early October. Dad's process was very rudimentary. Crushed and submerged the grapes on a Saturday, without destemming. Pressed the the dregs the following Saturday even though fermentation was still active. Completed fermentation in open bung 53 gallon barrels. I remember foam and residual dregs bubbling out from the barrel and the aroma of new wine filling the basement. Years later he devised homemake airlocks in lieu of finishing with open bung fermentation. By late spring, after three rackings, the wine was in one gallon jugs ready for consumption but quite, quite tannic (no destemming). My sister and I would dilute a bit of his wine with 7up and had wine-coolers before they became ubiquitous in the 70's. I have relatives who still use the "old style" but I have moved on to more contemporary winemaking processes with greater success. I am fond of the past memories, but not the resulting bitter wine. Sorry papa.
 
Joined
Nov 5, 2006
Messages
6,011
Reaction score
15,189
Location
Raleigh, NC, USA
This thread became a ton of different topics merged together
Situation normal!

One theory is that the old timers would wait two or three days to get a vigorous activity of wild yeast then press and put into demijohn's to finish the process. Maybe this had to do with reducing bitterness from stems. I don't recall any crusher de-stemmers years ago in Italian American households. Definitely the Alicante Bouchet/Muscat blend was popular.
@Trevisan's story stirred a memory. In the mid-80's I got know the owner of a LHBS (in which I later became partner) and through him I met a lot of guys of Italian extraction (Utica & Rome, NY). They purchased grapes by train from CA, and since I lived just a few blocks from the LHBS, I ended up helping with unloading, and got to know some of the guys.

Everyone had their own recipe -- 1 guy made straight Zin, everyone else made a blend, e.g., X boxes Zin, Y boxes Muscat, etc. Some destemmed, others did not. The Zin guy fermented on stems for 1 week, pressed and let settle for 3 weeks, racked again and aged for 3 months, then bottled. His wines were raw and tannic, and for the longest time I assumed that was the character of Zinfandel. [I didn't try a commercial Zin for at least 10 years after that.]

Another guy fermented on stems but pressed after 4 days, then followed the 1-3-3 spacing. I didn't see him again until the follow spring, and his wine was far better. Not knowing much at the time, I assumed it was because his blend included other grapes (probably 75% Zin).

@Dustwheel, my guess is the 4 day ferment before pressing was to reduce tannin. This will produce a lighter wine that is palatable sooner, which is among the reasons the second guy in my story produced a much more palatable wine. [It helped that we were not drinking it in January.]

BTW -- there's only 1 primary fermentation. Pressing in the middle of that reduces the extraction from the pomace, but it's all just one ferment. If the wine tastes dry when done, then there's no sugar left. Secondary fermentation refers to malolactic fermentation.
 

Siwash

Junior Member
Joined
Dec 26, 2014
Messages
420
Reaction score
65
I grew up with both sides Italian - my mother born in Napoli and dad in Reggio Calabria. He made wine similar to the method that the OP stated. Only a few days. Up here in Toronto, with a massive Italian immigrant community, they used to sell fresh Cali grapes at many of the local grocery stores.

My dad used to call most commercial wine as "black wine". Southern Italians like lighter colored wines. Even back in italy as I've been many times. It's strong (alcohol) but fruit forward and light colored. They always said the dark wines would be too heavy for the warmer climate they experienced and brought this mentality to North America.

Also my dad NEVER bought yeast. Always wild/indigenous yeast. The only thing he did was to add K-meta after fermentation was complete. His friends wouldn't even do that. They said it should be "natural"

In terms of quality, some years it was okay other years it tasted like...nonno's homemade (ie not so good!!🤣)

They often bought lugs of Grenache a and Alicante or caringan. Those seems to be the grapes of choice.
Sterilization and sanitation? Good ol hot water!

Good memories - as now he's looking down on me from above as I make my wines... 😌
 

Rocky

Chronologically Gifted Member
Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 29, 2011
Messages
7,602
Reaction score
10,164
Location
Central Ohio
I grew up with both sides Italian - my mother born in Napoli and dad in Reggio Calabria. He made wine similar to the method that the OP stated. Only a few days. Up here in Toronto, with a massive Italian immigrant community, they used to sell fresh Cali grapes at many of the local grocery stores.

My dad used to call most commercial wine as "black wine". Southern Italians like lighter colored wines. Even back in italy as I've been many times. It's strong (alcohol) but fruit forward and light colored. They always said the dark wines would be too heavy for the warmer climate they experienced and brought this mentality to North America.

Also my dad NEVER bought yeast. Always wild/indigenous yeast. The only thing he did was to add K-meta after fermentation was complete. His friends wouldn't even do that. They said it should be "natural"

In terms of quality, some years it was okay other years it tasted like...nonno's homemade (ie not so good!!🤣)

They often bought lugs of Grenache a and Alicante or caringan. Those seems to be the grapes of choice.
Sterilization and sanitation? Good ol hot water!

Good memories - as now he's looking down on me from above as I make my wines... 😌
Love the post. Brings back memories and I still wonder at how we were able to make such great wines when all we used for "sanitation" was soap (Fels Naptha) and hot water, burning sulfur sticks in hot water rinsed barrels that sat empty for many months, indigenous yeast, stripping grapes in the garage with the garage door wide open, breaking up the grape skin cap with a piece of old 2x4, etc. I don't recall what I would call a really "bad year," and clearly some were better than others. However, I do remember some outstanding years.

My parents were both born just outside of Pittsburgh and all of my grandparents came from the Region of Campania near Caserta. I don't know the individual village names, but my maternal grandfather came from a village that he pronounced what sounded like (phonetically) Kami-yan. I am probably slaughtering the name, but Poppy's accent was fairly heavy.
 

Siwash

Junior Member
Joined
Dec 26, 2014
Messages
420
Reaction score
65
Love the post. Brings back memories and I still wonder at how we were able to make such great wines when all we used for "sanitation" was soap (Fels Naptha) and hot water, burning sulfur sticks in hot water rinsed barrels that sat empty for many months, indigenous yeast, stripping grapes in the garage with the garage door wide open, breaking up the grape skin cap with a piece of old 2x4, etc. I don't recall what I would call a really "bad year," and clearly some were better than others. However, I do remember some outstanding years.

My parents were both born just outside of Pittsburgh and all of my grandparents came from the Region of Campania near Caserta. I don't know the individual village names, but my maternal grandfather came from a village that he pronounced what sounded like (phonetically) Kami-yan. I am probably slaughtering the name, but Poppy's accent was fairly heavy.
Napoli is in Campania. I was in the caserta area this summer. I wonder what town he was referring to...?
 

Rocky

Chronologically Gifted Member
Supporting Member
Joined
Jan 29, 2011
Messages
7,602
Reaction score
10,164
Location
Central Ohio
Napoli is in Campania. I was in the caserta area this summer. I wonder what town he was referring to...?
I have no idea, and everyone who would know is gone. I have searched maps of villages around Caserta, and I have found nothing near that name. Again, with his accent, it may have been totally different or perhaps my memory is faulty.
 
Joined
Nov 5, 2006
Messages
6,011
Reaction score
15,189
Location
Raleigh, NC, USA
I have no idea, and everyone who would know is gone. I have searched maps of villages around Caserta, and I have found nothing near that name. Again, with his accent, it may have been totally different or perhaps my memory is faulty.
You also may need to take dialect into consideration. I was a waiter in an Italian restaurant, and the owner's dialect cut the vowels off the end of words. Phonetically some words sounded like:

Mozzarella = mazza rell
Ricotta = ri gaut
Manicotti = man i gaut

I still pronounce words like he and his son did. People look at me funny when I do. :)
 

sour_grapes

Victim of the Invasion of the Avatar Snatchers
Joined
Sep 19, 2013
Messages
13,817
Reaction score
15,747
Location
near Milwaukee
You also may need to take dialect into consideration. I was a waiter in an Italian restaurant, and the owner's dialect cut the vowels off the end of words. Phonetically some words sounded like:

Mozzarella = mazza rell
Ricotta = ri gaut
Manicotti = man i gaut

I still pronounce words like he and his son did. People look at me funny when I do. :)

Totally. Growing up, my best friend's family was from near Naples, and they dropped all final vowels, like your examples. I pronounce your examples exactly as you do. Tonight, I enjoyed some prosciutto = "pro-zhoot/"
 

Latest posts

Top