RJ Spagnols Treating high acid wine

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Monty Knapp

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I've been having a problem for a couple of years now, with my wine kits producing wine with a high total acidity (TA) and low pH.
It started out with TA's at 0.80%, but now I've had 2 kits end up with 0.90 - 0.93% TA, and low pH - around 3.2.
They are all red wine kits from RJS (except one back in the fall of 2019 which was a WinExpert Eclipse Merlot).
These same kits in the past, finished up at a pH of 3.3 or 3.4 and a TA of 0.75%. (RJS Super Tuscan, RJS Italian Amarone Style).
Last fall I just went ahead and bottled an RJS Super Tuscan with a pH of 3.3 and a TA of 0.85%.


But this time I want to try reducing the acidity - of a finished 6 gallon batch of RJS Italian Amarone Style wine.
The pH is 3.2 and the TA is 0.90%.
And later a Super Tuscan which is clearing, that has a pH of 3.1, TA of 0.90%.

I plan to use Potassium Bicarbonate.
I'm planning to transfer it to an empty 6 gallon carboy - to give it room to foam up. Right now it's in a carboy with glass marbles added to raise the level up into the neck.
I'll estimate the actual volume of wine and calculate how much Potassium Bicarbonate to add to drop the TA about 0.1 or 0.15.
Then I plan to add 1/2 that amount, check the results, then add the rest - or adjust the 2nd addition as necessary. I don't want pH to raise higher than 3.4 or 3.5 max.

Afterwards, how long should I wait? 1 week? 3 days?
Then should I add clearing agents?

Then I'll put the wine in a refrigerator that is running ~35⁰F to precipitate out more tartaric acid/wine crystals - for about 2 months.
Then rack it off the crystals while still cold, filter it, test it, bottle it.

Can anyone tell me if this is a good plan? I can't find the exact process anywhere - just that cold stabilizing is required/recommended when using Potassium Bicarbonate.

Thanks for your input.
 

cmason1957

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I'm not sure that messing with the Ph and ta of a wine kit is the best thing to do. They are balanced by the manufacturer to produce a drinkable wine. I know that he guy who used to own a LHBS messed with a few, but had told me he stopped, when it made the wines worse, rather than better.

BUT YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY and it's your wine.
 

Khristyjeff

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How do they taste to you? I’ve done the kits you’ve mentioned and at 9 months to a year they were quite good. I must admit I usually don’t check pH with my kits.
 

Monty Knapp

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They taste too sour, and I've made the same kits numerous times before and not had these acid levels.

I don't know what is causing it. I've started wondering if the bottled spring water I add has changed in pH, but I'm fermenting an Island Mist Green Apple Riesling right now. The must pH started at 3.1. When I transferred it to a carboy a week later for secondary fermentation, it had dropped to 2.6.
 

Khristyjeff

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Would you say vinegar sour or lemon sour? I've used bottled spring water, RO water , well water, and well water with water softener, and I could not detect a difference. I know others on here swear by certain types of water, so some people can tell a difference. Hopefully others will chime in to help.
 

Monty Knapp

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Would you say vinegar sour or lemon sour? I've used bottled spring water, RO water , well water, and well water with water softener, and I could not detect a difference. I know others on here swear by certain types of water, so some people can tell a difference. Hopefully others will chime in to help.
I wouldn't call it vinegar sour or lemon sour - just overly sour wine. Maybe a little bitter.
 

Monty Knapp

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Are you shorting the water when reconstituting the kits? While a lot of folks do this, the kits are designed to reconstitute to 23 liters, so using less water throws off the balance.
No, I'm not shorting the water. I measured water as I filled the fermenting bucket once, and marked the level of 6 gallons. It's right at a rim/ridge on the inside of the bucket. Yesterday I bought a new bucket from the same company and it actually says that the top of that rim is 6 gallons - so my mark was right.
If anything, the earlier batches I made that were 3.4 or 3.5 pH and around 0.75% TA had about ~1/4 to 1/2 gallon too much water added. I wouldn't think that would make too much difference. But, the next kit I make, I'm going with a brand new bucket and and extra half gallon of water. And I'll check the TA of the must - something I've never done before.
 

winemaker81

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@Monty Knapp, you got me thinking -- in 2019 I made a RJS Vieux Chateau du Roi, and it was acidic. I've not had that happen with a kit before, but given your experience it may be happening in RJS.
 

cmason1957

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They taste too sour, and I've made the same kits numerous times before and not had these acid levels.

I don't know what is causing it. I've started wondering if the bottled spring water I add has changed in pH, but I'm fermenting an Island Mist Green Apple Riesling right now. The must pH started at 3.1. When I transferred it to a carboy a week later for secondary fermentation, it had dropped to 2.6.
Someone with more chemistry knowledge than I can tell me I am wrong, but isn't the PH greatly influenced by the CO2 developed during fermentation and to get an accurate ph, you would need to drive that off, probably by heating your sample. The starting PH of an Island Mist Kit sounds about right, since you will be backsweetening it (by adding the F-Pack that it comes with) so a low PH seems correct to me at the start.
 

Monty Knapp

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@Monty Knapp, you got me thinking -- in 2019 I made a RJS Vieux Chateau du Roi, and it was acidic. I've not had that happen with a kit before, but given your experience it may be happening in RJS.
That has been in the back of my mind, but I figured it was more likely on my end.
Maybe I'll call them and ask if they changed their En Primeur kits - but then, they have changed all or most of their kits recently to contain a smaller volume of concentrate. I've been having my problems with the previous "En Primeur" kits that contain 4.75 gallons of concentrate. I have one of these left, then I'm sure any new kits I buy will be the new style.
 

Monty Knapp

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Someone with more chemistry knowledge than I can tell me I am wrong, but isn't the PH greatly influenced by the CO2 developed during fermentation and to get an accurate ph, you would need to drive that off, probably by heating your sample. The starting PH of an Island Mist Kit sounds about right, since you will be backsweetening it (by adding the F-Pack that it comes with) so a low PH seems correct to me at the start.
Dissolved CO2 is supposed to make the wine more acidic, but I'm not sure it's enough to be measurable. I've measured pH before and after degassing and saw no change.
The Island Mist may be just fine in the end. I just thought it was odd for the pH to drop so much during fermentation (3.1 to 2.6). And it's probably like comparing apples and oranges when my real concern is with high end dry red wine kits.
I took a series of pH reading during numerous batches of "Dragons Blood" a few years ago and graphed it. I'll look that data up and see how much the pH changed.
 

Monty Knapp

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Well, I just opened the first bottle of a RJS Super Tuscan (3/9/2020). It had a good pH at bottling - 3.3, but a higher than usual TA - 0.85%. It's now it 18.9 months old.
It wasn't bad. The 2 other Super Tuscans I've made were excellent at 18 months. This one is not, but I think it will be at 24 months or so.

So, now I'm thinking maybe I should just bottle the Amarone (pH 3.3, TA 0.90%) and another Super Tuscan (pH 3.2, TA 0.90%) as is - and wait them out - instead up trying to reduce the acid.
I also read an article today that claimed you couldn't (not shouldn't) properly reduce acid in a kit wine (post fermentation) - or adjust the must of a kit wine before fermentation.

I feel like I'm in the twilight zone sometimes.
 

Monty Knapp

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RJS Amarone (pH 3.3, TA 0.90%) - filtered, finished, ready to bottle except for the acidity:

Well, instead of reducing the acidity with Potassium Bicarbonate, then cold stabilization, I decided to just cold stabilize it and see if that will precipitate out some Tartaric acid.
I'm using a spare refrigerator that is turned down to "maximum coldness" - so it's running 30⁰F - 32⁰F.
I transferred the wine into five 1 gallon jugs, and 2 wine bottles. They were sealed up and placed in the fridge 11 days ago.
Today I checked one of the jugs and it has "sediment" - which pretty much has to be acid crystals - since the wine has been filtered. (And there was no sediment in the carboy it was just transferred out of. It had been in that carboy 2 or 3 months.)
So, I'm going to leave it in the fridge a couple months, rack it off the "sediment" into a carboy, filter it and check the pH and TA. Then bottle. I'll post the final results.
 

winemaker81

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So, I'm going to leave it in the fridge a couple months, rack it off the "sediment" into a carboy, filter it and check the pH and TA.
I don't expect you'll see much difference in a couple of months. However, it's worth checking the pH and TA now, and comparing to the results in a few months.
 

Monty Knapp

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I don't expect you'll see much difference in a couple of months. However, it's worth checking the pH and TA now, and comparing to the results in a few months.
pH was 3.2 and TA was 0.90% on 9/8/2021. (Earlier statement that pH was 3.3 wasn't the last reading.)
It should have still been the same when it went into the fridge on 10/14/2021.
 

montanarick

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You could always try seeding your wine with cream of tartar which provides a nucleus for formation of tartrate crystals. Or as an alternative you might consider back sweetening to taste to offset the acidity - don't forget sorbate first however
 

Monty Knapp

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I've heard of doing that, but apparently it wasn't needed since it's "dropping" granules already.
 

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