Vin Santo style dessert wine

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Nov 6, 2013
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In 2016 we used some of our Blanc Du Bois (white) grapes to experiment with making a Vin Santo style dessert wine by bringing back to our winery whole clusters of grapes stored one layer deep in slotted harvest lugs. The lugs were stacked to allow maximum air circulation and we used 2 box fans to continuously blow air across the clusters. After 3 weeks the clusters had begun shriveling and we estimated they had reduced in volume by about 1/3, so we pressed the whole clusters, iced down the juice overnight and the next day poured the clear juice off of the sediment which dropped to the bottom of the pail. We added sugar to bring the starting Brix of the juice to 31, did not add any yeast food, started our yeast BA-11, and kept the temperature of the fermentation at about 55 to 60 degrees be keeping the fermentation pail immersed in a water bath into which we added and removed frozen water bottles. When fermentation had progressed to the point that we had about 10% residual sugar, we moved the wine into a glass carboy and placed in the fridge and left it for about 4 or 5 weeks to kill the fermentation. We also filtered the wine and let it age with some French Oak Xoakers. This experiment worked wonderfully but I was so disappointed that we made only 3 gallons, but that volume was what we were able to get from one layer of grape clusters in 25 slotted harvest lugs.

We decided to go bigger in 2017 with our Vin Santo style dessert wine. In preparation for harvest, we acquired an additional 80 slotted Harvest trays which are shallower than the Harvest Lugs, but since we are only doing one layer of clusters this works fine. Harvest was on June 17 this year and we had 19 Brix, TA 10 and pH 3.0, We filled the 80 Harvest Trays and the 25 Harvest lugs with one layer of clusters. Well actually we ended up with several of these filled too much so we pulled out the excess clusters and hung these tied up on strings hanging from rafters so that all of the clusters would have good air circulation. After 4 weeks we decided to go ahead and press. Some of the grapes had turned to raisins, some were about half way to becoming raisins, some were just beginning to shrivel. The Brix of the pressed juice was 25. We used for the first time the encapsulated yeast BA-11, which comes with its own nylon mesh sleeve, so that theoretically you can stop the fermentation by removing the sleeve containing the encapsulated yeast. We were able to move into the fridge two 6 gallon pails to stop the fermentation, which left us with 2 more pails in the winery that we kept in an ice bath, but both of these pails continued to ferment until dry even after removing the encapsulated yeast.

We have now filtered all of the Vin Santo wine and put into a new 100L Hungarian Oak barrel for aging. We topped up the barrel with some base wine for our sparkling wine made from the same harvest of Blanc Du Bois grapes. I really like the aroma and taste of this wine. It is worth all of the extra effort.

I will attempt to post some photos



170716 Vin Santo BdB grapes.jpg

170829 getting the filter ready for Vin Santo wine.jpg
Thanks for all the details on this project. If you have the numbers, would you share the pH and TA after pressing the aged grapes?

The 2017 pH and TA did not change as a result of the drying. These numbers remained at 3.0 pH and 10 TA. Because we also harvested and pressed nearly an equal amount of Blanc Du Bois grapes on the same day as we harvested the clusters for our Vin Santo wine, I was able to use the pH and TA from the pressed juice of that portion of the harvest. I did experience a change during 2016 of pH 3.0 to pH of 3.2 after pressing, but that was comparing readings from a 100 berry sample pre-harvest to the readings from the pressed juice. In 2016, we had a TA of 9 which did not change. So, I think the difference in my 2016 readings is solely due to comparing numbers from a small sample with numbers for the whole must.

A couple of other notes that I failed to mention are that we did add pectic enzyme after pressing the dried grapes, we did add 100ppm Kmeta because of the possibility of contamination from fruit flies (we did have a few), and we did add Opti-White.

Our 2016 Vin Santo style dessert wine made with our Blanc Du Bois grapes won a silver medal at the Austin County Fair Wine Contest in Bellville, TX this past Sunday in the category Dessert/Port style wines.


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