Zinfandel grapes -> wine! A new member's introduction via a 75L of red deliciousness.

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tjmeyer

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I thought since I'm new to the forum and in need to break the ice, it would be fun to do a batch together! This time I thought it would be a cool idea to sort of "group think" this batch from start to finish. Well, almost start to finish, the must we received is the must we've got to work with after all. So, for the sake of group work, let's see how we do together! I'll post any and all measurements with my comments on taste at this stage (best I can offer!), then take a consensus (vote?) on any necessary decisions along the way--to barrel or not, fortifying, conditioning, anything. I thought this could be excellent resource for new winemakers and winegrowers. Happy to do this once a year with any varietal I can get my hands on in small batches, if not I can pull it from my own vineyards. Excited to take this any direction the community would like. Don't be shy! A bad recommendation only means that others have an opportunity to correct and future readers will only be educated by it. EVERYONE has made many bad batches of wine before making good ones, especially from grapes.

Here we go!! This is what I know so far:
I was just sent around 70-75L of 100% Zinfandel from an amateur winegrower out of Phelan, CA. He asked I check out the quality of his must for him, and make a bold red, if possible. It arrived frozen, already crushed and destemmed in pails of around 1 gallon (guessing). I have around a few dozen litres of the following if anyone wishes to blend before fermentation: cab sauv, sangiovese, malbec, my own vineyard's zin. Once it's defrosted in my primary, I'll know total volume, will sample all the basics like degree brix/SG, approximate pH, and any other requested measure. I do have professional equipment, but I'd like to keep it as close to what a homebrewer would reasonable do and not get too crazy. Wine shouldn't be rocket science, ever!

I do have a license to ship wine, and will be happy to ship the result (assuming your state allows unpurchased wine to be mailed) to participants of the process. If it turns out good, we can also submit it as a community to any competitions you'd like.
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I have moved the frozen grapes into a sanitized primary fermenter and am still waiting for it to completely defrost. My thermometer says it was stored at -6 C and was frozen at the end of August, 2023.

Please post requested measures and I'll get back to yall!

Notes from my brain:
I'm seeing a few green grapes in the frozen must, so I'm already a tad worried that it will be tart and acidic. I also see small amounts of stems, nothing too worrying in my experience though.
 
This time I thought it would be a cool idea to sort of "group think" this batch from start to finish.
This is a REALLY bad idea. Ask a question of 10 winemakers, you'll get at least 11 opinions ... 🤣

All jokes aside, it's an interesting idea. In some areas you might get a majority opinion, but in others it will be the largest fraction.

A few greenies in the batch are not worrying. If it's as much as 5%, then I'd start picking them out.

The donor is asking for your evaluation, so I'd not blend with anything. Something to consider the how extreme you want to go with techniques, as you're trying to evaluate the grapes while making a bold wine. The two could be seen as mutually exclusive.

Once you have numbers, I'll offer more thoughts.
 
This is a REALLY bad idea. Ask a question of 10 winemakers, you'll get at least 11 opinions ... 🤣

All jokes aside, it's an interesting idea. In some areas you might get a majority opinion, but in others it will be the largest fraction.

A few greenies in the batch are not worrying. If it's as much as 5%, then I'd start picking them out.

The donor is asking for your evaluation, so I'd not blend with anything. Something to consider the how extreme you want to go with techniques, as you're trying to evaluate the grapes while making a bold wine. The two could be seen as mutually exclusive.

Once you have numbers, I'll offer more thoughts.
Great to have you on board for the fun! And I COMPLETELY agree about the 11 opinion from 10 winemakers! But the fact is simply that there is no 100% correct way to make wine. In the event of severely diverging opinions, then we'll just flip a coin unless there's at least 1 opinion with more than 1 vote. What I'm really after are those moments that may be obvious to more experienced winemakers. Those sorts of things will be unlikely to have too many opinions: i.e. the must comes in 2.1 pH... obvious answer is to increase the pHk to probably 3.3-3.4ish, etc. New winemakers may not know this. It'll be interesting to see what crops up.

A few greenies in the batch are not worrying. If it's as much as 5%, then I'd start picking them out.
Problem is that we just don't know how long these grapes were must together before being frozen. But I'm happy to pick them out once I get a better picture.

The donor is asking for your evaluation, so I'd not blend with anything. Something to consider the how extreme you want to go with techniques, as you're trying to evaluate the grapes while making a bold wine. The two could be seen as mutually exclusive.
I may have overstated their wishes. The idea I received was more along the vibes of "see if you can make something awesome." xD
 
I may have overstated their wishes. The idea I received was more along the vibes of "see if you can make something awesome." xD
I wrote a post last year describing things that can be done to make a big red. Off the top of my head, without knowing any numbers, I'd:
  • Chaptalize to 1.100 to 1.110, if the brix is low.
  • Fermentation oak to preserve grape tannin and fix the color.
  • Maceration enzyme like Scottzyme Color Pro to get the most from the grapes.
  • Cold soaking is probably accomplished be the freezing and defrosting. Once the must hits 60 F, make an overnight starter.
  • Divide the must into 2 or 3 fermenters, and use different yeast strains in each.
I'm not sold on Extended Maceration, but I'd let the ferment go to completion before pressing.

Use yeast hulls at pressing to facilitate extraction. Press as far as you are comfortable, and segregate that wine. Then press the last dram of wine out of the pomace. Blend that wine back into the main batch as needed to add body.

Barrel aging for 12 months if that works. If not, use oak adjuncts and leave them in for at least 6 months. My barrels are neutral, so I add oak cubes and leave them in until bottling, typically 12 months.
 
I wrote a post last year describing things that can be done to make a big red. Off the top of my head, without knowing any numbers, I'd:
Love it! I'll read through it tonight.

  • Maceration enzyme like Scottzyme Color Pro to get the most from the grapes.
I have pectic enzymes, specifically EnartisZym RS(P), and Scottzyme Pec5L, which would you prefer? I'm assuming Scottzyme based on your mention of it. I don't have a product called "color pro" that I know of. I'll look through the winery, though.

  • Divide the must into 2 or 3 fermenters, and use different yeast strains in each.
Sure thing! Any dry yeast strain recommendations? I have: EC1118, QA23, D47, D80, CY3079, and W15 in stock, but can get others.

  • Chaptalize to 1.100 to 1.110, if the brix is low.
This is likely the case. Do you have a product/method you prefer? I personally prefer straight white sugar and give it time dissolve, this is my vote. I also have simple syrup and wine conditioner.

  • Fermentation oak to preserve grape tannin and fix the color.
Would you prefer darker or lighter oak. Spirals, cubes, or ferment in barrel? I have many barrels available, but none are brand new. I don't normally primary ferment in barrel myself. I was going to add medium+ toast Balazs Oak chips, but can swap it out for whatever.


This is fun! We still have lots of time before we need to make final decisions, so any and all are welcome to chime in, throw out suggestions, let's have some fun with it! Again, I'll do whatever the majority consensus is.


Here's a close up now that the must has slowly begun to defrost.
 

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Sure thing! Any dry yeast strain recommendations? I have: EC1118, QA23, D47, D80, CY3079, and W15 in stock, but can get others

You have enough juice to try them all, literally. Divide your juice into X number of buckets and pitch each one with identical amount of sacrificial tannins and a yeast.

I would skip EC1118 as it is a neutral yeast. I would add RP15 (Rockpile) as a good choice.
 
Do you have a product/method you prefer? I personally prefer straight white sugar and give it time dissolve, this is my vote.

I would suggest dissolving table sugar into as much boiling water as it takes to dissolve the sugar, not more water than is needed. Plus a tablespoon of lemon juice. The acid in the juice separates the sugar into fructose and glucose (if I remember the constituents correctly), making the sugars easier for the yeast to digest.
 
You have enough juice to try them all, literally. Divide your juice into X number of buckets and pitch each one with identical amount of sacrificial tannins and a yeast.

I would skip EC1118 as it is a neutral yeast. I would add RP15 (Rockpile) as a good choice.
RP15? Sounds good! I'll get some, that's not one I normally use. Already learning! What's your recommended rehydration method for rp15? I'm new to it.

I would suggest dissolving table sugar into as much boiling water as it takes to dissolve the sugar, not more water than is needed. Plus a tablespoon of lemon juice. The acid in the juice separates the sugar into fructose and glucose (if I remember the constituents correctly), making the sugars easier for the yeast to digest.
This is my vote as well, if it's needed.
 
What's your recommended rehydration method

Regardless of yeast type (or red versus white for that matter), the recommended starter method is the same. See Bryan’s method in his signature links.

I use 1 TBS of sugar, 1/2 tsp of GoFerm, in an Erlenmeyer flask and a stir bar setup. I microwave the water (including the sugar and GoFerm) to boiling, then let it cool to whatever the yeast packet recommends. Add the yeast at the recommended temperature and stir it gently for a few hours. I will shut off the stir plate overnight, then restart it 10-15 minutes before pitching it into the must the next day. So the yeast starter is made 12-24 hours before pitching.
 
Regardless of yeast type (or red versus white for that matter), the recommended starter method is the same. See Bryan’s method in his signature links.

I use 1 TBS of sugar, 1/2 tsp of GoFerm, in an Erlenmeyer flask and a stir bar setup. I microwave the water (including the sugar and GoFerm) to boiling, then let it cool to whatever the yeast packet recommends. Add the yeast at the recommended temperature and stir it gently for a few hours. I will shut off the stir plate overnight, then restart it 10-15 minutes before pitching it into the must the next day. So the yeast starter is made 12-24 hours before pitching.
Interesting! I've never waited that long before adding yeast in. An hour or 2 after adding some must for ph acclimation (I also use must instead of sugar), and the yeast temps are <10C of the must. I'll give the 12 hour approach a try!
 
Waiting overnight to pitch the yeast means the temperature of the yeast will come down to room temperature, hopefully similar to your must. If not then put the yeast starter next to the must for a few hours so they are a similar temperature.

It’s also appropriate to add must to the starter so the yeast begins to recognize acid levels and won’t be shocked by it. The real purpose of a starter is to make a colony of yeast exponentially greater in size than the original yeast packet, giving the wine/yeast marriage a greater chance of success.
 
Waiting overnight to pitch the yeast means the temperature of the yeast will come down to room temperature, hopefully similar to your must. If not then put the yeast starter next to the must for a few hours so they are a similar temperature.
While the temperature is important, giving the yeast ~12 hours in a more ideal environment gives it more time to reproduce, so the mass of yeast cells is larger. The mass gives the yeast a higher likelihood of overwhelming all competitors.
 
While the temperature is important, giving the yeast ~12 hours in a more ideal environment gives it more time to reproduce, so the mass of yeast cells is larger. The mass gives the yeast a higher likelihood of overwhelming all competitors.
Right on! Makes sense to me. Do you have any issues with the yeast starter needing more must during that long of a wait?
 
Right on! Makes sense to me. Do you have any issues with the yeast starter needing more must during that long of a wait?
I've been experimenting with this. FWK includes a LOT of sugar in the starter packet, although their recommendation is 18-24 hours, if I remember correctly.

I typically do a 12-14 hour starter, depending on the situation. For that I started with 1 Tbsp sugar, but am now up to at least 4, although 6 is not out of the question, especially if the time frame will be longer than 14 hours.

My notes for making a starter are here:

https://wine.bkfazekas.com/how-to-make-a-yeast-starter/
 
I thought since I'm new to the forum and in need to break the ice, it would be fun to do a batch together! This time I thought it would be a cool idea to sort of "group think" this batch from start to finish. Well, almost start to finish, the must we received is the must we've got to work with after all. So, for the sake of group work, let's see how we do together! I'll post any and all measurements with my comments on taste at this stage (best I can offer!), then take a consensus (vote?) on any necessary decisions along the way--to barrel or not, fortifying, conditioning, anything. I thought this could be excellent resource for new winemakers and winegrowers. Happy to do this once a year with any varietal I can get my hands on in small batches, if not I can pull it from my own vineyards. Excited to take this any direction the community would like. Don't be shy! A bad recommendation only means that others have an opportunity to correct and future readers will only be educated by it. EVERYONE has made many bad batches of wine before making good ones, especially from grapes.

Here we go!! This is what I know so far:
I was just sent around 70-75L of 100% Zinfandel from an amateur winegrower out of Phelan, CA. He asked I check out the quality of his must for him, and make a bold red, if possible. It arrived frozen, already crushed and destemmed in pails of around 1 gallon (guessing). I have around a few dozen litres of the following if anyone wishes to blend before fermentation: cab sauv, sangiovese, malbec, my own vineyard's zin. Once it's defrosted in my primary, I'll know total volume, will sample all the basics like degree brix/SG, approximate pH, and any other requested measure. I do have professional equipment, but I'd like to keep it as close to what a homebrewer would reasonable do and not get too crazy. Wine shouldn't be rocket science, ever!

I do have a license to ship wine, and will be happy to ship the result (assuming your state allows unpurchased wine to be mailed) to participants of the process. If it turns out good, we can also submit it as a community to any competitions you'd like.
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What an awesome project! Thanks for doing this.
 
I am brand new to winemaking and planning to use Zinfandel must to start, so I’ll be reading along while you all collaborate! I’ll try not to get lost along the way :)
 
Sure thing! Any dry yeast strain recommendations? I have: EC1118, QA23, D47, D80, CY3079, and W15 in stock, but can get others.
I'm currently using Renaissance Avante and Bravo, which are unfortunately available only in large packages. For commonly available strains, anything from Lalvin and Red Star. Note that some are high nutrient and I've had problems with H2S, so if using a high nutrient strain, I add 50% more nutrient in stages.

This is likely the case. Do you have a product/method you prefer? I personally prefer straight white sugar and give it time dissolve, this is my vote. I also have simple syrup and wine conditioner.
I just use table sugar, stirring well while adding. The following morning I stir again before inoculation.

Note -- I checked SG on numerous batches, including grapes and kits, recording the SG after crush/reconstitution. I stirred the following morning and check SG again. My take-away was that I don't stir as well as I thought I did and/or an overnight of rest helps homogenize the must.

Would you prefer darker or lighter oak. Spirals, cubes, or ferment in barrel? I have many barrels available, but none are brand new. I don't normally primary ferment in barrel myself. I was going to add medium+ toast Balazs Oak chips, but can swap it out for whatever.
I use medium toast American oak shreds or chips. I did an experiment a few years ago, and the type (American, Hungarian, French) of fermentation oak does not appear to be a significant influence on flavor or aroma. I use American because it's typically cheaper, but whatever you have is fine.
 
What a great idea for a thread!

Zinfandel (aka Primitivo) was my nemesis in 2023. We made it as a group wine in my garage and it took nearly 4 months to ferment reasonably dry…. It got stuck multiple times on the way down and thus required several restarts. But that’s a story for another thread. One thing that we learned along the way which may be relevant here is that Zin grapes have the unfortunate ability to extract more sugars from the skins while fermenting. So our brix went up rather than down in the first 2 days. You may want to measure carefully and wait on selecting a yeast until you know your numbers so that you are sure you have some head room.
 

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