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Mr. So
09-13-2011, 09:28 AM
Greetings to you all.

I'm primarily a mead maker but have been growing a few St. Croix vines. Yesterday I tested the Brix and some grapes yielded 10 some 15. I have approximately 32lb of grapes de-stemmed, squashed, quite juicy and warming in my pot. I've calculated my acid levels to be about .95 and want to move along to the next step. Basically, my hope is to make a high quality red using honey. What I am unsure of is the temperature I need to start the first ferment & how long to leave the grape skins in my pail. Normally, I use the Lalvin 116 yeast and start the first ferment when cool. I use a superferment with the mead but the fellow at the Beer & Wine shop suggested the Bourgovin RC 212. I also have a bottle of Malolactic Bacteria to add, not sure at what point to incorporate. I also have some med toast Oak cubes I was told to add and just keep tasting for the desired tone. Any thoughts, advice or knowledge on how to proceed would be most appreciated. I should mention that I have used these grapes before treating them like a stright pyment and didn't care for the result, very weak or very harsh. Thanks for your input and for reading.

Medsen Fey
09-13-2011, 09:56 AM
I should mention that I have used these grapes before treating them like a stright pyment and didn't care for the result, very weak or very harsh.

I'm not too familiar with the St Croix grapes. However, both K1V and RC212 can make a good pyment - the RC 212 tends to need more attention to nutrients or it will get stinky. And I would plan to add the lactic acid bacteria when the fermentation is done, while on the fine lees.

When dealing with red grapes, I would start the fermentation cool and let it warm up to room temp (or slightly higher) if needed for tannin extraction. Perhaps if you can tell us how you did it before, and what you didn't like about it, we can help give you more specifics.

and Welcome to GotMead!

wayneb
09-14-2011, 02:33 PM
St. Croix is a hybrid red varietal that is relatively new (first produced in 1983), and is grown in regions that require cold-hardy plants. As with other cold-hardy varietals, these grapes are often grown in regions that don't have enough late fall warm weather to allow the fruit to fully ripen. The vines survive, but the fruit never get to the point where their TA falls to acceptable levels. Hence your initial experience - with a "harsh" result. The weakness is also not surprising, since even when these grapes are used in a straight up wine, there isn't a lot of tannin or complexity to be had (relative to other red varietals), so dry red wines tend to come out like a fairly uninspired red Spanish or Italian table wine. These berries tend to produce lots of liquid volume, but not a whole lot of flavor intensity in that juice.

That said, with careful fermentation management you can get some reasonably good stuff provided your grapes are ripe enough. I'd keep them on the cool side (as Medsen suggests) through the first bit of fermentation in order to maximize the fruit character, and so I don't understand why you might be "warming them up" in your pot. You won't get as much color from these skins as you would other varietals, but RC212 is one of the yeast strains that will maximize color extraction.

Make your pyment the same way that you would ferment a red grape wine - with the fruit freshly crushed and then mixed in with honey and any water you might need to adjust the gravity to where you want it to be, ferment on the fruit for several days (4 to 8, to get best color), but get the fruit out (and press if you're going to) not long after that or you'll start to get some unpleasant vegetal components in the flavor profile. Fermentation should be vigorous after the first 24 hours, and likely your must will warm up significantly, but temps even as high as 80F won't be bad and you'll get slightly more color that way.

Also, as Medsen suggests, don't add an MLF culture until most to all the fermentable sugars are gone from the must. It is best to add MLF bacteria only after primary fermentation is complete, and only after you've then tested to see if you still have a TA that is higher than you'd like. For pyments, don't rely on a TA test since you may not get a reliable reading - instead taste the young dry wine and see if it is likely too acidic to get to where you want it to be after some aging. Then start MLF. Why wait on the MLF? Those bacteria responsible for the malic to lactic acid conversion can also eat sugars. But instead of ethanol as the primary byproduct (as with yeast fermentation), MLF bacteria often produce significant amounts of volatile acids (think acetic acid -vinegar), and that can spoil your batch.

fatbloke
09-14-2011, 02:56 PM
This has got me wondering a little.

As both Wayne and Medsen have suggested adding MLF culture after the ferment.

I say wondering, as this last sunday morning, I watched Bob, who runs Winesathome, dumping MLF and yeast on 20 gallons of Merlot grapes (I think it was the merlot anyway).

When I asked about that, it was explained about a bit of a controversy within the wine world, not so much about running MLF and normal fermentation concurrently, but that the only real issue is to do with competition for nutrients etc.

What's your view(s) ? Is it likely that there is actually an issue or is it just that the "accepted wisdom" is that it's normally done (MLF) after the ferment ???

regards

fatbloke

Medsen Fey
09-14-2011, 04:14 PM
There are those in the winemaking world that co-inoculate MLF and yeast at the same time and clearly it does work. However, the risk of excessive volatile acidity exists, and lactic acid bacteria can sometimes cause a stuck fermentation. You pays your money; you takes your chances.

It is much more common for people to get the yeast fermentation done before starting MLF. It is also common to keep the MLF on the fine lees as the yeast autolysis provides a nitrogen source for the bacteria.

wayneb
09-14-2011, 11:30 PM
Co-inoculation of reds, which usually ferment at a higher temperature (and go to completion relatively faster) than whites, results in fewer problems than co-inoculation of whites because the more significant fermentation kinetics at those higher temps generally mean the yeast will win out over MLF bacteria in the competition for nutrient and any VA resulting from the MLF will be more likely to be driven off by the high rate of CO2 production during the ferment. But if you're not well versed in MLF methodology, you might want to wait until the primary is finished, just because you lessen the chances of VA production or yeast nutrient deficiency that way. Medsen's right, BTW. Inoculation while the wine is on the fine lees will provide nutrients for the MLF bacteria "naturally," and lessen the need for additions of MLF nutrient.

MLF started after primary is over takes a little longer, and maybe (this is IMHO a bit of controversy that is sadly unsubstantiated - or unchallenged - by any quantitative organoleptic A-B comparison experiments) results in slightly less overall complexity, but it is more predictable and thus (also IMHO) a better bet for someone trying it for the first time.