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Tag Archives: chemistry in wine making

Failure to Launch? Oh No!

Day 2 in fermentation wine-making

Wouldn’t you know it?

After six years of successfully adding yeast into the crushed grapes with nary a problem, I walked into the barn this morning to see if the hard cap of grape skins and pulp that is supposed to have formed at the top of the vat of grape slurry is there.  Nope.  Only “caps” in two of the seven.

How can that be?

I used the same exact yeasts I’ve used in past years, which were nice and bubbly (like they were supposed to be) when I added them.  All vats were treated equally, so why the discrepancy in progress?

“Oh geez. I can’t even call my wine-maker mentor, because he has “life” happening right now,” which is what he says when life’s big events take over normal days. Technically, the manuals say to wait until Fermentation Day 3 of failure to launch in the yeast before worrying. However, in the past, the robust yeast I’ve used has taken off after the first 24 hours.

Here are are some pictures shooting down into the vats to show you what I’m talking about.

Robust Healthy Cap

Inert Nonexistant Cap

Undecided Half Cap

After a frantic call to More Winemaking’s helpline and an order for more yeast to be Fedexed tomorrow (just in case,) I wheeled the lackadaisical vats into the sun to warm the yeast and to stimulate some action.

Results tonight were all four of the Cab vats had formed caps. Yee ha!

Two of the three Merlot vats had formed very flimsy, weak caps, and one vat was a half cap, which I will take as a hopeful sign.  After all, tomorrow, Day 3 in the yeast game, is the cut off day for a successful start to the fermentation, turning grape juice into wine.

So many people put their hearts and sweat into this project that I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to pull it off with a “best effort” of success.

Plus, as a Celiac person, I need to make my own red wine in barrels guaranteed not to contain one molecule of wheat in the barrel making process, if I am to enjoy any at all.  So, I’m pretty motivated to make a go of this massive hobby.

Wish me luck, and pray for energetic yeast!

*Note to all you home winemaker wannabes–More Winemaking–is a great resource of supplies, how-to manuals, and a live help desk.  www.morewinemaking.com

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Jedi Wine Making – Chemistry can be fun?

OMG! Who knew?

Apparently … Lab tests on wine are fun. The test subject (wine aging in our barrels in the barn) matters. I have been a chemistry hater from way back, even changed my college major to avoid chem classes.

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But … When you know the tests you are about to learn can keep your wine on track, you will do just about anything to chase the dream of making that elusive, perfect, full-bodied, balanced glass of vino, especially if you’ve slaved all season tending the vines.

So … Ted of Medeiros Family Winery, my Yoda mentor, hosted this morning’s foray into his lab to determine how much free SO2 was suspended in each barrel’s wine. SO2 is the substance that can protect the wine from oxidation, basically keeping the “bitter” under control.

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During … There were test tubes hanging from a science-looking contraption, pipettes, rubber tubing, things bubbling, substances dripping one drop at a time into a wine-colored solution that suddenly turned green. Very cool!

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All the precise measuring and scary looking equipment my free spirit hated in high school, became a welcome, fun endeavor getting me ever so slightly closer to that sigh of delight I want to feel and to see on family and friends’ faces when they take a sip of our wine. Someday, hopefully. Currently, we have progressed from an out and out frown and searching look for a spittoon to a neutral look of wonder and a “hey, this is not bad.”

All in all … Not a bad way to spend the morning.