Thursday, November 11, 2010

Home Winemaking installment #5

We are happy to say our Cabernet Sauvignon is in the fermentation process right now! It must have started over the weekend while we were away. I came to work on Monday and to my delight there was a “cap” in each of the buckets. The cap occurs when fermentation starts and the berries float to the top. Since we are making a red wine, we need to extract the color from the skins to develop the deep dark red character of a Cabernet.

To help extract the color, we need to “punch down” the cap. This process is quite simple, as you basically push the berries down to the bottom, keeping them moist at all times. This process should be repeated a few times per day; however we find that we can’t always make it out to our cellar for the second/third punch down. Lindsey was in Georgia on business so I didn’t have her with me on Monday to bounce questions off of but I did retain some information from our 4 hour crash course on winemaking. I remembered that we must never use wood in winemaking as it is too porous and could harbor bacteria, so I went searching for something made of stainless steel to punch down the cap. The best Jolee and I came up with was a stainless steel pipe I borrowed from the winery tool room. Today, Lindsey and I are now using a stainless steel spoon and we both feel that a potato masher would do a better job. We are still in the process of finding the perfect tool.

Meanwhile, we are analyzing our wine daily, taking brix measurements, ph and TA. We decided that it was time to add sugar as the juice had started fermentation and was dropping approximately 1° brix per day. The reason why we added sugar is that our brix at harvest were 21° and if we are to calculate 21 x .60=12.6% alcohol. We would like our wine to finish off with an alcohol of 13.8% so we will need to add approximately 3.25 pounds of sugar. The yeast will convert the sugars to alcohol, so the higher degrees of brix, the higher alcohol content your finished wine will have. To do this, we measured the granulated sugar into a stainless steel bowl and stirred in some of our fermenting juice to create a syrup.

Once the sugar was dissolved, we poured equal amounts of the syrup back into our buckets of fermenting juice and gave it a gentle stir. I’ve been wondering about the sugar since we added it. My mind is visualizing the yeast going bezerk over the amount of sugar and bubbling over the buckets and blowing off so much carbon dioxide that it splatters all of our cased wine.

Stay tuned to find out what happens next at L&J Cellars….

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