We are making wine now!
The morning after we pitched the yeast into the grape juice we needed to begin punching down the cap, which is to say, we began pushing the grape skins and seeds down into the juice. Contact between the juice and the skins gives the red wine its depth of color and many of the flavors associated with that grape. This is a twenty gallon bin fermenting wine, using my hands (and those of family members when I am away) I push the solid mass down, turning it over as much as possible to ensure the top now-dry skins are back in contact with the juice so the extraction process continues. To begin with, this is done four times a day. Later it drops to two times a day.
I have mentioned taking ‘T&B’s, that is temperature and Brix readings. Degrees Brix is a measurement of sugar in the liquid, a hydrometer is used for this measurement. Since yeast consumes sugar to produce alcohol the less sugar left in the must, the greater the alcohol level until the sugar is gone. Most wine yeasts can’t live above 18% alcohol (bread yeast can’t tolerate more than 9-10% alcohol levels – and they remain in suspension which makes your wine cloudy), but that includes specialty wines as well. For temperature, I use my kitchen thermometer.
As Petit Verdot grapes are fairly acidic, I decided to inoculate my must for malolactic fermentation concurrent with my yeast fermentation. The night after pitching yeast, I introduced lactic acid bacteria. The job of this bacteria is to chop the malic acid from the lactic acid, which provides the wine with a smoother, more ’rounded’ mouth feel. We placed a small heater by the must to ensure the temperature rose to about 80 degrees F ( 26 C). By morning we were hearing the crackling of the must as all the little critters partied hard. The heater was removed once it reached this temperature; the garage has been about 65 degrees F, but we anticipate colder temperatures this week.
Since I don’t have a barrel handy to put my wine into I have added chips of medium toast French oak and powdered tannins from oak. In the past have added grape tannins to some of my fruit wines to enhance the complexity of their flavors. It is amazing what is available to the home brewer and wine maker these days. These chips get pushed into the must as I do my punch downs right along with the grape skins. Hoping to develop some nice aromas and flavors in this wine!
Last night I couldn’t find my pictures of the yeast inoculation, but here they are for reference: