Blending Wine With Pearson’s Square

Blending Wine With Pearson’s Square

Blending wine to adjust wine chemistry can be a little tricky. Luckily there’s a handy tool you can use, Pearson’s Square, for determining the proper proportions needed to create the right balance in your final wine. This tool can be used for blending a wine of high alcohol and one of low alcohol content to produce a wine with a more reasonable alcohol level. It doesn’t end with alcohol though, Pearson’s Square can be used to: blend wines of different acidity to create a more balanced wine blend wines of different degrees of sweetness calculate sugar additions to increase a finished wine’s alcohol content blend wine and brandy when fortifying a wine So how does this magical tool work? Let’s find out. Calculating Blend Ratios Pearson’s Square is actually a simple tool for calculating the ratios of two different wines that when mixed together result in a mixture that has the characteristics you desire. If we have two wines of different alcohol levels we can use the square to determine how much of each wine to mix together to come up with a blend that has an alcohol level of our choosing. Here’s what Pearson’s Square looks like: The variable “A” represents the alcohol content of one of your blending wines while “B” represents the alcohol content of the other.  “C” represents your target alcohol level. Keep in mind that you can use this for more than just blending wines of different alcohol levels. With this information you can calculate “D” which is the amount of wine “A” that you need. “E” represents the amount of wine “B” you need. When combined in these amounts you will have a wine with the desired alcohol level “C”. This has been sort of abstract so let’s try and example. Using the Pearson Square to Blend Wines Here’s an example of how this works. Let’s say we’ve got a 15% ABV wine and a 10% ABV wine. Our goal is to blend these two wines together to produce 6 gallons of wine that has an alcohol content of 13.5%. Here’s how it lays out in the Pearson Square. The vertical lines “||” are the symbol for absolute value in case your algebra is rusty. So even though B – C is a negative number take it as positive for the purposes of this calculation. You may have noticed that the units for D and E are labeled as “parts”. Mixing 3.5 parts of wine A with 1.5 parts of wine B will result in a final alcohol content of 13.5%. To get these quantities into units of measurement that are actually useful we can calculate the percentage of each as follows: Just to be sure we did this correctly we can add the volume of wines A and B together and we get a total of 6 gallons. Hooray! Please note that Pearson’s Square and the equations presented here are not specific to the English system of units. You may use liters, tons, tonnes, barrels, teaspoons, etc. You can also use this tool in a slightly different way. For example, if you...

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How to Make Fortified Wine

How to Make Fortified Wine

What Are Fortified Wines? Fortified wines are regular grape wines that have been given an alcohol boost using grape spirits. While this does produce a high alcohol wine that isn’t the whole story and it isn’t why this practice began. The real reason fortified wines came into being was to solve stability issues in finished wine. Sherry is believed to be one of the earliest fortified wines which may have been produced as early as 1260 AD. Port came about a little later, during the 18th century. Today we use sulfites and tight sealing closures to protect our wines. Back then the closures were not nearly so effective and they didn’t even know about all the tiny micro organisms we worry about today. Both of these factors would have made wine stability a much bigger deal. Somehow though wine makers of old figured out that adding grape spirits to wines made it less susceptible to spoilage. We now know this stability comes from the increased alcohol content. Neither the yeast nor most spoilage organisms can withstand the alcohol. The two most common fortified wines available commercially are Port and Sherry. Port is fortified with aguardente vinica. A grape based drinking wine that is distilled to concentrate the alcohol to 35-60%. Sherry on the other hand is fortified with brandy, another grape distilled spirit. To better understand what fortification is and what you can do with it lets explore each of these wines in turn. Port Ports are generally made with red wines though not always. The aguardente vinica is added while the base wine is still fermenting in order to stop the fermentation. The wine maker will taste the base wine as it ferments and when it reaches a desired level of sweetness she will add the aguardente vinica to stop the fermentation by raising the alcohol level beyond what the yeast has a tolerance for. Because the base wine was still fermenting there is still sugar in the wine when it is fortified. This residual sugar is not consumed because the yeast die due to the alcohol level. With alcohol levels of 18-20% Ports and other fortified wines are fairly stable against microbial spoilage in addition to yeast fermentation. They can still suffer from excessive oxygen exposure though. Sherry Sherry is made a little differently than Port. First the base wine is allowed to ferment completely dry. Then brandy is added to increase the alcohol content of the wine. Some Sherry’s are back sweetened later on but they are first made dry. The aging process of Sherry is also unique. Once finished the wine is aged in what’s called a solera system. This is a complex method of blending newer and older vintages. For more information on this really interesting aging method check out The Solera Wine Aging System. How to Make Your Own Fortified Wine It is entirely possible to make your own fortified wines using either the Port or Sherry method (with or without the solera). You can choose to use grapes or kits as your base wine. According to The Winemaker’s Answer Book when working with...

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Using Pectic Enzymes to Make Wine

Using Pectic Enzymes to Make Wine

Nearly every fruit wine recipe calls for pectic enzymes to be added but what do they really do? How do the work? Are there any safety concerns when working with this additive? Let’s find out. Pectic enzyme, also known as pectinase, is a protein that is used to break down pectin, a jelly like glue that holds plant cells together. In wines pectin can cause troublesome “pectin haze” that is not easily cleared without the use of pectic enzymes. While this enzyme does occur naturally in grapes as well as yeast there is not enough of it to overcome the amount of pectin present in the must. Other sources of pectic enzyme include plants, bacteria, and fungus. It turns out that fungus produces a special kind of pectic enzyme that is particularly adept at breaking down pectin even in the harsh environment created during fermentation. Most commercially sold pectic enzymes come from fungus. Pectic enzymes may be purchased in a liquid form or as a powder at any home brewing supply store. What do Pectic Enzymes Do? As previously mentioned pectic enzymes break down pectin found in fresh fruit. This serves two purposes. First it helps prevent a pectic haze from forming so that the wine is easier to clear. Additionally these enzymes help in the extraction of color and juice from fresh fruits. Commercial wineries will often toss in pectinase with their grapes during maceration to increase the amount of juice they can extract. This helps them maximize the amount of wine they can produce from a given amount of grapes. An unfortunate side effect of using pectic enzymes is that they can speed up the maturation of finished wines. Care must be taken when bulk aging the wine to make sure that it doesn’t over mature before it is bottled. This can lead to flat wines that come across as being past their prime. When pectin is broken down by the enzymes it produces methanol. This can be hazardous if taken in large quantities. A lot of the research I saw though showed that you would have to consume ridiculously huge amounts of wine treated with pectic enzymes before this would become an issue. We’re talking about thousands of liters of wine. Working With Pectic Enzymes You’ll want to use pectic enzymes any time you are making wine from fresh fruit, even grapes. As we discussed this will improve color, tannins, and juice extraction as well as prevent pectic hazes. Typically the enzymes are mixed in with the must prior to starting fermentation. This gives them time to interact with the fruit and break down the pectin in the skins. With all the good stuff extracted yeast can then take all of that and produce a cohesive final product. According to Alison Crowe in The Winemaker’s Answer Book you should not add pectic enzymes within 12 hours of adding sulfur dioxide or bentonite. The sulfur dioxide can reduce the effectiveness of the enzymes. Depending upon your wine making references the jury is still out on whether or not this is true. Some wine makers believe that there...

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Carbonic Maceration of Wine Grapes

Carbonic Maceration of Wine Grapes

Carbonic maceration is a unique method of fermenting grapes into wine. While it doesn’t completely ferment all of the sugar into alcohol, it does impart a unique character on the wine. What makes this method of fermentation so different is that you begin with whole, unbroken grape clusters still on the stems. The grapes are then placed in a sealed fermentation container filled with carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide discourages yeast fermentation and encourages enzymes naturally present in the grape to be released. Once released the enzymes break down the sugars into alcohol. Thus the sugars are fermented without the help of any micro-organisms. What Types of Wine Are Made from Carbonic Maceration? The most notable wine produced using this method is Beaujolais Nouveau which is made from Gamay grapes. Characterized by its fruity flavors and lack of tannins, this red wine is meant to be consumed the same year the grapes are harvested. The entire process from harvest to bottling takes between six and eight weeks. Traditionally Beaujolais Nouveau is available by the end of November in America. It has become somewhat of a tradition among winos to drink Beaujolais Nouveau at Thanksgiving. Many believe that the quality of this wine in a given year is an early indicator of the quality of the entire vintage. Other wine makers and tasters alike believe this to be a bit of a stretch. Admittedly it is hard to imagine drawing any conclusions about an entire vintage based on a single style of wine that was cranked out in a matter of weeks. The Carbonic Maceration Process To pull this off successfully you’re going to need to be very careful while handling your grapes to ensure that no grapes are broken open, this is critical. Take the unbroken fruit and place it in a seal-able fermentation container filled with carbon dioxide. This is done to prevent oxidation and to inhibit spoilage micro-organisms from taking hold. With the grape clusters placed gently in the carbon dioxide flushed container seal the lid, place your airlock, and start monitoring the temperature. It takes approximately five to fifteen days for carbonic maceration to complete. During this time only about 3% alcohol by volume is produced. Thus you’ll need to follow this fermentation a yeast fermentation. A lot of heat is generated during carbonic maceration. Make sure that the grapes don’t get too warm otherwise it may take on cooked flavors. Generally speaking keeping your temperature below 90° F / 32° C will prevent this. After carbonic maceration has finished open the fermentation vessel and then crush and press your grapes to release the remaining sugars and the alcohol produced thus far. Once extracted the remaining juice should be stabilized and inoculated with your yeast of choice. Traditionally a wine made this way would not spend any more time on the skins. Sufficient color, flavor, and aroma extraction is achieved during carbonic maceration thus an extended maceration is not needed. It is also important to limit tannin extraction so that the wine may be consumed sooner. More tannic wines need more aging to become palatable. Amateur wine makers could use a plastic fermentation...

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Maceration of Wine Must

Maceration of Wine Must

Maceration Basics Simply put maceration is the process of soaking crushed grapes, seeds, and stems in a wine must to extract color and aroma compounds as well as tannins. This is where red wines get their color and tannins and it is the lack of maceration that makes white wines so light in color and nearly tannin free. There are actually several different types of maceration processes. The three most common are the extended maceration, cold soak, and carbonic maceration. Carbonic maceration is a bit different than the other two and will be discussed only briefly. Maceration may take place either before or during fermentation. A cold soak takes place prior to yeast fermentation while an extended maceration takes place during primary fermentation at least but may be allowed to continue throughout the entire fermentation. The process begins as soon as the grapes skins have been ruptured. At this time the juice is released from inside the grape and comes in contact with the exterior of the grape skins as well as the stems. To end maceration simply remove the skins, seeds, and stems from your must. It should be noted that not all grape varietals benefit from maceration. Generally speaking Bordeaux style varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot can benefit from this process while other varietals may be too delicate and can become over extracted. The following are some important things to monitor while carrying out this process on your own wine musts. Tannins The main sources of tannins in wine are grape skins, seeds, stems, and oak. Given that three of the four major sources of tannins are present during maceration monitoring tannin extraction is very important. You do have some control over how much tannins are extracted by manipulating maceration temperature, duration, and the amount of stems included. By reducing any of these three variables you can reduce the amount of tannins extracted. If you over extract the tannins you can try to fine them out but you may end up having to age the wine much longer than you originally attended. Over time those tannins will bind together and precipitate out, however you may be waiting several years if this is taken too far. Temperature Management When maceration takes place during fermentation temperature management becomes a critical part of the wine making process. The yeast produce carbon dioxide during fermentation which makes the skins, seeds, and stems float to the top forming the “cap”. In a fairly short amount of time the cap becomes quite thick and will insulate the fermenting must below. Fermentation is an exothermic process which means that the process itself gives off heat. The cap traps that heat and can cause your must to get too hot and take on cooked flavors. To release the heat you must punch down the cap forcing the solids back down into the must. This helps heat escape but also puts the solids back in contact with the must to increase color, aroma, and tannin extraction. Possible Faults The two things that most often go wrong during an extended maceration are the...

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How to Know When to Rack your Wine

How to Know When to Rack your Wine

There’s a lot of different information out there on when to rack your wine. Largely this is because you rack at different times for different reasons depending upon where you are in the wine making process. The three main times when you rack a wine are: 1. When moving your wine from the primary fermenter to the secondary. 2. When moving your wine from the secondary fermenter to a bulk aging vessel. 3. After fermentation you can rack either for clarity or in and out of oak vessels. Let’s take a look at why and when you rack wines during these different phases. Racking from Primary to Secondary Fermentation Vessels When making wine from fresh fruit you’ll want to rack within seven days or so of pitching your yeast to get off of the gross lees. This is the chunky fruit lees that collects at the bottom of your fermentation vessel. If your wine is left on the gross lees for too long you’ll pick up off flavors and aromas. To avoid this you’ll want to rack 5-7 days after pitching the yeast. When making wine from a kit you’ll usually rack your wine after 7 days or when your specific gravity reaches a specific reading, 1.010 for Winexpert kits. During these first seven days a lot of yeast or fine lees is produced. In general you want to rack off of fine lees once it reaches a thickness of about 1/2 inch (13 mm for my metric friends) on the bottom of your fermenter or carboy. Any thicker than that and the yeast at the bottom can start to decay and produce off flavors and aromas. You may want to consider racking once or twice during a long secondary fermentation. For instance, if you ferment a white wine at cool temperatures your total fermentation time can extend for several months. Keep an eye on that sediment layer and rack if it exceeds 1/2 inch (13 mm). Racking from Secondary Fermentation Vessels to Bulk Aging Vessels The second racking is done when fermentation has wrapped up. You’ll want to get your wine off of the lees and into an aging vessel. Either an oak barrel or carboy. When this racking takes place depends entirely upon when fermentation ends. This could be a week or up to two months after your first racking. Letting your wine sit on the fine lees for more than two months can lead to flavor and aroma contributions from the decaying yeast. This is known as sur lie aging. Post Fermentation Rackings Once your wine is in bulk aging containers, oak or otherwise, your wine may still need to be racked. Normally you rack either to help your wine clear or to get it off the oak so it doesn’t pick up too much oak flavor. When racking for clarity you’ll want to rack every two or three months to avoid sur lie flavors. These aren’t bad, in fact they are desireable in many cases, however, sur lie is not for every type of wine and must be carried out with the utmost care. Don’t...

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