Argentinian Chardonnay

This is my first attempt at a wine from fresh juice. Ive previously made batches from concentrate with various levels of success, but Ive been anxious to try my hand at more of a “grass roots” type fermentation. While there are a lot of similarities between kit wine and fresh juice, there are a number of differences which add a depth of complexity to the fresh juice.

Firstly, when purchasing fresh juice you are getting the raw product from the grapes without much alteration of the must. In a kit, you have a number of the complicated procedures done for you. For instance, the acid is adjusted to the perfect level for that wine must. Additionally kits are packed with nutrients in order to make fermentation as rapid as possible. Finally, the kits are completely sanitary, taking out the need for sanitizing the must.

These various difficulties make fermenting unprocessed juice a real pain in the butt! In my opinion there are only a few reasons to use juice. Firstly, if there is a grape varietal you can not find in a wine kit, juice gives you an opportunity to ferment a grape you love. Secondly if you are able to snag some juice from a region you love or a vineyard you like, fresh juice gives you a great opportunity. Finally fermenting fresh juice gives you a trainingwheels type training if you are ever interested in fermenting from your own or purchased fresh grapes. If none of these apply to you, go with the Kit! You will have great wine, with less headache, and in less time.

Anyway, as is true with most brewers, I love a challenge! So if your like me and want to test your skills and learn from my inevitable mistakes, read on!

Step 1: Add 6 Campden Tablets to the Must and let sit 24 Hours

Step 2: First try at an acid titration. My results came up as 3% Acid, much lower than the ideal. Adding 70g of Acid Blend I brought the acid up to approximately 6.5% acid, admittedly on the low end of the white wine spectrum but still reasonable considering I’m going for a more “New World” Style of Chardonnay. Additionally I added 3g of Fermaid K and 2g of Diammonium Phosphate. Finally I pitched a packet of Wyeast Dry/Sparkling.

Acid Titration

Step 3: 27 days later. Ive missed my chances to do more nutrient additions but I’m hoping that the wine will turn out well on its own. Ive racked the wine from the primary bucket. I should have done this sooner but time got away from me. My hydrometer reading showed quite full conversion of sugars with the final gravity reading 0.994. On tasting it, the wine was quite yeasty but still shows a lot of promise. At this point I’m tempted to do a split fermentation in tertiary, with half being on oak and the other half clean.

Step 4: Rack the chardonnay into the tertiary. Racked on top of oak cubes.

Racking Chardonnay     Chardonnay on Oak

Step 4: Racked to Quaternary off of the oak. I used a crushed campden tabled yo prevent oxygenation. At this point, tasting the wine I found the flavors to be overall pleasant. There is a slightly plastic type undertone which I am hoping is just a slight off flavor from taking a yeasty sample.

IMG_2963 IMG_2965

Irish Red

Twas a month before Saint Patrick’s Day and all through the apartment, Not a yeast bug was stirring, not even some brett.

I think this beer proves that it is never too late to brew a holiday batch if you take some steps in advance to make sure your beer ferments quickly and well. The first thing I did was make an ample yeast starter 1 week in advance. This allowed the beer to start fermenting the second the yeast hit the wort. The next thing I did was pick a recipe which had a low starting gravity. While this is not a session beer, its definitely a lower alcohol example of the style. Finally I fermented at the high end of the yeast’s temperature range…. actually this is where I messed up. I fermented at the low end of the yeast fermentation range, leading to a lot of lag time in fermentation. I honestly believe that this beer would have benefited from more time or possibly just a higher fermentation temperature. Given that this beer was only 3 weeks old at kegging, its not bad, but it could definitely use improvement.

Irish RedOG: 1.054 —- FG: 1.010 —- ABV: 5.8%

Recipe (Courtesy of Jamil Zainasheff) :

  • 11 lb Marris Otter
  • 6 oz Crystal 40 L
  • 6 oz Crystal 120 L
  • 6 oz Roasted Barley
  • 1.25 oz East Kent Golding – 60 min

Yeast: Wyeast 1084 (Irish Ale)

Notes: Beer Placed 3rd Place at NJ State Fair Homebrew Competition in Irish and Scottish Beer Category.

Personal Score Sheet: Irish Red Score