Having acquired 500 pounds of organic grapes we were now ready to crush and de-stem the grapes. Fortunately we had access to a crusher-stemmer which makes this process easy. Once the grapes had been crushed and de-stemmed we divided them equally between three clean trash cans. Here they will go through maceration and fermentation.
We measured the grapes and found they had a sugar level of 24 to 25 which would give them a potential alcohol of 12.5% which is right where we want it, these organic grapes were picked at just the right time by Charlie Barra of Barra of Mendocino to have this perfect sugar level. We also measured the acidity which came out to .76 and the pH 3.3 to 3.4 as well as the relative gravity which was 1.092 to 1.096 which were all desirable measurements.
That night I started the yeast in 50% juice and 50% water and added the yeast to the grapes ever waiting patiently in the trash cans the next morning. This process of fermenting the grape juice with crashed wine berries is known as maceration, during this process the red wine acquirers its structure and color. As a general rule of thumb, the longer the juice and grape solids are in contact, the more tannin and color that will be extracted, and the more full-bodied and colored a red wine will be. Maceration can take from 3 to 21 days but there is a lot to get into for the ease of this wine we macerated the wine till the yeast fermented all or most of the sugar which for this wine was 9 days.
While the wine is fermenting in the trash cans the yeast will raise the solid grape parts to the top, thus you need to punch down the solid grape parts, you can easily do this with an oversize spoon or paddle all you're doing is just pushing the solid grape mass down into the grape juice. I love punching down the grapes for it releases amazing aromatic smells of a winery, you truly know you're making wine at this point. The fermentation process will vary based on the temperature that the grapes are at. I measured the grapes specific gravity percentage of alcohol and temperature on a daily basis to know when we would be ready to press the grapes. For this organic zinfandel it took nine days till it was ready to be pressed.
Stay tuned for my next blog on do-it-yourself organic wine making where I'll talk about pressing the wine.
If you want to read the first part of the series :
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