2021 Finer Wine Kits – Rapid Ferments

last updated 24 February 2022

November 2021

The rapid ferments of the Finer Wines Kits (FWK) I’ve recently started surprised me. Prior to this, I’ve had 2 batches out of well over 100 ferment in 4 days. Some took 5 but most commonly ferments took 7 to 9 days to reach a point where I racked or pressed.

Note that the data is not consistent, as I rack whites, fruits, and kits at a higher specific gravity (SG) than I do red grapes.

I have detailed records on 98 batches of wine, ranging from 1985 to 2021. I eliminated batches that were racked above 1.010 or that fermented really long (I’ve fermented kits and fruits at 58-60 F, taking 2 to 4 weeks), and others that simply appeared anomalous. This reduced the count to 56 batches. Of those, one fermented in 3 days, two in 4 days, and five in 5 days. Six took 11 to 14 days.

Forty-two batches (75%) fermented to a racking point in 6 to 10 days, which is what I consider a “normal” ferment time.

I compare that to the readings I recorded for the FWK’s I’ve recently started. Note that I didn’t record SG daily for the Barbera and Chardonnay, as at those times I didn’t see the need.

Date Barbera Chardonnay Rhone Blend Super Tuscan
Day 1 1.091 1.094 1.101 1.100
Day 2 1.090 1.o93 1.099
Day 3 1.035 1.062 1.075 1.089
Day 4 0.999 1.030 1.030
Day 5 0.998 1.000 1.015
Day 6 0.999 1.001

Note: The “Rhone Blend” is 3 kits fermented together: Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Merlot. This produces a Rhone-style blend. The Super Tuscan is also a triple batch of the Super Tuscan kits.

The Chardonnay fermented to completion in 3 days. The Barbera is listed at 4 days, but it could have been 3 as I don’t know what the reading was on Day 4.

The Rhone Blend fermented in 5 (SG hasn’t changed since), and the Super Tuscan is currently at 5 days and will be racked/pressed tomorrow.

There are 3 differences between these 4 batches: room temperature and controlling must temperature.

  1. The Barbera and Chardonnay are single batches, while the Rhone Blend and Super Tuscan are triple blends.
  2. The Barbera was fermented in August, so the temperature in my cellar was probably in the 72 to 74 F range. The other 3 were fermented in November, where the temperature ranges from 62 to 68 F.
  3. With the Barbera and Chardonnay, I made no attempt to reduce must temperature. With the Rhone Blend and the Super Tuscan, I added frozen 16 oz water bottles to reduce the temperature.

For the Barbera? It probably doesn’t matter as this wine was fermented without skin packs and has only 1 oz aging oak, as it’s planned as a quick drinker.

The Chardonnay? I wanted a colder ferment to preserve more fruit flavor. Since the temperature spiked into the 80’s F, I won’t know for month how much fruit flavor was preserved. This may or may not be a problem, especially as I may really like the result, even if it was not what I intended.

IMO, results are what counts. Sure, I’d like the wine to come out the way I intend, but as long as I like the result (or even love it) I call it a win!

For the Rhone Blend and the Super Tuscan? I wanted a longer ferment so I’d have more skin contact, to extract more “goodness” from the pomace (skin packs). However, I used ScottZyme ColorPro and got great color, and have expectations that the skin packs and seed packs will produce more tannin for a heavy red.

Conclusions

At this point I’m not drawing a lot of useful conclusions. The batches are different enough that I can’t trust that the commonalities and differences are significant. I have more conjectures than anything.

So why write this blog? I have captured my thoughts at this time, which may be relevant in future experiments.

This also gives me ideas for future batches.

Some folks are making the FWK and not making a starter and/or not using all the nutrients.

Nope, I’m not going to do that. I’m adding the fermentation ingredients the vendor specified, and the only thing I’m not using is the Finishing Pack, as since I’m making dry wines there is no need for sorbate. I am bulk aging longer than the directions indicate and adding additional K-meta anyway.

Currently I’m seeing temperature as the factor I want to control. In the future I will monitor temperature very strictly and keep frozen water bottles handy for this purpose. It appears that adding a single 16 oz bottle to the triple Super Tuscan batch had a good effect, so if doing a regular 23 liter batch, I suspect that 1 bottle at a time is more than sufficient.

February 2022

Given 3 months of hindsight, I’m a lot less freaked out by the rapid ferments than I was when I started this post. While the fermentations were rapid, I haven’t found a downside, as all 9 kits (this includes my son’s Riesling) are fine.

My current take on this situation is that the overnight yeast starter provides a larger initial colony, and as a result the wine ferments faster. FWK’s instructions state to do an extended maceration on of 2 weeks in a sealed fermenter, to ensure fermentation is complete and the extraction is as well.

I intend to do that when I make another of these kits.