2021 Finer Wine Kits – Rhone Blend in Detail

Last updated 11/22/2021

This blog is similar to the Barbera in Detail and Chardonnay in Detail blogs, but has key differences that make it worthwhile for me to record it:

  • kits are the new FWK Forte series, more robust with 2 skin packs and a seed pack
  • it’s a field blend of 3 different kits
  • all 3 kits are being fermented together

I will be focusing on points not covered in the previous blogs. Yes, many of the same points will be covered, but the focus is on things that are in the Forte kits but not in the Tavola kits.

Important Note: FWK are not pasteurized, so they are not shelf stable! They must be kept chilled or frozen prior to use, or it is entirely possible a spontaneous fermentation can occur within the juice/concentrate bag.

Menu (Dates of Activity)

11/13/2021

11/14/2021

11/15/2021

11/16/2021

11/17/2021

11/18/2021

11/19/2021

11/22/2021


11/13/2021

The Syrah, Petite Sirah, and Merlot kits arrived this afternoon, so Eric (son) and I started them. We are fermenting them all together, essentially a field blend.

As with the Chardonnay and Riesling, the boxes arrived in good condition. The concentrates were cold enough that the Merlot was partially frozen, and the other two were very thick.

These are Forte kits, so they contain more “stuff” than the Tavola kit Barbera I started in August. In addition to the “usual” materials (3 different nutrient packs, Lalvin Bourgovin RC 212, fermentation oak, kieselsol & chitosan, finishing pack), each kit includes 2 grape skin packs, 2 muslin bags (to put the skins in), 1 packet of grape seeds, and 1 packet of aging oak cubes.

As with previous kits, everything is well labeled, including step numbers that correspond to the numbers in the instruction book.

First thing we did was read the instructions! As with previous kits, everything is explained well, in a logical order.

We doused the muslin bags (for skin packs) with K-meta, wrung them out, and dropped into a food grade bucket until needed. I have a several 1.5 to 2 gallon food grade buckets that are handing for sanitization. The instructions also call for rinsing the concentrate bags to remove flecks of Stryofoam, and to sanitize.

We are fermenting all 3 kits together in a 32 gallon Rubbermaid Brute. Each bag of concentrate was emptied into the fermenter, then rinsed with a full gallon of water, doing it 3 times to get all concentrate out of the bags. As mentioned above, all were very thick and the Merlot was partially frozen. We added a total of 13.2 gallons of purified drinking water to the fermenter, including the water used to rinse the bags. Starting with gallon 7, Eric poured while I used a drill-mounted stirring rod to mix the must. Given the thickness of the concentrate and the sheer volume, we decided it was necessary.

When done we checked the SG — it was 1.092. The instruction indicate the range should be between 1.090 and 1.110, but we were disappointed — I was hoping for around 1.100.

However, we’ve found that the initially checked SG is often different from the reading taken at inoculation, so it may go up. The temperature of the must is 60.0 F, so it should be up to temperature tomorrow for inoculation.

We added Nutrient Pack A and 3 tsp Scottzyme ColorPro. I had purchased the enzyme for the fresh grapes we planned to buy, although that plan fell through. Matt P of Label Peelers thought it would be beneficial with the skin packs, so we decided to add it. After seeing the skin packs, I’m sure it will make a difference by increasing color extraction.

Preparing the skin packs was easy — Eric stretched a muslin bag open, I cut open a skin pack, and dumped it into the bag. Eric knotted it and I dipped it in the must like a teabag until it was soaked, then dropped it in.

Next we cut open the seed packs and fermentation oak, and added to the fermenter. Once done we used a sanitized stainless steel paddle to mix everything. Lastly, we covered the fermenter with a beach towel.

The last step for today is the yeast starter. We put all 3 Nutrient Pack B and yeast into a 1.5 liter wine bottle, then added 2 cups water and shook to dissolve. The instructions called for 3 cups, but it looked like plenty of liquid.

So ends Day 1!


11/14/2021

I gave the must a stir, then checked SG and temperature.

The SG rose to 1.101! Cool! I actually expected something like this to happen.

The room temperature is 62.3 F, a bit cooler than I was hoping. The must is at 64.4 F, and unlikely to go up, so I inoculated by shaking up the starter and carefully pouring it down the side of the fermenter, then recovered with a beach towel.


11/15/2021

Fermentation has started — the SG dropped from 1.101 to 1.093.

The temperature in the cellar is about the same, and the must is at 66.0 F. It hasn’t spiked yet, but fermentation has barely begun. I’m going to check temperature every 4 to 6 hours today.

If the must temperature gets above 75 F, I’ll add a frozen water bottle or two to cool it off.

While not puffed up to full size, the skin bags are puffy with CO2. I pushed them down and flipped them, then stirred.

The must looks like ink, very much like the 2020 wines looked like at this stage. It appears the ScottZyme ColorPro has made an impact.


11/16/2021

pre-punch down @ 7:30 AM

Fermentation is continuing (as expected) and hasn’t gone crazy — yet. The cellar temperature is up to 66.3 F, which surprised me, as it was in the 30’s last night. My cellar is only partially underground. We have an addition off the main part of the cellar, although the corner where my wine bench is located has 2 small windows. The back and other side of the cellar are against a crawl space.

Note: We originally had a ranch. We hired a contractor to add on a room in the back, and because of the height (land slopes), we added another room below it. AND dug out half of our crawl space (I could walk through half the crawlspace) and turned it into a cellar. It’s an odd setup, but it works well for us.

post-punch down @ 4:15 PM

Back to the wine … the must temperature is 70.0 F and the SG is 1.075.

We had a 0.008 drop after the first twenty-four hours, and 0.018 after the second. The ferment hasn’t gone crazy yet, but it may be ramping up. Like yesterday, I will be checking SG and temperature every four to six hours.

UPDATE 4:15 PM

The room temperature is 66.7 F, the must is up to 74.0 F, and the SG is down to 1.058. The SG has dropped as much in the last 8 hours as it did in the previous 24 hours. I’d say I have a runaway fermentation.

UPDATE 9:45 PM

The room temperature is 66.2 F, the must is up to 76.0 F, and the SG is down to 1.038. This fermentation is amazing in its speed. This is not good IMO.


11/17/2021

This morning was another surprise. I fully expected the wine to be fermented out, but was wrong.

The SG was 1.030 at 7:30 AM. The room temperature was 64.5 F while the must temperature was up to 78.8 F.

Mother Nature is having fun with me, it seems.

I’ll continue monitoring the wine during the day to see what happens.


11/18/2021

It looks like the fermentation is nearly done. The room temperature was up to 67.4 F, while the must temperature was down to 74.8 F. The SG was an even 1.000, and the skin bags are still puffy and the wine is foaming.

I’m going to rack the wine tomorrow night, and press the skin bags.


11/19/2021

The room temperature was 64.7 F and the must temperature was down to 69.6 F. The SG is 0.999 and the wine is not foaming, although it foamed a bit when I punched the skin bags down. I’ll rack the wine tonight and press the skin bags.

UPDATE

Racked the wine, filling three 19 liter carboys and a 3 gallon carboy. Pressed the skin packs, producing a bit over 1.5 liters of wine.

The current plan is to let the wine rest until Thanksgiving, to see if the SG drops a bit more. At that time we’ll rack off the gross lees, degas, and add fining agents.


11/22/2021

I checked the SG of the 3 gallon carboy — it’s still 0.999. I’m surprised it hasn’t dropped a point or 3.

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