What do I do with the fruit ?

In the last year we have bought a small addition to our house/ruin in the
Provence, some 20 miles from Chateauneuf. We actually bought the piece
of land to build some more parking space, but due to other projects I did
not get round to do it.

However, with the land comes some vines, some 50 Grenache vines around 40-50
years old. They were not in good shape, so I cut them back considerably.
I hadn´t thought about what to do with the fruit this autumn and the idea
came to my mind that I could actually make some wine [wow.gif]

Now, how difficult would it be for a determined individual with a very moderate
knowledge of practical winemaking to do this ? Just throw the fruit in a bin and
let it ferment ? I could probably get a grower nearby to press the juice for me.

Whadday´all think ? Crazy foolish plan or is there a chance that I could produce
something drinkable ?


I suppose I should take this being the expert on 50 vine vineyards.

Your first challenge will be picking when the grapes are ripe. Grenache is really tricky because the grapes on the outside of the cluster can be shriveled and on the inside they are still pink. You’ll need to pull samples from inside the cluster to make sure everything is really ripe. You can buy a refractometer for $50-$75 (US) or see if someone might loan you one for 10 minutes. If all else fails, find a neighbor who makes good wine and pick when they do.

Next up is picking. Be harsh, be cruel, be tough. The number one mistake home winemakers make is using poor fruit. If it’s got rot, shrivel, fungus, pink berries, whatever, throw it out. The pros don’t think they have the skill to make something good out of something crappy, so don’t fool yourself, you won’t be able to either. Use only the best grapes.

Get some citric acid and sulfur. Whatever you decide to ferment in you’ll need to clean really well. For this scale operation, crushing isn’t really that important. If you have someone who will do it for you, or can rent a crusher then great. Otherwise put the grapes in your fermentation vat and jump in. Get yourself some Argon. There are lots of steps in this process where you’ll need to protect the juice and then wine from O2.

Fermentation should be easy for you. You can buy yeast, but I’d bet it goes on its own. If it’s your first time you’re probably better to buy though. Do your punch downs, and check your brix every day.

For you the hardest part is going to be pressing the must. This is really the point you’ll wish you had a friend with equipment. You can make due with various kitchen gadgets, but you’ll really wish you had at least a 35 gallon wood press ($500). After pressing you’ll need something to store/age the wine in. This can be tricky, and you’ll need the argon again for sure. You want to have enough to fill whatever storage device you use 100% plus some let over to refill the device as it evaporates.

The number two mistake home winemakers make is with sulfur. In general they add too much at crush and not enough later on. Keep that in mind.

That’s the 10 minute overview. I’ll tell you the best thing you can do though is find someone who you like who makes good wine. Say “I have 500 pounds of Grenache on my property, if you come take it will you give me back a few bottles when it’s done?”

Great advice, thank you Paul!!!

The other winemakers here will probably laugh themselves silly when they read about this, but hey,
everybody started small [cry.gif]

Ok then, into the details:

  • pressing: I can find somebody who will press the must for me (now it pays out that I spend so much money on Chateauneufs, a friendly winemaker agreed to do it for me)
  • picking: I’ll just do the “pick when the neighbour picks” approach (a refractometer I will also buy)
  • I have citric acid and sulphur but everybody tells me that the right amount of sulphur is much harder for small amounts of juice
  • Argon ? Uh, that needs some research
  • just giving away the fruit is also an option, but it doesn’t feel the same. I mean, would you give your baby
    to foster parents and come visit it once a week ?

Thanks again Paul for taking the time.


Good luck Christian, I am excited to see how it turns out. Worst case I bet you could make a pretty nice Rose.

During fermentation, be very careful to avoid suffocation from CO2 output. No joke.

But its only a true rose if you pick it early. That Saignee crap is too dark and sugary to be true rose. neener [stirthepothal.gif] [berserker.gif]

Argon is a heavy gas. I like it much better than CO2. Use it to protect your must before fermentation and while you wait to press. Anytime I move wine into a container that it does not fill 100% I use argon to protect the wine from air. For instance if I’m racking into a tank from a barrel, I’ll first put argon in the tank, then transfer the wine into the tank.

Your biggest risk with a small amount of wine is oxidation. Argon will help prevent that.

Besides, its great for welding 316L fittings. Available at any welding supply store.

OK, Argon is easily obtainably, found it as mentioned by Sheldon in a welding store.
It is not quite clear to me why it is better than CO2, but you are the pros…

Good luck Christian, I am excited to see how it turns out. Worst case I bet you could make a pretty nice Rose.

Thanks Eric, I will put my 50 or so bottles into Cellartracker [cheers.gif] .

Many thanks for the tips so far, will let you know when I found a suitable yeast, although I could
always try a spontaneous fermentation. Apparently this is “en vogue” among young winemakers at the moment.