Waitrose merlot grape juice

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Waitrose merlot grape juice

Postby tonyhibbett » Wed Oct 25, 2017 11:03

Getting pure pressed varietal grape juice that is not concentrate is not easy. You get some in the most expensive kits. You can simply go to Waitrose and buy enough for a gallon, but larger quantities need to be ordered. I tried to place an order for 20 litres, but none of the local stores have a collection facility. The only option was delivery which is free for a minimum order value of £60. There is no option to pay for delivery! So I bit the bullet and ordered 40 litres, totalling exactly £60, with a £4 bulk discount. 2 large crates arrived the next day at 6.30 am, the only available time slot. At 16% sugar, I calculated that for 5 gallons I would need 20 litres of juice, 2 kilos of sugar and 1.5 litres of water for an OG of 1090. It turned out to be 1095, but as the juice arrived chilled and the very high proportion used, 1090 would be the corrected value. The juice is pure pressed, not from concentrate and pasteurised, not ultra heat treated (long life). This means a rather limited shelf life (best before December) and a cool storage requirement. This means I would need to start a second batch straight after the first, storing the other 20 bottles outside in the shade. Fermentation of the first batch can be completed in the barrel in which it will be left to mature, to save time.
As the juice was too cold to add yeast, I warmed up half a litre and added the yeast to that and used a 60 watt brew belt to start warming the rest.
Taking account of the added sugar and water, this is an 85% pure non-concentrate merlot 5 gallon brew, costing little more than £1 per bottle. How many kits can claim that!
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Re: Waitrose merlot grape juice

Postby HTH1975 » Wed Oct 25, 2017 12:29

I like the sound of this. I’d probably only do 10L mind - just to dip my toe in the water, so to speak.

2016: 330L brewed (72 gallons, over 8 firkins)
2017: 105L brewed (need to update this figure)
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Conditioning: ciders from 2016, hedgerow barrolo, 1914 Courage RIS (10%).
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Re: Waitrose merlot grape juice

Postby robwalker » Wed Oct 25, 2017 18:00

I've seen people brew with this before, and general consensus is it lacks body because there juice is removed from the skins. On that logic you might wish to blend when the batch is done, or maybe split some with elderberries or similar - good luck!
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Re: Waitrose merlot grape juice

Postby HLA91 » Wed Oct 25, 2017 18:26

I made 1 gallon of this using a can of concentrate, and even then I think it needed a little something. I'm going to add a pint of "banana gravy" to my next batch and see how that turns out.
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Re: Waitrose merlot grape juice

Postby tonyhibbett » Thu Oct 26, 2017 09:14

Merlot grape juice used for wine can contain as much as 23% sugar and is fermented with the skins and pips. The tannin content is naturally low, about half that of cabernet sauvignon. In this case the colour is extracted in some other way and the tannin content would be very low, which may account for 'something lacking'. Therefore I have added some. According to the pH meter, the acidity is rather high, at 2.9, but titration gives a reading of 5 ppt (as tartaric), which is on the low side.
Having used a yeast starter and the brew belt, fermentation is well under way. Because fermentation generates heat, I have switched off the brew belt.
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Re: Waitrose merlot grape juice

Postby tonyhibbett » Fri Oct 27, 2017 11:35

I added 50 g of oak chips, which adds a little tannin. The tannin powder I used was well out of date (bb 9/2015!) and consequently had little effect so I bought a fresh batch. When I mixed 3 teaspoons with some of the wine to dissolve it I got a vigorous foaming reaction, unlike before, confirming that the old stuff was basically just inert powder. Perhaps yeast really likes tannin, which is acidic. The pH has changed to 2.7, but this is due to the co2. I recalibrated the pH meter and got 3.1.
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Re: Waitrose merlot grape juice

Postby tonyhibbett » Sat Oct 28, 2017 10:27

Adding fresh tannin at this stage was a bad idea. It has a clarifying effect, which is why the higher tannin content of red wine helps it clear more readily than white wine. As a result the yeast got sent to the bottom and fermentation has ground to a virtual halt at sg 1070. A good stir, the addition of nutrient and fresh yeast have revived the brew, which is now audibly fizzing again.
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Re: Waitrose merlot grape juice

Postby tonyhibbett » Sun Oct 29, 2017 12:01

Having left the brew belt on overnight, the temperature has risen to 28 c, which is somewhat excessive! However this has greatly accelerated the fermentation, now down to 1030 from 1070 in 24 hours.
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Re: Waitrose merlot grape juice

Postby tonyhibbett » Mon Oct 30, 2017 12:23

With the brew belt switched off, the temperature has dropped to 22, which is still 2 degrees above room temperature. No adverse effect on fermentation, with the sg now down to 1015 after just 5 days.
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Re: Waitrose merlot grape juice

Postby tonyhibbett » Tue Oct 31, 2017 13:47

With the sg down to 1010, it's time to transfer to the barrel, which is outside and full of wine. Transferring that to the polypin was straightforward enough, via the tap. Replacing the tap required the use of a mole wrench, which came in handy for fitting the the new tap, which needed to be threaded into the wood. It didn't end up perfectly straight but is watertight and doesn't drip. Obviously, te barrel needs to stay inside to complete fermentation and an unused coffee table serves the purpose as a stand. The barrel is a pin (4.5 gallons, 18.5 litres), so the excess wine went into a dj. This will be more than enough for topping up.
The red wine from the barrel is delicious and is probably one of last year's elderberry and blackberry variants.
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Re: Waitrose merlot grape juice

Postby tonyhibbett » Thu Nov 02, 2017 10:47

Now the first batch is completing fermentation in the cask, it's time to start the second batch and I have ordered a new 20 litre cask for it. In terms of imparting flavour, a cask is said to have a life of 3 years. A standard wine barrel holds 60 gallons and costs about £300, holding about 300 bottles. If it does 3 batches, the cost per bottle is 33p. The cask I ordered costs £96 (including cork bung, stand, wooden tap and delivery) holds 5 gallons and in practise you get about 25 bottles. 3 batches over 3 years is 75, so about £1.30 per bottle, in this case doubling the cost of the wine.
The first cask (10 gallon) I bought was obviously very old, £10 at a boot fair. It needed a new hoop, tap, bung and stand and leaked badly. When fixed, I filled it with chardonnay and left it for a year. What came out was pretty much the same as what went in, perhaps slightly darker. However, the wine re-conditioned the cask so when I refilled it with pinot noir, I got a better result, although not outstanding. This further conditioned the cask and the next batch of pinot noir was really good.
When I bought a new cask (5 litre) the first batch (a 'sort of' port) had too strong a flavour from the wood, which spoiled the taste. Subsequent batches were much better.
The size of the cask makes a significant difference to the maturation time of the wine. Each doubling of size reduces the surface contact area in proportion to the wine by about 20%. This reduces the rate of maturation and loss of volume through evaporation of water by the same amount.
To offset the strong flavour of a new cask, merlot is sometimes matured in both new and 2 year old casks and then blended before bottling, which is what I intend to do.
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Re: Waitrose merlot grape juice

Postby tonyhibbett » Sun Nov 05, 2017 14:23

The new cask will not be available until the 25 of this month, which is hardly surprising as demand for them would be high at this time of year.
Early signs of the first batch suggest a rather pale colour so I have ordered some dried elderberries to add to the second batch.
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Re: Waitrose merlot grape juice

Postby tonyhibbett » Thu Nov 09, 2017 12:25

I was pleasantly surprised to find a sample from the surplus tasted very good, even at this stage. It was fairly clear so I thought I would try to finish it off with filtering. However, the filter got clogged at just 2 bottles, so waste of a pad. After the recent experience with fresh tannin, I added half a teaspoon to the rest to see if it would clear it. Using the very dark chestnut tannin, the immediate effect was to darken the wine. There was no reaction, as before, which rather confirms the idea that it reacts with yeast, since very little of that is left in the wine.
The second batch is fermenting much more sedately, down to 1025 from 1090 after 8 days.
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Re: Waitrose merlot grape juice

Postby rlemkin » Thu Nov 09, 2017 17:29

I've enjoyed this thread. I'm going to go get some of this grape juice, but to put in beer. Will probably trek to a Waitrose when the Fullers mixed box is released and pick up some then.
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Re: Waitrose merlot grape juice

Postby tonyhibbett » Fri Nov 10, 2017 14:04

The chestnut tannin left a distinct woody taste and did nothing to clear the wine, so I used a light dose of Clear It, which produced a few mm of sediment, removed the woody taste but still left a haze. A second treatment did the same, so I will just leave it to clear by itself.
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Re: Waitrose merlot grape juice

Postby tonyhibbett » Sun Nov 12, 2017 13:12

The second batch, down to 1000, is ready to go in the cask, but this wont arrive before fermentation is complete.
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Re: Waitrose merlot grape juice

Postby tonyhibbett » Wed Nov 22, 2017 10:22

The new cask arrived 2 days early, from Italy, it seems. Usually I fit a stainless steel tap instead of the wooden one provided. However, the hole was too wide, so I had to fit the wooden one, then fill with water to get the wood to swell and stop the usual leaks. No leaks - not even the tap! The cask is varnished and the ends have been painted, sealing the ends of the staves and the joints. This means the cask will breathe much more slowly than usual. The next job is to assess the actual volume, which turned out to be 22 litres, which is almost perfect for a 5 gallon brew. Usually a new cask swells significantly when first filled, but overnight the volume had increased just 100 ml. The bung is wooden, fits perfectly and is easy to grip for removal, but the hole is too small to take a standard bored bung and airlock, so it's just as well that the fermentation has completed. Although the tap doesn't leak, it is very stiff with just a 3 mm bore so pretty useless. In order to drain the water, I had to remove it. I will have to devise a collar for the steel tap at some stage, or simply use a siphon with a sediment trap.
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Re: Waitrose merlot grape juice

Postby tonyhibbett » Sat Feb 24, 2018 14:10

3 months on I sampled the first batch. It didn't taste very good but I have found this to be the case when sampling straight from the barrel. A further period of maturation in bottle is usually required. However, the second batch, matured in the new barrel, tasted very good. I usually find the first batch in a new barrel is excessively 'oaked', but not so with this one. Meanwhile the 3 litres of the surplus wine which has been sitting unoaked in a dj, actually tastes like genuine article, although not exactly top of the range, but much better than the batch in the old barrel.
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Re: Waitrose merlot grape juice

Postby tonyhibbett » Sun Feb 25, 2018 15:01

I racked the first batch and removed a lot of sediment. This did nothing to improve the flavour. In fact I suspect acetification. The unpleasant taste was easily rectified by adding 90 g of potassium bicarbonate to neutralise the acetic acid plus sulphite to kill off the bacteria. Acetification turns alcohol into acetic acid. I compared the 2 batches with a vinometer and got the same result, 12.5% abv, so luckily I have stopped the process in its early stage. Next time I will make sure the cask is thoroughly sanitised before filling and also add sulphite to the wine.
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Re: Waitrose merlot grape juice

Postby tonyhibbett » Tue Feb 27, 2018 15:57

Blending the contents of the 2 casks required a bit of thought. I could have poured the lot into a sterile plastic dustbin but opted for a more subtle approach. I siphoned the contents of the second cask into a 5 gallon bin, adding sulphite to be on the safe side, rinsed out the cask then poured half of the contents back into the cask. I then added half of the contents of the first cask and the remaining contents of the 2nd cask from the bin into the first cask. I recovered 300 ml from the 400 ml dregs of the second cask and used this to top up.
I sampled the result and found the wine somewhat harsh so decided a further period of cask maturation was the best course.
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