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How Long To Leave Grape Skins In?


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#1 FenwayDave

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 03:37 AM

I'm making my first non-kit wine. I purchased 6 gallons of Marechal Foch juice from a winery, which came with skins. My question is, how long do I leave the skins in the juice during fermentation? I've talked with a few of my friends that make wine and gotten some different answers (ranging from 5 days to complete fermentation). I am wondering if there is a consensus here.

Also, what is the best way to remove the skins? I am using a plastic bucket for primary fermentation...do I just skim the skins off the top? Should I rack the wine into a glass carboy at that time, or continue to let it ferment in the bucket? The juice has been fermenting since Saturday night, and is currently fermenting so vigorously that it's blowing most of the water out of my airlock. (I've been punching down the cap twice a day, and each time I have to add more water to the air lock.)

I'm sure this has been discussed before, but I searched the forums and couldn't find anything. Thanks very much for the advice!

#2 Howie

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 03:53 AM

Welcome to the wonderful world of fresh grapes. Your pail is what we normally refer to as a primary fermenting vessel. You do not need a tight fitting lid and it should be no more that 2/3 to 3/4 full. The accumulation of CO2 in the container will prevent oxygen exposure and keep the flies at bay. You should be "punching down the cap" (pushing the skins down, back into the liquid) 2-3 times daily. Foch does have a lot of pigmentation, but not a lot of tannins, so it would be best to ferment on the skins until the fermentation is complete, to extract as much tannins as you can from the skins and seeds. For a small batch like this (I assume you don't have a wine press), scoop as much of the skins off as you can and put them into a nylon straining bag. Then transfer the remaining wine through a strainer into your carboy. Then, squeeze out the juice in the nylon bag into the carboy. From now on you will need to keep the carboy full. Good luck.
Howie Hart

#3 Juniper Hill

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 05:57 AM

Howie's advice is very sound. The only thing I would do differently is press a little before the end of fermentation (about SG 1.02 or 1.01) and let the wine finish up in a carboy. Foch is a wonderfully robust hybrid grape, but it is plagued by a "foxy" character if left on the skins too long. I actually find the flavor quite pleasant, but there are many that do not. Consider supplemental tannin and oak treatment.

I'll be doing a carbonic maceration Foch in a few weeks...hopefully it works out.

Good luck!

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#4 FenwayDave

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 02:15 PM

Thanks very much for the replies, I really appreciate it.

I've been trying to decide whether I am going to oak or not, but I hadn't thought about adding additional tannins. I will have to look into that some more.

Thanks again!




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