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Making Wine From "frontenac" Grapes


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#1 PPierquet

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Posted 06 October 2005 - 08:15 AM

Anna Katharine Mansfield, the enologist at the University of Minnesota, has recently published a guide to making wines from the cold-hardy grape "Frontenac".....a very well-written guide. http://winegrapes.co.../frontenac.html

#2 bantam9

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Posted 06 October 2005 - 08:43 AM

Thanks for the heads up on that. I have a small row planted and have been curiouswhat to do do if I have through the roof acid. I plan on VSP trellis and leaving the fruit on as long as possible to reduce acid. I can't wait to get grapes from this variety.

#3 BlueDoorVineyard

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Posted 06 October 2005 - 10:02 AM

I've got my very first batch of Frontenac wine in secondaries now. At crush the TA came out to 1.1% or 11 g/L. At this point, you can taste the acidic bite pretty easily. I will be adding a malolactic culture this weekend and watching to see how much the acidity drops. I'll cold stabilize it during the early part of winter. This fruit came from a vineyard about 30 miles northeast of my location (we're near Stillwater, MN).

On a related note, the folks at Great River Vineyard in Lake City, MN have had luck reducing acid in their Frontenac grapes by training them to VSP. The TA of the grapes at harvest 2004 was .7% as I recall. Here's a link to an article they wrote about it:
http://www.greatrive...m/Frontenac.htm


Don
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#4 Purple Tooth

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Posted 06 October 2005 - 12:49 PM

QUOTE (PPierquet @ Oct 6 2005, 06:47 AM)
Anna Katharine Mansfield, the enologist at the University of Minnesota, has recently published a guide to making wines from the cold-hardy grape "Frontenac".....a very well-written guide.  http://winegrapes.co.../frontenac.html


Yikes why not some hydrochloric acid and sugar? Anyway the article was interesting and some points for French hybrids too. Hard to believe those brix levels in the Northwoods. Every once in awhile my Foch have a bad weather year approaching 8 to 10 TA and I usually start by adding some water and balance it out with sugar to maintain the sg. A few times I've used chalk in the primary with out any off tastes but like to stay away from it. Potassium Carbonate and cold storage usually brings it in line. I've done mlf once, but didn't care for the flavor with Foch, plus if you have a large quanity and not indoors maintaining temperature is a problem.

I like the things she said about the skins as I believe that it's the same with Foch and while I've tried to keep the time short before pressing - this year will be even shorter - hopefully three days. On the other had my lemberger will be a small batch about 10 gals and I'll be going a week plus and with that small of amount I may try that pumping it off the seeds mythod early.

Great info and I bet it'll make some wine with care.

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#5 PPierquet

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Posted 06 October 2005 - 01:23 PM

QUOTE (BlueDoorVineyard @ Oct 6 2005, 10:34 AM)
On a related note, the folks at Great River Vineyard in Lake City, MN have had luck reducing acid in their Frontenac grapes by training them to VSP. The TA of the grapes at harvest 2004 was .7% as I recall. Here's a link to an article they wrote about it:
http://www.greatrive...m/Frontenac.htm
Don
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Don - I'm familiar with that article. I'd suggest caution in interpreting their conclusions...this was not a bonafide replicated experiment. As I read the article, it appears that the VSP-trained vines were younger than the top-wire cordon vines. As younger vines, they likely had a sparser canopy, which would afford greater sunlight exposure to the fruit. As you know, exposing the fruit to direct sunlight causes an increase in berry temperature, and consequent decrease in acidity. So, the lower acid content may have nothing at all to do with the training system per se; it may have simply been due to better sunllight exposure on the fruit, due to the sparser canopy. Greater sunlight exposure can also be achieved by taking the more vigorous top-wire trained vines, and converting the trellis to a Geneva Double Curtain, which effectively doubles the length of the canopy. This would result in a less dense canopy and greater sunlight exposure to the fruit, while retaining the ease of pruning inherent in any top wire cordon system. Just my 2-cents' worth.....

Patrick

#6 dhudson

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Posted 06 October 2005 - 01:31 PM

Good luck doing MLF on Frontenac. I've tried several times -- never could get it off the ground. I think the pH was too low. Lots of people recommend doing MLF on high-acid grapes like this, but at TA levels of 1.3 to 1.4% (pH around 3.0) I don't think that really works.

Fortunately, the grapes I picked at Great River last month tested out with a TA around 0.8% to 0.9%. This is MUCH lower than in previous years, so I'm hoping I won't have to do much to this year's batch, to adjust the acidity. In prior years, I have used pot. bicarbonate, and I just didn't like the results much. It did lower the acidity, but it just seemed to me that it took away much of the liveliness of the wine.

In terms of skin contact, it doesn't seem to make a lot of difference as far as I can see -- the juice is so dark right at crush that even with no skin contact, you are making a "red" wine, not (IMHO) a rose. I leave the skins and seeds in for a week or so anyway, just to get what tannins I can.

It is a challenging grape to deal with, but it does grow well up here in the frozen North.

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#7 Brad B.

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Posted 06 October 2005 - 04:54 PM

QUOTE (dhudson @ Oct 6 2005, 02:03 PM)
Good luck doing MLF on Frontenac.  I've tried several times -- never could get it off the ground.  I think the pH was too low.  Lots of people recommend doing MLF on high-acid grapes like this, but at TA levels of 1.3 to 1.4% (pH around 3.0) I don't think that really works.

Fortunately, the grapes I picked at Great River last month tested out with a TA around 0.8% to 0.9%.  This is MUCH lower than in previous years, so I'm hoping I won't have to do much to this year's batch, to adjust the acidity.  In prior years, I have used pot. bicarbonate, and I just didn't like the results much.  It did lower the acidity, but it just seemed to me that it took away much of the liveliness of the wine. 

In terms of skin contact, it doesn't seem to make a lot of difference as far as I can see -- the juice is so dark right at crush that even with no skin contact, you are making a "red" wine, not (IMHO) a rose.  I leave the skins and seeds in for a week or so anyway, just to get what tannins I can.

It is a challenging grape to deal with, but it does grow well up here in the frozen North. 

Doug



I've managed to get MLF done on Frontenac the past two years. In fact, the bacteria have taken right to it, due to the high level of malic acid. I used Chr. Hansen Viniflora Oenos on it.

In terms of acid reduction, you can also just ameliorate with water prior to fermentation. I know some people would scoff at this, but with a grape like Frontenac you will not notice a difference in either color or flavor up to about 20% water. In fact it probably helps the flavor since many find the Frontenac flavor "different" and quite over the top.

I agree that a rose is out of the question since the juice itself is red, unlike traditional grapes. I recently did a whole cluster press of a similar variety out of MN--I think it was MN 1220 and the juice came out of the press dark as night. Even with the most minimal skin contact the juice and resulting wine look like a dark red wine.
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#8 Purple Tooth

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Posted 07 October 2005 - 05:33 AM

QUOTE (Brad B. @ Oct 6 2005, 03:26 PM)
In terms of acid reduction, you can also just ameliorate with water prior to fermentation.  I know some people would scoff at this, but with a grape like Frontenac you will not notice a difference in either color or flavor up to about 20% water.  In fact it probably helps the flavor since many find the Frontenac flavor "different" and quite over the top. 

I agree that a rose is out of the question since the juice itself is red, unlike traditional grapes.  I recently did a whole cluster press of a similar variety out of MN--I think it was MN 1220 and the juice came out of the press dark as night.  Even with the most minimal skin contact the juice and resulting wine look like a dark red wine.


Actually the addition of some water with these non vv grapes would always be first choice and easily done at pre fermentation. I've never added as much as 20%, but nice to know. Actually rather than 'scoff' I believe it's a better 'must' and end product.

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#9 sint

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 07:32 PM

Has anyone tried Frontenac wine yet? What did you think of it? I live in MPLS and I have not been able to find any Front wine or many other MN wines for that manner. My wife and I are planning a trip to Stillwater and I hope to visit a couple wineries there.

#10 BlueDoorVineyard

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 07:58 PM

QUOTE (PPierquet @ Oct 6 2005, 01:55 PM)
Don - I'm familiar with that article.  I'd suggest caution in interpreting their conclusions...this was not a bonafide replicated experiment.  As I read the article, it appears that the VSP-trained vines were younger than the top-wire cordon vines.  As younger vines, they likely had a sparser canopy, which would afford greater sunlight exposure to the fruit.  As you know, exposing the fruit to direct sunlight causes an increase in berry temperature, and consequent decrease in acidity.  So, the lower acid content may have nothing at all to do with the training system per se; it may have simply been due to better sunllight exposure on the fruit, due to the sparser canopy.  Greater sunlight exposure can also be achieved by taking the more vigorous  top-wire trained vines, and converting the trellis to a Geneva Double Curtain, which effectively doubles the length of the canopy.  This would result in a less dense canopy and greater sunlight exposure to the fruit, while retaining the ease of pruning inherent in any top wire cordon system.  Just my 2-cents' worth.....

Patrick


Patrick,

Regarding your point that GRV's experience wasn't a bonafide experiment, I couldn't agree more. My first thought when I read their article was to wonder if they would continue to see numbers like that in subsequent seasons. Time may tell, I guess. In my case, I only have a few Frontenac vines and can't afford the luxury of changing to a lower yielding training system. So I'll likely do the best I can with strategic leaf pulling and adjustments to the vines as they grow. Thanks for the informative posts about Frontenac!
Don
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#11 BlueDoorVineyard

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 08:03 PM

QUOTE (sint @ Oct 9 2005, 08:04 PM)
Has anyone tried Frontenac wine yet?  What did you think of it?  I live in MPLS and I have not been able to find any Front wine or many other MN wines for that manner.  My wife and I are planning a trip to Stillwater and I hope to visit a couple wineries there.


Sint,

While in Stillwater, check out Northern Vineyards on main street. Last time I was there, tastings were free. I liked their Frontenac varietal enough to buy a couple bottles to take home. On your way to Stillwater, check out St. Croix Vineyards. They're just a couple blocks north of Highway 36 on Manning Avenue - same property as the apple orchard there. They also produce a Frontenac varietal that's worth a try.

Also for a list of MN wineries, check out http://www.mngrapes....dswineries.html.
Don
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#12 dhudson

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Posted 09 October 2005 - 09:40 PM

Alexis Bailly makes limited quantities of a straight Frontenac wine -- so far it appears to be available only at the winery (near Hastings, MN, just south of MPLS/St Paul). Northern Vineyards and St Croix Vineyards (both in Stillwater) both make Frontenac wines, which may be more widely available. Falconer Vineyards (a recent addition, in Red Wing) also lists a Frontenac. Morgan Creek (New Ulm) offers a wine they call Puck's Pride, described as 100% Frontenac. Several of the other Minnesota wineries are growing Frontenac, but don't (yet) offer a straight Frontenac wine.

I've tried the Northern Vineyards and Bailly versions -- to me, both seem a bit lifeless. I got the same kind of result the year I treated my Frontenac with pot. bicarbonate, to get the acidity down closer to the "normal" range. (It was still pretty high. I think I managed to bring it down from 1.4% to around 0.9% TA). Commercial versions of Frontenac have only been made for the past 5 or 6 years, I think. As Nan Bailly commented a year or so ago, winemakers are still trying to figure out the best ways of dealing with the challenges of this grape.

I had planned on doing pretty substantial "amelioration" this year (more than 20%, say closer to 50%) as in the past couple years, I've had better luck with my second run Frontenac than the first runs. The acidity on the grapes I got this year from Great River was so much lower, though, that I decided to leave it alone and take my chances. My fingers are still crossed . . .


Doug
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#13 Seb

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Posted 10 October 2005 - 11:40 AM

Here in Quebec Frontenac is growth in many vineyard. They are all trained in a VSP system as far as I know. I have taste many Frontenac wines in the last few years and most are good but none are great wines IMHO. I make wine this year from Frontenac I got from my friend's vineyard. This variety have high sugar when fully ripe in the 25-27 Brix and can hit 28-30 if left hang on the vines. The problem as everyone discuss is the high acidity that are in the 11 - 14 gr/L. This high acidity is mainly malic acid. Adding water is an option but I do not like the idea with this variety as Frontenac is a medium body wine and it will tend to dilute the body of the wine. I beleive that the best solution and key component to get a good wine is to blend it with a less acidic variety. It will also help by reducing the brix number to a more confortable 24 Brix. Most hybrid ripen at 20-22 brix and almost any other red hybrid will have less acidity than Frontenac. Ste-Croix, Sabrevois, Lucy Kulhman, MN1211, etc. A straight Frontenac will not give a great wine as it will be one dimensional and too acidic.

Frontenac however, can make a very nice port style wine if left to hang on the vine and harvest at 28-30 Brix. At that brix level, the acidity will still be high in the 10-11 gr/L range. But this is perfect to make a port style wine !

An other tips to reduce Frontenac acidity ( and probably the best alternative to the water addition and the chemical de-acidification ) is the use of en encapsulated yeast that convert malic acid to ethanol during fermentation. So it is use at the same time than the regular yeast strain. An exemple of this special yeast is the Lalvin ProMalic. This can reduce the TA from 12 gr/L to less than 10-9gr/L after the fermentation. You can keep some malic acid in the wine by removing the encapsulated yeast and doing a conventional MLF to add complexity. A good strain of ML bacteria that are able to work at low pH level is the Lalvin MBR31, this is the one I use on all my hybrid variety. Also, further cold stabilisation will reduce the TA to a more acceptable range. I want to add that ageing in a used oak barrel for 1 year and more is a key in developement of the wine and the complexity of the flavors. Lastly, this year I tried Opti-Red and Tannin VR Supra during the fermentation and it really help. The wine already taste great. However, this is a field blend and not pure Frontenac. The blend consist of Frontenac, Rondot, Cabernet Severnyi and a little Michurinetz. I add some oak chips in the primary and will add some Stavin french oak cubes later on.

Edited by Seb, 10 October 2005 - 11:44 AM.

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