Introducing Our Wine Contributor

Hi! My name is Jean-Paul, I am a winemaker and I love it!  When people first meet me, my friends try to warn them not to ask me about wine.  When I start talking about it, I can’t help but share everything I know.  I love what I do, and I love to share my knowledge and experience with others. I had never intended to become a winemaker, but well …. life had different plans for me. During my time at the University of Wageningen in Holland, I got infected by a winebug; so after finishing my degree I headed to France to work in the famous wine region of Burgundy.  Eventually, I completed my Masters Degree in Winemaking and Viticulture in France and Germany.

Wine Cave

Into the Wine Caves of Laguardia

In the last couple of years I visited many wineries, tasted thousands of wines, and worked in four different wine countries. The more I learn about wine, the more passionate I become about this beautiful product. You can read hundreds of books about wine, but it will never be the same as going to a wine region, seeing the vineyard, visiting the cellar where the grapes are transformed into wine, and tasting each wine with the local food. This belief is what made me travel to the vineyards in France, Germany, South Africa, and lately to Spain. Nowadays, I live in Spain, specifically, San Sebastian where I work as a wine tour guide for a small company called San Sebastian Food.

I am excited to share my knowledge and passion with you!  I will post stories about wine and answer any questions you may have.  I really don’t have the intention to turn you into a wine snob. With my stories I want to make wine and the wine making process more understandable and therefore more enjoyable. There are many subjects I can write about, so please let me know if you have any questions, I am keen on answering them!

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9 responses to “Introducing Our Wine Contributor

  1. ok Jean-Paul– my hands are sweating as I am about to embark on my first home vintner’s adventure with some local (local being Northern CA) Zinfandel grapes. To MLF or not to MLF the Zin… That is MY question! Please advise!

  2. I would say yes, let your Zinfandel go through Malolactic Fermentation (MLF). Almost all reds go through MLF to make them smoother and softer. For white wine though we tend to prevent MLF to retain more freshness and minerality.

    The Malolactic fermentation will almost always start naturally. The only things you have to make sure of is: the temperature (room temperature), and the amount of sulfites in your wine (<80 mg/L).Don't worry when it takes a while before the wine is finished with the MLF: it can take more then a month.

    Just make sure you keep your wine healthy in the mean while, protect it from excessive oxygen: use an airlock and make sure your jar/tank is full. The best way to test if your wine is healthy is to use your nose. If the wine starts to stink you have to take action.
    Let me know when you get into trouble!

    JP

  3. THANK you!!!! I will initiate MLF.
    I bought oak chips, but don’t want to overwhelm my fruit with too much oak, so that’s another “question mark” in my head for embarking on the Zinfandel. Red Pasteur yeast is what I am planning to use, but am now wondering if I should plan to use another yeast more conducive and specific to making Zinfandel. I haven’t calibrated my refractometer yet to test brix, but since there is some raisining on the vines, and lots of low-flying birds, I am confident that the hang time has been sufficient. The grapes were grown organically (no sulfite spraying), but of course I plan to add sulfite. At any rate, with no powdery mildew or additional sulfite treatment in the vineyard, I am praying I don’t get a carboy full of “rotten egg”.

  4. If you’re planning on ageing your wine for some time (>1 years) the yeast you use will not really change your wine. Most aromas formed by yeasts are unstable and will disappear with time, although the yeast-manufacturing-companies want us to believe something else. Personally I believe we don’t need artificial yeast for making red wines, but anyway.

    Considering ripening: sugar-acid ripeness is just one of the things we look at. If there is already raisining occuring, I expect the sugar content to be sufficient.
    I would however taste the grapes and test especially the seeds. The seeds have to be ripe, if not they can give your wine some bad/bitter tanins (tannin ripeness). The seeds are ripe when they are (caramel) brown, and when you chew on them they should be crispy.
    The third ripeness is aroma ripeness. This is something very difficult to measure, as most aromas in the grape are fixed to the sugar in the grape, and are only liberated during fermentation.

    If you don’t want to over-oak your wine,use the smallest dose mentioned on the package. I would use a small proportion (say 2 gram per liter) during fermentation: it will help to stabalize the color. When you press off the wine, throw the chips away you used during fermentation, and add the other part of the chips.

    Good luck
    JP

  5. Again, many thanks. Fortunately I was able to test brix this evening with the refractometer that finally arrived in the mail. After calibration, I got a brix reading of 24. The acid test revealed a 63% T.A. but my pH reading (I am hoping) is off: slightly below 3.0. I used pHydrion strips, that provided readings within a range of 3.0 to 6.0. My strips didn’t even register on the range of color, though were nearing the 3.0 color mark. I should have probably invested in a more reliable meter for pH testing, or at the very least, I’ve been told I can take some of the must to my winemaker friends(indianpeakvineyards.net) tomorrow for more accurate testing in all categories. This slightly overly acidic pH reading concerns me, particularly if I am looking to initiate MLF. What adjustments, if any, can be made to an overly acidic must before primary fermentation begins?

    Bear in mind that this is a small scale project (25 lbs of grapes, about 1.5 gallons of wine, at best), for the purpose of becoming familiar with the process more so than for the purpose of producing a “superb end product”. Even so, I’d like to attempt things correctly, and take meticulous notes in the even that I “accidentally” make something drinkable…or detestable.

  6. I personally prever to work as natural as possible, so if I can, I don’t add any Tartaric acid, water or anything else strange to the wine.

    If your pH is too low, and so you acidity too high: wait with the harvest, or make champagne. All fruits (apples, pear etc) change during ripening from acidic and unattracktive, to sweet and flavourfull. A winemaker must do the right things on the right time. So if your fruits are too sour, wait longer, and accept the fact that you will end up with more alcohol. Keep in mind that you will lose some acidity during fermentation, and during MLF (0.1-0.2 pH units).

    ps. Make sure to take a representative sample. Meaning, the ripening of grapes change from plant to plant, bunch to bunch and even within the bunch you will find differences in ripeness. So make sure you sample a couple of berries from different plants/bunches/places within the bunch.

  7. Thank you Jean-Paul! yes, I did a random sampling when I did my initial brix test, taking a couple grapes from here, a few from there, etc. I was fortunate enough to get to visit the vineyard from where my zinfandel grew.

    I appear to be “stuck’at 6* brix right now, though the hydrometer reads 1.000 sp.gr. The stuff is pretty tart/sour, and the cap is no longer rising, though there are a few bubbles that release when stirring up the lees. My TA is .63, and finally broke down and purchased a pH meter, which is conditioning at the moment. I haven’t pressed yet (not sure if I should press BEFORE inoculating with MLF or if I should introduce mlf AFTER pressing. Thankfully, however, no off odors. I’ll take that as a sign of something good!

  8. If your fermentation is really stuck (no bubbles any longer). You should take the wine of the lees and press it; re-inoculated the wine with yeast (follow the instructions for re-inoculation of stuck fermentation on the package).

    If you’re are going to inoculate the wine with Malolactic bacteria you should do it after pressing the wine.

    good luck

  9. Thanks Jean-Paul!
    I chickened out on MLF with my zinfandel (pH was not conducive to successful MLF), but I did press my cab last weekend and inoculated with MLB. I think it’s all going well. If I end up with a too-acidic Zin and a too-flabby Cab, I’ll just make a blend! 🙂

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