Adventures of Janey Grapeseed

A Labor of Love, a Taste of Joy in Life

The Fermentation Happy Dance


Our wine is finally in for the season. What an adventure!

Birds got almost half the crop this year.


Gathered what remained and had a celebratory harvest breakfast.

Glad hearts all around.

We had everything we needed.

  • Equipment. (Thanks to the Berry Family, fellow winemakers and friends, for harvest and fermenting buckets and lab supplies. Thanks to Chris Smeaton, viticulturist, wine maker turned wine vendor, for use of his refractometer)
  • Help (Thanks to our gardening enthusiast daughter, Sharin who helped clip off the clusters with us).

Crush was fun. 🙂 Steve and I plucked off every good berry from the stems with gloved hands. We then used elliptical base glass wine bottles to “stomp” our fruit.

Pitched in basic red wine yeast and Covered the big yellow bin with a sheet.


Baby Touraine; 45 pounds of berries destemmed by hand, 21.5 Brix, 12 day primary fermentation

I later found out that what Steve dubs our Redneck wine making methods (destemming done by hand and open tank with a floating cap covered by a tarpaulin) are a common practice of Touraine, in the Loire Valley of France according to Emile Peynaud. That’s cool!



Fermentation began. No primary wash. No primary sulfites.

Anxiety frothed to the surface. Not so happy.

Does room temperature matter? Did I clean the closet/wine room well enough? Is the must too hot? Is punching down the cap two times a day too much handling or the proper thing to do? Are those few bubbles I see in the fermentation indicating that the yeast is not working well? Was the yeast starter mucked up? Is it supposed to look like that? Oh, I forgot to take the initial hydrometer reading; So sad to give up that statistic; there goes being able to calculate potential alcohol!

I don’t want to loose any wine because we don’t have that much to begin with. Can you add hydrometer test samples back into the must if the sample is still “clean”? Yes? Whew.

This year we wanted to do malolactic cultures and finish the wine differently. The must would have to be at 0 brix before adding the cultures. The must cap is falling. The must temperature is falling. A refractometer shows we have 5.1 brix still in the must. Temperature levels off. Days later a retest of the sugar content reports the same brix. Do we have a stuck fermentation? Will we be able to even do malolactic this year? What causes stuck wine? We did get herbicide damage (ignorance is NOT bliss.) again and and a few dried up clusters… Have our circumstances and choices wrecked the entire vintage?!

How does a winemaker fix a stuck batch? More reading and I’m about to go get B1 from the grocery store nutrition center to give fermentation a reboot.

Sound a tad spun up, don’t I? Being new to this and wanting so much for it to work out well is a little stressful.

We are so frustrated with the process and tense with each other.

Prayer. God please help us make wine. God help us to be pleasing to you in all of who we are. Amen.

One last hydrometer test.

0 Brix!!!!

Happy Dance. Joy replaces stress and anxiety. I feel a burden lifted.

We get to do the malolactic and finish the wine. Out come the carboys. Which one should we use – 5 gallon or 3 gallon? Are we aerating too much? Are we pressing too hard or too softly? How do you get the air lock to have the same amount of water in those reservoirs on both sides? Perhaps the malo culture will lower our acidity and take the tart taste down a couple notches… will it be enough to make it worth the effort? How much do we add to the smaller carboy? If we have wine to the top, how can we stir it each week without losing any wine?

So many things to learn. Thank you to people willing to share their expertise in our wine journey this season:

  • Brian Carter– Wine yeast specialist and blending educator (compacted yeasts do not add much to the wine. Not enough wine for the fermenting vessel? Add glass beads until your wine reaches the top.)
  • Ryan Raber – Wine grower and friendly fellow wine geek ( gifting a resource: Knowing and Making Wine by Emile Peynaud)
  • Jean-François Pellet Wine grower, winemaker, encourager, sustainability advocate, inventor – (Work wiser not smarter; pointing the way to a valuable grape growing resourceThe Science of Grapevines: Anatomy and Physiology by Markus Keller)

Most of all, thanks be to the God and Father of us all in whom and through whom and to whom are all things. He taught me so much already this wine making season.

God’s Fermentation Lesson:

Wine has a primary fermentation that prepares the way for the secondary or finishing fermentation. Before you roll your eyes at the basic obviousness of that statement, watch how the Bible and the wine adventure unfold into a parallel truth.

John the Baptist stirred the people up (primary fermentation) to connect fathers with sons, to call the people to repent and to bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Luke 3:8), to teach that One was coming who was greater than he who would baptize differently and so John prepared the way for the Christ, the finisher, to complete His work (malolactic fermentation).

When the people asked John about purification and the ministry of Jesus, John’s last testimony was this, John told them that he must decrease in order that He, the Christ, might increase. (John 3:25-35)

This is also true of fermenting wine. The grapes come in with a sugar reading somewhere in the 20-25 degrees Brix range. Our Marechal Foch came in at around 21.5 this year. We were advised to pick early because of weather and bird activity. So we did.

Through primary fermentation of dry wines, grape sugars are transformed and the end result is a 0 Brix reading…or should be. Only when sugars reach zero can the finishing work of the malolactic safely begin.

Bacteria are a bit risky. If sugars remain in solution or yeast is still active, the wine goes into a funk promoting off odors, colors, etc. Any number of things could go horribly wrong.

We would rather enjoy the fruit of our labor than toss it.

Wouldn’t you?

God does. I know it.

19 It happened that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus, and found some disciples. He said to them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” And they said to him, “No, we have not even heard whether [a]there is a Holy Spirit.” And he said, “Into what then were you baptized?” And they said, “Into John’s baptism.”Paul said, “John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in Him who was coming after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized [b]in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and prophesying. Acts 19:1-6New (NASB)

Finished wine is quality wine. Allow the primary sugar transformation (baptism for the forgiveness of sins) and the secondary fermentation (baptism with fire and the power of the Holy Spirit) to begin and finish your adventure, your wine- that life God calls you.

Happy Dance Prayer

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your [a]participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. [b]For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my [c]imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the [d]affection of Christ Jesus. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may [e]approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless [f]until the day of Christ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Philippians 1:3-11(NASB)


Author: Christine J. Webster

I am inspired to live because my Creator sent His beloved son to share His love with me.

2 thoughts on “The Fermentation Happy Dance

  1. I so enjoyed reading your adventures in winemaking this morning!

  2. Pingback: Grapes that Fall: make good wine all the time | Adventures of Janey Grapeseed

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