Once paid for, I seatbelt my vignoles to the back seat of the Buick and set for home. It is a three hour drive from the Finger Lakes. The air gap beneath the lid creates a lot of sloshing, which is bad, because the juice will oxidize. I spray the inside with neutral gas Private Preserve, which blankets the wine when still, but oxygen still splashes about.

To suppress the sound show in the back seat, I stop by a few more wineries. Once tipsy enough, I drive home. Three hours of achingly careful driving pass by. No turn is slow enough, no road smooth enough, no braking gradual enough to stop each worrying splosh.

Finally home, I detach my clenched body from the car seat. It is late and cold, which are good things, because we live at a college. Suspecting students and Campus Safety are indoors. I heft the seven gallons across the parking lot, down the hall, up the elevator and into our room without incident. Once the grape must is re-gassed, I sleep.

Sticker themometer...not as accurate as I would like...

The morning sun finds me testing the juice. Did it spoil en route? The color remains a hazy gold. The nose is all pineapple, honey, golden delicious apple. I taste it. The palate is sweet, with medium acidity, low tannin, medium body and medium length. But spoiled? Not yet. I still taste the tropics of the nose with extra hits of caramel apple, cinnamon and a crisp finish.

How much alcohol am I getting myself into? Fall Bright measured their 2010 vignoles at 23.8 Brix (the degree of sugar mass in 100 grams of liquid). If the yeasts fermented to the end, I would have a dry wine pushing past 13% alcohol. That much heat would burn out any fruity freshness on the palate.

Gravity gets specific...roughly around 1.094 SG

First, I need to level the playing field. The temperature I am working at is around 64F, which will effect my readings. Additionally, my wine kit tools are cheap. But they are the only standard I have. So, I drop in glass plumb bob hydrometer and pray it is close Fall Bright’s.

The Specific Gravity of  sugars bobs near 1.094 SG, the Brix is 23.5, the Potential Alcohol, potentially at 12.5%. Not too shabby for 19th century technology.

Great. What about acidity?

Potentially alcoholic...depending upon desire.

With some German reisling, balancing high acids with just enough sweetness can create mouthwatering wines with honeyed notes that finish cleanly.

The few vignoles-based wines I have tried also benefited from a touch residual sugar. The grape’s acidity is generally high, making it ideal for late harvest and ice wines. My vignoles’ 3.15 pH and 0.922 titratable acidity reflect the medium acidity that I tasted. However, if fermented to dry, those acid levels would seem massively higher. So I need to stop fermentation or add sugar or juice in the end to keep the wine balanced.

Before all that, to avoid another oxidizing panic like my first wine, I dump an extra gallon into my tank. That way, with seven gallons, my glass carboy can spend the month settling through many a vigorous racking without worry of turning to vinegar.

Just in case racking wipes it all away.

Next step: fermentation…maybe.


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