Chardonnay Workshop Notes
Colin Nicholson and Don Graham, September 26 &27, 2015
A well stocked wine store usually has a good selection of Chardonnay wine reflecting the popularity of that wine with consumers. The Chardonnay grape is cultivated throughout the world’s wine growing regions and the characteristics or styles of the wine made from the grape vary from robust low acidity California and Australia styles to elegant light and fruity French Chablis Chardonnay.
Through selection of grape sources and application of specific fermentation methods, the amateur wine maker can create a style of Chardonnay equivalent to one of the styles available commercially. Ultimately wine preference is an individual choice.
The theme of this workshop was creating a great Chardonnay wine in two different styles, the first being a full bodied fruit forward style, while the second being a full bodied, lightly oaked style that had undergone malolactic fermentation. The characteristic flavors of the first are pear and tropical fruit, while the second are melon, peach and tropical fruit with increased mouth feel and body contributed by malolactic fermentation, oak and sur lees aging. The workshop did not address the making of a lighter style.
Procedures used in creating both of these styles are largely the same. Where they diverge is in the use of new oak barrels for fermentation and malolactic fermentation in the oaked style Chardonnay. Wine makers who wish to create a fruit forward wine should select yeast for fermentation that will provide and enhance fruit flavours and that ferments well at cool temperatures. In addition, the winemaker creating a fruit forward style of wine may wish to undertake measures to prevent spontaneous malolactic fermentation such as maintaining sufficient sulphur dioxide levels in the juice and wine. Obviously, there is no exposure to oak with the fruit forward style.
1. Sourcing and Procurement
Great wines begin with great ingredients. Our presenters have experience with grapes procured from British Columbia, Washington and the Sonoma and Santa Maria regions of California. Characteristics of the grapes harvested vary year by year but in creating both styles the presenters both preferred fully ripened flavourful grapes that had a sugar content of at least 23-25 brix. This is best developed in warmer growing regions. It has also been the type of Chardonnay grape produced in the Okanagan Valley of BC in recent years. Other factors important to our presenters are cultivation practices employed by the grower, and the willingness of the grower to crop and harvest the grapes the grapes to the specifications of the purchaser. On rare occasions the grower may present the wine maker with grapes that require little if any adjustments, but in most cases the wine maker will need to adjust pH, titratable acidity (TA) and specific gravity to create the desired wine.
Receipt and Processing
Winemakers have more than one starting point in making a great Chardonnay. Excellent quality frozen juice is available. Though expensive, there are commercial sources of frozen Chardonnay juice that allow the wine maker the option of fermenting the wine at a convenient time. When working with frozen juice stir it vigorously after thawing in order to put precipitated acids and nutrients back into solution.
Grapes arriving at the crash pad should be evaluated by the winemaker prior to crushing. Examine the lot, taste the grapes and examined seeds for ripeness. Smell for signs of volatile acidity, an indication that spoilage maybe starting within the lot. Lots that are questionable and may contain overripe, moldy or damaged grapes need special attention. See Appendix 1 for specific information on processing questionable grapes.
To inhibit overgrowth by spoilage bacteria after crushing, the must should be treated with potassium metabisulfite solution at the rate of 25-100 parts per million or more free SO2, depending on grape condition or skin contact time.
It is the choice of the winemaker as to how long to wait before pressing. Some individuals press grapes immediately after crushing while others allow skin contact time by delaying pressing for up to 24 hours or longer. Longer skin contact time increases extraction of skin tannins. During the soak period pectic enzyme may be added to the must. This is increases yield at the time of pressing and improved post fermentation settling. Juice derived from initial gentle pressed juice must should be kept separate and fermented separately from hard pressed skins. Blend after fermentation to preferred taste.
Chardonnay is a good candidate for second runs, that is a wine made from the grape skins after pressing. Traditional methods call for skins that have been pressed once to be rehydrated with water to about two-thirds of the initial volume of juice. The skins and water are mixed with pectic enzyme and pressed about 12 to 24 hours later. Following measurements and lab analysis of both initial run and second run juices the resulting juice may be used in balancing juice from the first pressings or alternatively second run Chardonnay juice maybe fermented on its own following adjustments for pH, titratable acidity and specific gravity. All juice should receive additions of sulfur dioxide at the rate of 50 parts per million or more free SO2 prior to settling depending on grape condition. See Appendix 1
Lysozyme (see Appendix 1 & 2) is a useful product that may be added to the pressed juice. Lysozyme is a natural egg derived product that destroys gram-positive spoilage bacteria. Lysozyme should not be added to the Chardonnay juice at the same time as additions of sulphur dioxide.
Ideally the pressed juice should be allowed to settle for 24 hours or more under refrigerator temperature to separate the fermentable juices from the pulp. If a suitable refrigerator is not available considered freezing several sealed and sanitized plastic containers of water for this purpose a few days prior to your receipt of your grapes, and placing them in the pressed juice to cool it.
After racking fermentable juice off of the top the remaining pulp on the bottom maybe treated to harvest more fermentable juice. One method brought forward during the workshop is to pour the pulp into 2 litre plastic bottles and freeze. After they are frozen solid place the neck of the containers into a large funnel and place the funnel into a carboy to collect juices that melt from the frozen container of pulp. Clear juice will drip from the plastic containers for an initial period. Watch for signs of solids dripping into the carboy and stop the process when that appears.
During the settling period settling agents may be added to the juice. To reduce tannin derived bitterness gelatin may be added in small quantities. If you are using bentonite as an aid in settling aid do not use it at the same time as gelatin or as lysozyme. If after fermentation bitterness is still a problem in a wine one may add a small amount of tartaric acid to help reduce that bitterness.
There are four significant measurements that need to be conducted on your juice prior to fermentation. The first is determination of yeast assimilable nitrogen or YAN content in the grapes. Analysis is best performed by a qualified analysts and should be determined before the grapes are shipped. The remaining three are performed by the winemaker who should measure and determine the pH of the settled juice, the titratable acidity (TA) and a specific gravity. For accurate readings measurements of pH and titratable acidity should be performed on juice at room temperature. If you are freezing juice for fermentation at a later time all measurements should be completed prior to freezing as pH and TA readings are affected by freezing and thawing.
Your Chardonnay juice should have all necessary adjustments made to it prior to fermentation. Juice with a high pH is vulnerable to infection with undesirable bacteria and adjustments to pH and titratable acidity (TA) after fermentation are not as successful as adjustments made prior to yeast addition. On rare occasions grapes will arrive with ideal pH, TA and specific gravity but often adjustments will be required. For both full body fruit-forward chardonnay or oaked chardonnay our presenters aim for the following parameters by additions of sucrose and/or tartaric acid and/or water:
- pH 3.4 to 3.5
- Brix 24 – 25 although juice at 25 Brix or is more difficult to ferment to dryness
- TA -titratable acidity 5.8 or more grams per liter
Where large additions of sugar or tartaric acid are required, it is recommended that about half of the calculated amount be added and then the Juice resampled and analyzed. This is particularly important for tartaric acid additions as a relationship between the amount added and subsequent changes in pH of the juice are not linear. YAN levels in juice should be between 250 and 350 for ideal fermentation. Nutrient additions to boost YAN take place during fermentation and are described under “Yeast Nutrition” in the following section.
Fruit forward style: Sanitized primary fermenter, carboys, mixing equipment and transfer hoses
Oaked Chardonnay style: Sanitize primary fermenter, new oak barrel, oak cubes or oak staves, carboys, mixing equipment and transfer hoses
Download a Scott Lab fermentation handbook at www.scottlab.com
Our presenters use a variety of different yeasts that are available through our clubs or in stores that sell wine making supplies. They include D254, CY 3079, D47 for wine undergoing malolactic fermentation, and also include EC 1118, EC116, and Vin 13 for fruit forward Chardonnay. Yeast inoculation rate is 5gr of yeast per 5 gallons of juice.
Consult instructions provided in the Scottlab handbook and by the yeast manufacturer. The presenters have modified the procedure for Lalvin yeast as follows:
- Procedure A. Warm up two liters of juice in a bucket of hot water. Add Goferm to a small quantity of water at 110 degrees Fahrenheit at the rate of 7 grams of Goferm to 5 grams of yeast and mix. When the mixture has cooled to 104 degrees Fahrenheit sprinkle yeast on the surface. Do not stir. Allow the Goferm and yeast to rest for 20 minutes but no more than 30 minutes. By this time the yeast solution and the juice should be at about the same temperature, normally around 94 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour the yeast solution into the warm juice and leave in a warm place until fermenting vigorously. When this is achieved, usually over night, move the plastic bottle to the area where the juice is to be fermented and allowed it to cool slowly until juice and the started yeast solution are within 1 degree have each other. Then combine.
- Procedure B. Warm up the entire quantity of juice to be fermented to room temperature. Add Goferm to water at 110 degrees Fahrenheit followed by addition of Yeast as in the procedure A. After 20 minutes double the volume of this mixture by adding juice at room temperature. Wait 20 minutes and add juice to double the volume again. Repeat the procedure until the inoculum temperature matches the temperature of the juice, and then combine. Cool or move the entire quantity so that it may be fermented at the preferred temperature, which as described by the presenters for the fruit forward Chardonnay as ambient outside winter BC temperatures, and in the case of the oaked Chardonnay is 10 degrees Celsius.
Yeast Nutrition and Healthy Fermentations
Yeast nutrition is simplified if the source grapes have been analyzed for Yeast assimilable nitrogen (YAN) by a laboratory. While 250 and 350 YAN are required for good fermentation, there are variables. Different varieties of yeast have different nutrient requirements. High brix juice requires more nitrogen then lower brix juice and juice fermented longer at cooler temperatures has a lower nutrient requirement.
There are different regiments for providing yeast nutrients. Here are three mentioned by our presenters:
- Scott lab handbook. It recommends two feedings; the first after fermentation in the juice has started and the other at about one third sugar depletion.
- The Nanaimo protocols. The protocols take advantage of the feeding calculator available on the Nanaimo Winemakers website. The winemaker enters known information about the juice and yeast into the calculator and the results are displayed in three feedings. The first is after fermentation in the juice has begun. The second is about 1.075 specific gravity. The last feeding is about a specific gravity of 1.050.
- The third regiment is a simplified procedure using three feedings of Fermaid K at the rate of 1 teaspoon for 5 gallons of juice starting on day 3 of fermentation. The second takes place when fermentation is approximately half complete, while the last takes place when the specific gravity of the juice is around 1.030. Please note that when feeding with Fermaid K alone the maximum allowable amount of thiamine addition to wine permissible by the USA may be exceeded. Substitution of Fermaid K with Fermaid 0 (that does not contain thiamine) may be made using the calculator described in B.
While the entire fermentation process may take place in closed containers or carboys both presenters ferment in open fermenters and only transfer the wine into a closed container after the last feeding. Use of open fermenters permits air contact during the yeast multiplication phase and allows for easier management of foaming at the time nutrients are added to the fermenting wine. A method of increasing yeast health and vigor utilized by one of our presenters as a standard practice is to agitate and splash the wine to introduce oxygen at about 1.050 specific gravity.
Fermentation Monitoring and Problem Solving
Monitor fermenting wine on a regular basis. Monitoring specific gravity is necessary in order to manage nutrient additions. Monitoring for odors should be conducted twice a day until fermentation is complete. With very ripe grapes and very early in fermentation one may detect an acetone like odor (volatile acidity), but this should dissipate once fermentation begins. Later on the most common odor is hydrogen sulfide (H2S) also known as rotten egg smell. To resolve that odor problem nutrients are added to the fermenting juice, and following the addition the odor usually disappears. Diammonium phosphate (DAP) is a good choice of nutrient. Resolve all H2S odor problems during fermentation, if not resolved the odor problems and loss of varietal characteristics will continue into the finished wine. If one detects H2S after the time of last feeding the best method of reducing or eliminating the odor is to aerate the wine.
A stuck fermentation occurs when there are factors in the yeast environment that hinder full consumption fermentable sugars in the juice or the must. It is an unusual event but worth mentioning here. Depending on the wine one would consider a fermentation to be stuck when the specific gravity and the available sugars are above the target the winemaker has selected. A hydrometer and tasting usually can tell you if a fermentation is stuck, but a test kit for residual sugars is available (see Appendix 1). Juices with higher Brix tend to be more problematic than juices having lower brix but according to Wine Spectator there are numerous factors at play in stuck fermentations.
A simple solution for a stuck fermentation is to permit the wine to warm up if it is being fermented under cooler conditions. It was mentioned during the workshop that winemakers in previous decades would avoid bottling their wines in the spring but rather wait till the following fall because spring bottled wine with residual sugar would begin to ferment again after the weather warmed up, and spritz in the wine or popped corks could be a problem. Another method of preventing stuck fermentations used by some individuals is to double inoculate the wine late in fermentation. The first inoculant is the yeast added at the beginning of fermentation to create the wine while the second inoculant is usually an alcohol tolerant yeast such as EC 118, EC116 or UVA 43 added late in fermentation in order to ferment the wine to dryness. UVA43 in particular is used for stuck fermentations in commercial wines. A word of caution about using some of these yeasts is that they may inhibit a malolactic fermentation, if that is planned. Refer to the Scottlab website for more specific information.
When all else fails there are treatment procedures available for stuck fermentations described in the Scott Lab Fermentation Handbook and website.
5. Malolactic Fermentation
Reduction of malic acid in white wines through malolactic fermentation helps to stabilize the wine prior to bottling and softens the feel of the wine in the mouth.
There are many varieties of beneficial malolactic culture available to the winemaker. Please see the Scott Lab listings for characteristics of those bacteria.
Lalvin VP 41 is a popular culture with the Nanaimo Winemakers because it ferments malic acid quickly. Inoculate no sooner than a specific gravity of 1.015 and wine should not be racked before inoculation. Wine should be kept at room temperature around 20 degrees for the entire period of the malolactic fermentation and addition of a malolactic nutrient Opti Malo helps to promote rapid fermentation. If done correctly malolactic fermentation should be complete in about 1 month.
Tests for completion
Before wine is further processed prior to bottling it should be tested to determine that malolactic fermentation has been completed. One may use chromatography using filter paper and solvents but there is testing equipment that is available to the amateur winemaker that would permit a measurement without the use of solvents. After completion of malolactic fermentation add sulfur dioxide to protect your wine from oxidation and spoilage. Consult the chart in Appendix 1 for the amount free SO2 necessary to protect your wine.
6. Sur Lie or Sur Lees Aging
Many commercial Chardonnay wines have undergone sur lees aging to contribute to the mouth feel of the wine. Sur lees aging may be conducted on either the fruit forward or the oaked style Chardonnay.
In the case of wine that has gone through malolactic fermentation stir the carboy after malolactic fermentation is complete and allow it to settle overnight. It will be somewhat cloudy. Rack the wine leaving the heavier lees on the bottom but retain the lighter lees with the wine. Stir the lees once a week for for a term that gives you the effect that you are looking for, but be aware that extended sur lees aging may produce a wine with an unpleasant yeast flavour. In the case of of fruit forward Chardonnay sur lees aging may be started at the completion of fermentation, and the procedure is the same as above.
7. Clearing and Cold Stabilization
Cold stabilization is a procedure used to permit the crystallization and settling of potassium bitartrate from white wine, and clearing is the removal of residual cloudiness. Both procedures may be completed at the same time by adding bentonite finings to carboys and placing them in a location subject to temperatures of 0 C for 2-3 weeks. The wine will clarify, but possibly not completely. Rack it off the sediments. Filtration may be required prior to bottling. Prior to filtration adjust SO2 to the targeted level and sweeten if necessary.
If lysozyme is being used in fruit forward style Chardonnay to reduce the potential for undesired ML spoilage in the bottled wine it should be added well in advance of bentonite additions as that fining agent will bind and remove lysozyme. If lysozyme is added after settling and filtration one runs the risk of a protein haze in the bottled wine.
8. Bottling, Storage and Aging
Bottle your Chardonnay into clean dry bottles. In order to have the correct levels of free SO2 in the wine that you are bottling the pH of the wine and free SO2 levels should be measured while the wine is still in the carboy, and adjustments to free SO2 made in accordance with protective levels. See the Appendix for charts. Many individuals sulfite bottles prior to bottling, but it is a less precise mechanism of providing the correct free SO2 levels in wine.
Chardonnay stores well in a dark location where there is minimal temperature fluctuation. Flavour will improve for six months of so following bottling, and the wine should remain quite drinkable for up to five years. Enjoy!
Appendix 1. Resources
- Protective free SO2 levels in wine.
- General information and calculators such as calculators for SO2 additions for wine makers:
www.vinoenology.com Note: Calculators at this website will not function using an IPad.
- Lists and characteristics of wine making ingredients including yeasts and instructions and protocols for use. www.scottlab.com
- Lysozyme: www.winemakermag.com/407-it-s-lysozyme-time
- Processing questionable grapes: http://www.scottlab.com/uploads/documents/downloads/138/Rot%20Protocol%20-%20White%20Wine%2010-14-11%202.pdf
- Test kit for residual sugar: All World Scientific, Lynwood Wa. phone 1800 289-6753
Appendix 2. List of Ingredients to Make Chardonnay Wine
As Provided by Don Graham for an Oaked full ML style Chardonnay
- Pre-fermentation— settling agents, enzymes, PH and TA adjusting etc.:
Pectic Enzyme 3.5g/20 1L Other Pectic Enzyme-type products- ColorPro, OptiWhite, Cinn-Free
Yeast Hulls- 0.2grams/1L
- Fermentation — yeasts, nutrients, and fermentation measurements
Yeast 5-10g/20L Options I have used: D254, D47, CY3079
GoFerm- 6 grams per 5 grams of yeast
Fermaid K and DAP Use Yeast /YAN calculator to determine the amount Fermaid K and Dap needed
- ML fermentation — ML bacteria and malic acid measurements
Malolactic culture- Lalvin VP41
Malolactic nutrient- Optimalo 0.2grams/1L Paper Chromatography Solvent and Paper
- Fining agents and other treatments
- Finishing agents
Oak chips or cubes 1-2 grams/ 1L
Lysozyme (if no ML planned). 0.1 gm/ L of unfermented juice, and 0.2 gm/L post fermentation, but prior to clearing with bentonite.
Duane Lukyn of the Nanaimo club has been my source for most of these supplies over the years.
As Provided by Colin Nicholson for fruit forward style Chardonnay
- Pre – fermentation – settling agents, enzymes, PH and TA adjusting
Pectic Enzyme, ColorPro, VR – Supra
- Acid adjusting
Tartaric Acid, Acidex
- Fermentation – yeasts and nutrients
Yeast 5g/20L Almost any yeast can be used – some we have used D254, D47, CY3079, EC1118 V1116, VIN13 and 71B
GoFerm – 7grams per 5grams yeast
Fermaid K – 1 tsp per day per 100 lbs or 5 gallons juice for three days
- Fining agents
Bentonite, Sparkloid, Filters