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Old wine

post #1 of 33
Thread Starter 
Forgot that I have these . 30+ years ago with my grandmother, we had made 50 gallons of wine. One in particular is a red Zinfandel. They have been stored in bottles on their side. When I was looking at the dusty bottles, you can see a settling of something that looks like pigment from the reddish color.

If you stand it upright, you'll see some of it fall away from the inner walls of the bottle in small sheets. The color, even though stored in total darkness at about 52-58 degrees, seem very light through the green bottles.

Since grandma is gone now, what is the opinion on opening and using the wines inside.

I also have a few gallons of red Zinfandel that was stored in the whiskey barrel for 9-10 years and then we bottled some just to get the barrel out of the way. This stuff smells strong like a Marsala wine . This one is about 25 yrs old.

Looking for ways to determine safety, use and or longer term storage if viable.
post #2 of 33
Those are wine diamonds. Was it cold where you stored it? Under cold conditions the tartaric acid in wine reacts with potassium and settles at the bottom. You can see it sometimes in store bought wine. They are harmless. I had it in my home made Merlot and Cab Sauv after 1 year.

Wine should be safe to drink, although you might be disapointed by the flavours. Zinfandel is not a wine known to age well. Marsala odours indicate oxidation, expected for such a long time for a wine that is not very high in tanins. Again-safe to drink, but not something you will brag about.

Let us know.
post #3 of 33
Thread Starter 
Thanks for that information Atomicsmoke.

They were in a 55 degree average. Some months colder, summer months a touch warmer. The Marsala one smells pretty good. I'd opened one up a few weeks ago.

My grandmothers method is crush the grapes, let them sit in the open top whiskey barrel 3-4 days, then drain the juice into the barrel, crush the mashed up grape to get the rest of the juice and stick the little u tube bubbler air trap in the bung....then wait for the bubbles to stop

Use the pads of the crushed packed grape to make grapa and feed the deer the rest . . .look out for bees

I'll go for it this weekend time permitting ( time to recover ) biggrin.gif
post #4 of 33
That's pretty much the process. Not much has changed since romans did it. :-)

If you plan to take up the craft I recommend keeping it in the crushed grape stage for much longer (for reds). This will allow better tanin extraction from the skins. Be careful though because it will start fermenting . The fermentation gases will push the skins up and they will dry up unless you punched them down (once a day). When the skins take a lot longer to rise to the surface the fermentation is ending soon. Time to press it or take it to the next level: put an airlock on it and leave it on the skins even longer. This is especially recommended for pinot noir. The problem with long macerations is that some of the tanins extracted are harsh. The longer the maceration the longer the wine will have to sit (in barrel or demijohn) for these to mellow down. Maceration times of 30day are not uncommon. But when that process is completed you will have great wine.

Another thing ....you probably know this. You need to rack the wine several times. The dead yeast and other solid matter settles at the bottom. OK for up to six months after that will not help. Rack at least twice before you bottle.

Good luck.
post #5 of 33
Thread Starter 

Great stuff to know... My grandparents and their families did this routinely since they set foot off the boat from Italy in the 1800's. I believe I was the only one who asked her how it was done and even back then when we made this batch, all of the relatives were gone.

It's now three decades later and I remembered these bottles. I may give it a try again this fall. I still have everything ...barrels, crushers and a giant press. She was a stickler for accuracy and showed me who to seal the barrel tops after removing them for the mashed grapes and juice to sit in.

This is one of those barrels. Makes for a great cheese smoker
post #6 of 33
Nothing like a family tradition. I too learned the craft from my dad.
post #7 of 33

I love this sort of stuff:yahoo:.Grape harvest early this year,strange season.

All the home wine makers are gearing up now. The hardware store at the end of my street sells everything,press,crusher,fermenter ,the works.

Quality varies a lot but the current generation have lifted the bar a fair bit.

Prices early season between $800 to $1,000 a ton of grapes.The guys around me won't pay that price.

I just wish I had a garage.

post #8 of 33
post #9 of 33
Thread Starter 
Moikel....nice read. I had trouble since I only read English biggrin.gif I've had those thoughts on days when life gets hectic but you know ...the grass is always greener thing.

When we were out in Napa California ...it seemed like the greatest life until you look at the costs of starting it all and then being dependent on so many variables. I heard that an acre of Napa soil is between 400-600k US. Sonoma was a bit cheaper.

As a small hobby I have two old crushers and a 30" 1920's cast iron base press. I'm thinking that I will try again this September.

Not sure if I've posted this picture but it's aroud 1989-1990. This is my 86 yr old grandmother. She never wanted to be photographed and always protested. This was snapped as she was probably yelling at me not to take her picture. We were getting ready to sort the white and red grapes for crushing in the garage . She died at 99. We had a great time doing this
Edited by knuckle47 - 2/28/15 at 9:16am
post #10 of 33

Land in the premium wine districts here is expensive.Set up costs pretty steep.

There are examples of people buying old abandoned small holdings in South Australia & finding ancient vines covered in brambles but still alive. Solid weeks work they are back in shape then you guessed it producing grapes from vines that could be 50,60, 70 years old.

Climate change is going to dictate terms a bit .Tasmania is going to be exciting in years to come. Leah day dreams about settling there. Great place for a holiday...

This link is to a winery that I told Leah about,I  brought her a bottle when I came to New York last year.

Its in a newer wine region that people pioneered because there was no land left in the premium district of Coonawarra a few miles away. They make great wine & have a great can do attitude .They became the new frontier & deserve all the success. They also get to go surfing before work,very Australian.


post #11 of 33
I see this trend in Canada too, Okanagan Valley (British Columbia) to be exact.

The industry (new...compared to the rest of the world) setup shop in the valley. In 20 years the easy pickings were taken. After 2000 pioneers were planting vines at higher elevations, where traditional growers would not look. A little chalenging but many made it.
post #12 of 33
Thread Starter 
I remember you talking about cape Jaffa. I'd love to know more about Australia but I have too much stuff in my head to fit anything else in right now. Kidding aside, life gets very demanding and short to do all we'd like and then some people I know have zero ambitions and motivations.

I am going to rebuild the strainer basket frame out of new oak slats on the fruit press. Some of them are looking a little tattered. I can only imagine the costs of some of the wine making equipment in a small winery. Brewed our own beer 30 yrs ago too. As great as it tasted, that little puddle of sediment on the bottom made it the last time we had done it.

Gotta lotta reading to do
post #13 of 33

My introduction to wine was in the garage of my friends house way back in the day. His Dad was from Abruzzo & he had real skill.The wine he made was lighter in style maybe 12% alcohol . When retired from truck driving he would divide his time between here & the original village back in Italy.He made good wine in both countries & used to give advice & help to others .

I see home equipment here second hand but I have no space. I may yet be able to piggy back on somebody here but its going to take some serious smoozing.I better crank up the smoker & turn out some contra:biggrin:I can fit a barrel in my wine locker/smoker pantry.

So much produce comes to Sydney that you can get quality grapes that growers will shift because the big wineries have screwed down the price. I suppose the challenge is to turn good fruit into good wine.If you go cheap on the grapes you are going to struggle,just my opinion.

Great thing that you still have Nonna's set up.

post #14 of 33
Thread Starter 
My grandmothers family is from Abruzzi but gramps family is Calabria (stubborn and hard headed as I'm told ) the old timers made guitars and mandolins from the wooden crates 100 + years ago. I wish I had some of those. Grapes here come in 48 lb crates and I believe we used 6-7 for a full sized whiskey barrel.

I've made some simple inquiries today but it seems that the "wine making hobby" has made some inroads in retail areas. There are two stores within 50 miles of me that sell supplies now. They also sell juice concentrates. And ...they have wine making groups. The charge is $2500.00 for what looks like 10 cases of wine that you press/mix at their shop. The thought of that just doesn't seem right but I know nothing other than what I saw as a kid and learned 30 yrs ago.

I wonder what is defined today as cheap grapes?
post #15 of 33
There are grapes and there are grapes. The ones available here are whatever the growers from California don't want for wine and they sell them. Not bad but nothing special. Between 30-40c$ a crate(35lb). Everything: cab sauv, pinot, sauv blanc, chardonnay, etc.

When I have time I will drive down to Niagara (wine region) and pick up crushed grapes....better quality than the 2nd grade imports. More expensive though. Sometimes I pick the grapes myself (I mean harvest). Those are the best. You get to choose if you have patience.

Having said that....there are winemaking clubs. They get premium grapes for...let's say not cheap. From all over the world. These clubs produce award winning wines.
post #16 of 33

Its "ostinato" as I remember translates as hard headed & stubborn. I have lots of Calabrian friends they dominate our wholesale fruit & veg industry ,big in concrete as well.My friends dad used to call his wife that(obstinate calabrese) when they argued. She was from the same village in Abruzzo,go figure. So is that family who have a big restaurant in Rochester NY.Mario's I think its called.

Obviously being way down here my grape access isn't much help  to you guys. The break you catch in Sydney is growers can get more $ selling by the box in Sydney than delivered to the big winery.But they all need a forward contract at a set price to have a safety net.But often have plenty left over.

There are premium grapes within 4 hours of here & trucks bringing produce from interstate every day. I may get out of bed early enough one day to run out to the wholesale market just to see. I have seen $800 per ton quoted but I need to eyeball it in the flesh.

There is always plenty of shiraz. The store in that article has a guy in every saturday who will test your grapes/first press & give you advice. Some of the Calabrians chip in & buy a truckload at a time delivered from down near where I grew up. The new generation are using Nonno's plant but getting a bit more sophisticated .They tell me the are some homemade stone press's still out there,big canter levered stone circle mounted on an arm  made by guys who used to work in the big railway workshops here.

post #17 of 33

Again only if its of interest.This a sort of brokerage set up.


post #18 of 33
Thread Starter 
That is an interesting site. I'd imagine the shipping would destroy me...haha. I am a guitar collector in my spare time. Sold a jazz type guitar to a man in Perth Western Australia . FedEx wanted $525.00 US to ship. DHL wanted 375.00. Had it not been a bit of a prized instrument, we'd have cancelled our agreement. Not because of insurance, super heavy or wierd stuff....only because of size and distance.

Looks like those NY grapes are reasonable. The farm markets up north from where I live have warehouses filled with tractor trailer loads usually in early SEptember...most buyers seemed to have been family wine makers..again in the late 1980's. I know one guy who has a small restaurant uses a hydraulic wine press for he and his friends. They have a certificate for 3rd place on the wall. Must be tasty?

When I try this again in the fall, we'll use 2 barrels. One for fermentation and one for storage. Here's something I've never gotten an answer for. When we'd acquired these barrels 30+ years ago, they were used whiskey barrels. The inside was charred like it was used as a fireplace. I've seen the barrel makers in Napa show pictures of a fire inside the barrels BUT...what does that do?
post #19 of 33

So late to this party and have been in a snow cave - literally - but I believe we are coming out of the storms now, and I have consumed so much food and wine while snowed in that I could "step away" from both long enough to type anyway, it would do me some good!



Fantastic thread you all have here! I love it all - from the great Cape Jaffa winery which is pure magic to me; (thank you Mick, forever), and then the FAMILY stories and the older wines and traditions and so much! This is a fabulous thread indeed!


Lately I have been helping a pal plow through older wines that he procured around the world when piloting internationally and I am amazed at how something that was handled with fairly good care, can still emerge so resiliently! 


Will see if uploading my recent eats/drinks from my phone can work.


Meanwhile, I'm just so thrilled that you are all sharing such wonderful info here! I love this group!!! Carry on!!! Cheers to all!!! - Leah

post #20 of 33

From some simple grilled chicken thighs, lentil dishes, fennel salad, roasted asparagus, smoked trout, stuffed snapper set on fire with ouzo (and stuffed with capers, fennel and garlic) to sea bass with peppers over pasta, here are some recent eats (all paired with old world Spanish, French & Greek wines and great gluten free beer - "Estrella Damm's Daura." Enjoy!!!

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