Sunday, September 13, 2009

Winemaker Notes

Brad Post:

While most people were enjoying their Labor Day weekend at the beach or picnicking with friends, many of my fellow Iowa winemakers were busy picking wine grapes and processing them.

I thought it might be interesting to share some of my winemaker notes with you. These particular notes represent my efforts to craft a medium-bodied, Marechal Foch red table wine.


Grower: Tom and Vicki Capper (Old Mans Creek Vineyard)
Quantity: Purchased 156lbs.
Quality of Grapes: After two weeks of heavy rain (3-11 inches) the berries we picked were in remarkably good shape. Although there were some indications of rot in some berries (we left those) but some probably got into our bins. The berries were mostly sound, few greenies, and few light red berries, but overall the berries were very good. We harvested on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend (9-6-09).

Marechal Foch Table Wine
Background: We wanted a medium bodied, low-herbaceous Foch wine, so we wanted to press early.
Brix: 21.2 (potential alcohol: 11.7%)
pH: 3.41
SO2 Addition: 1.5 grams (30ppm, sound quality grapes).
Pressed: 9-8 (t=36 hours)
Yeast: Inoculated at t=18hours (9-7) in morning (8 gram yeast).
Go Ferm: added with yeast (10 gram).
Quantity of must before pressing: ~11 gallons. (note: I didn’t press as hard as I could).
Quantity of juice after pressing: ~5.5 gallons

Notes: We had spontaneous fermentation on the morning of 9-7 and promptly inoculated must with cultured yeast. We also added 4 grams of VRSupra Tannin (2x more than I was supposed to – doh!).

9/7/09: Inoculated with yeast
9/8/09: Pressed must; very dark juice
9/9/09: Hydrometer: Brix = 13.5; added 4 grams of Fermaid K
9/10/09: Fermentation going very well
9/11/09: Fermentation slowing down and nearing completion; tastes and smells good.
9/13/09: Added: Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB) - rehydrated with Acti-ML (nutrient). FYI: The LAB will convert the sharp tasting Malic acid in the wine to the more smooth Lactic acid. *Note: need to be careful about oxygen ingress from here forward as alcohol fermentation is nearly complete.


  1. Hi Brad, this is great reading! Finally i found a description on how to make wine from Marechal Foch.

    I also grow M. Foch in a cool climate (the Netherlands). But i am a bit disappointed with the results of last year (thin and a bit acid and astringent), so i am looking for advise to improve my wine. There is not much experience with this variety, or other red grapes, in our country.

    Did you remove the green berries? I assume you removed the stems, right? Did you use bentonite or most-gelatine (hope these are the proper names) to remove 'floating particles' from the most?
    Did you also used enzymes?

    Can you advise on the type of yeast you used, and on fermentation temperature, and what you found as optimal acidity and rest-sugar. And what do you mean with "Pressed: 9-8"?

    I have a lot of questions :) I hope you can give me some tips.

    Thanks in advance,

  2. Hi Bart,

    Our winemaking group, called Eastern Iowa Wine Club (, is committed to learning how to best work with Marechal Foch. Many of the area wineries have given up on Foch because it is such a challenge to work with...but many of us are optimistic and believe good wine can be made with it.

    Yes, Foch is a challenge! We find the same sort of problems you describe (high acidity, astringency, and as we like to describe it as having a Foch Funk. Our club, which sponsors a winemaking competition, has a special category for the Marechal Foch - a trophy called the "Fochy" - in an attempt to figure out how to make good wine from it. Here is what we learned from about 18 entries. The winner: A blush.

    Foch gives up its color very easily, so there is little need to extend maceration (skin contact time) much beyond crush/destem. The winner (the blush) crushed/destemmed and went directly to press - it did not have the "foch funk".

    My advice: remove as much stems, green berries, and anything but deep dark berries from the fermenter. I had planned to make a blush and waited 18 hours after crush to press. Guess what? No blush...just a nice dark, "garnet blush" :) I also pressed out another portion at 36 hours. I think it made a huge difference (so far at least) to remove anything green.

    Yeast recommendations: use strains that do not enhance varietal aroma (this is just my guess here). I used pectic enzyme but have since read that using color extracting enzymes may actually increase the funky aromas associated with Foch. There are other means to keep the color (VR Supra Tannin, for instance). My fermentation temperature was kept around 75F. I am using Maurivin yeasts (can't remember the strains right off).

    Since we are still learning...much is speculation or at least based on limited information. There IS good Marechal Foch being made (I've tasted it). I think a very quick press (and not too hard either) will help enhance this varietal. "Pressed 9-8" means I pressed it on September 8th. :) I would imagine, with a blush Foch (opinion) leaving a little residual sugar 1/2-2% would bring out some good flavors and help balance the acidity too.

    Wow...that is a lot of writing. :) Check out our website and join our group (and Fan page) on Facebook (Eastern Iowa Wine Club).

    Happy Tastings!

  3. Hi Brad, thanks for your extensive answer!

    As a result, I changed my vinification scheme for the M.Foch. Just in time for the harvest, estimated at 30liter (8 - 9 gallons) and planned tomorrow. :)

    I will now make two batches; one without maceration (so a blush wine or rose as we call it) and one with a 2 - 3 day maceration (down from 9! days last year, but as i like red wines, i want some color :) ). And no enzymes this year.

    As i already bought my yeast for this year, i will use a Lalvin 2323 (as it is recommended for the M.Foch 'sibling' variety Leon Milot). I haven't used this yeast before, so i totally rely on its description.

    I will keep you informed on the results!