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Here are some suggestions and instructions for making Port wine. This is also applicable for late harvest fortified wines.

The grapes used for Port wine traditionally come from the Douro Valley region in Portugal. The Portuguese varieties are Alvarelhao, Bastardo (Trousseau in France), Donzellinho, Tinta Francisca, Mourisco Tinto, Tinta Cao, Touriga Francesa, and Touriga NacionaL Some of these varieties are available from California's Central Valley growers. Contact your farm advisor or county agricultural commissioner to find out who is growing the varieties you are interested in. I have made my port from Carmine, a Merlot based hybrid from UC Davis and have tasted good port made from Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. In general, grapes that have good fruit flavor seem to make good port.

Port making differs from standard wine making in that you only ferment to a specific Brix level and then add high proof alcohol to stop further fermentation and fortify the wine. This retains the high sugar level for sweetness with enough acid added to balance the sugar. Pick the grapes at high Brix level, preferably 28 or higher. Crush the grapes into your fermentation container. Sulfite the grapes. Let the grapes rest for 24 hours before taking the final Brix reading and adding the yeast. During the time the grapes are resting you will find the Brix usually increases by 1 2 points in the 24 hours. Take the Brix reading at the end of the 24 hours and use that reading to calculate the potential alcohol. You may want to consider the addition of fermentable sugars, such as cane sugar, to increase the Brix level if desired. This way you will not have to add as much fortifying alcohol which will tend to dilute your port. To increase the Brix level by 1 point, add 2 oz. of sugar per gallon of MUST. Test the acid level in the MUST. With high Brix the acid should below. Adjust the acid level to 9 10 grams per liter for both a clean fermentation and balance. To raise the acid level l gram/liter, add 3.8 grams of tartaric acid per gallon of must.

Add a suitable yeast to the MUST to commence fermentation. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT TO CHOOSE A YEAST THAT HAS LOW VIGOR AND LOW TOLERANCE TO ALCOHOL. The reason for this is that when you add the high proof alcohol, you want fermentation to stop before dryness is reached. A yeast with a high tolerance to alcohol, such as Champagne yeas will continue fermenting even after the addition of the high proof alcohol, resulting in a port that is very alcoholic, acidic, and semi dry. Also with a high vigor, high alcohol tolerant yeast the rate of fermentation occurs so rapidly that the time spent on the skins before pressing will be reduced, resulting in less color and fruit flavor extraction. I personally prefer a dark purple port. I have used a yeast from the Beverage People known as 71B Beaujolais. It and Epernay II are both low to moderate vigor yeasts. My preference is the 71 B alit appears to be less tolerant to alcohol and has a lower vigor. The Beverage people's phone number is l 800 544 1867. The Wine Lab at (707) 224 7903 can also be able to help you with 71B liquid yeast. Give the wine lab 3 weeks lead time for the liquid yeast. They grow it to order.

Fermentation usually takes only 3-4 days. I use an electric blanket wrapped around the fermentation container to raise the fermentation temperature to approximately 85 degrees Fahrenheit to extract more color. Remember the products of fermentation are alcohol, C02 and heat, so you will need to keep a watch on the must temperature when using the electric blanket method and reduce the temperature setting as necessary as fermentation continues. Be mindful of the yeast's operating temperature. Punch the cap often, usually every couple of hours. Consider using an oak weight to keep the cap down. You can do this by building an oak platform with stainless steel screws and weighing it down with glass bottles to keep the cap down. The oak platform should be able to fit inside your fermentation container.

To figure out how much fortifying alcohol you will need to reach a desired finished alcohol percentage, use the following formula:

X= the number of gallons of fortifying alcohol
V= number of wine gallons to be fortified\
A= % of alcohol in the wine to be fortified
B= % of alcohol of fortifying spirit.
C= desired fortification level of alcohol

Formula:         V (C-A)

Allow the must to continue fermenting until it reaches 13 Brix and press. After pressing, allow the fermentation to continue a little longer, to approximately 12.5 Brix before adding the fortifying alcohol (grain alcohol). The specific gravity for 12.5 Brix is between 1.048 and 1.050. The Port started at 2 8 Brix (1.0115 specific gravity) and should end at 1.048 specific gravity. There is approximately 4 point of specific gravity for a point of Brix.

A word about the "high proof alcohol" needed to make PORT or any other fortified wine. I use EVERCLEAR, which is a brand of grain alcohol. Federal law requires wineries to use grape alcohol in their fortified wines. The percentage of pure alcohol used by bonded wineries is about 9 5 %. EVERCLEAR's alcohol level is 76.5 % in California. EVERCLEAR retails at $13.99 for a 75 O ml bottle locally. There are roughly 5 75 0 ml bottles to a gallon. It is available at Ernie's Liquors (916 482 85 05) in Sacramento California or Beverages & more. Other States have less restrictive alcohol limits on Everclear. The higher the proof or alcohol level the less dilution of the grape flavor will occur. The are 29.5735 milliliters in an ounce and 25.36 ounces in a 750 milliliter bottle

To calculate "A ": Beginning specific gravity minus the ending gravity multiplied by 105 = Alcohol/weight multiplied by 1.256=Alcohol/volume OR 1.115 - 1.049 = .066 x 105 = 6.93 X 1.256 = 8.70 alcohol/volume.

Or another way to calculate alcohol is to use BRIX multiplied by 0.6.
28 Brix X 0.6 = 16.8 %. 12.5 Brix X 0.6 = 7.5%. 16.8% 7.5% = 9.3%. Both formulas have validity but there is a difference.

To acheive 18 % alcohol by volume in my Port, which is standard for Port, I use the following calculations:

A= 8.7 0 or 9.3 is the level of alcohol in my port wine after fermentation
B=76.5 is the level of alcohol in the EVERCLEAR
C== 18 is the desired level of alcohol after fortification
V= 5 gallons is the number of gallons I am going to
For five gallons of port use the following figures:
5 (18 8.70 = 46.5 = .7948 gallons of grain
(76.5 18) 58.5
alcohol or 101.7436 ounces;

5 (18 9.3 0) = 43.5 = .7435 gallons of grain
(7 6.5 18) 58.5
alcohol or 95.179 5 ounces.

WHEN YOU ADD the fortifying alcohol it is important to mix the wine and alcohol thoroughly with either a paddle or mixer for at least one hour. I use a very large Balloon whisk with a 1/4 inch lag bolt with the end cut off screwed into the end of the handle attached to a variable speed drill Since the specific gravity of the wine and alcohol is different it tends to form layers which, unless well mixed, allows fermentation to continue. If fermentation continues, this will result in a high alcohol acidic wine. After mixing is completed, rack the port in a glass carboy and rack in a couple of days into an oak barrel if you have one with 25 ppm Metabisulfite and rack on a regular basis until you bottle. Test the acid level in your Port every 6 months and when you bottle, adjust as necessary. Keep the barrel toped up as you would with other wines. If you don't have an oak barrel, you can leave it in glass and rack every couple of months for a year or more and then bottle it.

Be forewarned that the must may reach 12.5 Brix at any time day or night so be prepared.