Hemant Gohil, Gary Pavlis, and Daniel Ward
A Cabernet Franc (CF) wine tasting and evaluation workshop for winemakers was held on November 25, 2019, at Unionville Vineyards, located in Ringoes. Cabernet Franc (CF) is one of the most suitable Vitis vinifera varieties for New Jersey with high-quality wine production, for both north and south New Jersey1. It is also one of the best red varieties for New Jersey in terms of consistency in ripening. It can be easily adapted in the winery for Rosé, dry still varietals, and in red wine blends. The responses to a survey sent two weeks before the event, formed the basis of discussion at the workshop. Winemakers also described how they accomplished each of their wines.
Clones: Most vineyards have planted French clones such as Clone 01, Clone 04 (French clone 332), Clone 11 (French clone 214), and Clone 12 (French clone 327). Most French clones are suited for cool-climate viticulture regions, and growers’ experience suggests that French clones 01, 04, and 11 have performed particularly well in New Jersey. Both the rootstock Couderc -3309 and Millardet et de Grasset 101-14 have been successfully used.
Harvest Parameters and Yield: Yields as high as high as 4 tons per acre can easily be achieved with high wine quality, depending on the site vigor and cultural practices. However, most growers limited their yield to 2.5 to 3 tons per acre. Most vineyards picked their CF when sugar concentrations were in the range of 22.5-22.8 °Brix; Titratable Acidity 6.1-6.7 mg/L; and pH was in the range of 3.44 – 4.07.
Cold Soaking the berries before fermentation is not common among NJ wineries. Cold soaking is done before fermentation to extract more color and flavor from the must before fermentation. This process however can be risky if volatile acid (VAs) producing bacteria are active but not checked.
Fermentation: When it comes tofermentation, most winemakers like to use yeast strain CSM, however other strains such as Q5, L226, FX10, and D254 were also used. One winery used the combination of native yeast along with CSM and D254 and another winery used the combination of Q5 and L2226. The Q5 yeast is known for enhancing the expression of primary as well as secondary aromas. Most wineries performed fermentation for 10-14 days with temperatures in the range of 68°F-80°F. One winery has successfully used open-top fermentation, where the temperature ranged from 50°F -80°F. The open-top fermentation during the early stage allows exposure to plenty of oxygen contact which helps yeast build strong populations and also prevents over-heating and the stuck fermentation associated with it2. Almost all wineries used Malolactic fermentation (MLF). Most used the VP41 strain of bacteria, however, one winery used a native strain to perform MLF. During MLF, tart malic acid is converted into the less acidic lactic acid by the action of the bacteria.
Oak Flavoring: Choice of Oak varied greatly among wineries, mostly using French Oak and American Oak. One winery used a combination of Hungarian and French Oak, where more aggressive Hungarian oak during the first year gave a nutty character, followed by the French Oak. A few wineries did not want strong oak flavors in their wines and hence throughout used neutral oak. The duration of oak varied from 10 months to 24 months, however most had at least 18 months of aging with oak.
1Coia L. and Ward D. 2018. Wine Grape Varieties of New Jersey. Rutgers New Jersey Agriculture Experiment Station.
2Jackson R. 2014. Wine Science: Principles and Applications. Fourth Ed. Elsevier.