Quick Tip – Cloudy Wine

April 13, 2008 at 10:10 pm (Kit Wine, Quick Tips, Thoughts, Wine Recipes, Winemaking, Winemaking Tips) (, , , , , )

Cloudy wine? Give it time. I know, I’m a regular Dr. Seuss. But really, there are ways to clear wine. You can filter using a filter pad. You can use different fining methods where you add an agent like bentonite or isinglass, that the particles bind themselves to. Even better, be patient. Put the carboy of wine in a quiet and dark corner and forget about it. Every week or so make sure the trap has liquid in it and look at a flashlight through the wine. When you clearly see the bulb, the wine is ready to be bottled. Still cloudy, wait another month and check again.

So why not just filter or add chemicals. You can, lots of people do. I try very hard not to. Most particulates will settle out given enough time. I’m of the opinion that filtering will remove some of the good with the bad. My friend at the winery says filtering strips the color from the wine. I don’t want to filter, I’m lazy.

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Island Mist Kiwi Pear Sauvignon Blanc

April 7, 2008 at 7:48 pm (Kit Wine, Winemaking, Winemaking Log) (, , , )

I didn’t do a blow by blow on this wine. I made it for my friend’s wife, and it’s just another kit. Tonight I bottled the wine and there was half a bottle left over. Good wine never goes to waste, and I was quick to taste the leftovers.

Wow was it sweet, very sweet, too sweet for my likes, but what great flavors.

I also had a new experience with this kit.  Just before adding the “F” pack, you are instructed to remove two cups of wine and put it aside to top up later.  I did as instructed, added the “F” pack syrup and ran out of space.  I had to remove at least one more cup of wine.  The “F” pack is obviously full of more than two cups of flavoring.  The result was a bottle in the fridge with around two cups of unsweetened Sauvignon Blanc.

Fast forward ahead to the leftovers from bottling.  As I mentioned, I tasted it and it was way too sweet, so I poured it into the unsweetened bottle from the fridge.  The resulting half sweetened wine was still sweet, but much more to my liking and it only lasted through the next night.

I would consider making a double batch of this and half sweetening, or making just pouring in half the “F” pack.  I’m curious if anyone else has tried this wine.

By the way, my friend’s wife and father absolutely love the fully sweetened wine.  I think they’ve gone through a couple of bottles and it’s only been a week.

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Winemaking Costs

March 17, 2008 at 9:00 am (Kit Wine, Thoughts, Winemaking, Winemaking Tips) (, , , , , )

Besides being a die-hard do it yourselfer, I’m also quite frugal. I hate paying somebody $100 for a job I can easily do myself. I just can’t bring myself to pay $10 or $15 for a bottle of wine when I can make great wine for a fraction of that cost.

So what does it cost to make wine? Figuring the costs of a kit is pretty straight forward, these calculations are based on a 6-gallon batch producing 30 bottles of wine:

  • The kit itself – roughly $60 for a 7-liter kit. Double that for a 15-liter kit. The 7 or 15 is the amount of juice concentrate in the kit, they all make 6-gallons.
  • Bottles – if you are buying them, figure $1 per bottle. I’m partial to free.
  • Corks – these little buggers are expensive. You can pay 75¢ a piece for good cork. I buy synthetic corks in bulk and pay about 20¢ a piece.
  • Capsules – about 6¢ each, not including shipping.
  • Labels – I laser print my own, I’m past needed to impress anyone. My labels are essentially free.

Taking all of this into consideration, expect a 7-liter kit will run between $2.25 and $4.00 a bottle. The premium kits can run between $4.25 and $8.00 a bottle. As I’ve said before, I scrounge bottles and buy synthetic cork in bulk. I have no problem keeping my per bottle costs at the low end of the scale.

What about wine made from scratch? Here the costs vary quite a bit.

  • I found in my notes that I paid $14.50 for a case of 12 pints of blueberries. That works out to $29 for 18 lbs ($1/bottle). That year I could have picked them for $1.29/lb locally, but I missed the window. I will usually pay up to $50 for fruit, that works out to less than $2 per bottle for just the fruit.
  • Homemade wine needs yeast, yeast nutrient, sulfites, sorbate, enzymes, and often a sulfite test ampule or two. This adds roughly a dollar for chemicals and a dollar for each ampule to the total cost. If we round to $3, it works out to 10¢ a bottle.
  • Homemade wine needs sugar. My wife buys 5 lb bags for me when it’s on sale for about a dollar. Most recipes call for about 10 lbs in the fermenter, another 5 lbs or so for sweetening. That’s $3.00 or another 10¢ a bottle for those keeping score.
  • Corks and capsules again for about 30¢ a bottle.

You can see that the cost of the wine is basically the fruit plus about $1 per bottle in chemicals and closures.  So my advice to you is simple; pay for good fruit.  If you invested $90 in fruit, which is quite a bit of money, your per bottle cost is still only $4.

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Quick Tip – Temperature and Fermentation

February 22, 2008 at 6:55 pm (Kit Wine, Quick Tips, Winemaking Tips) (, , , )

If you ferment your wine at a lower temperature, the wine will have more flavor. Most yeasts need to be above 65°F to get started, but once well under way, the temperature can be dropped to slow fermentation and increase the extracted flavors. My blueberry wine has been fermenting at about 59°F.

I learned this tip just last week from my buddy at a local winery.  He put cooling jackets on his 1000 gallon vats so that he can ferment at 56°F.

This is just as valid for a wine kit, just remember that you can’t go by the number of days in the kit instructions.  You will have to use a hydrometer to know when your primary fermentation is nearing completion.  It will take longer, but it will taste even better.

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Quick Tip – Cover Up That Carboy

February 9, 2008 at 7:49 am (Kit Wine, Quick Tips, Winemaking, Winemaking Tips) (, , , )

Put a T-Shirt over your carboy when you have wine in it.  It will help keep the sunlight off the wine.  If you don’t do this, the color of your wine can fade.  It can also cause the temperature of the wine to move up and down as the wine is heated and cooled by the sunlight.  If you make wine in a dark basement, then never mind.  But my carboy sits in the kitchen or dining room right now, and it gets lots of light every day.  So just as you are told to keep your bottles of wine out of the sun, keeps your really big bottles of wine out of the sun too.

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Do you have bubbles in your kit wine?

January 30, 2008 at 8:00 am (Kit Wine, Thoughts, Winemaking, Winemaking Tips) (, , , )

When you have a blog here at WordPress, you can see what searches bring people to your site. Almost every day I get somebody to here who is wondering what to do about bubbles in their wine.

My very first batch of kit wine had the same problem. Let’s assume the wine tastes fine, it hasn’t turned bad, it’s just sort of carbonated. There are a couple of ways this can happen:

Patience – or a lack of it. That very first batch seems to take forever, doesn’t it? I know, I remember that feeling. One problem is trying to force the wine to finish quickly. It won’t. You can raise the temperature to make it ferment quicker, but that’s actually a bad idea. Be patient. If it says to give it 10 days to finish, 15 days isn’t going to hurt the wine, but it might help it. On the other hand, only waiting 8 or 9 days could be the cause of the problem. It needs to finish fermenting.

Residual Sugar – Another possibility is that there was unfermented sugar in the wine when you bottled it. Then over time the yeast slowly digested the remaining sugar. This is why you don’t want to rush the process. If you don’t see any bubbles in the wine, it should be done. Check the specific gravity, if it isn’t around 1.000 or lower, you probably still have sugar in there. You might want to add a package of yeast and see if it can restart the fermentation. I’ve never had this problem, but fermentation can stop if you have too much sugar or it got too cold. If there is too much sugar, the yeast will ferment until they get drunk and die. Most wine yeasts can handle up to around 15%, some will go as high as 17%. After that, they just can’t convert any further. If it’s too cold, the yeast may inactivate. My most recent wines were fermented at around 60 degrees C without any problems.

Stir – You know how it says to add the chemicals and then stir for two minutes? Did you only stir vigorously for one minute? Maybe you stirred half-heartedly. Then you had to add the fining agent and stir vigorously once again. I know, your arm hurts, poor baby. Take a break, come back and stir a little more. I stir in one direction, then once it gets going, reverse. Repeat until you stirred for at least the required time.

Rack – When I make homemade wine, I will rack the wine at least once before bottling, even if it is just to a bottling bucket. I believe the racking process releases a lot of the trapped gas. The kits don’t tell you to do this, and I think most starter equipment kits don’t come with a bottling bucket. It’s funny, I’ve never had a problem with gas in my homemade stuff, only kit wine. I’m not sure why. I’m thinking maybe the bentonite traps some of the gas in the pores of the clay. Maybe the multiple rackings releases the gas.

Sweetened? – Is it possible you sweetened the wine with sugar and didn’t add Potassium Sorbate before bottling. You need a half a teaspoon for every gallon of wine, 1 tablespoon for a 6-gallon batch. If you added sugar thinking the yeast has been left at the bottom of the fermenter, think again.

So you have bubbles in your wine and it’s bottled. Open the wine bottle and decant it to something else, let it sit for a few minutes and pour glasses from the decanter. It will help remove most of the bubbles, but it won’t make it perfect.

Drink it and enjoy it, it’s still delicious wine.

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Quick Tip – Adding Yeast

January 17, 2008 at 5:11 pm (Kit Wine, Quick Tips, Wine Recipes, Winemaking, Winemaking Tips) (, , , )

When it’s time to add yeast to the must (juice soon to be wine), vigorously stir up the juice. You want to dissolve some oxygen into the juice, the yeast is going to need this. Now open the yeast package and sprinkle the buggers on the top, but don’t stir. Leave it on the top for at least 12 hours. After 12 hours, you should have a nice foamy active community on top of your wine.  If you do, it’s time to give it a good stir. You will have a very active fermentation going on in no time.  I often check on the fermentation by just putting my ear to the fermenter.  When the yeast is really working, you can hear the CO2 bubbles constantly popping.

I’ve tried all the other methods of activating the yeast; this one seems to be best. I’ve made starters with the must, I’ve made starters with sugar water, and I’ve just poured and stirred. Adding the beasties and just letting them sit is the way to go. When I first started making wine kits, I believe they had you pour and stir. Now they do the sit on top method. Science rules.

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Piesporter Kit Log

January 14, 2008 at 10:29 pm (Kit Wine, Winemaking, Winemaking Log) (, , , , )

1/6/08 – Today I racked the blueberry wine, so I cleaned the fermenter and immediately started the Piesporter kit. The kit has about 7 liters of juice concentrate. It also has a big bag of elderflowers. This is the first time I’ve made this kit.

1/14/08 – Tonight I siphoned the wine into a 6-gallon carboy. The specific gravity was 1.010 as recommended by the instructions. It now has to sit for at least 10 days before moving on the next step.

1/27/08 – It’s sort of 10 days. Today I added the Potassium Sorbate and Potassium Metabisulfite, the F-Pack, and the Isinglass and stirred and stirred. It seems weird to mix up wine that has already cleared, but that’s the way they do it and Winexpert has made a lot more wine than me. I know from experience (and I’ll do a separate entry) if you don’t wait long enough or stir it up enough, you will get bubbles in your wine. I had bubbles in my very first batch. It says I can bottle in 14 days, but I’m in no rush. As long as there is an airlock on top with liquid in it, the wine can sit for a very long time. I’ll probably bottle in three weeks, just to give it a little extra time to clear.

2/17/08 – I bottled the Piesporter this morning. In the past, I have often gone from the carboy directly to the bottle. Today I used a bottling bucket because I wanted to add additional Potassium Metabisulfite to the wine. The directions suggest adding 1.5 grams in 125 ml of water to the wine before bottling. The only way to do that is to either rack to another carboy or to a bottling bucket. I calculated the 1.5 grams to be about 25 ppm, so I used my 2.5% solution Potassium Metabisulfite and added 50 ml. I did this because I’ve had some of the white go bad after only a couple of years in the bottle. You wouldn’t expect a commercial white to go bad after 2 or 3 years in the bottle, so I finally broke down and added sulfites at bottling.

I don’t have a label for it yet. Unfortunately, the kits don’t come with labels any more. It was nice when they did, you just wiped the back of the label across a wet sponge and applied it to the bottle. They also came off easily in hot water. I’ll probaby go for a simple laser printed design applied with a glue stick. Another idea I’ve had lately is to make a full color page and get copies made. It’s got to be cheaper than using my inkjet printer.

I’ve never had the Piesporter before, so I’ll post a taste comment here in a month or two.

3/30/08 Tasting Notes – (I’m writing this a month later, so taste details have been forgotten, however …) I took a bottle over to the winery.  Even though it has only been in the bottle for a month, this has already become a very nice wine.  The elderflowers come on a little bit strong at first, but quickly mellows.  The wine has a nice body that is really enjoyable.  The three of us polished off that bottle in no time.  Piesporter is one of the least expensive kits available, but it has definitely lived up to all the hype.

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Wine from a kit? Really?

January 6, 2008 at 6:24 am (Kit Wine, Thoughts, Winemaking, Winemaking Tips) (, , , , )

Yes, really. I made my first wine kit about seven years ago. My thought at the time was something along the lines of “it’s going to cost me $3 a bottle, how good can it be. The first kit was just okay. I was a little impatient and I didn’t wait long enough for each of the steps. I also didn’t let it age very long in the bottle. And I chose a red wine as my first. Reds tend to do better after a little time aging in the bottle. I should have started with a white.

The key to making wine is always having enough other wine so that you don’t need the one you are cooking up at that moment. When you purchase your first kit, do yourself a favor and plan on doing two or three different wines right away. In a few short months you have 100 bottles of wine. That’s too much wine you say, well then split it with a friend. Trust me, it won’t be hard to find a friend that is willing to chip in $40 for 15 bottles of wine, especially if you are doing the work. It also isn’t hard to find friends who will help you drink it.

So here’s the trick, purchase one fermenter, but two or three carboys. The wine is only in the fermenter for about a week. As soon as the serious fermenting is over, you move the wine to the glass carboy. At that point, you need to clean and sanitize the fermenter. That’s the perfect time to chuck the next kit in the fermenter. You need to sanitize before starting a batch and you just did it to clean up from the previous one.

So how good are they? Well, my last post gives a hint. Damn good. Way better than any of my attempts to make wine from winery purchased grape juice. I don’t plan on buying grapes, that’s just too much work and the small buyer has almost no control over the product. The folks at Winexpert do a great job getting the acid, tannin, and sugar content right. Follow the directions, don’t improvise. Let me know how you do.

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What’s Your Favorite Kit?

January 5, 2008 at 9:41 pm (Kit Wine, Thoughts, Wine Recipes, Winemaking) (, , , , , )

Winexpert kits

My favorite kit so far is Winexpert’s Limited Edition Oregon Pinot Noir. The wine is as good as any $35 bottle I’ve tasted. It cost me about $120 for the 16 liter premium kit and it was worth every penny. I’m also particularly fond of Winexpert’s Gewurztraminer.  I keep hesitating to purchase kits for $60 and $70, I have to keep reminding myself that works out to about $2.50 a bottle with cork and capsule.

I’ve never made any RJ Spagnols kits, I’d love to hear about those or any other wine kits others have tried.  I’m open to recommendations.  Comments please…

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