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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Sweetening Homemade Wine

January 22, 2008 at 10:31 pm (Wine Recipes, Winemaking, Winemaking Tips) (, , , , )

Let’s start with the basics.  When your wine is properly fermented, there is no residual sugar.  In other words, all of the sugar, whether it’s from the fruit or the stuff you added, it’s all gone.  Every bit of it has been turned into alcohol, carbon dioxide, and some other stuff we won’t discuss.

So your juice is now wine.  It has been sitting in a carboy for a couple of months and it is beautifully clear.  Time to bottle.  Only you want a wine that is sweet, not dry.  I believe it is a common misconception that you somehow stop fermentation with some sugar left over.  Nope.

Here’s the secret.  We add more sugar.  Yep, that’s it.  You absolutely must also add something to stop the yeast from getting reactivated.  The common chemical for that is Potassium Sorbate.  A 6-gallon batch of wine needs only one tablespoon to inhibit the yeast from partying again once the sugar is added.

So how do you decide how much sugar to add?  It’s basically trial and error.  What you do is make a syrup of 2 cups of sugar to 1 cup of water, heat it until it’s clear, then let it cool a bit (this gives you 500 ml of solution).

Now draw off a 50 ml portion of your wine and start adding sugar solution by the drop.  I do this rather crudely, but basically I’ll add 5 drops and try it, then another 5 and try it again.  You end up with less and less liquid, so once you think you got it right, you might want to try again.  When the taste is where you like it, calculate how much sugar solution you need.  The formula for this is:  (# drops) x (45) = the number of ml of solution for a 6 gallon batch of wine.

I rack the wine to a bottling bucket (a 7 gallon plastic bucket with a stopcock) and mix in the Sorbate and the calculated sugar.  Stir the sugar in well, then bottle.  Give the wine a couple of weeks to recover from bottle shock and give it a try.

Now that you know this, if you are drinking some wine and you think it would be better if it was a bit sweeter, add a little table sugar.  That’s all the winery is doing.  Cheers.

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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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Limoncello … soon

January 11, 2008 at 1:56 pm (Other Drinks, Wine Recipes, Winemaking) (, , , )

Lemons were 4 for $1, but they were ugly. Since the liqueur is made from the zest, I want the really good looking lemons. I’ll have to keep shopping.

I stopped today at a produce market. The lemons were 5 for $2, they were pretty, but they had no smell. More shopping.

Nikolai Vodka was around $7 for 1.5 liters of 80 proof in the PA state store. I’m going to check on NJ this weekend. They had two brands of Limoncello from Italy. Both brands were $20 for about .75 liter and they stated they were 36% alcohol (72 proof).

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Is it Wine or Rocket Fuel?

January 7, 2008 at 8:00 pm (Thoughts, Wine Recipes, Winemaking, Winemaking Tips) (, , , , , )

Alcohol is the byproduct of yeast eating sugar. We worry about the amount of sugar in our juice because there is a direct relationship between the amount of sugar in the juice and the amount of alcohol in the finished product.

The formula for converting the sugar content into alcohol is:

(Starting Specific Gravity – Ending Specific Gravity) x 105 x 1.26 = % Alcohol by Volume

The starting specific gravity is going to depend on how much sugar is in your grapes or how much you put into the must. The blueberry wine currently in process had a starting specific gravity of 1.080. I know from experience that the ending specific gravity will be around 0.995 to 1.000.

Based on my numbers, the finished blueberry wine will run about 11% alcohol. That’s just fine, anything from 11% to 13% is acceptable. You can feed more sugar into the juice and end up with a higher percentage of alcohol, but it will most likely be out of balance with the flavor and taste more like rocket fuel than wine.

If you are working with grapes, you have a natural amount of sugar already in there. You can add more, but you want to measure the specific gravity before you do that. Traditional wine makers (old Italian men) will never add sugar to their juice. If you are making fruit wine, you have to add sugar, you don’t have a choice. Only grapes have enough natural sugar to ferment into wine.

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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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My Favorite Winemaking Book

January 4, 2008 at 10:43 pm (Thoughts, Wine Recipes) (, , , , )

I have a few books, but one of my favorites is a book called “Winemaking” by Stanley & Dorothy Anderson.

There are a few things I really like about the book. I like that the book has a plastic spine so it opens flat while you are working. The recipes are clear, well organized, and straight forward. The steps are well explained. Most importantly, there is a recipe for just about any kind of grape or fruit wine you can think of. After reading through this book, you feel like you can make wine out of just about anything fermentable.

Winemaking Book Cover

You can find the book on Half.com and Amazon.com, there are used copies available for about $5. Go pick up a copy.

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