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A million questions about wine making

So I got my first kits from NB’s sale and am almost ready to go but am skeptical about the instructions and timeline provided. I dug around on the internets and found this posting titled Extended Instructions for Making Wines from Kits and it seems more detailed and complex and am wondering what the experienced wine makers think of it. The timeline seems better but I have a few question as follows.

http://winemaking.jackkeller.net/extended.asp

1.) They mentioned adding grape tannins at the beginning for reds. I’m doing a Selection Original Pinot Noir; would this be a good idea?
2.) Drawing one rehydrated gallon of must and saving it in the fridge until around day 7-9 and adding it back at room temp after fermentation has started to slow. Again, anyone do this? I’ve heard of this for beer so the yeast isn’t exposed initially to such a high gravity wort and can then slowly work its way through everything.
3.) Rehydrating yeast. The kit instruction say no but again I’m hesitant. Should I do it? Also wondering whether or not it would be better to substitute a liquid yeast with starter that is better suited to that style if possible.
4.) Oak powder: this is my own question. Never used it before obviously but something about oak powder sounds cheap to me. Would the chips, cubes or something else yield a better result? If so when would I add them?
5.) The website mentioned lightly stirring your wine on days 2-5 to keep the yeast suspended. Would rocking the bucket be good enough so as to not have to remove the lid?

Wow; that was a lot but I have no idea what I’m doing. Thanks in advance!

Main thing is I dont care for a lot of Jacks “advice” most of it is stuff just rehashed from text and that can be relied on but especially for newer winemakers its hard to tell whats right and whats wrong practice. He draws goofy ideas on ways to do things that are absolutely confounding and counterprodcutive and I have had to think to myself a few times…Say what? Do what? For what reason? Really? Wow.

What is even more laughable is I had the displeasure of visiting a newer MN winery and they got millions into this place. But it is only a fancy building and equipment with no soul. The growing crews know their stuff, but it turns out they have a young 21 year old kid doing the winemaking and I asked him where he learned winemaking and he said Jack Keller! LOL, and he in the same breath mentioned he doesn’t really drink wine!
WOW, So it came down to just a gimmicky “winery”. I turned right around with my group and left, there was no way I was paying any money for samples. You cant even pay me to subject myself to horsehockey wine. Quality or nothing. Their are many skilled and artisan winemakers in the Midwest, but I was blown away by the lack of regard to the actual wine. Why would you spent multi millions and have some no nothing kid making your wine and he was in no way related to the owners. Absolutely ridiculous. SORRY for the offtopic Jack made me do it!

Even though this book doesn’t speak to “kit” winemaking it is one of the best texts that spells out the process from grape to glass and you will be better educated to make tweaks where you then see fit.

http://home-brewing.northernbrewer.com/ ... &view=grid
  1. No. Pinot noir should have lower tannin content than the “bigger” reds like cab,merlot, syrah etc… It should be light and fruited with just a touch of tannin that the grape naturally produces.
    Sometimes a winemaker will add tannin if he/ she feels that the tannin was far too low that harvest and the wine produced will be overly “flabby” or too fruity without the balance of tannin. This is also done with acid and depending on grape type you might always or never adjust acid.
    Also most LHBS sell a tannin made from walnuts and it is overly astringent compared to grape tannin. I would never use that stuff on my reds.
  2. This is a process called sussreserve and is done frequently for white wines to add some residual sweetness. It can be used in any type of wine to add a bit of roundness and pallete fullness, but is not commonly practiced and it is something done in advanced winemaking whereas kits usually have the must blended, acid and tannin adjusted prior to packaging.
  3. Beer I dont. But creating a dry yeast cream is advised for wine because of the osmostic shock due to high gravity and low water content.
  4. I have always thought this also and use cubes or spirals. I really dig spirals and seem to get the quickest results due to the higher surface contact. One thing I advise though is to start small and you can always add more. Its hard to rectify a really over oaked wine.
    Whenever you goto secondary or tertiary is when to oak. Pinot you will want to be extra conservative due to the delicate nature of this grape. You could easliy trounce flavors in this lighter red. I would suggest you buy two spirals and snap one in half and use that for a month and then sample to see if it is adding the desired effect or if it needs more and also realize it may be enough but needs more time. Oak is tricky depending on your own pallete so its best to just experiment until you learn what level you want. Just approach it with a mentality that it is like cayenne powder. A little goes a long way.
  5. Not really, It is best to just keep them back up into suspension if they indicate, maybe its a strain related thing, but I might even just skip this stirring as it typically is not needed as most yeast strains are robust enough to cleanly ferment without rousing. Typically when I hear advocacy for stirring it is in the following quoted method or to degas before bottling. If done though its not as critical regarding opening the bucket, like it would be with beer. It should have pretty good Alc% and low acid by the time comes to rouse.
    "Lees Stirring /Barrel Stirring = Batonnage

A traditional practice that consists of rousing the sediment (the lees) in white wine casks after barrel fermentation. Usually done with a steel rod that has a chain or perforated bar at its end (some wine-makers simply use a wooden stick.) The action of stirring puts the lees back in suspension and helps with the introduction of oxygen to “feed” the wine. This results in a richer, though lighter-coloured, wine. At the same time carbon dioxide is expelled and the danger of Hydrogen Sulphide development in the lees is reduced. "

Not looking to write a book, so here is my take.

  1. Not needed in most cases. Tannins not only a complexity to a wine but also can add some color stabilization in big reds. You will have natural tannin in your juice and you will also pick up complexity from added oaking. Non grape wines benefit greatly from added tannins.
    2)This is not required. I never do this in my kits or fresh fruit wines and still have great results.
    3)Recommended but not required. Healthy yeast make for healthy fermentations.
    I would also stick with the yeast that was included in the kit.
    4)I prefer the cubes. But, until you are completely comfortable with judging oak levels I would stick with what the kit calls for.
  2. I gently stir all of my wines.

Bottom line is that most of these kits are designed to produce a good product (Island Mist being an exception). Many of the kits have won multiple awards. My main complaint is that they are far too rushed. Slow down and let the wine speak for itself. They benefit greatly from simply extending aging and proper degassing.

So I think I’m over-thinking this. I mean, this is a $109 kit so it’s not a cheapy. I’ll probably stick with the champagne yeast (unless someone says otherwise because that seemed weird to me with all my non-experience in wine making…) but will probably rehydrate.

I guess my main thing is the oak powder. Here is what I’m thinking. I have a sour beer that will need some oaking in October. I have a package of medium roast french oak chips that I was planning on using. I’m wondering if I could use them in this wine instead of the powder and transfer them into the sour. Again, no experience in wine making here and this is also my first sour beer so maybe this is a horrible idea…I don’t know…

When everyone says these kits are rushed what exactly does that mean? Are all the steps rushed? Should it be left in primary for longer? Or just the bulk aging portion? What would you recommend for a timeline as far as fermenting and aging?

I make wine from fresh or frozen must and have never made kits. So I thought they provide you with varietal specific yeast that will enhance the natural flavors in the wine you are making. Champagne yeast would not be my first choice for a pinot by a long shot. I am glad you mentioned this as I would suggest using
Bourgovin/ RC212 this was sourced originally from Burgundy, France.

http://www.lalvinyeast.com/RC212.asp

Here is one of many yeast charts floating around.

http://winemakermag.com/guide/yeast

Now a red zin or pinot will be drinking much sooner than a cab or syrah etc…So I would say a minimum timeline would be 4-6 months before bottling. Many “bigger” reds do not drink well until a year or more in tank/barrel. So the bulk aging is what this is speaking to. Your palette alone will dictate exact timelines.

I have had a chance to sample just about every champagne and sparkling wine the world over and can assure you that Champagne is not really made with “Champagne” yeast.
Quick fact: Champagne/sparkling wine is typically a blend of three different varietals.

  1. Chardonnay
  2. Pinot Noir
  3. Pinot Muenier
http://www.winepros.org/wine101/sparkling.htm#champ

When it comes to anything you suggest such as using pinot soaked oak cubes in a sour. I say why not, but I recommend doing bench trials on any forays like this first.

Bench trials are routinely done in commercial wineries to blend multi barrels, different clones, different varietals,tannin, acid or sussereserve to see what works before committing entire fermentors or barrels to a selected process. Typically you have 2-10 small samples of base wine/beer and manipulate each one slightly different to find the best ratio etc… That has the best sensory and flavor results desired.

With what you propose. I would transfer about a quart or two of still wort to a mason jar and use 1-6 pinot oak cubes/chips.The remainder of chips/cubes suspended in a jar of wine to prevent mold from growing on the moist now drying chips. Depending on your personal OCD you could also scale it down exactly to full estimated batch dosage of cubes/chips to estimate approximate effect too. Let age on the cubes a week or two and sample to see if its a gain to flavor/complexity or trainwreck. Then you can wisely decide if you will subject your entire batch to the process stream or not.

The Prise de Mousse strain ferments fast, is very thorough, and has a high ability to out-compete other yeast and spoilage organisms. It is also chosen due to the fact that it can ferment concentrate very thoroughly and many other strains do not. Many strains cannot crack the sugars away from acids they become attached to in the concentration process.

My experience has been that the time line that the kits give are grossly speed ed up in most
cases doubling their time line is more reasonable. I have made 80 or so kits.
Gary

Good info here… thanks guys!

It’s probably been 5 years since my wife and I made wine but I picked up two Selection Estate Sonoma Dry Creek Valley chardonnay kits in the recent sale. I’ve really taken my brewing to the next and the next and the next level in that time so I’m hoping to figure out all the really important nuances to get the most out of these kits before we start to ferment.

I’ll be following these threads closely :slight_smile:

:cheers:

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