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Custom INgredients

Preparing to make my second batch of wine (Washington Merlot) - first batch I made (Malbec) came out unbelievable.

Now the questions… I’d like to veer off from the kit a bit and add some of my own touch to my next batch. Just wanna say it is a batch of wine customized from me rather than going with everything exactly that comes with the kit, Can anyone offer any suggestions on what I can possibly add? I did order some oak as I like that flavor in a Merlot but the kit I bought did not show any additional ingredients being sent other than the juice, yeast and stabilizers

I guess the first question would be, what are you looking for with it? Do you want to change it completely or just add some nuance to it? Oak is a good idea - what kind did you order? Also, switching up the yeast is a nice way to add something different without straying too far away from the kit. Assuming that the kit comes with a fairly failsafe yeast like EC-1118… while that yeast is about as reliable as it gets, it’s pretty neutral and there are some really nice strains available in both liquid and dry form. Look around at what’s available and see if anything catches your interest.

not looking to change completely but would like to have more of a fruity oak flavor … I went with http://www.northernbrewer.com/rjs-grand-cru-international-washington-merlot-kit

Oak is challenging–you need to err on the side of subtlety, or suddenly your wine tastes of bookcase.

Are you looking for a specific oak character? Dryness (tannin), vanilla, smoke, honey, coconut? You can add those with oak, and you can add them with some other tannin-based products.

I ask because it’s always important to have a goal in mind before you start making any kind of addition or alteration.

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While oak can be challenging as Tim says, fruity is even more challenging. Some yeasts can preserve the fruitiness better, but when you get a fruity merlot it is more often because the methods of handling the grapes were changed. Whole berry fermentation is most often the way to achieve this, and it is impossible to do that with a kit.
Think about what Tim asked for your goals, and the specific type of oak can be recommended to go in that direction. And think about making some more kits so you can graduate to ordering fresh grapes come August.

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