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My first wine isn't very good

I made a Winexpert merlot kit. It’s been a couple months of work and I bottled it tonight. I had 23 full bottles and about a half left over. As I worked on the wine, the flavor has been pretty stable. It’s not that good and I’m curious if this is normal for a kit, if I screwed something up, or if the wine just needs time to age.

  • There are almost no tannins. I guess I would expect a young wine to be very heavy on the tannins. I guess I get a little tannin when I slosh it in my mouth a lot.

  • The oak is extremely heavy. The recipe came with oak powder and oak cubes. Maybe it’s just too much in the recipe?

  • The nose is sharply sweet. This may be an effect of the oaking. The wine is definitely fully fermented to dryness. The sweetness is also on the tongue, but to not as much a degree as the nose.

  • The flavor is very grape. Not much else going on. It tastes like oak cubes and grapes.

The wine doesn’t appear to be damaged. There’s no taste of oxygenation. No foul smells, just a really badly balanced wine.

How much should I expect things to improve in the bottle over the 3 months I plan to leave it untouched?

There’s a brew store down the street with a wine guy. I’m thinking of taking some of it there to get feedback and suggestions.

Wine kits are generally designed to minimize the time from when you start until you can drink the wine, and that usually means there are compromises with the flavor. One method that is used for this is to make sure there are very few tannins present, as tannins will take a long time to mellow from harsh to pleasantly complex.

In general, the more you spend for a wine kit, the better the wine you will get out of it. Most often, the more expensive wine kits will take longer to make as well.

Oak is something that they may have put more in than they figured anyone would use, figuring that users would add to taste. See if there is some note in the instructions to that effect. The “grapy” character is a bit puzzling. The yeast normally take care of that.

The wine will likely improve over the next 6 months to a year, but don’t expect miracles. And beware that there is an effect called “bottle shock” which will make the wine taste really off for a few weeks immediately following bottling.

The instructions don’t say “to taste” but I have no doubt that you’re right.

I ordered some books. I think I’m going to do some research, talk to some wine makers I know, and give my second shot without using a kit.

My beer making has been going well, but I’m not going to retreat from wine because of one bad attempt. And as you say, it may even out in the bottle after a few months. I’ll box it and store it and check on it down the road.

The reading up is a good first step.

Just a caution for you, wine is more difficult to get right than beer. The reason is the quality of the raw ingredients. Every brew shop has top quality ingredients for beer making, but getting top quality ingredients for wine is very difficult. I would recommend you get a high quality kit for your next attempt.

When I started winemaking, I progressed from low-quality kits to high quality kits to fresh juice to fresh grapes. Each step of that process involved more understanding of the process, but also better quality wine right away - except the step to fresh grapes. It took me a couple of years of trying to get my fresh grape wines better than the better kits I had been using. The winemaking process isn’t so complicated, but you need to understand how to let the raw ingredients shine through.

Which kit are we actually talking about here? From the sounds of it it might be an Eclipse Stag’s Leap Merlot ?(I assume becasue of the cubes).

If so this is a very high quality kit and should come out very well. If it is a much cheeper kit, there is your answer.

  1. Give it a lot more time. It does not seem well ballanced because it is not. Needs a good 6-12 months bottle aging. There is a whole in the middle where the flavor should be right now. It will show a little better in 3 months, but I would wait a little longer.

  2. You are correct in thinking that oak cubes can bring out perception of sweet. I personally tend to avoid cubes, and just add more french oak at the beginning with my kits. On the other hand, I have not found that the cubes winex uses add as much vanilla as other companies’ kits.

The oak will mellow as everything else comes forward. Do not worry.

  1. Kit wines are definately designed to be on the less tannic side. If you want a full structure you have to go right to the top of the quality range, and probably make something with skins. Even then you will only get something that matches to a medium bodied commercial wine. Just how it goes.

Overall I am pretty impressed with the Eclipse series wines. IMO they are the highest quality wine kit on the market. If this is what you made, I would wait it out a little before you judge too harshly.

I’ve made a few red kits and I find they taste grapey/sweet before a year, but will keep some of that taste if you didn’t degass enough. If gas is the problem you can fix it with a decanter, or by opening the bottle an hour or two before serving. It’s not a lost cause.

By the way, are those 23 bottles in the 750mL size? I’ve never had less than 30. Did you add water to make 6 gallons?

I was actually wondering the same thing. If you are using standard bottles, you should usually get at least 25-28 bottles without topping up. For Grape skin reds it is likely on the lower end of that, but 23 bottles seems like an issue even then.

This is a high quality kit. It’s the Stag’s Leap Merlot with skins. I am more than happy to give it as much time as it needs. I am in no rush. I am interested in getting a second and third batch going so that I can learn more. I think I may lean toward a high end kit that doesn’t involve as much oak in the style to compare. Perhaps some kind of Barolo.

I bought these three books:

“The Joy of Home Winemaking” - Terry Garey
“The Complete Guide to Making Your Own Wine At Home” - John Peragine
“The Home Winemaker’s Companion” - Gene Spaziani

I do think the progression of kits to juice to grapes makes the most sense. Although I’ve met a few winemakers in the area (I’m near Woodinville) who have gone straight into the deep end. Maybe that’s a bad idea. I certainly don’t have the facilities right now to crush my own fruit.

I think the carboy was sitting at around 5.3 gallons or so. I believe I did add water before pitching the yeast, although I perhaps lost some wine in the various rackings and taking samples with my wine thief. The bottles are 750 ml, I ended up with 23 and a half bottles. Maybe I didn’t add enough water? I don’t remember. Next time I’m going to take copious notes.

Also I did add extra metabisulfite a month ago so it should be good for aging a while.

[quote=“BrandonReinhart”]I think the carboy was sitting at around 5.3 gallons or so. I believe I did add water before pitching the yeast, although I perhaps lost some wine in the various rackings and taking samples with my wine thief. The bottles are 750 ml, I ended up with 23 and a half bottles. Maybe I didn’t add enough water? I don’t remember. Next time I’m going to take copious notes.

Also I did add extra metabisulfite a month ago so it should be good for aging a while.[/quote]
Check the kit notes again. Most kits are for six gallons.

As said, it’s been quite a while since I made a wine kit, but when I was using them I think one of the biggest indicators that a kit would turn better was it didn’t use concentrate. I was pretty happy with the results from the kits that didn’t require you to add any water.

Depends which “all juice kits” we are talking about. The majority of kits where you don’t add water (ex. Mosto Perfect /Italiano) are made from concentrated juices in the exact same way as any other kit. They have just been rehydrated ahead of time to sell as a “23l pure must” kit.

In the case of Eclipse kits, they are 95% fresh press juice, and 5% concentrated varietal juice (from same source). The water you add is minimal and the grape sources are extremely high quality for kit wine.

Unless you are talking about improted frozen musts (seasonal) which are actually quite expensive, I considder most 100% must kits to be middle of the road quality wise.

All wine kits are designed to be made to 23l (6US gal). This is before adding the grape skins. A lot of times I will fill to 22l, add skins to get 24l to improve my concentration. But any major deviation from the recomended volume will effect the finished wine.

[quote=“BrandonReinhart”]This is a high quality kit. It’s the Stag’s Leap Merlot with skins. I am more than happy to give it as much time as it needs. I am in no rush. I am interested in getting a second and third batch going so that I can learn more. I think I may lean toward a high end kit that doesn’t involve as much oak in the style to compare. Perhaps some kind of Barolo.
[/quote]

This should turn out to be a solid wine (assuming you made it up to 23l volume originally). Just give it way more time.

This is not a heavily oaked wine. That should even out. As I mentioned before, I personnaly do not like the cube oaking stage, so I just add more (a lot more) other types of oak.

Eclipse does make a Barolo. I hear it is pretty good.

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