Keeping a winemaking log is critically important of you’re to your growth as a winemaker. However, if you’re not logging useful information it won’t do you much good.
Short and Long Term Benefits of Keeping a Winemaking Log
In the short term a well kept winemaking log can help you keep the timing of each step straight. It also serves as a double check of how much of what additives you’ve put in and when you did it.
The long term benefits, however, can be much more valuable. Think about this, the time between when you get your grapes (or wine kit) and opening the last bottle of wine those grapes made may be six months to ten years. By the time you open that last bottle there’s little chance you’ll remember what you did during it’s production.
If your last bottle is terrific you won’t know what you did and therefore can’t replicate the process. On the other hand if it’s horrific you won’t know what might have gone wrong so you can avoid that mistake in the future.
By not keeping a log you’re setting yourself up to make a lot of mediocre wine because you can’t learn from what you did right or wrong. Don’t fall into that trap.
3 Keys to a Useful Winemaking Log
Here are three keys to creating a useful winemaking log that will benefit you for years to come in your winemaking ventures.
1. Keep it simple.
Yes you could create a sexy spreadsheet that calculates the standard deviation of your specific gravity readings but that’s really not necessary nor is it helpful. What you need is a straight forward, journal style log of what you did and when you did it.
I suggest using a simple notebook that you can keep with your wine. It’s easy to use and won’t short circuit if you spill a sample on it. Also, by keeping it accessible you’ll be more apt to write things down.
If you want to re-type everything on your computer or blog that’s great. But also keep a paper version with your wine for easy access.
2. Write down everything.
You never know what’s going to be important when you’re trying to solve a problem. If you’ve recorded your every action you’ll have a great chance of figuring out what happened if you do end up in trouble.
Or let’s say three years from now you uncork the final bottle of your first Chardonnay and it’s simply amazing. Your first thought is going to be, “Wow! How did I do that?” With a detailed winemaking log you’ll know.
First, always record the date and time. Follow that with as many observations as you can make. Such as:
- Ambient temperature
- Must temperature
- Airlock activity level
- Tasting notes (Get a sample? Take a swig!)
- Specific gravity
- Additives (be clear about the quantity too)
- Titratable Acidity
Also write down how long you stirred the wine if you did, as well as anything else you notice.
It may seem tedious to record each and everything you do but it will come in handy. If you ever ask for help from another winemaker in a forum or in person they’re going to have a lot of questions for you regarding the process you followed. If you can’t provide them with details they won’t be able to help you.
3. Keep taking notes until your wine is gone.
A complete winemaking log will span from the time you get your grapes (or juice) to the day the last drop is consumed. This is the only way to understand how your wine aged and how what you did in the winemaking process may have affected the end result.
This really starts to get useful when you’ve got a few vintages under your belt. Then you can start to compare your winemaking logs from one wine to the next to see how your process may have changed or what differences could account for how the finished wines came out.
The Ideal Log Book
The best log book for you to use is whatever is easiest for you to write in and keep your different wines straight. To this end there are three different paths you can take.
The first option, and the easiest, is picking up the Winemaker’s Academy free winemaking log! This is a single sheet winemaking log that outlines everything you might need to record during the entire process of making your wine. Just download it, print it, and you’re ready to go.
The second option is to use a single note book such as a composition book or one of those leather bound pocket notebooks. Use this one book to record everything you do for all your wines. Put plenty of blank pages between your different wines so that they won’t run into each other. The benefit of doing this way is having one book to log all your activity.
Alternatively you could pick up several small notebooks (like the one pictured here) and have one winemaking log for each wine individually. Keep each book next to the carboy it’s in so you have it on hand.
The plus side of this is that you’ve got a log of each wine and won’t have to go digging through a larger notebook to find the one you’re looking for. Also, you know you won’t run into another wine’s section because it’s self contained in that notebook. If you run out of pages just grab another and keep going. Then you can fasten them together if necessary.
Photo by: Needle & Awl