3 x 3 in 3 Kit Wine Making by William Forsch

3 x 3 in 3 Kit Wine Making by William Forsch

Winemaker’s Academy is built on members helping each other make a better bottle of wine.  One of our members provided a very helpful presentation for the beginning kit wine maker.  As the title states you only need a 3′ x 3′ space and 3 hours of time to start your wine making experience. Bill has been a kit wine maker for 9 years and has completed over 150 kits including all styles – red, white, and dessert.  He has also conducted full kit wine making classes for four years including almost 100 students.  After retirement five years ago, he began making wine from grapes.  Bill is an avid golfer, tennis player, chef/cook, and supporter of the Orange County Wine Society – Winemaker’s group and a member of their “leadership team”.  Bill’s Home Wine label is:  Lolita’s Claw Wines, named after the nasty calico cat that resides with him that tends to claw everything and everyone! Forsch Wine Kits Presentation-Updated...

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Choosing a Wine Kit – Part 2

Choosing a Wine Kit – Part 2

Winexpert kits from smallest to largest. Each kit makes 6 gal. of wine In part one of this article we discussed the characteristics that differentiate one size/price range of kit from another. http://winemakersacademy.com/choosing-a-wine-kit-part-1-owerview/  In part two we are going to look at how each of the product lines in the Winexpert family compare to each other using these characteristics.  Just by way of reminder, the aging times provided in this article are based on our experience, numerous customer reviews of various wines and a great deal of online research. However, many people are comfortable drinking their wines earlier than we recommend. Ultimately it’s your wine.  It’s up to you to decide when it’s ready to drink. A word about prices – Winexpert has instituted a Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) price fixing scheme that regulates the price that their resellers are allowed to advertise on many of their product lines. However, you may be able to get a discount from your local retailer or online retailer, they just can’t advertise a lower price. The prices shown below are based on either the MAP price if there is one or the typical internet price for non-MAP categories at the time of this writing. The cost per bottle is based on thirty bottles per kit except for the Selection Speciale kits which only make 15 bottles. The prices do not include the cost of the bottles which are reusable. The price ranges for a comparable commercial wine are subjective based on our experience.   Summary of Each Kit Type Like most things in life, you make your choice and you pay your money, and in the case of wine, you wait your time.  With that in mind here is a quick guide the differences between to the various sizes of kits and why you might choose one over the other.   Key Characteristics of Kit Lines Island Mist Vintners Reserve Selection Selection w/ Skins Eclipse Selection Speciale Size in Liters 7.5 10 16 18 18 12 Time to make 4 wks 4 wks 6 wks 6 wks 8 wks 6-8 wks Age Time White 1-3 mo 3-9 mo 6-9 mo N/A 9-18 mo 9-18 mo Age Time Red 1-3 mo 6-12 mo 9-18 mo 12-24 mo 12-24 mo 12-24 mo Aprox. Price $70 $55-$85 $85-$130 $120-$170 $160-$170 $70-$110 Cost/Bottle $2-$2.50 $2-$3 $3-$4.50 $4-$4.50 $5-$6.50 $5-$7.50 Compares to Commercial Wine costing $8-$12 $8-$14 $12-$18 $14-$24 $18-$30 $14-$30   Product Line:  Island Mist Size:  7.5 Liter Time to ferment and clear:  4 weeks Aging time:  1-3 months Approximate Price: $70 (May 2016) Cost per Bottle: $2 – $2.5        Compares to Commercial $8-$12 wine   These are great kits for new wine makers because they are easy to make and quick to drink.  They can be bottled in as little as 4 weeks and in theory consumed immediately after bottling.  However you’re probably going to be disappointed unless you wait at least a few weeks.  My wife and I have found that for us three months is about the minimum amount of aging before we start to drink these kits. They will continue to improve...

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Choosing a Wine Kit – Part 1 Overview

Choosing a Wine Kit – Part 1 Overview

Selecting a wine kit can be a little daunting especially if it’s you’re first one. A lot of factors come into play including the type of wine, cost, kit complexity, processing time, minimum aging time and feedback from other kit winemakers. In this two part series I’ll try to demystify the process. In this first article we’ll start by identifying the key characteristics that separate one product line from another. In part two we will use these key characteristics to analyze each product line and compare the different categories of kits. Then we’ll finish up by discussing how to select your first wine kit and how your kit choices can help build your wine cellar. I’ve used the Winexpert product line for examples because those are the kits I am most familiar with. However, the same basic guideline should apply to other kit makers product lines as well as long as they start out with approximately the same number of liters per kit. Does size matter? One of the things that puzzled us the most when we first started making wine kits was – other than the price, what is the difference between all these different kit product lines?  The short answer is 1) the quality/cost of the grapes used to make the kit and 2) the physical size of the kit.  The quality of the grapes seems obvious but does size really matter?  The answer, at least in the case of wine kits, is an emphatic “Yes!” The more expensive kits are roughly twice as large as cheaper kits yet both kits produce the same 6 gallons of wine.  This is only possible because the smaller kits have a much higher percentage of juice concentrate (juice with a significant amount of water removed) than larger kits, as a result you have to add a lot more water to make 6 gallons of wine with a small kit. The use of a juice concentrate provides two benefits. The first and most obvious is that it reduces the size of the package and the weight of the kit thereby saving on storage and shipping cost. The second less obvious benefit is that the concentrate has a much higher sugar level which acts as a preservative to protect the juice in the kit and extend the shelf life. This may seem counter intuitive at first that sugar would protect anything from spoiling but if you think about things that are high in sugar like the sugar bowl on the table, honey, jelly and fruit preserves. They can all sit out for weeks or months without spoiling because of the high sugar content. The downside of juice concentrates as we all know from experience with things like orange juice and other concentrates is that a little bit of the flavor seems to get lost in the process. Larger kits have a lower percentage of juice concentrate and a higher percentage of regular juice. Basically there is a lot more “stuff” in the juice bag for a “big kit” which gives the wine a richer, more complex flavor. If you take a small...

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How to Back Sweeten a Wine Kit

How to Back Sweeten a Wine Kit

So you’ve made a wine kit and it turned out all right but maybe it needs a bit more sugar to suit your palate. Recently Sam wrote in with this exact dilema. He had made a wine kit per the instructions and everything turned out as it should have but the wine just wasn’t sweet enough for him and his wife. Is It Possible to Back Sweeten a Wine Kit? Yes, it is possible and it’s not all that difficult to do either. Some wine kits include an “F-Pack” or unfermented juice with is used as a back sweetener. However, if your kit did not include this you can still sweeten things up a bit. Before any sweetener is added you’re going to need to stabilize your wine, otherwise you risk starting a second fermentation. This can be quite dangerous if said fermentation takes place after the wine has been bottled (boom). To stabilize your wine you’ll need either potassium sorbate or a sterile filtration system. Sorbate is the lease expensive way to go but it is another additive and, in some wines after a couple years in the bottle, it can result in off flavors. However, if you plan on consuming this wine within two years or so it probably won’t make a huge difference. Sterile filtration systems are what the pros use and even though there are amateur units available they can be quite pricey when new. However, if you happen to have access to one you’ll want to filter the finished wine with a 0.45 micron filter pad. This is what’s known as a sterile filter pad because it is fine enough to remove single celled organisms such as yeast and spoilage micro-organisms. You should only ever run a wine through a sterile filter pad after it is perfectly clear. Otherwise your pads will clog immediately. Commercial wineries often filter their wines once or twice with coarser pads before passing it through a sterile filter. Now that we’ve covered that here’s… How to Back Sweeten a Wine Kit Step 1: Ferment your wine all the way to completion. It should be ready to bottle before back sweetening. This means it is still, degassed, and clear. Step 2: Clean and sanitize your primary fermenter or another carboy. Step 3: Measure out the required amount of potassium sorbate and toss it into the clean container from step 2. I use L.D. Carlson Potassium Sorbate (affiliate link) and it calls for 1/2 teaspoon per gallon of wine. Be sure to check what your bottle says in case different manufacturers sell different sorbate concentrations. To ensure that we don’t add too much or too little sorbate I would leave out any sorbate that the wine kit comes with and instead use only a sorbate that you purchase. Because we can’t be sure what the concentration of sorbate is and how much is included in the packet it is best to use a measured amount that has the correct dosage information printed on it. By adding the sorbate before racking you are letting the flow of the wine mix it in. You’ll...

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The Great Riesling Yeast Experiment (Part II)

The Great Riesling Yeast Experiment (Part II)

The saga continues with the racking of my experimental Riesling fermented with two different yeast strains. Read this if you missed part one. Up to this point the two batches of Riesling have been fermenting separately.  One in a primary fermentation bucket and the other in a six gallon carboy. Little could be observed of the two wines save for the airlock activity. However, I recently got a chance to see, smell, and taste the two Rieslings when I racked them into their respective carboys. Here’s what I found. Opening the Primary Fermenters After seven days in their primary fermentation containers it was time to check chemistry and rack off of the lees. I opened up the lid to the plastic fermenter with the R-HST Riesling in it and was greeted by an interesting aroma. Not only was it a different aroma than the W15 Riesling, it smelled odd. I’m not entirely sure what it was but it had a tinge of sulfur to it. My wife really disliked the aromas wafting her way as she helped me prepare to rack. The W15 had been bold and fruity up to this point and didn’t disappoint when I removed the airlock. This wine smelled very fruity. I was expecting the same when I taste tested it. Testing the Wines With the lids removed I drew a sample of each wine to test it’s chemistry. The first thing I checked was the specific gravity. The R-HST weighed in at 1.008. This means there is still a bit more sugar yet to be fermented. The W15 Riesling was at an even 1.000. So in the same period of time the W15 yeast had burned through a bit more sugar than the RHST. This was particularly surprising because both wines came from the same kit and were inoculated at the same time (within about one minute of each other). I expected some differences in behavior between the two but this was a much larger difference then what I was anticipating. The W15 did seem to ferment more vigorously. The airlock looked like it was boiling at its peak. The difference in airlock activity was a solid indication that the W15 yeast was fermenting more quickly. Not only was the specific gravity different, the titratable acidity (TA) different as well. The pH, however, remained the same between the two. Sampling the Wines Any time I take a sample for testing I also taste it. This is why I love making wine. But before I tasted it I took a good look at the two wines. They both had similar yellow colors and were quite cloudy. The W15 Riesling was more cloudy than the RHST Riesling. I tasted the W15 Riesling first and what a surprise! Despite the bold grape smell it had strong grapefruit flavors. My wife picked out lemon and lime. Both of us agreed that it had an intense citrus flavor. Not much grape flavor at all. Then I moved on to the R-HST. This wine was noticeably sweeter, as evidenced by the higher specific gravity. I could taste a faint hint of pear as well as white or unripe...

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The Great Riesling Yeast Experiment (Part I)

The Great Riesling Yeast Experiment (Part I)

Yeast can have a profound affect on the final flavor and aroma profiles of a wine or so we’re told. But how much of a difference is there really from one yeast to another? To answer this question I set up the Great Riesling Yeast Experiment. In this experiment I set out to ferment one Riesling kit in two three gallon batches with two different yeast strains. To find out how I picked out my yeast strains read this. This experiment, I hope, will answer the following more specific question. How much does a yeast affect the final taste and aroma of a wine? Can you make a more complex wine by fermenting the same grapes with two different yeasts and blending them back together? Is it possible to make good wine from a kit while not following the directions? Background Yeast, as you know, is the star of the fermentation show. It is responsible for the creation of alcohol in wine, mead, and many other grown up beverages. For a long time many winemakers did not believe that the yeast used to ferment grapes mattered much when it came to the final character of the wine. They believed that as long as the grape juice was fully fermented it all tasted the same. It wasn’t until fairly recently that wine researchers started to study the effects different yeast strains can have. What they found was that it can make quite a big difference, however, they did say that it takes six months or so for that difference to show up. Today, many winemakers do split fermentations for this reason. They ferment the same grapes with more than one strain of yeast in separate containers. Then they blend these wines back together to create complexities that neither yeast on their own could create. The Yeast Experiment To answer the three questions posed above I set up the following experiment. I purchased a Winexpert World Vineyard Riesling (affiliate link) which makes six gallons of wine. To ferment this kit I selected RHST and W15 yeast strains based on their different aroma and flavor profiles (also affiliate links). These two 3 gallon batches will be fermented and aged separately for a period of a few months. Once they’ve been made into complete and independent wines I will blend them back together in varying proportions. Some bottles will contain 50% of each. Others will be blended at 25% one and 75% of the other. Lastly, I’ll bottle a couple bottles of each independently. Now that we’ve covered the parameters of the experiment let’s talk about how it’s all going down. Currently I’ve got my wines in their secondary fermentation carboys, however, I’m going to cover the first steps in the experiment here. Step 1: Inoculation To get this experiment going I hydrated the grape juice concentrate in a six gallon fermenter per the instructions with the bentonite. Once the wine was properly mixed I started the yeast re-hydration process. The kit instructions clearly state not to do this, however, as I’m not using the yeast that came in the kit I felt I needed to...

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