Awesome Reusable Wine Labels

While it is great fun to have your very own wine label on the bottles you made it can also be a hassle when you go to reuse the bottle. Most wine labels leave a sticky mess behind that require chemicals to remove. There is one company, however, that makes a reusable wine label that leaves no mess behind and has quite a few other neat features. I found these not too long ago and wanted to check them out. I wrote to the company to see if they had any over-run labels from other orders that they could send me to review with you. They agreed and sent me a variety of wine and beer labels to test out and create a video with. Here’s a video showing what the wine labels look like and how they work. Again, the key points were: 1. The labels are completely removable. 2. You can write on them with washable or dry erase Crayola Crayons. 3. The labels can be customized to read whatever you like. The guys over at Grogtag were kind enough to give me a code that you can use to get 10% off of your order. You can either follow this link or just use the code “WineMakerMatt” when you check out for the discount. In addition to getting 10% off a percentage of the sale also goes to Winemaker’s Academy making this a great way to dress up your wine and help support the Academy. Academy proceeds from label sales will go directly to purchasing more wine making supplies and equipment to share with you. I was not paid to make the video or say what I said. I genuinely like these labels and will be ordering some of my own for my Riesling. When they get here I’ll be sure to share them with...

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A Free and Simple Wine Making Log

A Free and Simple Wine Making Log

The best way to learn from past successes and failures is by taking detailed notes in a wine making log. Previously I shared how to create a log using a notebook here. Over time I found that I wanted a more structured document to keep track of all the important measurements. To that end I created a free wine making log that fits on a single sheet of paper that I’d like to share with you. The Free Wine Making Log This has been tailored for kit wine making but can also be used when making wine with frozen must or fresh grapes. If you’d like a copy of the log it is a free download. Just click here or on the picture. Print this sheet out before you start your next wine and keep it with you as you progress through the steps of the wine making process. There are places to record all the important data as well as taking some notes of your own. Additional Notes Worth Taking There are several places on the winemaker’s log for “additional notes” where you might want to include some more observations. Here are a few suggestions of things that can come in handy when looking back over your notes. First, I recommend noting the ambient temperature where you store your wine. While the must temperature is very important when inoculating the yeast it’s also good to know what temperature the wine will settle down to. When temperatures get too low everything slows down and your degassing time will increase many times over. If things get too warm you can ferment too quickly and you risk picking up cooked flavors. Because the fermentation process gives off heat you’ll want to factor the ambient temperature into your plans. If your wine making area is at the upper limit of recommended temperatures the heat produced during fermentation may be enough to make your wine too warm. Another worthwhile bit of information to record are visual observations. Take some notes on what the must looks, smells, or tastes like each time you perform a step of the wine making process. This way you’ll start to understand how a wine develops from start to finish. Lastly, you’ll want to note anything that didn’t go quite as planned. Did some of the wine spill? Did you forget to stir everything up really well? Did degassing take 40 minutes instead of 2? Fill out the winemaker’s log completely. Don’t worry about recording too much information. You never know what will be nice to know later on as you’re drinking your wine. As you get to know the winemaking process better the notes you take will start to have more meaning. The best way to grow as a winemaker would be to review these winemaking logs after you’ve finished and bottled the wine. The next time you take a bottle off the rack to enjoy take a minute to review your log. You may find that over time you’re able to identify how specific steps in the process have affected your finished wine. Feel free to share...

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How to Evaluate Your Wine

How to Evaluate Your Wine

Being able to evaluate your wine objectively is vitally important to successful winemakers. You should know how to discern whether your wine is of good quality or not. Whether you like your wine or not is much less important. It’s possible to make a high quality wine that you just don’t like personally. I for one am not a fan of Sauvignon Blanc, regardless of how well made it is. But as I wine maker you and I both should be able to tell if it’s well made. The Scoring of Wines We’re all familiar with the various wine scoring systems of Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast, right? Many of these systems are based on a scale of 100. With 100 being exceptional and 80 being passable. Wine competitions often use a similar system for their evaluations. The point of these systems (no pun intended) is to separate well made wines from those with defects. Judges, as you can imagine, taste all sorts of wine. Many they may not like. However, they judge quality not how well it suits their palate. Here’s another way to look at it. Let’s say you’re in the market for a house and the real estate agent takes you to a ranch style home. This home has got the best siding, aluminum roof, and top notch appliances. It’s a well built house. You, however, are in the market for a three story “cabin” in the woods. The ranch home is well built, modern, yada yada. However, it’s not what you like. It doesn’t suit you. Just because it doesn’t suit you doesn’t mean you can’t tell if it’s well made or not. The same goes for wine. A cloudy wine is not well made, there’s something wrong with it. Having a hint of sardine on the nose is not a sign of quality. You get the picture. How to Evaluate Your Wine Wine judges score wines using a point system, as I mentioned earlier. They judge different aspects of wine such as: clarity, acidity, bouquet, aroma, finish, etc. Just because one aspect is off doesn’t mean they all are. Thus each aspect is judged independently. To keep all of this straight during a competition judges use scoring cards. The American Wine Society publishes the score cards their judges use along with a guide to help you through the evaluation process. You can download a copy here. If you take a look at the first page you’ll notice that different aspects of the wine get different amounts of points. Appearance, for example is rated from 0 to 3 while aroma and bouquet are rated from 0 to 6. This means that cloudiness is or off colors is more tolerable than funky aromas. The cards come with a description of what to look for as well. For example a wine with “good” taste and texture will have good balance, be smooth, but may exhibit minor flaws. Exceptional appearance would be “brilliant with outstanding characteristic color”. Print out the form and use it to evaluate your wine point by point as a judge would. The “overall impression” and “total score” columns are of much...

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Studying Wine to Become a Better Winemaker

Studying Wine to Become a Better Winemaker

Great winemakers have a tremendous depth of wine knowledge in addition to their understanding of the winemaking process. The more you know about finished wines the wines you make will be. Why? It’s nearly impossible for a winemaker to make a subtle and complex wine if he/she can’t describe or even pick out subtleties in what they drink. Once you know how to pick out the nuances of a great wine you can start hone your winemaking skills to draw out those characteristics out in your own wines. Many of us put a lot of effort into studying the winemaking process, as we should. But we mustn’t forget to study the finished product itself. What I mean is that we need to be developing our palate to pick out nuances as well as expanding our understanding of tasting and evaluating wines. Even if you’ve been at this for a while chances are there’s still a lot for you to learn. I know I’ve got a lot to learn. Over the years, however, I’ve found one resource that has broadened my knowledge of wine more than any other. It’s not some stuffy textbook or a video hosted by an “I’m smarter and better than you” wine expert. My Number One Wine Resource The resource I’m referring to is Wine for Normal People Radio, a podcast hosted by Elizabeth Schneider (@NormalWine) and M.C. Ice. Elizabeth is a certified sommelier that knows how to make wine fun and understandable. I’ve picked out my favorite shows to share with you. Listening to them will set you on the path to becoming a better winemaker. You’ll learn how to better taste wine, develop your palate, as well as discover the impact of terroir on wines. To get you started here are my top picks. Tasting and Terroir 1. Tasting Wine This episode walks you through the process of tasting wine. There’s a lot to tasting wine and I’m sure you’ll be familiar with much of this but it’s still something to brush up on especially with the help of a sommelier. 2. Developing Your Palate A winemaker’s palate is his/her most valuable tool. Without a well developed palate you’ll have a hard time identifying the good and bad aspects of your wine. You need to be able to pick out flaws so you can learn to correct them in the next wine you make. 3. Terroir Part I, and Part II Ok, terroir is a big topic for sure. Elizabeth spent two episodes covering this one and you really should listen to both shows. For winemakers terroir is key. The land and climate that your grapes grew up in can alter their flavors and aromas. The same varietal grown in two different geographic regions will have different qualities. Winemaking Episodes From time to time Wine for Normal People Radio will cover some winemaking topics specifically. Here are some great shows for winemakers. 1. How a Grape Becomes a Wine In this show Elizabeth will take you through the entire process of how wines are made. From vineyard to bottle, it’s all here. Since most of us don’t grow our own grapes it’s helpful to understand...

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