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Using Potassium Metabisulfite to Make Wine

- Feb 27, 2013

Using Potassium Metabisulfite to Make Wine

Potassium metabisulfite comes with just about every wine kit and is used as an additive even in wineries. This article explores what potassium metabisulfite is and how it works. To learn how to figure out how much to add to your wine check out Adding Potassium Metabisulfite to Wine (includes a calculator). But what does it do? What is it for? Is it safe? Let’s find out. What is Potassium Metabisulfite? Simply put it’s an antioxidant. It slows down the aging, i.e. oxidation, of wine by removing free oxygen suspended in the wine. Oxygen is both harmful and beneficial to wine. It is harmful in large quantities because it rapidly accelerates the aging process. However, wine starved of all oxygen can develop off flavors. The solution? Remove all oxygen suspended in the wine, bottle it, and let tiny amounts back in through natural cork closures. This is what we call micro-oxygenation. Potassium metabisulfite is often called a stabilizer because it serves to prevent spoilage and further fermentation by removing oxygen. However, this serves another purpose it preserves the flavor and color of a wine. An over oxidized wine can taste cooked or flabby (lacking body). Additionally, an oxidized wine turns red wines orange and eventually brown. White wines turn a golden brown color. This additive is available in a powdered form as pictured here as well as in tablets called campden tablets (affiliate links). Potassium metabisulfite may also be used as a sanitizing agent due to its antioxidant properties. How Does it Work? When you dissolve PM (K2S2O5) in water it forms three different compounds, sulfur dioxide, bisulfite, and sulfite. Each of these is able to bond with free oxygen floating around in wine. When this happens the free oxygen is no longer available to be consumed by micro-organisms. The removal of oxygen chokes off most micro-organisms and will prevent them from reproducing. It does not, however, stop a fermentation. Yeast produces alcohol only when forced to live without oxygen but it does go on living. Read this post for more information on the how yeast is used to make wine. By adding potassium metabisulfite after you’ve stopped fermentation completely you can then back sweeten a wine with little risk of rekindling the fermentation of newly added sugar. A Common Misconception Sodium Metabisulfite can be used interchangeably with potassium metabisulfite. While they both have very similar chemical makeups the difference is that potassium metabisulfite leaves potassium behind and sodium metabisulfite leaves sodium behind. Potassium occurs naturally in grapes and is essential to their growth. So adding a bit more potassium to the mix isn’t going to hurt anything. There’s already some in your wine. Sodium on the other hand is not something we want to add to our wine. Can you see yourself pouring table salt into a glass of wine? No. Don’t use sodium metabisulfite. Things to Be Careful of When Using Potassium Metabisulfite There are a few things you should know about potassium metabisulfite before you use it again. First, the compounds it creates can be hazardous to your health in large quantities. SO2 is a toxic gas to breath. It can cause breathing difficulties, swelling, rashes, and difficulty swallowing. If you feel any of these go for help. Be careful not to breath the dust in or gas that is released when dissolving in water. I’d...

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The Great Riesling Yeast Experiment (Part II)

- Feb 20, 2013

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 peach. Despite the odd aroma this wine tasted far better than the other. I’m really excited to see how this one develops. The marked difference between the two wines is...

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The Great Riesling Yeast Experiment (Part I)

- Feb 13, 2013

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 give the yeast the best possible chance of survival. It took only fifteen minutes to re-hydrate the dry yeasts separately. While the yeast was hydrating I racked three of the...

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How to Re-Hydrate Yeast

- Feb 7, 2013

How to Re-Hydrate Yeast

Yeast, a winemaker’s best friend, and star of the show when it comes to fermenting grapes into wine. They make it all possible. With a properly hydrated yeast your fermentation will start strong and be less likely to get stuck. Which is why it’s critical to understand how to re-hydrate yeast. What is dry yeast? Dry yeast is made up of small granules that consists of live, active yeast cells enclosed in a hard shell of dead yeast and a growth medium. In order for the live yeast cells to break free and ferment your must the shell must first be broken down. This is where hydration comes in. Whether you re-hydrate yeast yourself or allow nature to take it’s course in the must what you’re doing is breaking down that outer shell. If yeast is not properly re-hydrated the individual organisms can’t function properly. Their cell walls will not be fully permeable and they won’t be able to take in sugars and release carbon dioxide and alcohol. How does yeast re-hydrate if we don’t do it? In most wine kits re-hydrating the yeast is not only not necessary, the directions clearly state “do not re-hydrate the yeast”. You just add it straight to the grape juice concentrate and water mixture. By doing this we’re trusting that the dried yeast will hydrate well enough on its own. Kit makers choose the yeast strains based on many factors but one of the key factors is its ability to hydrate on its own in the must. If you read yeast hydration instructions, however, you’ll notice that the optimal water temperature for hydration is 104-109 degrees (F). Kits instructions call for innoculation temperatures of 72-75 degrees (F). These are less than optimal conditions for the hydration of yeast which is why kits only come with certain strains. How Re-Hydrating Yeast Affects Fermentation Hydrating your yeast at 104-109 degrees (F) helps break down that crusty outer layer and allows the live cells within to break free and begin multiplying. In just a few minutes your yeast population is already starting to explode. Contrast this with pitching dry yeast in a cool must. Without that heat it takes longer to break down the outer shell. This is why you only see evidence of fermentation two days or so into the wine making process. If you re-hydrate the yeast that comes with a wine kit you’ll likely see evidence of fermentation within a few hours. The rapid population growth speeds up fermentation because there are more of the little guys sooner. Another benefit of such a rapid population growth is that the yeast can dominate the environment much more easily. Keeping undesirable strains or other bacteria from getting established in your must. How to Re-Hydrate Yeast This process can vary slightly depending on the brand of yeast and the strain. However, here is the general process I’ve followed for quite a few re-hydrations. Heat 2 cups or so of water to 104-109 degrees (F). Pour 50 ml of the heated water into a dry sanitized container. Add the dry yeast to the water and stir for thirty seconds. This breaks up any clumps so all of the yeast is exposed to water. Let the mixture sit for no more than fifteen minutes total. The recommended time can vary between manufacturers but in general you...

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What to Do if Something Goes Wrong

- Jan 30, 2013

What to Do if Something Goes Wrong

One day your wine is happily fermenting along, you’re ready to rack, and while you’ve got the airlock off you notice something is up with your wine. Maybe it’s an off flavor or aroma. Maybe you notice the airlock wasn’t seated properly. These things happen all the time. Knowing what to do, however, can prevent you from making bigger mistakes. This recently happened to me. My Story I was going to rack my mead off of the lees to avoid picking up any off flavors from the dead yeast. I removed the airlock, racked, and dripped a tiny sample into a wine glass for some testing. With my sample I tested the pH and titratable acidity. Then I took a sip. There was almost no trace of alcohol and it was still very sweet. I was making a dry mead and thought I was most of the way there because the airlock had slowed way down. This told me that the yeast was not very active. I assumed it meant it was nearly finished fermenting. However, I measured the specific gravity and it came in at 1.020. This is far from dry. Immediately I guessed what might have gone wrong and started “fixing” it. Only later did I find out that I didn’t need to “fix” it the way I did. This taught me some valuable lessons about making wine that I’d like to share with you. If Something Seems Wrong… 1. Stop what you’re doing. 2. Re-attach the airlock or carboy plug so you can safely walk away from the wine. 3. Seek help either from an experienced winemaker or a wine making resource. Here’s what you shouldn’t do: 1. Panic. Nothing beneficial will come of this. 2. Don’t assume you know what’s wrong and start “fixing” it unless it’s totally obvious. If you’ve never made wine before it won’t be obvious so follow the how to above. 3. Don’t pour it down the drain. This is only necessary in a few instances and you need to first figure out how to evaluate your situation. And here’s what I did. I panicked, guessed at what was wrong, started fixing it, and then asked for help. The very experienced mead maker I got help from told me that my mead was progressing as it should and it probably just needed some additional nutrients and a little stirring. I, however, thought it best to rack it, add another round of hydrated yeast, feed that yeast, and then shake it up. While what I did isn’t going to hurt it, it wasn’t entirely necessary. All it cost me was a little bit of mead that I couldn’t rack. Where to Get Help There are a ton of great places you can get help if you think something is going on with your wine. First of all you can always call your local winemaking supplier and see what they say. My preferred method is to go online. Winemakers, mead makers, and beer brewers are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Honestly. They’re always ready to jump in and help someone out providing useful and informative guidance. Terrific Online Resources Google Plus Google+ is free to join. All you need is a gmail account. Once you’ve gotten in you can then join any community of your choice. There are several wine making / brewing communities that I recommend and...

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Learning How to Make Mead

- Jan 23, 2013

Learning How to Make Mead

Mead was the first fermented beverage ever produced. It’s production dates all the way back to 7000 B.C which predates wine by three thousand years. To make mead is to partake in the oldest of traditions. While mead is not technically wine the process of making mead is very similar and, as a winemaker, you can learn a lot from doing it. Simply put, it involves creating a must that you add yeast to and let it ferment. After fermentation, you rack it, age it, and then bottle it. Why You Should Make Mead The beautiful thing about making mead is that you can make world class mead with honey from just about anywhere. You don’t have to buy Napa or Bordeaux honey. Find a local producer that sells raw and unfiltered honey, or just go to the grocery store. Honey is always available so you can make mead any time you like. You don’t have to wait for a harvest nor do you have to use it immediately after getting it like you do with wine grapes. Honey lasts a long time. To get the most out of your mead making experience skip any kits you might find and source all the equipment and ingredients yourself. It forces you to really think about what you need and how much to use. Picking the yeast for instance involves doing a bit of research to figure out what yeasts produce what flavor profiles. What temperatures work best for what yeasts. How long can you expect fermentation to take. You’ll need to know the alcohol tolerance of the yeast and how that will work with the amount of honey you put into your must. You may be thinking “But I’ve never made mead! How will I know what to do?” Good question. You may have to do a bit of research to iron out all the details for your particular mead. Even with the recipe and process I am providing here you may have to adjust it to suit you. But here’s the good news…mead is very forgiving. There are few mistakes you can make that time will not heal. The main exception being not properly sanitizing your equipment.  My Mead Recipe Here’s the recipe I used to make the mead pictured above. It’s a one gallon batch of dry mead. No spices, juices, or fruit added. Just a plain dry mead. A great place to start. While I’m not a seasoned mead maker I thought I would share what I’ve learned so far including the recipe I used and how I did it. Here we go. Ingredients: 13-14 cups of water 2.5 lbs unfiltered, raw honey 1 packet of dry yeast 1 teaspoon of yeast nutrients Equipment (affiliate links): 1 gallon glass jug long handled spoon drilled plug (#6 for 1 gallon jug) three piece airlock plug for long term aging (#6 for 1 gallon jug) large pot for heating water The Mead Making Process As always begin by sanitizing you equipment. Heat the water to approximately 190-200 degrees (F). This kills anything funky in your water or your pot and gets rid of the chlorine from city water. Remove it from the heat. While your water is cooling re-hydrate your yeast per the instructions on your yeast packet. Pour your honey into...

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3 Keys to a Creating a Useful Winemaking Log

- Jan 16, 2013

3 Keys to a Creating a Useful Winemaking Log

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 Color Aroma Tasting notes (Get a sample? Take a swig!) Specific gravity Additives (be clear about the quantity too) pH 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...

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How to Pick a Wine Making Yeast

- Jan 10, 2013

How to Pick a Wine Making Yeast

Yeast is the most critical ingredient in the wine making process. When you pick a wine making yeast you are, in effect, choosing the destiny of your wine. The right yeast or yeasts can transform a good grapes into a great wine. Where do The Differences Come From? These tiny organisms are truly amazing. Not only does it make the production of wine possible it is the only micro-organism capable of producing this elixir. However, the notion that different yeasts can alter the way a wine tastes in the end is a relatively new discovery. For most of this worlds past 6,000 years of winemaking history winemakers didn’t even know what yeast was let alone understanding the different strains and what they can do. Only in recent history have we discovered that different strains will produce different characteristics in wine. Fermentation, from the yeasts perspective, is merely the digestion of food. They consume and process sugars and produce alcohol and carbon dioxide as their byproduct. Some yeast strains may use more or less enzymes or esters and it’s these small differences in digestion that account for different flavor profiles. To help you sift through all the different yeasts and how they affect different grape varietals our friends over at MoreWineMaking.com have put together an amazing guide! Click here to browse their entire collection of free manuals and pick up Yeast and Grape Pairing. Picking A Winemaking Yeast To give you an idea of how to pick a wine yeast I’ll walk you through my own decision making process. My next wine is going to be a Riesling kit and I’m going to do a little experiment. I’m going to pick my own yeast to replace whatever the kit comes with. I’ll be using two different yeast strains in a split fermentation. Half of the grape juice will be fermented with one strain of yeast and the strain will ferment the other half. This way I can directly compare how the same wine tastes when made from two very different yeasts. Here are the yeasts I’ve chosen and why. The first yeast is W15. This yeast is known to produce citrus flavors, heavy mouthfeel, and can stand up to aging. Aging is an important characteristic for a kit wine for reasons we’ll explore here in a minute. Th second yeast I’ve picked is R-HST (catchy name huh?). This yeast can produce rose and peach flavors, some mouthfeel, as well as minerality. Minerality is a quality that also lends itself to aging. The Differences Take Time to Manifest In an interesting article on the flavor contributions of yeast Cornell researchers found that most characteristics yeast impart on wine take six months to a year to show up. This is, in part, why it took so long for winemakers to figure out that different yeasts produced different flavor profiles. They were comparing wines too early. Kits generally don’t produce wine that can be aged for very long. My concern is that the wine will start to decline before the yeast characteristics show up. This is why I chose two strains known to produce wines that can be aged. Ferment Separately Because it takes six months for any differences to become perceptible it’s important to keep the yeasts and the final products separate during that time. Otherwise you’ll never know the differences...

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How to Evaluate Your Wine

- Jan 2, 2013

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 less interest. What we winemakers want to know is where we’re doing well in the winemaking process and where we need to improve. Practice Practice Practice This is one of the great...

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Advanced Wine Making Techniques

- Dec 27, 2012

Advanced Wine Making Techniques

Complexity in wine separates the great wine from the rest. Creating a complex wine, however, requires the use of advanced wine making techniques. Here are three techniques you can start applying to your own wine making to take it to the next level. It doesn’t matter if you’re making wine from a kit, frozen must, or fresh fruit. Techniques for Making More Complex Wines There are several things you can do, even with a kit, to improve its complexity. Simply put, complexity is a function of nuances in flavor and aroma. Single variety wines, while flavorful and tasty, tend not to be very complex. Their flavor profile is simple. Let’s look at some methods to add complexity to our wines. Split Fermentation Yeast imparts flavors and character in your wine as it turns the sugars into alcohol. Different yeasts produce different flavors. Thus one way you can make a more complex wine is by fermenting half your wine with one yeast and the other half with another. You’ll have to do a bit of research to determine what yeasts work well with the grape varietal you’re working with. To do this you’ll need two fermenters, two carboys, and all the necessary airlocks. You can use the yeast your kit comes with for one half and pick up another strain for the other half. Mix Different Types of Oak Oak is considered to be the winemaker’s spice cabinet because of all the different flavors that it contributes. Another way to add complexity to your wine is to combine oak from different places. For instance instead of just using the oak that comes with your kit pick up some American and French oak cubes and combine them. American oak tends to be more bold while French oak is more subtle. Combining the two at varying ratios can offer a lot of complexity. Pier Benci, an Italian wine maker, offers his preferred ratio as 30% American oak and 70% French oak. Likely the American oak is used in less quantity so it doesn’t bury the French oak. Hungarian oak is another option. Also, if you’re using carboys instead of barrels you’re free to experiment with other types of wood altogether. Blending Different Varietals The blending of wine is a long standing European tradition. Taking various amounts of different varietals, sometimes up to five or six, to creating one wine adds a tremendous amount of complexity. Nuances from each varietal all acting together to create one masterful glass of wine. Blending is done with finished wines by experimentation. Take a base varietal such as Zinfandel. Then create a mixture of 75% Zin and 25% Merlot for example and see what happens. Try several different blends and ratios until you find one that really speaks to you. Test your blends by the glass before mixing all of your wine. Find the ratios you like and then bottle the blended wines. This is where wine makers start to earn their status as artists. Blending is done with only the best of each varietal. They do not try to use up a sub-par wine by blending it with something else. Each varietal is fermented, oaked, and guided to the very best quality possible and then combined in a way such that the sum of the varietals is greater...

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