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Making Wine from Kits, Juice Pails, and Grapes

- Aug 7, 2015

Making Wine from Kits, Juice Pails, and Grapes

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma036.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSMaking Wine from Kits, Juice Pails, and Grapes Winemaker’s Academy member Craig joins us on this episode of the podcast to share his experience making wine from wine kits and then moving on to juice pails and grapes. He shares a lot of great insights and lessons learned. As you can imagine it is a bit different working with juice pails and fresh grapes as much more of the chemistry is left up to you, the winemaker. Craig explains what these differences are, what we need to be thinking about as well as testing for. Have a notebook ready! Resources & Products Mentioned The Winemaker’s Log (Check it out!!) Missouri Valley Wine Society Lallzyme EX MoreWine Guides Featured Community Discussions Sulfite Free Winemaking Photograph by:...

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First Time Winemaker – Part I

- Jul 17, 2015

First Time Winemaker – Part I

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma035.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSThis is the first in a three part interview series with Winemaker’s Academy member Chris, a first time winemaker. Together she and I walk through the first steps of the kit winemaking process. We discuss what needs to be done, what to watch out for, and answer Chris’s questions on what’s in strore for her. If you’re a beginner and have been wondering what’s invovled in making a kit wine for the first time this episode is for you. Much of what we cover is also available in the Ultimate Guide to Kit Winemaking. There are still some good lessons covered for more experienced winemakers. We cover topics that all winemakers can use a refresher on from time to time. Resources & Products Mentioned Ultimate Guide to Kit Winemaking Winexert French Cabernet Sauvignon Featured Community Discussion Can wine be bottled right after it has been filtered, or should you wait a day or...

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The Importance of Yeast Starters

- Jul 3, 2015

The Importance of Yeast Starters

Pitching yeast into a wine must can be very stressful for these micro-organisms upon which we rely for the production of alcohol. Exposing yeast to changes in temperature, sugar levels, as well as sulfite and nutrient levels causes them stress. If the stress is too much to bear they may go into shock or die off. Creating a yeast starter is the best way to reduce shock and ensure a healthy population is introduced to your wine. Our job as a winemaker is to make this transition as easy on the yeast as possible so that fermentation gets underway with a healthy and active yeast population. This article assumes you are pitching your own wine yeast and not relying upon wild yeast to make your wine. In the yeast life cycle, the first phase is concerned with growing the yeast population. Once they reach critical mass alcoholic fermentation gets underway and our must is made into wine. The stronger the initial population introduced to our must, the quicker this first phase will go. An active and healthy yeast population is also better able to keep unwanted spoilage micro-organisms at bay. When competing for the same resources (i.e. sugar) wine yeast are quite aggressive. Dry active yeast is the most common form available to winemakers. Just like baking yeast, it is a powder which contains little granules of live yeast. The outside of the granule is a crust of dead yeast cells and food which protects and feeds the living yeast cells inside this crust. Obviously they’re not thriving in those granules as they are provided with only enough food to sustain them in a dormant state. Tossing dry yeast into a wet environment full of sugar and nutrients and likely at a differenent temperature is an abrupt change in environment. It can take a day or two for the yeast to adjust before the growth phase really starts to take off if pitched this way. There are better ways to introduce a yeast to a must and we’ll talk about two of them here. The first method is to simply hydrate the yeast so they are out of their crust and available to start consuming sugar. The second method involves creating a yeast starter. It begins with hydration but takes things much further by growing the population in a starter before adding it to the must. These soft transitions that allow the yeast to acclimate without dying and hit the must fully active and ready to rule the fermentation of your must. Hydrating Wine Yeast As the name implies, hydrating is merely getting the yeast out of the crusty granule and loose in water. It involves heating water to a specific temperature and dissolving the yeast in it. This wakes them up and gets them ready to start eating. Once they are awake again and free to roam they will need food (sugar) within a very few minutes to survive. Ideally a hydrated yeast is moved to a must within 5-10 minutes and with a temperature differential between the yeast and the must of less than 10F (5C). The intense amount of sugar and nutrients is still going to be a shock but we’ve woken them up and reduced the temperature differential so they can get right to work...

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A Tale of 3 Pinot Noirs – WMA034

- Jun 26, 2015

A Tale of 3 Pinot Noirs – WMA034

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma034.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSHave you ever wondered what the difference is between the variously priced wine kits? Each kit manufacturer has different lines of kits that each have a different price tags on them according to the quality of the juice in the kit. However, what’s the real difference in taste? Introductory kits can sell for as little as $70 while the more expensive kits go for $200 or more. Are the expensive kits really three times better than the introductory kits? In this episode of the Winemaker’s Academy podcast my guests and I set out to answer this question. Academy members Dennis and Cathy sent me three bottles of wine made from three different kits ranging from Vintner’s Reserve up to Eclipse. We did a blind tasting on the air and explored the differences between them. The results will surprise you! Featured Forum Discussion As mentioned in the show our featured community discussion for this week is: What’s your go-to fining agent? Click on the link above to check it out and please do contribute to the discussion. We’d all like to know what your favorite fining agent is for troublesome...

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Thirty-Eight Wine Kits and Counting – WMA033

- Jun 18, 2015

Thirty-Eight Wine Kits and Counting – WMA033

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma033.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSAbout two and a half years ago Winemaker’s Academy members Dennis and Cathy decided to give winemaking a try. They started with one kit but their new hobby soon blossomed into thirty-eight wine kits! Dennis and I decided to get the three of us on the phone and talk about how they got into winemaking and what lessons they’ve learned along the way. So grab a glass of wine and listen in as Dennis and Cathy share their experience diving into making wine head first. If you’d like to connect with Dennis you can find him in the Winemaker’s Academy Community forum as well as in our Facebook Group. Featured Community Discussion: Glass vs. Plastic vs. Steel vs. Oak Secondary...

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Racking Wine For Clarity

- Jun 10, 2015

Racking Wine For Clarity

Clearing a wine in preparation for bottling can be tricky. There are many different clarifiers on the market and each have their own strengths and weaknesses. An alternative to using clarifiers is to rack your wine strategically over time to help clear the wine. But how are you supposed to know when to rack your wine? Recently I discovered a recommended racking schedule while reading From Vines to Wines by Jeff Cox and expanded upon it to give you a complete schedule from start to finish. This schedule assumes that you are not using a fining agent to clarify your wine. 1st Racking: 5-7 days after pitching the yeast if making a fruit wine, otherwise once the specific gravity is between 1.030 and 1.010 2nd Racking: 1 to 2 months after alcoholic fermentation is over 3rd Racking: 2 to 3 months after second racking 4th Racking: 3 months after third racking Your wine can then sit in the carboy, barrel, or tank as long as you want after that fourth racking to let you wine mature. The longer it sits in a bulk container the more uniform your wine will be from one bottle to the next after it has been bottled. The timing of your first racking can change depending upon whether you’re fermenting on the fruit or working with just the juice. Wines should not sit on the fruit any longer than 5-7 days. Any more than that and you risk picking up decaying fruit flavors. That being said, if you’re making a red wine you may opt to do an extended maceration in which case you’ll have to time your racking based on the flavor profile of the wine. If you’re making wine from just the juice (without the skins or solid fruit) then the specific gravity will dictate when you rack. The idea is to get off of the sediment and reduce the air space above the wine once fermentation has slowed to the point where the carbon dioxide produced is no longer enough to protect your wine from oxidation. How long it takes your wine to reach the specific gravity range mentioned earlier depends on many factors not limited to amount of sugar, yeast strain, fermentation temperature, and the abundance of yeast nutrients. After this first racking you’ll notice that you settle into a two to three month racking rhythm. This is done to prevent picking up off flavors from decaying yeast, which it turns out takes two to three months before decay sets in. Presumably after the fourth racking, if you’ve followed the schedule, there will be little to no yeast settling out and so you’re free to let the wine sit as long as you...

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Bulk Aging, Corks, and Specific Gravity – WMA032

- Jun 4, 2015

Bulk Aging, Corks, and Specific Gravity – WMA032

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma032.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSIn this Question and Answer podcast episode Matt addresses the following questions: Is it okay to leave red muscadine wine in the carboy for several months under the protection of airlock? Do you do anything with your corks before bottling? My kit wine specific gravity is supposed to be between 1.090 and 1.110, but my hydrometer reads 1.070. What’s the reason for this? Do you have questions you’d like to hear answered on the podcast? If so Contact Matt and let him know. Adams County Wine Competition Call for Entries Entry...

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Why Synthetic Corks Are Worth Using

- May 22, 2015

Why Synthetic Corks Are Worth Using

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma031.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSSince I started making my own wines I’ve been a bit of a purist when it comes to closures. Like most home winemakers I started out with the cheap agglomerated corks that came with my equipment kit. From there I moved on to the premium #9 corks and started looking at buying solid natural cork. I didn’t give much thought to synthetic corks because they were not natural. They weren’t the closures that wineries have been trusting for hundreds of years. They weren’t “authentic”. One day I volunteered to bottle at a local winery (more about that here). They were using Nomacorcs and were quite happy with them. As I continued to volunteer at this winery I got more and more interested in the closures, how long they last, and what the benefits of using them are. Then, when my last wine was ready to bottle, I went out and purchased some #9 Nomacorcs to try for myself. The were comparably priced to my beloved #9 natural corks so I took the plunge. My First Experience with Synthetic Corks Like natural corks synthetic corks come in a sealed bag and you don’t need to worry about soaking or sanitizing the closures. I picked up 30 closures for about $10 US. When it came time to bottle I pulled one out, inspected it, and proceeded to use my dual lever corker (affiliate link) to insert it into the bottle. One down. My first impression was that the cork was not as easy to insert as the natural cork because the plunger on the dual lever corker is not as big around as the Nomacorc. This cause the sides of the cork to get caught up in the corker itself and while the center of the cork was perfectly even with the top of the bottle the sides were sticking up. [insert pic here]. Now to be fair I’ve never had great luck getting even the #9 premium corks to sit quite right either. The difference was that the synthetic corks were still caught up in the corker after inserting the cork so you have to be careful how you pull the corker away from the bottle so you don’t cause it to fall over and potentially break open. I made some adjustments to the corker and proceeded to finish up the bottling process. After a while I got the feel of inserting the corks and the bottles started to look better. The Benefits of Synthetic Closures There are many benefits to using synthetic closures. First, they don’t ever dry out. This means that if you pick some up at the local winemaking shop it doesn’t matter if they’ve been on the shelf for six months or a year. They’re going to be in perfect condition to use. It also doesn’t matter if you keep a stash of synthetics around the house for a couple years. Natural corks, on the other hand, do dry out. I’ve purchased “new” bags of corks from wine making supply shops that were already past their prime and when I used them to close off a wine the cork was brittle, came apart in the corker, and left chunks in my wine. Unacceptable. Second, wine bottled with synthetic...

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Inert Gases, Racking, and Preserving Fruit Wine Flavor

- May 14, 2015

Inert Gases, Racking, and Preserving Fruit Wine Flavor

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/WMA030.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSWinemaker’s Academy Podcast Episode 30 In this question & answer episode of the podcast we cover the following questions: At what point in the winemaking process will I benefit the most from using inert gases? I racked all the sediment after primary fermentation. Was this a mistake? My pear wine lacks actual pear flavor. What can I do to bring it back out? Resources & Products Mentioned Beginner’s Guide for Email Subscribers Winemaker’s Log The Ultimate Guide to Kit Winemaking VineyardFresh Wine Preserver – argon in a can Photograph by: Tim Patterson –...

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Using Inert Gases in Winemaking – WMA029

- May 4, 2015

Using Inert Gases in Winemaking – WMA029

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma029.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSJust recently I tested out Private Preserve while bottling a raisin wine. Private Preserve is an aerosol can filled with a mixture of inert gases. In this episode we’re going to explore what inert gases are, why it’s beneficial to use them, and I’ll share my own thoughts and experiences using these gases. What are inert gases? Inert gases are gases that do not normally react with anything. Unlike oxygen which oxidizes things like metal, wine, and food, inert gases do not interact with these at all. You can expose metal to an inert gas and it won’t rust so long as that is the only gas the metal is exposed to. This ties into why you would want to use inert gases when making or more accurately storing wine. Why Should I Use an Inert Gas to Protect Wine? The best use of inert gases in winemaking is to displace the oxygen in a container of finished wine. After a wine has finished fermenting it will be susceptible to the negative effects of oxidation. A wine that has been exposed to too much oxygen will taste flat, flabby, and past its prime. Inert gases are used in a process called sparging, which is a fancy term for displacing the oxygen in a container with inert gases. Generally you would have your wine in whatever container it is going to be aged in, be that a carboy or bottle, or whatever and then you spray an inert gas to remove the oxygen and quickly recap the container to trap the gasses. Now you can also sparge an empty container and then fill it with wine, same thing. The Easy Way to Try Inert Gas Private preserve is probably the easiest way to dip your toe in the use of inert gases. It comes in an aerosol can and runs about $20 US. The can contains a mixture of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and argon and according to the manufacturer are “all benign, non-flammable, tasteless, and medial quality”. The can does come with a short straw that you can use to direct the flow of gases. Originally it was developed for wine drinkers to top up their open bottles of wine to preserve it for the next day. I’d certainly go that far if I was drinking something expensive or really fancy but it also comes in handy for home wine makers looking to try inert gases. The alternative is to go out and buy a tank of inert gas but in addition you’ll need hoses and regulators to control the flow of and direct the gas into your container of choice. Generally these gases come in decent sized tanks that might take a home wine maker a long time to go through. I’ve priced small systems out and found that it would take $150 – $200 to get going with inert gases. This is pretty expensive in comparison to $20 for the aerosol can. Using Private Preserve When you pick up a can of Private Preserve the first thing you’ll notice is that it weighs next to nothing. The manufacturer even prints a note right on the can letting you know that it will feel empty but it is in fact...

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