Click here to learn how to make wine from a kit.


Tasting Wine with the Wine Curmudgeon – WMA023

- Nov 5, 2014

Tasting Wine with the Wine Curmudgeon – WMA023

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma023.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSTasting Wine with the Wine Curmudgeon As winemaker’s we’re always concerned with how our wines taste and whether or not there was anything we could do to improve upon them. To help us understand how to better taste our wines we have Jeff Siegel, the Wine Curmudgeon, on the show for this episode. Jeff is a wine writer, wine judge, and has literally written the book on how to purchase cheap wines. His specializes in helping ordinary consumers find wines that are reasonably priced. Jeff has tasted a lot of wines and shares the insights he’s gained along the way. Here are links to Jeff’s website, book, and Twitter account: Wine Curmudgeon Website The Wine Curmudgeon’s Guide to Cheap Wine @WineCurmudgeon on Twitter Questions Answered These great questions came in through the Facebook group and via email. When scaling up a wine recipe do I need to scale up the amount of yeast? I accidentally racked the sediment with my wine. What should I do now? I just started my wine kit and added the metabisulfite instead of the bentonite. Will it be okay? Resources & Products Mentioned The Difference Between Cheap Wine and Wine That is Made Cheaply Drink Local Wine Gross Lees vs Fine Lees How to Use Bentonite Sur Lie Aging of...

read more

Are Sulfites Necessary in Wine? – WMA022

- Oct 24, 2014

Are Sulfites Necessary in Wine? – WMA022

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma022.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSAre sulfites really necessary to make wine? The debate over whether or not we really need sulfites has been heated in the last few years. There is a growing population of winemakers that believe you just don’t need them and shouldn’t use them. There are also those who swear by using them in order to make wines that are stable and will stand the test of time. Which answer is right? The only one who can say is you. In this episode you’ll hear what Winemaker’s Academy members have to say about this question. Unfortunately I was only able to share about 14 responses in the show (given how long it would have taken to share them all). If you’d like to read all the responses I received please read on below. Please share your own thoughts in the comment section below and we can keep the sulfite conversation goin. Resources & Products Mentioned International Wine Guild Vinmetrica Digital Sulfite Meter (affiliate link) Techniques in Home Wine Making by Daniel Pambianchi Wines and Vines Magazine Free SO2 Chart (scroll down about half way) I’ll Drink to That Interview (link coming soon!) Are Sulfites Really Necessary? – Winemaker’s Academy Member Responses Oliver Yes I believe that Sulphur is needed in the wine making process. The SO2 is a antioxidant, anti ageing, anti microbial/bacterial and binds with acetaldehyde causing wines to loose flat flavours. All of these are very beneficial to wine and outweigh the risk of loosing a wine. Whilst I say this I still believe that the level of sulfites used in a wine should be as low as possible, only just enough to have the desired effect to protect the wine. Adam I certainly use them but my best friend’s grandfather didn’t and they still have 15 gallons of plum wine in carboys that I sampled the other day (after 8 years) and it was pretty great! I bottled a little bit of it that he had in 1 gallon jugs after I filtered it and it was just as good as it was when he was around. No sulfites but I could certainly feel the alcohol. It was also kept in a climate and light controlled area. I wish I had been old enough or interested enough to learn from him when he was around! Aaron I’ve always felt that I’d like to minimize additives to my wine – especial ones that affect the flavor. Personally, I add potassium meta bisulfide only to kill the wild yeast immediately after crushing the grapes. I know others like to stabilize with it right before bottling but I’d rather suffer shelf life than add it. I don’t make enough wine to keep it more than a couple years so I just make sure every thing is clean and sanitary before bottling. I’ve kept homemade wines for as long as two years and have never had one start to go bad. I have a three-year bottle in my basement. I’ll let you know how that tastes if I ever open it. It’s got sentimental value so no guarantee that I’ll touch it 😉 David The consensus Of experts say yes. The first thing is that yeast give off SO2 as...

read more

Wine Grape Chemistry – WMA021

- Oct 9, 2014

Wine Grape Chemistry – WMA021

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma021.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSWine Grape Chemistry Grapes are complex little things. If we’re to make great wine from them then we’re going to need to have a good understanding of the chemistry that makes them what they are. That’s the topic for this Winemaker’s Academy episode. This episodes discussion is based on the paper Composition of Grapes by Murli Dharmadhikari (free PDF). I highly recommend reading the entire paper in addition to listening to the show. The paper is five pages long and packed with information that is presented in an easy to understand way. Listener & Reader Questions Answered My wine isn’t bubbling and it tastes dry. What now? How do I adjust the starting specific gravity of my wine must? Can I use raisins to boost my starting specific gravity? Resources & Products Mentioned Anatomy of a Grape Grape Juice Concentrates (affiliate link) Malolactic Fermentation Stafidine Photograph by: Ryan...

read more

How and When to Use Sulfites – WMA020

- Sep 17, 2014

How and When to Use Sulfites – WMA020

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma020.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSAdding Sulfites to Wine Sulfites are a great tool for protecting wines. They can help ensure stability at the start of the wine making process as well as help wines keep for years in the barrel or bottle. The key to sulfites is understanding that it is something to be maintained rather than something you add once and are done. There’s also no simple way to figure out how much you need to add. In this episode we’ll cover when to use sulfites and how best to measure sulfites. Listener & Reader Questions Answered Should I rack at a certain specific gravity or after a certain number of days? Can you recommend a pH test kit? I’m having trouble restarting a stuck fermentation. Any tips? I over sulfited my Chardonnay. What can I do now? Products and Resources Mentioned Primary vs Secondary Fermentation Yeast Life Cycle Potassium Metabisulfite Powder Campden Tablets Ideal Sulfite Levels (scroll down to step 2) Sulfite Titration Kit Digital Sulfite Meters Photograph by: Daniel...

read more

How to Detect a Stuck Fermentation

- Sep 12, 2014

How to Detect a Stuck Fermentation

Recently Barbara wrote in with this question on a possible stuck fermentation: How can I tell if my wine is stuck and not fermenting in the secondary fermenter? Should the airlock be bubbling? -Barbara Matt’s Answer: Hi Barbara, Thank you for reaching out with your question! Being able to identify a stuck fermentation is an important skill to have and can keep you from taking drastic measures when you might not need to. The latter days of a fermentation are going to be much slow.er than primary fermentation. It is certainly possible to get a stuck fermentation at this late stage of the process given that sugar supplies are running out and alcohol levels are getting higher. This makes life hard for the yeast. As such you may only see a bubbles in your airlock every few minutes as things wind down. Using your airlock to gauge fermentation activity is a good idea but you need to check on it periodically to make sure it is still seated properly and that the water levels are correct. If either of these is off the carbon dioxide being produced may be essentially going around the airlock. This brings us to determining whether or not you have a stuck fermentation on your hands or not.   How to Tell if You Have a Stuck Fermentation The easiest way to tell if a wine is stuck is to first taste the wine. If the wine tastes even a little bit sweet you know that there’s sugar left in your wine. As this is what the yeast convert into alcohol, fermentation should not end until all the sugar is gone. If your wine is not sweet then fermentation is likely over. You can also look at your current specific gravity reading. A reading of 0.998 or less indicates the wine is likely dry as well. So by tasting and testing you can get a good idea of where you are in the fermentation process. If your wine is sweet then grab your hydrometer, take a specific gravity reading, and record your results. Then wait one week and take another specific gravity reading. If: the second reading is lower than the first reading fermentation is still going (sugar is being consumed). the two readings are the same (and the wine tasted sweet) then you probably have a stuck fermentation (sugar is not being consumed). the second reading is higher than the first reading then something went wrong (sugar is being created? that’s not possible). Double check your current reading and wait another week to take the next reading. Disregard the first one. It can be quite difficult to recover from a stuck fermentation, especially if it gets stuck with very little sugar left in the wine. This is a topic we’ll cover soon here at the Academy. Cheers Barbara! -Matt Williams Additional Information Yeast Life Cycle Protecting Your Wine With Airlocks How to Use a Wine Making Hydrometer Photography by: Tim...

read more

Why, How, and When to Degas Wine – WMA019

- Aug 28, 2014

Why, How, and When to Degas Wine – WMA019

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma019.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSWhy How and When To Degas Wine Degassing is one of those wine making tasks that can be quite frustrating if you don’t have the right tools or know the best conditions under which you should degas. If not done correctly degassing can take hours if it is successful at all. In this episode we explore the three main ways to degas, how best to prepare your wine for degassing, as well as why it is so important in the first place. Products and Resources Mentioned Here’s a list of products and resources mentioned in the show as well as some links that you might find informative. Fermtech Wine Whip Long Handled Brewer’s Spoon Gas Getter Foodsaver Vacuum How to Degas Wine. (written article) How to Use a Degassing Tool. (video) Degassing & Clarifying a Kit Wine. (video) How to Reduce Tannins by Finning with Egg Whites (Winemaker Magazine article) Listener & Reader Questions Answered I’ve heard you say not to back sweeten a wine that has undergon malolactic fermentation. Why is that? Am I damaging my wine by not racking it off the lees? Are you supposed to sanitize oak chips or cubes? Can I split a 30 bottle wine making and ferment it in two different containers? Questions or comments for the show? Contact Matt directly. Photograph by: Lindsey...

read more

Protecting Your Wine with Airlocks – WMA018

- Aug 14, 2014

Protecting Your Wine with Airlocks – WMA018

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma018.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSProtecting Your Wine with Airlocks Airlocks are your best line of defense against oxidation and spoilage micro-organisms. It is very important that you carefully maintain your airlock and monitor it. This episode is all about how to do just that. By far the most important thing you need to know about airlocks is that they need to have the water level properly maintained. When the water level gets too low the airlock ceases to protect your wine and leaves it open to the outside world. Listen to this episode by clicking the play button above and find out more about using airlocks to keep your wine safe from oxidation and unwanted micro-organisms. Airlocks Mentioned The following airlocks were discussed during the show. The links are affiliate links, using them will help support Winemaker’s Academy. Listener & Reader Questions Answered My airlock isn’t bubbling much. Is my wine okay? What is a sommelier? My recipe says to open the fermenter and stir the wine daily. Is this safe? Matt’s Wine Here’s the latest shot of my raisin wine after racking it. After 100 days it has finally fermented to dryness, a very long fermentation. So far it is tasting pretty good though I can’t wait to back sweeten and finish it off so I can start enjoying it. I expect to give it another two or three months before doing anything else with it. Until then I only need to monitor the airlocks. As you can see I’m using both “S” shaped airlocks as well as my preferred three piece airlock. The head space on the 750ml bottle is a little bit more than I would have liked but I will have to make do. To displace the oxygen I agitated the wine after inserting the airlock to release carbon dioxide. I did this for about a minute and felt confident, based on the bubbling of the airlock, that I had gotten just about all of the oxygen out of...

read more

A Wine Making Timeline

- Aug 7, 2014

A Wine Making Timeline

Knowing when to do what when making a wine is critical to producing a quality wine. When you make wine from a kit each and every step is spelled out for you but when you go to make wine from fresh fruit it’s up to you to decide / determine when to perform each of the necessary steps. What follows is a guide that you can use as a starting place to for outlining your own wine making timeline. Your mileage will certainly vary but this should be a good starting place. Remember to experiment and refine your process. Eventually you’ll dial in your own timeline that works for you. Day 1: Prepare the must On the first day of wine making you need to prepare your fruit, add in your additives such as sugar, water, sulfites, yeast nutrients, tannins, acid blend, pectic enzymes, and bentonite. You don’t necessarily need to use all of these additives but these are the most common ones called for in wine recipes and if you are going to use them now is the time to get them added. Fruit wines tend to call for more additives to shape the must into something that will be palatable once fermented. Grape wines require much less in the way of additives and the highest quality grapes will only need sulfites for protection against oxidation and spoilage organisms. Give your must 24 hours before pitching the yeast. This gives the must time to extract the flavor, aroma, and color compounds from the fruit. You can certainly go longer but be mindful of the sulfite levels and watch for wild yeast or microbial fermentation. Day 2: Pitch the Yeast After a day of maceration it’s time to get this show going. You’ll start by hydrating your yeast. This is done to help them get off to a strong start and to ensure fermentation is dominated by the wine making yeast of your choice. You may optionally let the wild yeast on the fruit ferment the wine but I recommend leaving this to experienced wine makers. Be absolutely sure that the temperature difference between your hydrated yeast and the must is 10 degrees F (6 degrees C) or less. You don’t want to send the yeast into thermal shock. They may not come out of it and you’ll need to try again with another pack of yeast. Days 3-9: Stir, Test, Stir For the next seven days you’ll want to open up the fermenter and give the fruit a bit of a squish or punch down to help mix up the fruit and fermenting wine. While the container is open go ahead and take a specific gravity reading. Do this every day until it is time to rack. How do you know when to rack? I recommend racking after the wine has been on the fruit for seven days or when the specific gravity drops to between 1.030 and 1.010. Whichever happens first. Leaving the wine on the fruit longer than seven days is tricky to pull off and you’re risking picking up off flavors as the fruit decays. Also, if you rack the wine when the specific gravity is less than 1.010 you could send the yeast into shock and wind up with a stuck fermentation. Day 10...

read more

Wine Making Wisdom from the Community – WMA017

- Jul 31, 2014

Wine Making Wisdom from the Community – WMA017

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma017.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSWine Making Wisdom from the Community Recently I asked Winemaker’s Academy members to share with me their top tips that they learned by making their own wines. In this episode I share those tips with you and supplement them with some of my own experience. You’ll hear tips from wine makers all over the world! Specifically England, Sweeden, India, and the USA. Not an Academy member yet? Join here. Questions Answered Can I leave out the oak that came with my red wine kit? When should I cold stabilize my wine? How do I degas my wine without mixing in a bunch of oxygen? How long can I keep a bentonite slurry? How do you take up the extra headspace in a carboy or bottle of wine? Resources Mentioned & Related Topics Oak Products Explained Beaujolais Nouveau – Wikipedia Article Carbonic Maceration Fermtech Wine Whip Using Bentonite Photography by: John...

read more

First Impressions of Matt’s Strawberry Melomel

- Jul 23, 2014

First Impressions of Matt’s Strawberry Melomel

It’s been six months now since I bottled my strawberry melomel (here’s the recipe if you like: Matt’s Strawberry Melomel). My wife and I had some friends over for dinner and I decided to offer them some to see what they thought of my creation (these were the same friends I put through the Riesling Yeast Experiment tasting). Unlike the previous tasting this was not a formal event. I merely asked our friends if they cared to try another one of my wines before dinner. They agreed so I put one of the 375ml bottles in the freezer for fifteen minutes or so to chill it down. Whenever you make wine it is a good idea to periodically taste it and take notes so you know how the wine changes over time. I’ve decided to share my notes and lessons learned with you here in this article so you can see what I’m looking for. When the wine was cool enough to serve I uncorked it and noticed that there was a bit of sediment that had collected in the bottle. Handling it only served to mix it all back up again so the melomel was not as clear as I would have liked it. Not one to get discouraged I decided to pour the melomel through a coffee filter into the glasses. This took care of the bigger pieces and with the condensation on the glass from the chill no one noticed that the wine wasn’t 100% clear. Early Tasting for a Mead As far as meads go this one is still pretty young. Most of the time it is better to wait one to three years before regularly consuming a fermented honey product. This wine is an exception though. I wanted to get an earlier taste with this wine for two reasons. First, this melomel was made with a lot of strawberries and most fruit wines tend to peak early. If you wait too long they can taste tired and boring. The second reason for tasting this wine early was because I used potassium sorbate to stabilize the wine before I back sweetened it. Over time sorbate can produce off flavors and I want to check in periodically to gage how this wine is aging with the sorbate. So while honey fermented beverages tend to take a long time to mature I have two factors that may cause this wine to peak sooner rather than later. I will be opening three bottles this year and then two bottles each year for the next few years. This is a long term experiment that will give me a glimpse at how well a wine like this ages. First Impressions All in all this strawberry melomel is pretty good. It still needs a bit more time for all the flavors to come together. There was a tiny bit of that young mead alcohol flavor which sort of covered up the strawberry flavor but all of the components are there. I was expecting a bit more of a fresh, fruit forward strawberry flavor and was a little disappointed that it took a back seat to the honey. This may even out over time as the intensity of the alcohol calms down and the flavors integrate more completely. Only time will tell...

read more