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How to Make Fortified Wine

- Feb 19, 2014

How to Make Fortified Wine

What Are Fortified Wines? Fortified wines are regular grape wines that have been given an alcohol boost using grape spirits. While this does produce a high alcohol wine that isn’t the whole story and it isn’t why this practice began. The real reason fortified wines came into being was to solve stability issues in finished wine. Sherry is believed to be one of the earliest fortified wines which may have been produced as early as 1260 AD. Port came about a little later, during the 18th century. Today we use sulfites and tight sealing closures to protect our wines. Back then the closures were not nearly so effective and they didn’t even know about all the tiny micro organisms we worry about today. Both of these factors would have made wine stability a much bigger deal. Somehow though wine makers of old figured out that adding grape spirits to wines made it less susceptible to spoilage. We now know this stability comes from the increased alcohol content. Neither the yeast nor most spoilage organisms can withstand the alcohol. The two most common fortified wines available commercially are Port and Sherry. Port is fortified with aguardente vinica. A grape based drinking wine that is distilled to concentrate the alcohol to 35-60%. Sherry on the other hand is fortified with brandy, another grape distilled spirit. To better understand what fortification is and what you can do with it lets explore each of these wines in turn. Port Ports are generally made with red wines though not always. The aguardente vinica is added while the base wine is still fermenting in order to stop the fermentation. The wine maker will taste the base wine as it ferments and when it reaches a desired level of sweetness she will add the aguardente vinica to stop the fermentation by raising the alcohol level beyond what the yeast has a tolerance for. Because the base wine was still fermenting there is still sugar in the wine when it is fortified. This residual sugar is not consumed because the yeast die due to the alcohol level. With alcohol levels of 18-20% Ports and other fortified wines are fairly stable against microbial spoilage in addition to yeast fermentation. They can still suffer from excessive oxygen exposure though. Sherry Sherry is made a little differently than Port. First the base wine is allowed to ferment completely dry. Then brandy is added to increase the alcohol content of the wine. Some Sherry’s are back sweetened later on but they are first made dry. The aging process of Sherry is also unique. Once finished the wine is aged in what’s called a solera system. This is a complex method of blending newer and older vintages. For more information on this really interesting aging method check out The Solera Wine Aging System. How to Make Your Own Fortified Wine It is entirely possible to make your own fortified wines using either the Port or Sherry method (with or without the solera). You can choose to use grapes or kits as your base wine. According to The Winemaker’s Answer Book when working with a standard kit you can add less water to the grape juice concentrate so that the sugar is between 25-30%. Most kits (according to the book) have sugar levels between...

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Selecting a Wine Making Yeast – WMA005

- Feb 12, 2014

Selecting a Wine Making Yeast – WMA005

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma005.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSSelecting the Right Wine Making Yeast Choosing a wine making yeast has both practical and artistic considerations. You have to consider the alcohol tolerance as well as the different flavor profiles they can produce. In the main topic for this episode I walk through my own method for Choosing the Right Wine Making Yeast as well as the resources I use to make sure my yeast strain of choice will work for me. Here are direct link to the  resources mentioned in the podcast: The Yeast & Grape Pairing Guide from MoreWinemaking.com Lellemand Yeast Quick Reference Sheet The article on Dr. Henick-Kling, How Yeast Affects Wine Flavors Lastly, here are the articles I wrote outlining an experiment I did using different wine making yeast to ferment juice from the same source. Collectively these articles are referred to as the Great Riesling Yeast Experiment: Part I, Inoculating the Yeast Part II, Secondary Fermentation Part III, Clarifying & Bottling The Tasting, find out if non-wine geeks could tell the difference Winemaking Questions Here are all the questions addressed in this podcast. Listen using the player above to hear the answers. What is wine conditioner? Isn’t oxygen introduce my wine when I punch down the cap? How do you (Matt) manage oxygen when you make wine? Should different grape varietals be fermented seperately and then blended together? Or can you ferment more than one varietal in the same container? How long before I can lay down my newly bottled wine? The following pages and products were also mentioned in this podcast: Winepros article regarding aerobic vs anaerobic conditions during fermentation, click here. Winemaker’s Answer Book by Alison Crowe. Bottle Shock (a movie about how Chateau Montelena won the famous 1976 Judgement of Paris wine tasting, I highly recommend watching this, it’s a fun movie) What do you think, can different yeast strains produce different flavor and aroma profiles from the same grapes? Please share your thoughts in the comments...

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Acid Blends in Wine Making

- Feb 5, 2014

Acid Blends in Wine Making

What Is An Acid Blend? Acid blends are mixtures of acids that are naturally found in wine making grapes. Most blends primarily contain malic, citric, and tartaric acids. Wine making grapes contain more than just these acids but these are the three most abundant acids. Malic acid contributes tartness to wines. It is the primary acid found in apples for a point of reference. Citric acid, of course, is the dominant acid found in citris fruits. Tartaric acid also brings tartness to wine and is the dominant acid in cranberries. An acid blend is used to increase the titratable acidity of a wine. While the point here is to adjust the amount of acids contained within the must it will have an affect on the pH of the must, a measure of the strength of the acids present. Grape acids are usually at the following concentrations: Tartaric = +6 g/L (50%) Malic Acid = 4-6.5 g/L (40%) Citric Acid = 0.1-0.7 g/L (10%) LD Carlson acid blend comprised of the following: Tartaric Acid = 10% Malic Acid = 50% Citric Acid = 40% As you can see the ratio of acids in the acid blend is not the same as you see in wine making grapes. This means that a wine must treated with an acid blend could have an unnatural mixture of acids. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing from a taste perspective some wine makers feel like this can lead to balance issues. Wine makers that choose not to use acid blends will often add acids individually depending upon what they’re trying to accomplish. For instance tartaric acid can be added alone to increase tartness and increase titratable acidity to a more palatable level while avoiding the addition of too much citric acid. You should also know that different brands of acid blends contain different ratios of acids. If the balance of each individually is something you’re concerned about be sure to ask your supplier. When To Use It Acidity is the determining factor of tartness in wine. pH is important to for understanding how strong your acids are but acidity is a measurement of how much total acid you have. So if your wine has very little acid, even if it is a strong acid, the wine will not have a tart component to it. This can lead to flabby wines. Acid blends should be used to treat the must prior to fermentation. Getting the balance correct not only makes your wine taste better but also helps the yeast do their job better. Some fruit wine and mead makers will add acid blends just prior to bottling. They measure the amount by taste and not with a scale. This practice is largely discouraged though as it can lead to a grainy mouthfeel and a less integrated final product. How Much To Use Before adding any acid blend to your wine, unless you’re following a recipe ingredient for ingredient, you need to understand what your must acidity is before adjusting it. The simplest and least expensive way to figure this out is by using a titratable acidity test kit. This is a simple titration test kit that measures the concentration of titratable acids. To learn more about acidity check out Understanding Wine Acidity. After you’ve determined your...

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The Specifics of Specific Gravity – WMA004

- Jan 30, 2014

The Specifics of Specific Gravity – WMA004

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma004.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSSpecific Gravity Specific gravity is one of the most important measurements a winemaker makes. It tells us how much sugar we have, how far along fermentation might be, when it ends, and how much alcohol was produced. In this episode of the Winemaker’s Academy Podcast the main topic and the quick tip both focus on specific gravity. What it means and how to get an accurate result when measuring it. Special Announcement Also in this episode there’s a very special announcement. The Winemaker’s Academy Recipe section has been launched. What makes this so special is that I’m looking for tried and true wine making recipes from winemakers like you. To see what we already have in there check the Wine Making Recipes page. If you would like to submit your own recipe please read Submit a Recipe for more information. The Questions As always there were some great wine making questions addressed in the Question and Answer segment. Here they are in order of appearance: Do I have to use the sorbate? I accidentally added the sorbate in the beginning of the wine making process. How do I process large quantities of apple juice for wine? There’s too much oak in my peach wine. Now what? How do I keep my wine safe while making another batch to blend with the first one? Pages & Products The following pages and products were discussed in this weeks episode: Specific Gravity Temperature Correction Calculator How to Use a Hydrometer (video) Hydrometer Test Jar Waterless Air Lock Do you have questions or topic suggestions for the show? Please email me and let me know about...

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Matt’s Strawberry Melomel

- Jan 22, 2014

Matt’s Strawberry Melomel

A strawberry mead recipe by Matt Williams. This was my first fruit wine that I ever made. I used frozen strawberries from the grocery store and a local Colorado honey. It took about 3 weeks to fully ferment and I recommend giving it a full six months or more to clear. I opted not to degas the mead as the tiny amount of carbonation added a nice touch to the finished product. The final alcohol content was 14.25% prior to back sweetening (optional). Ingredients   4lbs frozen strawberries 48 oz Raw, Unfiltered Honey Water (enough to total 1.25 gallons of total liquids) 1 tsp Acid Blend ¼ tsp Tannin ½ tsp Pectic Enzyme 1 tsp Yeast Nutrients 1 pkg Premier Cuvee Yeast Potassium Metabisulfite / campden tablets (measure per manufacturers recommendation) Optional if back sweetening Additional honey to taste Potassium sorbate (measure per manufacturers recommendation) Always refer to the additive manufacturers instructions on how much to add as concentrations may vary. Making Strawberry Melomel Starting Fermentation Begin by setting out the frozen strawberries to thaw in the packaging they came in. Once the fruit has thawed sanitize your wine making equipment including: a hydrometer, test jar, a mixing bowl, primary fermenter, and a stirring spoon. Line the mixing bowl with a sanitized nylon bag (like this one). Open the bag of strawberries and empty the contents into the lined bowl. Lift up on the bag and allow the juice to drain into the bowl. Place the bag of strawberries into the primary fermenter. Pour the honey and enough water into the mixing bowl so that you have a total of 1.25 gallons of must. It can be helpful to heat the honey slightly so that it is easier to pour and mix in. There’s no need to boil the honey though, it is naturally anti-microbial. Once all the liquids have been thoroughly mixed in measure the specific gravity and temperature of the must and calculate the temperature corrected specific gravity. Record this in your wine making log. Here’s a free wine making log you can print if you need it. Next measure the appropriate amount of acid blend, tannins, pectic enzyme, and yeast nutrients for the 1.25 gallons of must you have. Different additive manufacturers make additives of different concentrations so be sure to go by what your specific container has labeled on it. The potassium metabisulfite is added after fermentation, not now. The last thing to do at this stage is hydrate your yeast and add it to the must. I recommend hydrating over adding the yeast in a dry form in order to help it get going. Honey is already hard for yeast to ferment and hydrating helps them get started. During the first five days squeeze the mesh bag of fruit daily to help extract flavor, color, and aroma compounds. Check the specific gravity every other day. Rack your mead to the secondary fermenter and discard the fruit once the mead reaches a specific gravity of 1.030. Secondary Fermentation Allow your strawberry melomel to continue fermenting for six weeks. Check the specific gravity and record your results. Check the specific gravity again at eight weeks. If the six and eight week gravity readings are the same fermentation is over and you can rack off of the...

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The Yeast Life Cycle – WMA003

- Jan 15, 2014

The Yeast Life Cycle – WMA003

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma003.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSYeast is the star of the show when it comes to producing wine. Without these micro-organisms wine making itself would not be possible. In this episode of The Winemaker’s Academy Podcast we explore what the yeast go through during the fermentation process. This is what is known as the yeast life cycle. This cycle is broken down into four major phases, each of which describe what the yeast population is doing. Lag Phase Rapid Growth Phase Stationary Phase Decline Phase For more information on how this works check out The Epic Rise and Tragic Fall of a Yeast Empire. Here are the listener and reader questions for this episode: What do you do to keep it in the 72-75 range during the whole process? How to degas without letting oxygen into the wine? What is the best wine whip to use? When I degas, how long do I wait to bottle? Bottle immediately or wait more? Is acidity measured before fermentation? or after? or both? Yeast additive advice for fermenting cashew apples. Also in this episode I have introduce a new segment, the Quick Tip. For this first quick tip I shared something I learned recently. Whenever you set out to work on your wine make an easy to read, bullet pointed list of everything you need to do, so you don’t forget anything. Kit instructions are printed with small type and include a lot of information you don’t need when you’re just trying to verify the order of operations. Get organized so you don’t forget an additive like I did! The following equipment and wine making topics were mentioned in this episode: Insulative Carboy / Fermenter Wraps Fermtech Wine Whip in action! How to Degas Wine Wine Whip (purchase link) Photograph by:...

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Using Pectic Enzymes to Make Wine

- Jan 8, 2014

Using Pectic Enzymes to Make Wine

Nearly every fruit wine recipe calls for pectic enzymes to be added but what do they really do? How do the work? Are there any safety concerns when working with this additive? Let’s find out. Pectic enzyme, also known as pectinase, is a protein that is used to break down pectin, a jelly like glue that holds plant cells together. In wines pectin can cause troublesome “pectin haze” that is not easily cleared without the use of pectic enzymes. While this enzyme does occur naturally in grapes as well as yeast there is not enough of it to overcome the amount of pectin present in the must. Other sources of pectic enzyme include plants, bacteria, and fungus. It turns out that fungus produces a special kind of pectic enzyme that is particularly adept at breaking down pectin even in the harsh environment created during fermentation. Most commercially sold pectic enzymes come from fungus. Pectic enzymes may be purchased in a liquid form or as a powder at any home brewing supply store. What do Pectic Enzymes Do? As previously mentioned pectic enzymes break down pectin found in fresh fruit. This serves two purposes. First it helps prevent a pectic haze from forming so that the wine is easier to clear. Additionally these enzymes help in the extraction of color and juice from fresh fruits. Commercial wineries will often toss in pectinase with their grapes during maceration to increase the amount of juice they can extract. This helps them maximize the amount of wine they can produce from a given amount of grapes. An unfortunate side effect of using pectic enzymes is that they can speed up the maturation of finished wines. Care must be taken when bulk aging the wine to make sure that it doesn’t over mature before it is bottled. This can lead to flat wines that come across as being past their prime. When pectin is broken down by the enzymes it produces methanol. This can be hazardous if taken in large quantities. A lot of the research I saw though showed that you would have to consume ridiculously huge amounts of wine treated with pectic enzymes before this would become an issue. We’re talking about thousands of liters of wine. Working With Pectic Enzymes You’ll want to use pectic enzymes any time you are making wine from fresh fruit, even grapes. As we discussed this will improve color, tannins, and juice extraction as well as prevent pectic hazes. Typically the enzymes are mixed in with the must prior to starting fermentation. This gives them time to interact with the fruit and break down the pectin in the skins. With all the good stuff extracted yeast can then take all of that and produce a cohesive final product. According to Alison Crowe in The Winemaker’s Answer Book you should not add pectic enzymes within 12 hours of adding sulfur dioxide or bentonite. The sulfur dioxide can reduce the effectiveness of the enzymes. Depending upon your wine making references the jury is still out on whether or not this is true. Some wine makers believe that there are no problems when adding both at the same time. Personally, I trust Ms. Crowe and will heed her warnings until I am convinced it is safe. The effectiveness of...

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Simplified Wine Making Process – WMA002

- Dec 31, 2013

Simplified Wine Making Process – WMA002

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma002.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSIn this episode of the Winemaker’s Academy Podcast we’ll be exploring a simplified way of looking at the wine making process. After all the better understanding we have of this process the better wines we’ll be able to make. The process discussed in the episode is based on an article I wrote previously entitled The Wine Making Process Simplified. Additionally the show covers a variety of questions from Academy members and fans. Here’s a taste of what’s covered: Is there a way to tell if there is still gas in the wine that needs to come out before I bottle? Which fruit is suitable for wine making other than grapes? Fizzy wine Does more concentrated juice (costs more) in the kit make for a better wine and why? My white wines they tend to look gold in color and not a clear light white. Why? Links to articles, tools, and books mentioned during the show: The Wine Making Process Simplified Winemaker’s Recipe Handbook How Wine Kits are Made – From Urban Vintner Hydrometer Test Jar Click here to subscribe to the podcast in iTunes. While you’re there consider leaving a review of the show too. Podcast Cover Photograph by: Jim...

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Carbonic Maceration of Wine Grapes

- Dec 26, 2013

Carbonic Maceration of Wine Grapes

Carbonic maceration is a unique method of fermenting grapes into wine. While it doesn’t completely ferment all of the sugar into alcohol, it does impart a unique character on the wine. What makes this method of fermentation so different is that you begin with whole, unbroken grape clusters still on the stems. The grapes are then placed in a sealed fermentation container filled with carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide discourages yeast fermentation and encourages enzymes naturally present in the grape to be released. Once released the enzymes break down the sugars into alcohol. Thus the sugars are fermented without the help of any micro-organisms. What Types of Wine Are Made from Carbonic Maceration? The most notable wine produced using this method is Beaujolais Nouveau which is made from Gamay grapes. Characterized by its fruity flavors and lack of tannins, this red wine is meant to be consumed the same year the grapes are harvested. The entire process from harvest to bottling takes between six and eight weeks. Traditionally Beaujolais Nouveau is available by the end of November in America. It has become somewhat of a tradition among winos to drink Beaujolais Nouveau at Thanksgiving. Many believe that the quality of this wine in a given year is an early indicator of the quality of the entire vintage. Other wine makers and tasters alike believe this to be a bit of a stretch. Admittedly it is hard to imagine drawing any conclusions about an entire vintage based on a single style of wine that was cranked out in a matter of weeks. The Carbonic Maceration Process To pull this off successfully you’re going to need to be very careful while handling your grapes to ensure that no grapes are broken open, this is critical. Take the unbroken fruit and place it in a seal-able fermentation container filled with carbon dioxide. This is done to prevent oxidation and to inhibit spoilage micro-organisms from taking hold. With the grape clusters placed gently in the carbon dioxide flushed container seal the lid, place your airlock, and start monitoring the temperature. It takes approximately five to fifteen days for carbonic maceration to complete. During this time only about 3% alcohol by volume is produced. Thus you’ll need to follow this fermentation a yeast fermentation. A lot of heat is generated during carbonic maceration. Make sure that the grapes don’t get too warm otherwise it may take on cooked flavors. Generally speaking keeping your temperature below 90° F / 32° C will prevent this. After carbonic maceration has finished open the fermentation vessel and then crush and press your grapes to release the remaining sugars and the alcohol produced thus far. Once extracted the remaining juice should be stabilized and inoculated with your yeast of choice. Traditionally a wine made this way would not spend any more time on the skins. Sufficient color, flavor, and aroma extraction is achieved during carbonic maceration thus an extended maceration is not needed. It is also important to limit tannin extraction so that the wine may be consumed sooner. More tannic wines need more aging to become palatable. Amateur wine makers could use a plastic fermentation bucket with a sealing lid and airlock to perform carbonic maceration. Filling the container with carbon dioxide could be done one of a couple different ways. One option would be...

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Are White or Red Wines Easier to Make? – WMA001

- Dec 18, 2013

Are White or Red Wines Easier to Make? – WMA001

http://traffic.libsyn.com/winemakersacademy/wma001.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | DownloadSubscribe: iTunes | Android | RSSHere it is! The very first episode of the Winemaker’s Academy Podcast. This has been a long time in the making but I am proud to have finally brought this to the world. In this episode I spend a little time introducing myself, the Academy, as well as talking about the show format. After that we get into the meat of the show, reader questions. The following questions and concerns are addressed in this episode: What is easier to make, white or red wines and why? Trouble degassing. Is there any difference in adding the bentonite before primary fermentation or after? My airlock looks like it might dump into the carboy, what should I do? My wine is finished fermenting, Is it too late to add malolatic bacteria? We forgot to add the stabilizer powder to our Merlot red wine before bottling. What can we do? My wine has been in the carboys for about 6 weeks. Is it to late to add raisins to the wine? Further reading on topics related to this show’s topics: Malolactic Fermentation Maceration How to Degas Wine If you’ve got questions you’d like to have answered on the show please email me using this contact form. Podcast Cover Photograph by: Jim...

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