What to Do if Something Goes Wrong

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...

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Studying Wine to Become a Better Winemaker

Studying Wine to Become a Better Winemaker

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

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