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Veraison in the vineyard and how it affects winemaking

Currently our grapes are going through veraison in California. Veraison occurs when the berry transitions into the ripening stage. From now forward the berry will increase in sugar concentration until it is harvested at the desired brix level. Grapes for sparkling wine or champagne are harvested around 17 brix and grapes for still wine are harvested around 25 brix. The brix level will determine the alcohol level in the wine. For example, a grape picked around 25 brix should create a 12.5% alch by volume wine.

Harvest will be here before we know it! It’s to time start getting organized. Click HERE to see our upcoming events and classes that will help you get ready for harvest.

Grapes going through verasion at our vineyards in California

Details from our Trip to Chile

As the grapes begin to harvest we reflect back on the amazing trip that we had in Chile. Check out our Chilean itinerary below. Anyone up for a trip to Chile? Because we can’t wait to go back and visit!

Day 1: Colchagua

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As we drove through the Colchagua Valley I couldn’t help but feel like I was back in Napa driving down the Silverado Trail or HWY 29. Lush vineyards surrounded us on either side of the highway. Each winery we passed was just as majestic as or more than the next. A blissful start to our trip.

We stopped at few wineries that day before we visited our vineyards for research purposes ;). The first winery we stopped at was Lapostelle’s Clos Apalta winery. This winery calls itself “French in essence, Chilean by birth”. A striking winery that is 100% gravity fed. They have over six levels in the winery. Each with a specific fermentation or aging purpose. The tasting room is on the second to last floor and is so cold they offer blankets for patrons when tasting wine in their cave like room. Directly below the tasting room is the proprietor’s personal cellar, with over 1000 bottles of wine. Quite the collection.  This was one of the more interesting tasting experiences we’ve had.

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For the rest of the day we visited our Colchagua Vineyards and they were incredible! The Colchagua Valley is known for growing bold red wines, such as Carménère, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Syrah. It has a mediterranean climate and is located along the southern end of the Rapel Valley. This topography creates a climate that receives around 23.3 inches of rainfall per year and little to no rainfall during their summer months. This helps keep the grapes safe close to harvest and ensures that the grapes are fighting for water therefore creating a more intense fruit.  The soil is made up of sand, decomposed granite, and clay. Another great indicator of quality viticulture. These soil components soak up acidity and help create a more balanced wine grape to work with.

Days 2-3: Curico Valley

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The hospitality in Chile was something we have never experienced before. The people were so kind and accommodating. First, we rode on horseback around the Chardonnay vineyard. Not being very good at horseback riding this was a little nerve wrecking, but we were able to make it around the vineyard (barely). Besides the stress of being on a horse the views were gorgeous and it was quite the way to take in the vineyard views.

Curico is place where many wineries and growers work with large producers. They have high-end equipment with state of the art technology; but at the same time there are family wineries and growers who create incredible boutique wines using a combination of old world tradition and a few new world winemaking practices. You can see the combination of new and old just by driving down the street. You not only pass fancy cars, but every once in a while you’ll pass a horse and buggy. Yes that is correct. Many people ride horseback throughout the area rather than drive cars.  Curico has been a wine grape growing region since the 1800s and you can see the incredible history of the wine region as you drive down the street.

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The wines from our grower’s personal winery were delicious! Sebastian and Manuela make a great father/daughter team when it comes to winemaking. Their wine label is called “Correa Albano” and the Sauvignon Blanc was so fruit forward and bright. I couldn’t get enough of it. Especially on such a hot summer day, it was the perfectly refreshing and complex Sauvignon Blanc. The Carmenere was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. It had a “dusty” almost “napa-like” nose to it. It was full of delicious dark fruits with soft and rich tannins. This wine has inspired me to try to make Carmenere again. I am hoping the new CSM yeast will get me close to this flavor profile. One of things Manuela touched on was the importance of temperature during fermentation for both white and red wines. She said she is meticulous about monitoring temperature during her primary fermentations and it is one of the keys to her winemaking success.

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After tasting some our grower’s wines we sat down for a true Chilean lunch and the food was delicious! Our growers were incredibly kind and prepared a few authentic Chilean dishes for us to enjoy (keep an eye out for some recipes to hit the blog soon). It was a feast of delicious Chilean produce, spices, and flavors, which was followed by a barrel tasting where Sebastian and Manuela let us try some of their aged red wines. They used multiple yeasts and are starting to think about blending the different oaks.

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As our 5 hour lunch and tasting came to an end we went to see more of the vineyards, and let me tell you, this car ride was epic. It was to a point where we didn’t think our rental car would make it over the rocks and through the brush. I felt like I was on a jungle safari in a car that was about to crumble underneath us with each bump we hit. We went from a beautiful roadside vineyard of Malbec and Merlot, up a large hill rocky hill to Cabernet Sauvignon, through a jungle forest that opened up to a gorgeous Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards. It felt like we discovered a vineyard oasis. It was Sebastian’s father’s favorite vineyard. You could tell it held a special place in his heart.

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Day 4: Viña Alpatagua

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The next winery we visited was Viña Alpatagua. The winemaker gave us an insider’s tour of the tank area, barrel room, and bottling line. It is a winery that is full of creativity and passion. The level of precision that is taken with each wine was very apparent, as was how creative the winemaker was. The winemaker, Pablo Barros, infused their sparkling wine with pomegranate juice from their estate pomegranate trees. It was a delicious addition to an already delicious sparkling wine.

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Most of their wines were appellation focused. We tried wines specifically from Curico and Colchagua. Most of the vines that they worked were very old, some up to 70 years old! My favorite wines were the Pomegranate infused sparkling, the Carmenere, their Cabernet Sauvignon, and Riesling.  This winery creates wines of great distinction. A must see if you are in Chile.

Day 5:  Santiago

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On the last day of our trip we enjoyed some delicious Pisco with some of our hosts, Alfredo and Suzanne. Alfredo and Suzanne are kind enough to take video, photos, and give us up to date harvest information. We are very lucky that they are so willing to give us information so quickly and efficiently. Alfredo and his family are a big part of why we are able to bring in such high end grapes from Chile.

Since it was our first time trying Pisco, they took us to a Pisco bar in downtown Santiago. This bar had some delicious ways to try it. They had over 30 different cocktails centered on the authentic, grape-based liquor. What a way to leave Chile! The next morning we reluctantly headed back to the US. An incredible trip with so many great memories, new knowledge, and media to share with our winemakers back home.

Christina, Sebastian, Patrick, Manuella in vineyard

As the plane took off and I settled in for the long flight home I couldn’t help but reflect back on the incredible people we met. They are kind and caring families who truly love what they do. You can see the passion they have for the wine industry, their families, and the people they work with. They said, “Wine is made in the details… If people work in a good way it takes a direct effect on the wines.” I couldn’t agree more. It was an incredible trip and we feel so very fortunate that we are able to work with such amazing growers and their families.

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Back Sweetening like a Pro

Oftentimes winemakers desire a slightly sweeter product than their fermentations offer. Rather than trying to halt fermentation early, leaving an unknown amount of sugar in the wine,  it is a much more predictable and common practice to back sweeten the wines, adding sugar to the dry wine prior to bottling.

Check out our LIVE feed of the class on Facebook for more info!

Back Sweetening White vs. Red Wines

One of the benefits of making your own wine, is being able to create a wine tailored to your specific tastes. Traditional “rules” of dry reds can be forgotten as you create a wine designed for your palate. There are different steps to sweetening red and white wines to ensure success.

 

Red Wine

  • Lysovin:
    • An anti-microbial to kill off any remaining MLF bacteria. Only targets gram-positive bacteria such as Lacto-bacillus (not Acetobacter).
    • Prevents unfavorable interaction of sorbate and MLF bacteria (can cause geranium taint). Must be applied one week before sorbate and sweetening.
    • Use 1.5g/gal hydrated in 10 times its weight in water. Allow to sit for 45 mins.
    • Do not stir too aggressively to avoid foaming. Stir into wine gently but thoroughly.
    • To calculate 10 times a product’s weight in water:
      • Take amount in grams (Y) and multiply times ten (Y x 10=Z)
      • Then take Z (in grams) and use an online calculator to convert into pounds.
      • Then take Z in lbs and divide by the weight of one gallon of water (Z/8.2 =A) A will be the amount of water needed to hydrate the product.
    • Sorbate:
      • Potassium Sorbate will help prevent yeast from reproducing and refermenting the newly introduced back sweetening sugar.
      • Make sure wine has been thoroughly racked and clarified before applying sorbate.
      • Use 1gram/gallon and dissolve in warm water.
    • Sulfite:
      • It is important to ensure that your sulfite level is up to the suggested ppm for that varietal, contingent on that wine’s pH value.
      • Use the sulfite calculator on Winemaker Magazine’s website to determine the correct sulfite concentration contingent upon your wine’s pH.
    • Fructose:
      • Fructose is the primary sugar found in fruits such as grapes, that is the best for back sweetening to provide a natural sweetness to the finished wine.
      • Bench trials should be conducted to discern the level of sweetness preferred by the winemaker.
      • Please see the attached sheet for back sweetening bench trial protocols. Once a level has been determined, use the following equation to determine the amount of fructose to be added.
        • Amount of gallons x 8.2lbs/gallon = X (weight of wine)
        • Use X multiplied by the percentage of residual sugar desired will yield the amount of fructose needed.
          • Ex: 100 gallons x 8.2lbs/gal = 820lbs x 2% RS (.02)=16.4lbs of fructose needed.
        • Dissolve the sugar in as little hot water as possible. Mix into the wine via vigorous stirring or during a pump over.

White Wine

  • Sorbate:
    • Potassium Sorbate will help prevent yeast from reproducing and refermenting the newly introduced back sweetening sugar.
    • Make sure wine has been thoroughly racked and clarified before applying sorbate.
    • Use 1gram/gallon and dissolve in warm water.
  • Sulfite:
    • It is important to ensure that your sulfite level is up to the suggested ppm for that varietal, contingent on that wine’s pH value.
    • Use the sulfite calculator on Winemaker Magazine’s website to determine the correct sulfite concentration contingent upon your wine’s pH.
  • Fructose:
    • Fructose is the primary sugar found in fruits such as grapes that is the best for back sweetening to provide a natural sweetness to the finished wine.
    • Bench trials should be conducted to discern the level of sweetness preferred by the winemaker.
    • Please see the attached sheet for back sweetening bench trial protocols. Once a level has been determined, use the following equation to determine the amount of fructose to be added.
    • Amount of gallons x 8.2lbs/gallon = X (weight of wine), Use X multiplied by the percentage of residual sugar desired will yield the amount of fructose needed.
      • Ex: 100 gallons x 8.2lbs/gal = 820lbs x 2% RS (.02)=16.4lbs of fructose needed.
    • Dissolve the sugar in as little hot water as possible. Mix into the wine via vigorous stirring or during a pump over.

 

Bench Trials for Back Sweetening

  • Preparation of solution for bench trials:
    • Dissolve 40gm of Fructose into distilled water so final volume is 200ml
    • 100ml of solution contains 20gm Fructose which will raise RS of a gallon of wine by 1%

 

Bench testing:

  • 50ml sample:
    • 13ml = 0.1%
    • 65 ml = 0.5%
    • 3ml = 1.0%
  • 100ml sample:
    • 26ml = 0.1%
    • 3 ml = 0.5%
    • 6ml = 1.0%
  • 375ml sample:
    • 0ml = 0.1%
    • 0 ml = 0.5%
    • 0ml = 1.0%
  • 750ml sample:
    • 0ml = 0.1%
    • 0 ml = 0.5%
    • 0ml = 1.0%

 

The Winemaker’s Think Tank: Vol 37 – “How do I make Rose?”

What’s the Winemaker’s Think Tank?
Every Thursday we will post about a few frequently asked questions that our winemaker has answered. If you have a winemaking question you would like to have answered, please email us at support@juicegrape.com and we will try to get into next week’s post. Cheers! 🙂

Many glasses of rose wine at wine tasting. Concept of rose wine and variety. White background. Top view, flat lay design. Natural light.

How do I make Rose?

There are a few different approaches to making rose wines. The most traditional way is to crush red grapes, leave the juice in contact with the skins for a limited amount of time, then press off the juice rather quickly (within a few hours) to yield a deep pink colored juice. Once this juice is fermented, it will yield a rose wine. The best grapes to use for this type of production would be any red varietal with a higher acidity. Early picked red grapes or a very fruit forward varietal tend to make the best roses. Some varietals that we have worked with successfully to make beautiful roses are Barbera, Grenache, Gamay, Chambourcin, and Pinot Noir.

Another approach would be to take a white wine and to add a small portion of red wine to it, predominantly for body and color. A very small amount of red wine will provide adequate color to change a white wine into a rose color. A small amount of prep work needs to be done before the blend is created. If the red wine was put through malolactic fermentation, the MLF must be complete before the wine is added into the white wine. If the red wine has not completed MLF, it cannot be used to blend as the bacteria will begin to metabolize the malic acid within the white wine. To prevent this, first make sure that the wine has completed MLF, then add Lysozyme to prevent the further proliferation of bacteria. It is always imperative to make sure that the wines have also been adequately sulfited prior to blending as well. It is very important to do bench trials of the blends before the addition of the red wine to ensure the desired results. A small amount (5-10%) of the red wine will add a nice touch of color and body to a white wine, creating a beautifully blended rose.

 

We hope this information helps with your winemaking. If you have any follow up questions or winemaking questions in general, please email us at support@juicegrape.com.

The Winemaker’s Think Tank: Vol 35 – How do I know if fermentation is complete?

What’s the Winemaker’s Think Tank?

Every Thursday we will post about a few frequently asked questions that our winemaker has answered. If you have a winemaking question you would like to have answered, please email us at support@juicegrape.com and we will try to get into next week’s post. Cheers! 🙂

The process of making wine in a winery in south africa

How do I know if fermentation is complete?

It is often easy to see visual signs of fermentation:  from activity in the airlock, bubbles, and the formation of a cap to the aromas of yeast and carbon dioxide, the wonders of fermentation are succinct observation.  But how does the home winemaker know when the fermentation is complete? The simplest way of seeing if fermentation is complete is to taste the wine and observe if there is any sweetness to it. If there is still sugar that you can taste, the yeast have not yet completed their job. The most accurate and scientific way of seeing if fermentation is complete is to take a measurement of the Brix via a hydrometer. A hydrometer is a glass instrument that reads sugar content via the hydrometers buoyancy in wine juice. The juice sample should always be placed into a sanitary, cylindrical shaped vessel. As the wine ferments, yeast consumer sugar and excrete alcohol, making a thinner, less dense liquid. At the beginning of fermentation, the hydrometer will not sink very far into the wine. The sugars within the juice make it thicker and the hydrometer will float on top of the juice. As fermentation progresses the new wine becomes less dense and sugary, allowing the hydrometer to sink down into the liquid. When the fermentation is complete, the hydrometer will sink down into the liquid to the 0 mark, if not farther. When reading the hydrometer, spin it slightly in the cylinder to dislodge any bubbles that may cling to the sides of the hydrometer. Observe where the meniscus of the wine falls on the gradients of the hydrometer. This will give you your sugar level in degrees Brix of the fermenting wine. When the hydrometer sinks to zero or below, the fermentation is complete and you can rack the wine.

We hope this information helps with your winemaking. If you have any follow up questions or winemaking questions in general, please email us at support@juicegrape.com.

Wine Class Schedule

We have a bunch of classes coming up! Make sure to RSVP via Facebook or Sign Up via the website!

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Saturday September 23rd: Common Winemaking Mistakes (FREE) at 10:00AM – RSVP by clicking HERE

Saturday September 30th: Winemaking 201 – Winemaker Lab Skills ($75.00) at 10:00AM – sign up by clicking HERE

Saturday October 7th: Winemaker Bootcamp ($150.00) at 9:00AM – sign up by clicking HERE

Numbers from Washington State as of 9/14/17

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Numbers are of 9/14/17

Pinot – 22.5 Brix, 3.3 pH

Merlot – 22 Brix, 3.47 pH

Cab Sauv – 20 Brix, 3.4 pH

Cab Franc – 19 Brix, 3.42 pH

Winemaker Spotlight: Greg Ambrose

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My wine passion started 17 years ago when my father officially started to teach me to make wine. He had tried unofficially in the early 70’s but I was a reluctant 7 year old with other things on my mind. I began making wine from grapes with a friend and we started with a single 30 gallon barrel. We picked up grapes from a local distributor and worked out of my friends single car garage (half full of lawn tools).

We spent the next 9 years trying to source better grapes, each year looking to step up in quality. And then the Musto team contracted with the Lanza family which made a tremendous improvement in the quality of our wines. I still search for higher quality grapes but have come to the realization that we are now working with the best possible fruit available.

Our coop now consists of 7 families and we have outgrown the single car garage. We moved production to my double car garage which has been converted to our crush pad and fermentation room. The garage has been insulated, painted and new lighting and an exhaust system installed. The Musto family now ships us over 5 tons of grapes each fall.

We receive grapes and clean all our equipment on day 1 and crush the grapes on day 2. Crush day is filled with music, great food, wine, more food then more wine. It’s truly Christmas, New Years and the Super Bowl all rolled into one! With a lot of hands to help, we run a sorting table to clean the grapes and then load the crusher destemmer. We ferment in 15- 500 liter tubs and produce around 350 cases of wine. The tubs completely fill the garage and after a short cold soak they ferment for about 10 days. We usually order 6-7 varieties with each family making their own blends we end up with 10-15 wines styles.

Mid day the 30 of us stop working and sit down for lunch. It’s always at a single long table and we eat as one big family. This has become an important tradition with family and friends and includes toasts and short speeches and plenty of laughter. It’s a very special day and it actually gets me emotional even to write about it.

Pressing two weeks later is another story. It’s takes us two full days to press and then deliver the wine to each of the seven homes. Using pickup trucks, food grade drums, pumps and long hoses, we deliver wine to each house in the same way oil deliveries are made. We pump the wine down into each cellar and fill the barrels at each house. It’s more of a working weekend than crush day but we still mange to fit in great food and great wine. After making delivery runs we assemble back at the crush pad/garage for clean up. The day always ends up with a post event review. With more food and wine, we talk about how things went this year and suggestions for improvements to our process that we might make next year. Usually there is robust conversation about who stood out as an MVP and they receive an ovation.

The Musto and Lanza families are fantastic partners and we consider them part of our family.

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Want to be featured in the “Winemaker Spotlight” series? Send Christina an email with a description about your harvest traditions and photos of your winemaking cellar to cmusto@juicegrape.com to be featured! 

The Winemaker’s Think Tank: Vol 23 – How do I test for Acid?

Wine being checked on component saturation in laboratory on winery factory

What’s the Winemaker’s Think Tank?

Every Thursday we will post about a few frequently asked questions that our winemaker has answered. If you have a winemaking question you would like to have answered, please email us at support@juicegrape.com and we will try to get into next week’s post. Cheers! 🙂

How do I test for Acid?

When testing for acidity in wine, you are looking for the Total Acidity value, or the amount of acids in grams per liter of wine. While this may sound complex, it will help you in achieving a proper balanced flavor in your end product. You will need a few basic lab supplies:  a test tube, a small 10ml graduated syringe, phenalthalein, sodium hydroxide. Draw a 15ml sample of the wine to be tested into the test tube. Add three drops of the phenalthalein. Swirl the drops around in the wine to mix it in thoroughly. (Note: When using sodium hydroxide, be very careful. It is a strong base that can cause burns. We suggest wearing eye and skin protection.) Using the 10 ml graduated syringe, slowly drop in the sodium hydroxide by .5ml at a time. Every drop, swirl the test tube contents to mix and observe any color reactions. Upon adding the drop, you will see an immediate color change, that will then dissipate. For white wines, you will observe a pink color and for red wines you will observe a grey color.  Keep repeating the process of adding a drop, swirling and observing until the color change is permanent. The amount of sodium hydroxide used, when the color change is permanent, will give you the Total Acidity. If 6ml of Sodium Hydroxide are used, then the wine contains .6% or 6g/L of TA.

We hope this information helps with your winemaking. If you have any follow up questions or winemaking questions in general, please email us at support@juicegrape.com.

The Winemaker’s Think Tank: Vol 22 – Seven Most Common Winemaking Mistakes

What’s the Winemaker’s Think Tank?

Every Thursday we will post about a few frequently asked questions that our winemaker has answered. If you have a winemaking question you would like to have answered, please email us at support@juicegrape.com and we will try to get into next week’s post. Cheers! 🙂

As part of the winemaking process, the pressed grape juice runs into a stainless steel holding tank where it will be gently aerated.

Seven Most Common Winemaking Mistakes

1. Headspace – When making wine, it is imperative that any vessel being used is filled completely. Filling carboys, demijohns, or fixed capacity tanks to the highest level possible, minimizing any air space it very important to prevent oxidation. If using a barrel, the barrel will allow for some evaporation as the wine ages. It is critical to top of the barrel with additional wine as this will prevent the oxidation of the wine in the barrel. Barrels do promote a small amount of oxidation, referred to as micro-oxidation, which is helpful at creating a creamier mouthfeel and promoting the expression of fruit flavors and aromas. If a large headspace develops due to evaporation, this can cause severe oxidation in the wine.

2. Degassing– Carbon dioxide gas is a byproduct of the yeast during alcoholic fermentation. Often times the bubbles of SO₂ are so small, they get trapped by the weight of the wine. If the wine is not purposefully degassed, the bubbles may come out of solution in the bottle, resulting in a fizzy wine for the drinker. The degassing process is relatively simple. One may purchase a degassing tool that is attached to a cordless power drill and stirs the wine at a high speed, agitating it and releasing the trapped bubbles. The winemaker can also splash the wine while racking, agitating the wine and releasing the trapped bubbles of gas. As long as the wine has been stirred vigorously, the gas should dislodge and escape, ensuring that it will not be fizzy in the bottle.

3. Sanitation – This may be the most important step in all of winemaking. While cleaning and sanitizing may be a tedious and time consuming process, it is critical to ensure a healthy, long lasting wine. There are an assortment of cleaning agents (B-Brite, Soda Ash, Sterox) that are excellent at cleaning wine making equipment and removing stains. These products need to be rinsed off thoroughly and should be thought of as “soap” rather than sanitizer. After the equipment has been washed and well rinsed, it must then be sanitized with potassium metabisulfite. A solution of 2 ounces of sulfite powder, dissolved into one gallon of water, will yield a strong sanitizing solution that will kill off any microbes that could spoil the wine. This will ensure the longevity of the wine in the aging vessel or bottle.

4. Bench Trials – When using a fining agent or oak additive to your wine, it is very important to first conduct a small trial of the product, before adding it to the entire batch. Assess the addition rate for the compound you would like to add to the wine. Using that as a guide for your ratio, pull out a small amount of the wine and add the compound, making sure that the ratio is accurate for that size sample. Allow the sample to sit for a few days and try it. If the results are what you were striving for, then you can apply the compound to the entire batch. This will help save you time and money if you are not satisfied with the results of the bench trial and will help you most effectively improve your wine.

5. Sulfites – Sulfites are a naturally occurring compound within wine. While sulfites do exist naturally, they are at a low level, not sufficient for helping to preserve the wine as an antioxidant. Additional potassium metabisulfite must be added to help prevent oxidation as well as prevent any advantageous microbes from growing in the wine. If the winemaker neglects to add sulfites to the wine, it will easily oxidize and could also be susceptible to bacterial contamination.

6. Record keeping – Often times with winemaking, “the devil is in the details”. The smallest change in yeast strain, nutrition, and grape acid and sugar content, can have dramatic effects on the resulting wine. The best winemakers, on the home or professional level, take meticulous notes on all of their activities and observations. By keeping track of each step of their process, they are able to reproduce their very best wines and also do research on what went wrong with their failures.

7. Timing – It is said that timing is everything. This is particularly true for winemaking. Many folks assume after fermentation, they can just leave the wine alone to age and it will come out beautifully if untouched. This is not the case. The wine needs to be maintained with racking and sulfites to ensure its longevity. Sometimes in winemaking, a fault may develop, Rather than researching a way to fix the fault or seek some professional advice, some winemakers elect to do nothing and hope the fault goes away. Often times, these faults progress and get worse. If caught early, they can be easier to fix.

We hope this information helps with your winemaking. If you have any follow up questions or winemaking questions in general, please email us at support@juicegrape.com.