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A White Wine Drinker’s First Shot at Tasting Red Wines

A White Wine Drinker’s First Shot at Tasting Red Wines

Christina has given me a few bottles of wine to stretch my tasting abilities and educate my nose and taste buds. Here’s how it went! My go-to’s have always been a sweet white or rosé, I haven’t really ventured out with reds mostly because the first red I had was gross and I figured all red wines were like that. I was definitely wrong! Note, I am a beginner at tasting red wines so these are very amateur notes.

The first wine Christina gave me to try was a 2018 Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon.

Ashley: I smell cherry the most, with kind of a plumy smell, and maybe prune; but cherry was the first thing I smelled.

Christina: Great! Next time think about what kind of cherry – Black cherry? Red cherry? Ripe cherry?

Ashley: It has a nice deep purple toned color to it and has no floaters.

Christina: Good, the browner the tinge of the wine the older the wine is.

Ashley: There’s no carbonation or fizz – I’m used to the wines I drink having bubbles or a little fizz to them.

Christina: Good! Fizz really only happens if the wine wasn’t taken care of or if it is a sparkling wine.

Ashley: It makes my mouth pucker at first but doesn’t leave my tongue dry for long, it goes away quickly.

Christina: If you salivate that means the wine is high in acid, if it dries out your mouth that means tannins are present. Sometimes people use the word “pucker” referring to both. Next time try to think about what is causing that feeling? Is it the salivation in your mouth like if you just tasted a bitter lemon, or is it the drying out of your mouth/chalky feeling in your mouth?

Ashley: Alcohol is pretty high!

Christina: Glad you picked up on this! Most Cabernets from Sonoma and Napa California are higher in alcohol.

Ashley: Kind of tastes like a Cigar.

Christina: That usually has to do with barrel aging or growing region; you find this characteristic a lot in red wines from Chile and Argentina. If you find it in a CA wine it’s usually due to barrel aging in a heavy toasted barrel.

Ashley: I pick up black pepper but it’s not strong.

Christina: I’m glad you thought about the type of pepper. That’s great. Try to be as specific as you can be.

Ashley: It’s easy to swallow but gives a hot feeling in my chest, kind of like if you drank something hot with cinnamon.

Christina: That is an indicator of high alcohol. Good job picking up on that!

Ashley: Kind of a charred taste, like eating the black burnt part of a marshmallow or pizza crust.

Christina: This has to do with the aging process of this wine. It sounds to me like it was a little “tight” and could have been laid down for a few more years so the balance of fruit and earth could shine through. Great specific description of what you tasted.

Ashley: It’s not something I would drink on a regular but it wasn’t terrible.

Christina: Great, you are figuring out what you like. Think about what type of food you would have this with and if it would change your perception of the wine.

Next was a 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon 169.

Ashley: This one gave a rush of burning through my nose upon first sip and swallo2. It reminds me of the sensation you get when you burp through your nose

Christina: This means it’s got a decent amount of alcohol in it.

Ashley: I definitely taste black pepper with this one; it’s very smooth, smoky and earthy. Kind of when you eat a vegetable right out of the garden without washing it and it has like dirt on it haha!

Christina: Haha those are good descriptors!

Ashley: It doesn’t seem to be too high in tannins, after a few sips my tongue started to dry out, but right off the bat I didn’t feel much dryness.

Christina: This means the tannins were balanced, soft, and supple.  That’s a good thing for red wines.

Ashley: I also got black cherry and plum in this one, though it is dry it kind of gave me the impression that it was going to be slightly sweet, because it smells like it but it definitely was not sweet.

Christina: This happens a lot with dry red wines; you get sweet notes on the nose but not on the palate. Good job picking up on the fruit aromas!

Ashley: Overall this is the first red wine I didn’t hate and would actually drink again! I definitely see myself enjoying it with a steak for dinner.

Christina: Wow that’s great!

The last wine I tried was a 2018 Chilean Malbec.

Ashley: Very earthy, I got that same dirt taste from the cab but it’s way more prominent with this one.

Christina: Good descriptors!

Ashley: It’s also very dry, significantly drier and higher in tannins than the cab 169. It dried my tongue out on the first sip and kind of made my throat feel dry too.

Christina: Perfect! Now you know the difference between medium/balanced tannins and high tannin wines.

Ashley: I do pick up on a black pepper, and get some licorice, some bitter blackberry as well. But the dirt taste is what my mouth captures first and sticks throughout the whole experience.

Christina: Okay good observations and descriptors!

Ashley: I wasn’t a fan of this one because the dirt taste was all I could focus on.

Christina: Good! You know now that you don’t like high tannin earthy wines.

Reflection

The Cab 169 from Suisun Valley, CA definitely left an impression on me and I am going to explore with other wines from the similar region and see what else I can take a liking to! Overall this was a fun experience and I look forward to experimenting and broadening my wine horizons. A big thanks to Christina for being an awesome teacher, it’s looking like I’ll be a pro at tasting and winemaking in no time!

If you are interested in wine tasting and help with developing your palate, do not hesitate to reach out to us at Sales@JuiceGrape.com, or by calling us at 877-812-1137. At Musto Wine Grape we are always searching for ways connect with you and help you along in your winemaking and wine loving journey.  We offer a wide variety of products, services and classes to help you create a wine you love and assist you in being able to experience the way wine was created to be experienced!

For updates on harvests, educational tutorials and more, follow us on Instagram and Facebook.

Top 10 Winemaker Gifts Under $50.00

It’s gift giving season and we know sometimes it can be hard to find the perfect gift. Below is a list of our suggested gifts for your favorite winemakers!

winemaker christmas gifts

Bottles:

Every winemaker needs bottles to display their masterpiece. Give the gift of bottles to a winemaker, and you never know, you might get something delicious in return.

Link to product: http://www.juicegrape.com/categories/Bottles_and_Jugs/Bottles

pH Checker:

A great, easy to use and economical pH meter. pH is very important in winemaking and can be difficult to figure out depending the meter. This meter makes checking pH a breeze no matter how experienced the winemaker. For only $25.00 this is a great testing option.

Link to product: http://www.juicegrape.com/ph600-box-milwaukee/

All Grape Pack

100% pasteurized crushed and destemmed grapes as “Mother Nature” intended! A great way for your winemaker to punch up the body or tannins in their wine, no matter if they are using wine juice or a wine kit. Shelf stable, this $19.99 item is a great thing to have in every winemaker’s tool box.

Link to product: http://www.juicegrape.com/Mosti-Mondiale-All-Grape-Pack/

Metabisulfite – WINY

The purest and high quality sulfite. The WINY product is a great sulfite addition pre-bottling. Only $12.00/kg, something not every winemaker would buy for themselves but should.

Link to product: http://www.juicegrape.com/Potassium-Metabisulfite-Winy-1kg/

Winemaking Analytical Services

Musto offers a plethora of testing services for winemakers and their wines. Help your winemaker take advantage of the testing we have to offer! Ranging from $10.00 and up per test, this is a great gift for any winemaker. You never know when you’ll need some winemaking advice.

Link to products: http://www.juicegrape.com/categories/Analytical_Services

PVC Shrink Capsules

Help your winemaker dress up their bottles with colorful PVC Capsules. Only $10.00/100ct bag, these capsules make any homemade wine look like it belongs on the shelf at your favorite wine shop.

Link to products: http://www.juicegrape.com/Racking-Bottling

Auto Siphon

Ever had to siphon wine? If you have then you know that the auto siphon is a life saver! And if you haven’t siphoned wine before, believe us, this will help speed up the process with ease for only $15.00!

Link to product: http://www.juicegrape.com/Siphon-Auto-12in/

Winemaker Magazine Subscription:

Winemaker Magazine is the only winemaking publication your winemaker needs. Articles written by some of the Musto Crush Crew, as well as winemakers from Napa and Bordeaux, this magazine subscription is something we all look forward to each month.

Link to product: http://bit.ly/2XbKILK

Techniques in Home Winemaking Book

Daniel Pambianchi is one of our favorite writers! This is because his winemaking book is our favorite and we still use it to this day. We refer to this as the “home winemaker’s bible”. For only $21.95 this is a gift that keeps on giving.

Link to product: http://www.juicegrape.com/Book-Techniques-in-Home-Winemaking/

Gift Certificate

Purchase a Musto Wine Grape Gift Certificate for any desired amount. We are sure your winemakers will put it toward their most desired items in the Spring and Fall winemaking seasons.

Link to product: http://www.juicegrape.com/Gift-Certificate-25-50-100/

Questions? Still don’t know what to get your winemaker? Give us a call at 877-812-1137 or email sales@juicegrape.com to discuss the perfect gift for your winemaker.

Black Muscat: A Grape by Any Other Name

The oldest genetically traceable family of grapes is the Muscat family. Over the centuries, the grape has traveled around the world and transformed itself through many genetic mutations. One of the most well known genetic crosses of the original Muscat grape is the Black Muscat.  Black Muscat is a cross of the Schiava Grossa and the Muscat of Alexandria. The grape has very large, plump berries, with white flesh and black skin. The grape has intense, sweet floral and candy-like flavors.

              Black Muscat can be used for a very wide variety of wine making purposes. It can be pressed to produce a white juice, that has been used in famous dessert wine productions as well as left on the skins to produce a flavorful rose or red table wine. It is popularly used for table wine production in California, China, and Eastern Europe. Quady Winery in California has gained fame and many acclimations over their dessert wine, Elysium, produced from the Black Muscat grape. The intense florals and sweet fruit flavors that are found in the unprocessed grape, translate in the finished wine product. Big flavors of raspberry jam and candied citrus make the wine deliciously sweet with enough acidity to create a harmonious balance. Because the wine can be made in so many different styles, the winemaker has many choices to control the outcome of the final product. If creating a dessert style wine, beneficial yeast strains would be Vin 13 or R2 to promote the complex floral aromatics. If creating a rose or table wine, QA23 or 71B yeast strains will help to promote aromatics and to capture the ripe red fruit flavors. Skin contact time will be critical; a few hours on the skins will produce a flavorful rose and then full maceration/fermentation on the skins will create a fruit forward table wine.


              Musto Wine Grape has had such wonderful results with this grape, that Frank Musto has planted his own fields of this varietal. The vines are coming up on their 20th birthday, generating large but complex fruit and excellent yields. Frank Musto’s Black Muscat has started being harvested and is arriving in Hartford currently. Brix levels are averaging in the mid 20’s with smooth acidity. We are looking forward to making a fruit forward rose this year with some of the fruit. It is exciting to create a new style of wine with such an ancient, treasured strain of grape.

 

by the Winemakers at Musto Wine Grape

How to Add Body without Ever Hitting the Gym, meet the Lagrein grape…..

Lagrein grape_Musto Wine Grape_Winemaking_Winemaker_Home Winemaking_How to Make Wine

As winemakers, we have all had a red wine that feels a little thinner in the mouthfeel than we would care for. It may feel thin bodied and slightly flabby. How does a winemaker address this issue in their wine? Unlike people, we can’t send the weak bodied wine to the gym to bulk up, but we can introduce the wine to Lagrein. Lagrein is a red wine grape that originates from the northern valleys of Italy. It has been used to create very aromatic rosés and incredibly full bodied red wines. It has a higher level of acidity and a lower pH factor than many red wines, making it an excellent blending wine. When vinified on its own, Lagrein has a lot of intense, chewy tannins and flavors of plum, tobacco, and an earthy minerality.

              When making a stand-alone Lagrein, (or to be used in a blend later), it is suggested that the winemaker may choose to have a limited maceration time for this grape variety. The important and prevalent grape tannins are hydrolysable and will be extracted into the must within the first few days of fermentation. The stronger, bitter seed tannins will be extracted in the accumulating ethanol later on in the fermentation, giving cause to the winemaker for an early pressing. BDX yeast strain will help to create a smoother and rounder mouthfeel, given its propensity for soft tannin extraction. Another excellent yeast for this varietal would be D80 as it will enhance palate volume, finer tannin sensation, and brings out the spicy flavors within the Lagrein grape. Fermentation aids such as Booster Rouge and Opti-Red will help to lock in the color and preserve the longer chain, smoother grape tannins with in the Lagrein grape. The winemaker can chose to add oak dust or fermentation tannins, but with the tannic intensity of the grape, it may not be as crucial as with other varietals. We always advise to use a complete nutrition program throughout fermentation, including the use of Go-Ferm, Fermaid O, and Fermaid K. This will help avoid any stuck fermentations and off aromas. 

              Due to its intense tannic structure, the Lagrein grape is an excellent grape to blend with other wines to help build up their tannin structure. The winemaker can chose to add in a small percentage at crush to naturally fortify their primary varietal with additional tannins or to ferment a batch of Lagrein separately and then blend into other wines, post fermentation to add to their structure or mouthfeel. With its bright acidic character and higher tannin content, it can greatly add the attributes to any red wine. Having a small amount of Lagrein wine in the winery, maybe the perfect finishing touch to some of your other wines. It can add such strong structure and body to a red wine blend, it can be a useful “secret ingredient” to fortify the body of red wines. Incorporating Lagrein, your wine will feel like it has “hit the gym” without ever having to leave the winery. If only it were that easy for the rest of us!

2018 Chilean Harvest Update

This year’s growing season should produce some intense and complex wines!

We are very excited and fortunate to be sourcing our Chilean grapes and juices from the “Heart of the Chilean Wine Industry” known as the Curico Valley.  Curico has been a wine grape growing region since the 1800s. With its fertile soil, microclimates, and the ability to grow over 30 different wine grape varieties, it’s no wonder this prestigious region is considered the heart of the wine industry.

Soil Content: Sand, clay, decomposed granite, and volcanic-alluvial.

The second region we will be sourcing from is the Colchagua Valley. 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.

 Soil Content: Sand, decomposed granite, and clay

This year’s harvest has gotten off to a great start. The white grapes are coming off the vine and will be in transit soon. Our early red grapes such as Pinot Noir and Merlot will start harvesting around March 30th.

Arrival Dates: White grapes should arrive around the last week in April and the red grapes should start to arrive around the first week in May. Get your crushers ready!

Grapes Still Available: Carmenere, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier

Sold Out: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Pinot Noir, and Syrah

Juices Available: Carmenere, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet/Merlot Blend, Malbec, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, and Viognier

Fresco Juices Available: Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Merlot, Malbec, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay/Semillon Blend

Yeast suggestions for the following grapes via Manuela Astaburuaga

Yeast suggestions for the following grapes via Manuela Astaburuaga. Manuela is the enologist at “Correa Albano” and has studied in both France and New Zealand. Her family also owns many of the vineyards we source from.

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  • Sauvignon Blanc – For the SB the most important thing is the yeast that express the thiols aromas. Try VIN13 to bring out such thiol aromas like tropical fruits.
  • Carmenere & Merlot – Try a yeast that expresses the black fruits like CSM
  • Cabernet Sauvignon –You want the fruit and earthiness to shine. Try D254, BM4X4, or CSM. Maybe think about blending yeasts for more complexity!
  • Pinot noir – RC 212 is one of the best yeasts for Pinot Noir.

Manuela’s Favorite Blend:  Merlot-Carmenere

Why does Sauvignon Blanc wine taste so good from Chile? (According to Manuela)

  • “The different temperature between day and night is very important to the aroma expression, we have that kind of climate in our Valley (Curicó) so our SB is very aromatic and with a good acidity. We ferment at 58-50ºF to preserve the aromas.”

Winemaker Spotlight: Grettchen van der Merwe of our South African Vineyards

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How did you get started winemaking? What first attracted you to winemaking?

I grew up in the Cape Winelands and studied Viticulture and Oenology at Stellenbosch University. I love the process of winemaking, the chemistry of it. Wine is a living thing and it is wonderful to be able to make something with the potential to be enjoyed for years to come as it grows and matures in the bottle.

What do you look for when you make wine? What is your general winemaking philosophy?

It is all about the grapes, get the best grapes possible and make sure you have the basics right, but don’t try to over engineer the process.

What is the most difficult aspect of making wine? What’s or biggest challenge as a winemaker

You are working with nature so you cannot predict what’s to come in a season and every season has its own challenges. I think the most difficult are seasons where the vines are stressed, be it from high temperatures or wet weather that can increase risk of fungal infections in the vineyard.

Are you filtering your wines?

There is a movement toward unfiltered wines, especially as consumers become more educated and willing to accept a little sediment in the bottle. I do prefer to filter my wine, but use the most coarse (largest micron size) filter available. Basically just to give the wine a rough polish as it goes into the bottle.

Are there any new winemaking techniques or tools you’d like to experiment with?

They aren’t necessarily new tools, but you can achieve a lot with good use of enzymes and tannins at vinification. I like to cold soak my grapes before fermentation; you get the benefit of good color and flavor development without the harsh tannic extraction that happens after fermentation (when alcohol is present).

What’s your favorite wine region?

Many different regions excel at specific varietals, which is part of what makes wine exciting, you can have a Syrah from South Africa; Australia and France and all three can be fantastic but also completely different in style.

We want to give a BIG Thank you to Grettchen for answering our winemaker questions and we look forward to meeting her in person on April 2nd. We would like to invite all of our winemakers to meet her Monday April 2nd from 1:00-6:00PM at our Hartford, CT Location. Grettchen will be speaking about her vineyards and favorite winemaking practices. RSVP to Christina at cmusto@juicegrape.com. This event is FREE to join and we would love you bring in some wines that you have made for Grettchen to try. Looking forward to seeing you all on April 2nd!

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 32 – “What do I do if I have a stuck fermentation?”

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! 🙂

Closeup of early 30's man having some wine in the middle of the day and thinking about his relationship problem. Somewhere at the bottom of the glass there is a meaning of everything that bothers him right now.

What do I do if I have a stuck fermentation?

                  Sometimes, even though we take great care as winemakers to avoid it, we can get caught with a stuck fermentation. Yeast are incredible creatures, capable of very rapid reproduction, but they do have their limiting factors. It is very important to know the limitations of the certain yeast strain that you are using for your wine. Evaluate your must’s pH to ensure that it is above 3.2, the lower pH environmental threshold for most yeast strains. Take into consideration the alcohol tolerance of the yeast that you selected. If you take the initial Brix level and multiply it by .55, you will have a pretty close estimate of your ending alcohol by volume. Make sure that you haven’t put in a yeast that is unable to handle the rising alcohol levels of the must. Another important factor to consider is the temperature of the must. All yeast strains have a preferred temperature window in which they like to work and reproduce. Because fermentation is an exothermic reaction, check your temperatures (if making reds always take a measurement under the cap) and be sure they haven’t gotten so warm that the yeast may be dying off. The opposite is also true, ensuring that your juice or must have warmed up enough to allow the yeast to begin their processing. Lastly, another important factor to  consider in the health of your fermentation is the nutrition of your yeast. Aside from the sugar that they consume, yeast also need proteins, vitamins, and minerals to complete a healthy fermentation. Using a nutrient, such as Fermaid, will give the yeast the other elements needed to properly process the juice.

                  After the careful evaluation of these factors, you may need to add a small amount of water, nutrients, or heat or cool the must/juice. A winemaker at Musto Wine Grape is happy to help you with the amounts and timing of these additions. If all of these factors have been evaluated and adjusted for, prior to fermentation, and you still have a stuck fermentation, you will need to restart the fermentation. Please contact support@juicegrape.com and a trained winemaker can help you with a restart procedure.

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 30 – How do I test for pH?

 

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! 🙂

pH scale diagram with corresponding acidic or alcaline values for common substances, food, household chemicals . Litmus paper color chart. Colorful vector illustration in flat style isolated on white background.

How do I test for pH?

Testing for pH is a reasonably simple process for your wine. Based on your budget, you can obtain a variety of pH measuring implements. There are pH test strips that will give you an approximate level of pH in your wine. They give a color reaction that when compared to a chart, indicates the pH of the wine. The next level up in sophistication as well as price is a basic pH meter. Musto wine grape offers a simple handheld pH meter that can be calibrated in a matter of minutes and gives precise and accurate pH readings. The probe must be stored properly in a storage solution to ensure that it does not dry out. The probe lasts from 12-18 months, depending on its care and must be purged after this time frame. With the most basic model, you throw out the entire unit and buy a new one. With the more sophisticated models of pH meters, the probe is replaced separately from the unit (which should last indefinitely).

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.