877.812.1137

Editorials

Fermenting Tubs: Product Spotlight

Fermenting Tubs: Product Spotlight

Fermenting tubs: we sell a variety of winemaking products, including tubs specifically made for fermenting. Why is a fermenting tub one of the best investments you can make? Choosing the proper vessel to ferment your wine in is extremely important as it effects the quality of fermentation.

fermenting tubs assorted

What’s so special about our fermenting tubs?

Our fermenting tubs are made of food grade plastic. Did you know if you used a non-food grade plastic pail or tub to ferment your wine in, you can actually poison yourself? This is due to the plastic actually seeping into your wine while it heats up during fermentation! Wild, right?

What are the benefits of using a fermenting tub aside from not being poisoned?

Aside from not being poisoned by your fermenting tub, the way our fermenting tubs are engineered makes a big difference than per say a normal drum or bucket. Our pails gradually get wider going from the base up, giving the must more surface area to breathe. This also helps with any cold spots you may have. More surface area equals better fermentation, better fermentation equals better wine, and we all know what better wine equals!

Do your fermenting tubs come with lids?

Our fermenting tubs do come with lids (sold separately) however; we actually recommend simply using a bed sheet draped over the tub. Why? Let’s revisit the need to let your wine breathe: not providing enough oxygen to your wine can actually give it a rotten egg smell, this is due to volatile sulfur compounds developing in the enclosed space between the wine and the lid. Not only do you want to avoid rotten egg smelling wine, you also don’t want your tub to explode. A closed fermentation tub becomes an incubator, trapping heat with the gasses and BOOM! Now you have must everywhere AND your winemaking room smells like rotten eggs. Yuck. Using the bed sheet instead of the lid will prevent this too.

If you’ve decided to invest in a fermenting tub, visit our store to pick yours up or give us a call at (877) 812 – 1137 to place your order over the phone with one of our sales associates. You can view the sizes and specs of our tubs here.

Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies

Caramel chocolate chip cookies are a treat definite to make you swoon. The best part? This can be a quick, easy recipe so you’ll be enjoying these sweet treats in no time!

Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies

First, you’ll need the ingredients!

2 cups of all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1 teaspoon of cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1/2 cup of butter

1/2 cup of brown sugar

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 & 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

1 cup of chocolate chips (I usually use milk chocolate, but you have the freedom to pick which chocolate you like more!)

1 cup of caramel chips

1-2 Tablespoons of sea salt (coarse)

Next, combine and bake!

Firstly, in a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cornstarch, and salt. Secondly, beat the butter and sugars together in a separate bowl. You can use a stand mixer with a paddle attachment or a handheld mixer on low speed until combined. Thirdly, Beat the eggs and vanilla in a small bowl until combined and then stir into the flour mixture until well blended. Fourthly, Add chocolate and caramel chips, preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and place cookie dough onto a baking sheet spaced two inches apart. You can use a tablespoon or small ice cream scoop to measure out the side of each cookie. Press sea salt on the tops of each cookie. Finally, bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned and allow to cool.

Wait, nothing is complete without a glass of wine…

Have you ever made Port before? It pairs perfectly with these cookies! The rich textures, fresh fruit factors, hints of chocolate, and sweet profile of Ruby Port makes it a no-brainer for pairing with many kinds of caramel, milk, and dark chocolate choices.

How to Make Port Wine:

You can make port from existing wine by adding grain alcohol, everclear, or brandy. First, determine the alcohol level you want your port to be. Second, use Pearson’s Square to determine how much brandy you need to add. Third, add that amount of brandy and sugar adjustment to the wine.

Want to dive deeper? Learn How to Make Port Wine Step by Step with this Video from MWG’s online learning program WinemakingInstructions.com.

How to Throw a Blending Party

When throwing a wine blending party think about the style of wine you want to create. Are you looking for a fruit forward blend? Are you wanting a Bordeaux, earthier style blend? Once you decide on the style of blend grab samples of the wines you want to utilize. I’d suggest putting them into unmarked bottles with numbers on them or you can put them into pitchers with numbers on them. With the wines “blind” people will try be more creative and less apt to going for only Cabernet.

Next set up your blending stations.

  • Each blending station should have a glass for each wine being used and a glass for the blended wine
  • A small pipette
  • 100 mL graduated cylinder
  • Wine Blending Sheet
  • Pen or pencil

Musto’s Wine Blending Sheet

(email cmusto@juicegrape.com for your free download)

Our family's wine blend

Once you have everything set up it’s time to start blending! Have fun!

Here are a few popular blends to help get you and your family started.

  • Bordeaux Blends – Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Petite Verdot, Malbec
  • Chianti – 75% Sangiovese, usually finished with Barbera
  • Super Tuscan – Cab, Sangiovese, Syrah, Cabernet Franc
  • Rhone Blends – Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, Carignane
  • White Rhone blends – Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier, Grenache Blanc
  • White Bordeaux – Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Muscadelle

Remember – at the end of the day it’s all about which blend you enjoy the most!

MWG is here to help you make the wine that you love. Below are more blog posts and videos about Blending Wine. Take a look for more wine blending inspiration.

Blog Post: Beginner Blending Wine by Winemaker Chris Pallatto

Great Blending Wines Video

How to Blend Your Wines Step by Step Video

Photos from a wine blending party with the American Wine Society

Interested in making your own wine? Contact Musto Wine Grape at sales@juicegrape.com or 877-812-1137. Cheers to Winemaking!

7 Tips for How to Prep for the Chilean Wine Harvest

7 Tips for How to Prep for the Chilean Wine Harvest 🍇

malbec

1. Clean and organize your winemaking cellar
2. Take inventory of your fermentation supplies and re-stock
3. Check all wines that are aging – top off, make SO2 adjustments
4. Inspect and double check your tools and equipment
5. Decide if you want/need to upgrade or replace any equipment
6. Look over past winemaking notes
7. Bottle any wine you need to in order to free up space for this seasons wines

Have you ordered your Chilean winemaking products yet?

Give us a call at 877-812-1137 or email us at sales@juicegrape.com to get your set up!

Headspace in Your Wine Vessel – What does it mean?

headspace in your wine

Let’s talk about headspace. Extra headspace in your wine storage vessel leads to oxidation. Oxidation leads to wine faults such as – disappearance of fruit flavors, characteristics like bruised-apple take over, the color starts to brown, and brettanomyces or volatile acidity can start to develop.

However, not all oxidation is bad. If done carefully a little micro-oxidation can give help soften your red wine wine and give it complexity. Also, some wine styles require excessive oxidation like Madera.

But for most wines we want to avoid any excessive oxidation. So how to we do that? Below are a few tips to help avoid oxidation in your wine.

1. Consistently check your aging vessels and make sure they have no headspace and are topped off
2. Limit how much air you wine is exposed to during racking, pump overs, and bottling
3. Keep track of and update your SO2 levels regularly
4. Double check tank gaskets for any leaks before use
5. Use quality corks when bottling wine

We hope these tips help! 🍇🍷🥂 Looking forward to working with you all this Spring Winemaking Season. Have you ordered your Spring Winemaking Supplies yet? Email us at sales@juicegrape.com for more details.

For more on Winemaking Faults visit our sister site WinemakingInstructions.com

Pocket Guide: The 9 Styles of Wine

The world of wine is a big one. Whether you are a newbie winemaker or drinker, or one of the pro’s that just needs a refresher.

We put together a printable pocket guide for identifying the 9 styles of wine.

The 9 Styles of Wine

This printable pocket guide provides a simple overview of each of the 9 styles of wine and what characteristics to look for. Its a great idea to keep handy in your wine tasting notebook so as you write your tasting notes you can easily identify each wine!

Once you are able to taste the 9 styles of wine, it will give you a better understanding of wine as a whole. Once you have a good understanding for wine, you’ll be able to fully understand tasting wine and even making it! Obviously wine tasting and winemaking can be complex but with dedication for learning, and having the support (us!) it can ensure your success.

Other types of reference guides that are good to keep handy are things like a wine tasting wheel and color chart that allows you to identify more colors, aromas and flavors!

Want to make your own wine? Musto Wine Grape Company is here to help. Give us a call at (877) 812-1137 to speak with one of our Crush Crew members to get you on track to making the wine of your dreams!

Spring Fresco juices

Fresco Juices

Ever bake a cake from a box and it came out delicious? Did you know you could do the same with winemaking?

Mondiale Fresco is proud to be the only product to offer home winemakers their own vineyard in one unique package. Each pail of juice is pre-balanced and adjusted to ensure you have the best winemaking success possible. Just warm up the juice to fermentation temperature and watch it go.

What does “pre-balanced” and “adjusted” mean?

Every season Mother Nature gives us a different wine grape harvest. Some years the acid, pH, and sugars are all in line with each other. Most times they aren’t and there needs to be some slight adjustments made pre-fermentation to ensure top wine quality. The Fresco juices are adjusted so that the acid, pH, and sugar levels are all in balance with each other. This makes for an easier fermentation and, a very pleasing wine.

Depending on the varietal of wine you choose, enzymes and tannins might be added – all pre-measured, and ready-to-go, just open the packet and add to the pail. These add-ons help with wine clarity and mouthfeel, contributing to the “taste like made from scratch”, or in this case, as if fermented on the skins. The Fresco juices are the best juices to work with for busy winemakers. You get the juice warmed up, watch it ferment, age, and bottle.

No muss, no fuss. Just delicious wine.

 

What varieties are available from Chile?

chile-fresco-juice-winemaking-how to make wine

Cabernet Sauvignon:

This Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon offers a beautiful deep ruby colored robe with a predominant bouquet of blackberry and raspberry accompanied by a hint of pepper. Its slightly aggressive attack and long finish on the palate grant this wine the potential for a longer aging period.

Body: Full

Aroma: Fruity, Spicy

Origin: Chile

Winemaker addition: Light Oak

Alcohol: 13.2%

Carmenere:

This variety is considered as the flagship red wine of Chile. This crimson red wine has big character along with soft tannins and spicy undertones all at once. The mouth filling flavors are enhanced by the ever present oak.

Body: Full

Aroma: Fruity, Spicy

Origin: Chile

Winemaker addition: Dark Oak

Alcohol:  13.2%

Chardonnay:

Our golden straw-colored Chardonnay displays a tropical fruit bouquet complete with vanilla undertones. On the palate you’ll find notes of passion fruit and citrus – a well-balanced wine easily enjoyed during a meal or by a cozy warm fireplace.

Body: Full

Aroma: Fruity, Woody

Origin: Chile

Winemaker addition: Light Oak

Alcohol: 13.2%

Chardonnay Semillon

This wonderful blend brings together two halves of a whole into a harmonic union. The Semillon contributes flavors of honey and butterscotch to the Chardonnay’s nuances of tropical fruits and vanilla. A true symphony of flavors.

Body: Full

Aroma: Caramelized, Fruity, Woody

Origin: Chile

Winemaker addition: Dark Oak, Light Oak

Alcohol: 12.6%

Malbec:

Mosti Mondiale’s Chilean Malbec is an unforgettable journey through Chile’s wine country. A beautiful garnet robe, dark red cherry flavors and a nose comprising of cigar tobacco and coffee all combine for a delectable experience.

Body: Full

Aroma: Fruity, Herbaceous, Woody

Origin: Chile

Winemaker addition: Dark Oak

Alcohol: 12.9%

Merlot:

Our Chilean Merlot’s deep burgundy color, violet undertone and almost overwhelming bouquet of ripe red cherries and spices make it a true contender in the Chilean red wines category.

Body: Full

Aroma: Fruity, Spicy

Origin: Chile

Winemaker addition: Dark Oak

Alcohol: 12.9%

Sauvignon Blanc:

Light amber color with a strong citrusy bouquet and herbal undertones. Crisp and clean on the palate, can be enjoyed on its own or with light dishes or appetizers.

Body: Medium Full

Aroma: Fruity, Herbaceous

Origin: Chile

Winemaker addition: Light Oak

Alcohol: 12.4%

Viognier:

A medium-bodied white wine with aromas of freshly picked green apples and apricots that displays a stunningly long and floral aromatic finish. Take a sip of Chile!

Body: Medium Full

Aroma: Floral, Fruity

Origin: Chile

Winemaker addition: Dark Oak, Light Oak

Alcohol: 13%

What varieties are available from South Africa?

south africa-fresco-juice-winemaking-how to make wine

Cabernet Sauvignon

In the world of wines, the Cabernet Sauvignon is one that does not get neglected – and with good reason! The intense mouthfeel coupled with fruity notes of cassis, plums and cherries make this wine an unequivocal master of provoking the senses. Dry, full-bodied and slightly woody arising from the natural overabundance of tannins. If you are courageous enough to set this South African Cabernet Sauvignon aside for 12+ months, it will give new meaning to the phrase “ages like fine wine”!

Body: Full

Aroma: Fruity, Woody

Origin: South Africa

Alcohol: 13.2%

Pinotage

A South African line-up is not complete without a Pinotage. This bold red wine is synonymous with South Africa and it’s no wonder why – its hints of dark and red fruits combine to produce a medley consisting of blackberries, raspberries and licorice on the palate. More subtle flavors include rooibos, tea leaf and flavorful pipe tobacco. The bouquet exudes hints of wood and spices. Relatively high acidity provides a strong finish, making it the perfect pairing for game meats, gourmet burgers and homemade pizza.

Body: Full

Aroma: Fruity, Herbaceous, Spicy, Woody

Origin: South Africa

Alcohol: 13.5%

Sauvignon Blanc

You would be hard-pressed to find a more refreshing wine than a young, crispy South African Sauvignon Blanc. This splendid white wine is made to be enjoyed quite young. The combination of greenish, vegetal and mineral flavors emanating a few weeks after fermentation will make it very difficult to put this one away for a while. Off-dry with a lively acidity and medium finish. Serve slightly cool with light seafood platters.

Body: Medium

Aroma: Herbaceous, Woody

Origin: South Africa

Alcohol: 12.4%

Shiraz

Experience one of South Africa’s most renowned grapes: a dry, full-bodied cherry-red Shiraz with fruity, spicy notes when young. As it ages, subtler flavors like coffee, chocolate begin to take over. The nose slowly develops a hint of charcoal, which adds to the mysteriousness of this classic wine. Enjoy it with company if you really want to share it, but don’t be ashamed of keeping it your own little secret!

Body: Full

Aroma: Caramelized, Fruity, Spicy, Woody

Origin: South Africa

Alcohol: 13.2%

What varieties are available from Australia?

australia-fresco-juice-winemaking-how to make wine

Cabernet Sauvignon 

Full bodied deep garnet red. This wine offers up flavors of blackcurrant, blackberries with a slight hint of cedar. The tannin structure of the Cabernet Sauvignon matched with French Oak, create a wonderful symphony of tannins.

Body: Full

Aroma: Fruity, Woody

Alcohol: 13%

Chardonnay

This Australian Chardonnay offers up a complex fruity bouquet, with hints of ripe stone fruit and an underlying citrus note. On the palate it is well balanced with just the right amount of oak enhancing its full bodied flavor.

Body: Full

Aroma: Fruity, Woody

Winemaker addition: Light Oak

Alcohol: 13%

Merlot

Soft and mellow texture right from the start. This Merlot offers hints of cassis with light floral notes.

Body: Medium

Aroma: Floral, Fruity

Winemaker addition: Dark Oak

Alcohol: 12.5%

Orange Muscat

This white wine has citrus and honey notes with a slight sweet finish. On the palate it is fresh and crisp with a lingering clementine flavor.

Body: Light

Aroma: Caramelized, Fruity

Winemaker addition: Sweetener

Alcohol:12%

Petit Verdot

Bold and full bodied, the Australian Petit Verdot offers up flavors of dark fruits; black cherry, plums, with firm tannins and hints of spice.

Body: Full

Aroma: Fruity, Spicy

Winemaker addition: Dark Oak, Light Oak

Alcohol:13.5%

How do I make my own?

Musto Wine Grape Company is here to help you make the wine of your dreams! The Spring winemaking season starts in late April, early May. Secure your winemaking grapes or juices and give us a call at (877) 812-1137 to speak with one of our Musto Crush Crew members. We can get you set up with everything you need and provide customer support along the way to ensure your success!

How to Make Wine from Chilean Winemaking Juice

So how can you start making your own wine from Chilean juices? Follow these 10 Easy Steps (for fresh juice) and you’ll be on your way!

how to make wine from juice

  1. Choose a Chilean variety that speaks to you.
  2. Come to Musto Wine Grape and pick up your pail of juice.
  3. Bring it home, pop open that lid, and add 1/4 tsp potassium metabisulfite to it. Add pectic enzyme if you’re going to (5 drops per gallon of juice). Give it a stir.
    1. Why pectic enzyme?
  4. Allow it to come up to room temperature – we’re talking 60 degrees or so.
  5. Choose your fermentation vessel: will you keep it in pails or ferment in a carboy or demijohn? Make sure everything is clean and sanitized. *Be sure there is enough room to account for fermentation foaming*
  6. If you are going to add fermentation tannins or additives (like oak dust, Booster Rouge, Booster Blanc) you can add that now. *Note: do not add tannins such as FT Rouge within 8 hours of adding enzyme*
  7. Pitch the yeast once the temperature has reached at least 60F. Yeast strain choices will vary depending on the juice you choose – ask a winemaker at Musto Wine Grape for a strain recommendation for the varietal you’re making. Follow the yeast starter directions explicitly. Be very careful of temperatures, never adding yeast if there is more than a 18 degree difference between the yeast starter liquid and the juice.
  8. Carefully monitor the fermentation by checking Brix levels daily. Add yeast nutrients as needed if you choose to do so.
  9. If you are adding malolactic cultures to your wine, you may also chose to do this at 1/3 Brix depletion. If using a malolactic nutrient (Opti-Malo Plus) with the bacterial culture, hydrate the nutrient in a separate container from the bacteria and add to the must directly before the addition of the bacteria. Follow all directions on the bacteria and nutrient packets explicitly.
  10. When the fermentation is complete, rack off the lees and continue aging. Many Chilean wines are aged with oak – if you choose to do this, you can do so in oak barrels or with oak alternatives (such as chips or staves).

Want to read more about making wine from Fresh Juice? Check out this blog post.

Can I make my own? Musto Wine Grape Company is here to help you make the wine of your dreams! The Spring Chilean winemaking season starts in late April, early May. Secure your winemaking grapes or juices and give us a call at (877) 812-1137 to speak with one of our Musto Crush Crew members. We can get you set up with everything you need and provide customer support along the way to ensure your success!

The Body of Wine: What is it?

When you are first starting out in the wine-tasting world, you come face to face with the intensity and complexity of certain wines as you taste them. One of the things that your palate will start to recognize is the thickness and texture of the wine in your mouth. We identify this mouthfeel as the body of the wine. It can be difficult to explain a wine’s body because it is not as obvious as sweetness or acidity.

Glass with red wine

The body of wine can be described in three ways:

When the body of a wine is light, think of drinking a glass of water. It’s thin, goes down easily, and is smooth.

When the body of a wine is medium, think of drinking a glass of skim milk. The consistency is thicker, but not too thick, and sticks around in your mouth a little longer.

Lastly, when the body of a wine is full, think of drinking a glass of whole milk. This would be the thickest, with the longest-lasting finish.

Light-bodied wines

Light-bodied wines are light and delicate on your palate making them popular during the summer because they are crisp and refreshing.

Medium-bodied wines

These wines are known for being “in-between” because there is no true cut off for where they actually sit on the tasting spectrum. Sometimes they can be more light-to-medium bodied, or they can be medium-to-full. These wines are usually the best to pair with food because they have the perfect balance of tannins and acidity.

Full-bodied wines

These robust and powerful natured wines are bold. These would include deep red wines and ports, and these characteristics come from their skins which are packed with tannins. If you taste a full-bodied wine, you’ll notice it leaves a coated finish in your mouth.

What gives a wine its body?

Tannins, sugar, and acids all contribute and determine the overall body of a wine. Something that can help you determine the body of a wine is its alcohol level. Alcohol adds to the intensity and thickness of a wine. The more alcohol that wine has, the heavier it becomes and the bigger mouthfeel it offers.  The grape itself determines the body, starting in the skins. Thick-skinned grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon contain a lot more extract than Pinot Noir, which is thin-skinned. Production methods also impact the weight of the wine as well, say if the wine was oaked. White wines tend to be much lighter than red wines, but there can be fuller-bodied white wines – like buttercream chardonnay.

Can I make my own?

Musto Wine Grape Company is here to help you make the wine of your dreams! The Spring Chilean winemaking season starts in late April, early May. Secure your winemaking grapes or juices and give us a call at (877) 812-1137 to speak with one of our Musto Crush Crew members. We can get you set up with everything you need and provide customer support along the way to ensure your success!

Aging Your Wine

Bulk Aging

As seen in and written for Winemaker Magazine

Written By Christina Musto-Quick

wine tank-winemaking instructions-wine recipe-aging wine-how to age wine-musto wine grape

Aging your wine is not the most exciting winemaking topic, but it is a critical topic. Aging wine is considered from the time after your fermentation is completed through the time spent in the bottle before consumption. The three basic goals of aging your wines are to assure stability, to correct a flaw or fault, and to evolve the wine style by increasing complexity, flavor, and aroma. The goal of this article is to give you a deeper insight into the benefits of aging your wine, no matter your winemaking style or skill level.

Considerations of Aging Wine

Let’s start with looking at each of the factors that affects the aging process: Time, temperature, oxygen, oak, yeast lees, pH, the composition of the wine, and wine stability.

Time

Different aging styles require different allotments of time. Aging a Bordeaux with high acid and high tannins will take much longer to age than a softer California Cabernet. Grapes grown in cooler climates tend to need more time to age due to their higher acid and tannin structure, whereas grapes from a hotter region can usually be enjoyed earlier. Of course, as I write that, I am left thinking about how subjective that sentence is. Normally we are ready to bottle our whites 7–8 months after fermentation. I like my reds to go one year of bulk aging before bottling, and longer is better.

Temperature

Just as all chemical reactions are influenced by temperature, so are the reactions during wine aging. Wine aging is best from 58–70 °F (14–21 °C). You don’t want to over chill or over heat the wine during the aging process. You could lose a lot of positive aromas and flavors that way. If you don’t have a natural “ideal” temperature in your cellar, I would suggest installing an air conditioning unit in your wine cellar to handle those warm summer days. The colder winter temperatures will not hurt the wine as much as the summer heat. The biggest factor is to avoid temperature fluctuations from hot to cold. Wine likes to age at a steady temperature.

Oxygen

Excessive exposure to oxygen during aging can have a negative effect on your wine. The introduction of small amounts of oxygen during the aging process can help soften your wine and stabilize the color in red wine. This is the benefit of the barrel, as it allows micro oxidation through the staves. Too much oxygen can lead to off flavors (acetaldehyde) and the browning/pinking of the color. Too much oxygen will cause your free SO2 levels to drop, which can then cause oxidized qualities in your wine (acetaldehyde — nuttiness, Sherry characteristic). The more phenolic material in the wine, the more oxygen the wine can safely absorb. This is why white wines are so susceptible to oxygen contact such as browning, whereas red wines carry more phenolic properties and are less likely to brown or have negative effects so quickly.

It is said that a wine is “saturated” with oxygen at about 6 mL of oxygen per liter of wine, or 8 mg/L, or 8 ppm. Single saturation examples include racking, movement to tank or barrel, fining, filtration, and bottling. How do you measure this? With a dissolved oxygen meter or, some wine grape and juice wholesalers have the testing equipment to do it for you on site. How do you control these saturations and not over saturate your wine? Limit headspace, stay vigilant about topping off your barrels, utilize inert gas to flush out air, measure and adjust your SO2 levels every 6 weeks, and monitor your saturation levels.

Oak

Many wine styles depend on oak aging. Oak aging highly impacts the aroma and flavor profile of the wine. This is because of the flavor the oak imparts by itself and the complexity added to the wine through micro oxidation. Barrels can be challenging — you need to properly clean them, swell them, and consistently keep track of them by topping off your wine. If you have the funds and the time to monitor and cultivate your barrel I would highly suggest purchasing one. If you do not, there are some great alternatives we will discuss later in this article.

Why is aging in an oak barrel so great? Wood vessels allow limited oxygen exposure, allow for slight evaporation (hence needing to top off your barrels), and add flavor components and complexities. Something to consider is the size of the oak barrel you purchase. If you purchase a new barrel smaller than 30 gallons (114 L) then you need to taste from your barrel every couple of weeks. This is because the less surface area you have, the more flavor extraction you will get from the barrel. Obviously, the younger the barrel the more flavor extraction will occur. As time goes on (after 3 or 4 years), the barrel will become neutral, meaning the oak extraction is greatly reduced. However, the barrel itself is still useful, as it allows the wine to mature and adds complexity to the wine. Also, cleaning your oak barrels is VERY important. Barrels can harbor microbes and it can be difficult to sanitize them if not properly cleaned.

Yeast Lees

Aging on the lees is a great practice for white wines. The most popular wine to age on the lees is Chardonnay, but winemakers are aging Sauvignon Blanc (France), Albariño (Spain), Muscadet (France), and Champagne (France) on the lees too.

I spoke with Kristen Parsons of Chamard Vineyards in Clinton, Connecticut about her Estate Reserve Chardonnay crafted in the French Meursault style and why she ages it on the lees. After aging in barrels for primary fermentation, a secondary malolactic fermentation is carried out along with sur lie aging.

“The wine remains on the fine, silky lees that are composed of mostly autolyzed yeast cells. I stir the barrels mixing up these lees into the wine, daily, weekly, and then monthly for ten months. All of this is carried out for stylistic reasons. This attention creates a wine with a smoother structure and mouthfeel, increased body, and aromatic complexity. The resulting wine is layered with a rich and creamy mouthfeel,” Parsons said. “Another bonus it that the lees absorb oxygen, which not only enhances the character of the wine but aids in protection as well.”

pH

pH is a very important factor in all stages of winemaking. If you adjust anything in your grapes before fermentation, it is the pH. When it comes to aging your wine, a high pH is dangerous as the wine is vulnerable to spoilage organisms. It is important to make sure the SO2 is in balance with the pH. The SO2 effectiveness is critical to color and freshness, especially in white wines. The SO2 and pH balance also INHIBITS the growth and activity of microorganisms. A pH of 3.8 is considered a critical range for Brettanomyces (barnyard), Lactobacillus (mousy/acetic acid), and Pediococcus (overly diacetyl). You do not want to be in that range. So make sure to keep track of your pH and SO2 levels. For red wines you want to be around a 3.5 pH and for white wines you want to be around 3.1–3.3 pH.

Composition of the Wine

Starting with a good wine is key to your wine aging and finishing success. Starting with a faulted wine will result in an uphill battle. Always pay attention to your fermentations and cleanliness in your home winery. If you have a wine with negative characteristics, get it tested to see what exactly is going on. Some suppliers offer sensory tests, there are also companies that can give you the chemical breakdown of your wine that you can utilize. Sometimes a little micro oxidation is exactly what the doctor ordered. Other times you might need to introduce a chemical over time to help clean up what’s going on.

Wine Stability

The wine needs to be stable — meaning proper SO2 binding, pH levels, cold stability (tartrate stability), heat stability (protein haze), combination of tannin molecules (“polymerization”), and the combination of color molecules (“polymerization”), and stabilization of color. Adjusting and aging your wine properly helps ensure that your wine stays safe in the bottle.

Benefits of Bulk Aging

There are many benefits to aging your wine as bulk. One, is the ability to correct a problem. Do not bottle your wine until you have removed faults and flaws. If you have bitter or astringent tannins in a young red wine, you can bench test fining trials.

The second is the stylistic choices you get to play with and experiment with. All wines will evolve and release more complex flavors and aromas over time. Depending on if you decide to do any oak infusions or age in an oak barrel, these practices will help impart interesting and complex flavors to your wine. Conversely, if you decide to age in a stainless tank or glass, your wine will contain a bright freshness.

The third benefit is that it allows for blending possibilities with other wines. This is one of the most fun parts about winemaking in my opinion. If you age your wine you have time to do bench trials and figure out ways to try to impart more complexity in your wine by blending other wines in your cellar. The goal of aging is to increase complexity in your wine and you have a lot of options to play with to introduce complexities.

Equipment Options

Glass

There are a few options you can try when aging your wine in glass. However, if you are aging your wine in glass you want to keep in mind that you want to keep your wine away from the light. Too much light in your cellar can impact the color saturation of your wine. Whatever option you choose, always top off your storage vessel to avoid oxidation.

Demijohns are a great glass option. They have been used by winemakers for many years. They come in multiple sizes, can be used for winemaking, cider, and depending on the style, olive curing. It  is easy to do an oak infusion with a demijohn. There are a few ways to do this. You can use fishing line and a muslin hop bag filled with oak chips, use an oak infusion tube filled with oak chips, or use fishing line and a stave, spiral, or WineStix® to impart oak flavors.

Demijohns can be difficult to move around so I’d suggest getting a plant caddy and putting the demijohn on the caddy so it’s easier to move. Please note that the bottom of the demijohn is very thin glass so it can break easily, especially when filled with wine. Be careful when moving these, they are deceptively secure looking with the outside basket.

Demijohn Sizes: Demijohns are a large glass bottle that is narrow at the top and curves out into a big tear shape at the bottom. Each demijohn is equipped with a plastic basket or braided plastic basket. Some demijohns come with spigots for tasting access to the wine. They come in a variety of sizes, the most popular for winemaking are 10LTR, 25LTR, and 54LTR.

Carboys are one of my favorite options: They are inexpensive, come in an array of sizes, are easy to use, easy to clean, easy to add oak infusions, and you can see what’s going on with your wine . It’s important to see if you are accumulating a lot of sludge at the bottom of your carboy. This means it’s most likely time to rack your wine. Carboys can also be a little tough to move around when full. I’d suggest getting a plant caddy or putting your carboy inside a milk carton crate to help you move it around your cellar. Winemaker Frank Renaldi of Musto Wine Grape Company says, “Carboys are a great storage vessel when you start making wine 5- or 10-gallons (19- or 38-L) at a time. I suggest you go to a variable capacity tank when you are up to three to five carboys of the same wine. It is easier to maintain one tank versus five carboys, such as racking, filtering, additives, and SO2 additions.”

Carboy sizes: Carboy look like a water cooler water jug. They are a thicker glass than demijohns but do not come with spigots. Carboys come in a variety of sizes 3 gallon, 5 gallon, and 6 gallon.

Food-Grade Containers

PET carboys are a popular vessel, especially for those who are working with kits. These are lightweight, making them easier to lift and move around your cellar, and they will not break like glass. However, cleaning these can pose a problem. When cleaning your PET carboy you can create grooves in the plastic that can eventually be a home for bacteria, no matter how much you scrub. Keep that in mind when cleaning these and try not to scrub too hard or scratch the inside of the PET carboy.

ROTO Barrels are food-grade plastic barrels. They are great because they give that barrel vibe to your cellar without breaking the bank. You can add oak infusions, it’s easy to rack in and out of, and gives a great look to your cellar. However, just like the PET carboy, you have to be conscious of how you clean it to help avoid creating any homes for bacteria.

Flex Tanks are created from a polyethylene food-grade safe plastic. They give the winemaker the ability to utilize is as an aging vessel that is permeable like a barrel but is in a shape that is easier to store in their cellar. There are two different maturation styles that allow the winemaker to decide how much oxidation they want released into their wine . These are maturation weight, which allows a level of oxygen transfer on par with a second year barrel, and a heavyweight level which allows less oxygen transfer, approximately 50% less than the maturation weight.

Oak Barrels & Infusions

Oak barrel aging is a hot topic for winemakers. There are many different thoughts on which oak to use and how long to age in an oak barrel. Rick Lanza of Wooden Valley Winery, in Fairfield, California says that he barrel ages his Cabernet Sauvignon first and then bottle ages it for up to a year. “We prefer barrel aging for red wines because it allows the tannins to refine and become finer grained, and you get the micro oxidation through the barrel, so that helps soften the wine.”

When using oak barrels you definitely want to taste often to avoid over-oaking, make sure the barrels are topped-off monthly, properly manage your S02 levels, and be patient — it will be time well spent. Harry Hansen, Winemaker at Calistoga, California’s Sterling Vineyards says, “Barrel aging allows for more rapid development and softening of tannins, while bottle aging allows development of secondary aromas. Wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, or Tannat can accept longer aging in barrel than Pinot Noir because they have more pigment and tannin to begin with, so generally Pinot goes to bottle younger.

Flavor considerations for oak barrels consist of the type of oak (French, American, or other), the age of the barrel, the toast level, if there was a different type of alcohol aged in there previously, and the number of times it’s been used. All of these factors impart different flavors.

Barrel alternatives include staves, chips, oak powder, spheres, oak spirals, WineStix®, and more. Each has its pluses and minuses, but just like an oak barrel you want to taste your wine regularly to make sure you are imparting the flavors you want in your wine. WineMaker digital members can read more about these options at: https://winemakermag.com/article/beyond-the-barrel.

Variable Capacity Stainless Steel Tanks

Variable capacity tanks are another winemaker favorite. Hansen says he prefers using stainless steel or glass vessels for white wines because they are “impenetrable to oxygen, and the wines age most slowly. This is appropriate for delicate whites like Riesling or Sauvignon Blanc.”

Stainless steel tanks are also great for bulk aging red wines. They protect your wine, have variable levels of volume, have a sample tap you can utilize, are easy to clean, easy to infuse with oak or other products, and pretty much last forever. If you can invest in a stainless steel tank you won’t regret it!

Quick Tips: I’ve outlined a lot of equipment above but just as important as it is to find the right aging vessel for you, it’s also important to maintain your airlocks and bungs. If you don’t keep your airlocks full or bungs clean you are asking for bad things to happen with your wine. These may be small items but they can introduce big problems if not maintained. Also, always have different sized glass jugs in your cellar. This helps you manage your topping off needs without losing any wine to over-oxidation. Lastly, keep track of your SO2 Levels. Oxygen isn’t your friend and you don’t want your wine to spoil while it ages. Remember wine always wants to turn to vinegar, and it is a living product. You need to protect it!

Bulk vs. Bottle Aging

It has been said by many winemakers that complexity increases in the bottle. However, there is a point where the wine in bottle will start to lose its luster. This has to do with the type of wine, its SO2 levels, pH level, storage temperatures and its exposure to light. Winemaker Frank Renaldi says, “I am a big believer of aging wines in bulk — either tanks or barrels. I find the wine develops much better as a “team of bottles” in one vessel. Once the wine hits the bottle, it ages as a single entity. It ages in a different way, especially reds, but does it on its own.”

Winemaker Harry Hansen says, “Aging in bottle is subjective. Wines that are bigger and blacker generally can handle more cork time than light reds, which in turn can handle more cork time than delicate whites. At some point, tannins are softened, fruit characters have receded, and youth is a memory. Wines can still be very good, because what is lost in freshness is often replaced by layers of aroma. The eventual fate of every wine is to become vinegar, but as slowly as possible, please.”

So there you have it! A lot of things to think about regarding the aging of your wine, but all worth taking into consideration. I hope this information has helped shed some light on aging your wines, why it’s important, and how you can play and experiment with it.

SIDEBAR – Products to help avoid the need to age so long

Looking to impart age without aging your wines? No problem. I understand that sometimes you just want to enjoy your wine as soon as possible. If your wine has any harsh tannins or needs some “rounding out” I’d suggest looking into the following products.

Noblesse

Noblesse is a natural nutrient that is used to help soften wines. It can be used pre- or post-fermentation. It is great if you need to soften a high-alcohol wine or round out a wine that is too high in acid or tannin. Noblesse will help soften your wine’s mouthfeel. Sometimes our grapes are high in Brix and we can’t help but have a high-alcohol wine. Noblesse will help soften your wine’s mouthfeel giving the perception of a rounder, silky mouthfeel, while reducing any sulfur smells and burning sensation from the high alcohol.

Gum Arabic

Gum Arabic is a tartrate stabilizer that helps soften the perception of astringent and bitter tannins. It also helps stabilize your wine’s color. This is a great tool for when your wine tastes that little bit “too young.” It can help a wine taste another year older by just one simple addition.

Super Smoother

Super Smoother is great tool that’s ideal for home winemakers because it comes in small packages intended for 6-gallon (23-L) batches. It contains glycerin and liquid oak extract. The combination of these two adds a subtle oak flavor while softening harsh tannins and smoothing out wine mouthfeel.

Tannin FT Rouge

Tannin FT Rouge is derived from highly reactive tannins from exotic woods and chestnut. I usually suggest using this pre-fermentation to help preserve the natural tannins from the grape, help stabilize color, and enhance mouthfeel. You can use this post-fermentation but you will have to wait 3–6 weeks for the addition to show up in your wine. A simple nutrient to add to your primary fermentation schedule that can help you during the winemaking process.

For more information regarding the Fall Harvest please feel free to contact us at sales@juicegrape.com or give us a call at 877-812-1137. We are looking forward to helping you with your next great wine!