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RJ Spagnols Age Makes a Difference

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tjgaul

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I know this is not news to most of the readers of this site, but WOW, what a difference a little age makes. I just started making kits in May 2016 and it wasn't until my 3rd & 4th batch that I made any reds. In June 2016 I made a California Connoisseur Pinot Noir and a RJS Grand Cru Cabernet Sauvignon. Both were made according to the directions with no tweaks other than adding some oak at the very end (1/2 medium spiral to Cab Sauv and 1.5 oz. med french chips to Pinot). I only bulk aged long enough for the oak to take and then bottled.

My first impressions were that the wines were decent, slightly over oaked, but comparable to $10-$12 commercial wines. What a difference a year makes! The oak has really integrated with the wine. Definitely not over oaked. Both wines are more rounded and are very hard to open and not finish in the same day. I wouldn't trade them for most $20 bottles at this point.

I've got several more batches in carboys and I'm just watching that clock tick until they are ready to bottle. I've got real high hopes for all my in process batches given the transformation these mid-level kits have gone through.

I'm sure it varies by varietal, but is one year the magic mark or should I expect even more positive evolution over time? I have noticed that many of the kit instructions say that the wine is good up to 1 or 2 years. Is that just CYA talk or do kit made wines really have a limited shelf life?
 

AZMDTed

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Congrats on this milestone. I make mostly WE Eclipse kits and my experience with their big reds are that the first real magic happens at about 18-20 months. The next major leap is somewhere just after two years. By then they have a good nose and the mouthfeel and taste is great.

Properly stored, I wouldn't worry about any quality kits lasting 5 years, if we can keep our hands off of them.
 
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tjgaul

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Congrats on this milestone. I make mostly WE Eclipse kits and my experience with their big reds are that the first real magic happens at about 18-20 months. The next major leap is somewhere just after two years. By then they have a good nose and the mouthfeel and taste is great.

Properly stored, I wouldn't worry about any quality kits lasting 5 years, if we can keep our hands off of them.
Darn, 2 of my aging kits are Eclipse. I was hoping you'd say 12 months rather than 18-20. They need to come up with a magic elixir that instantly adds a year of aging to the carboy. I bet they'd sell out fast.

Thanks for the feedback. I will continue sampling at each racking hoping that you're wrong. Patience is not my strong suit. But wine drinking is.
 

AZMDTed

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Everyone's taste is different. No doubt there is a big difference between a 12 month old Eclipse Red versus a just bottled one. There is. But I'm talking real magic, a major transformation, which for me happens at about 18-20 months. Don't think that doesn't make a 12 month Eclipse Lodi Cab any worse than your RJS Grand Cru, it may be even better. I'm just saying that for me, 18 month old wine is a drastic difference rather than an incremental improvement. Enjoy.
 

Mismost

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Everyone's taste is different. No doubt there is a big difference between a 12 month old Eclipse Red versus a just bottled one. There is. But I'm talking real magic, a major transformation, which for me happens at about 18-20 months. Don't think that doesn't make a 12 month Eclipse Lodi Cab any worse than your RJS Grand Cru, it may be even better. I'm just saying that for me, 18 month old wine is a drastic difference rather than an incremental improvement. Enjoy.
I don't have any with that much age....yet. But, I do believe you!

But, for what it is worth....I opened a six month old 375 of Eclipse Bravado the other night. Loved it. Wife had the rest of it and she loved it. They are pretty dang good pretty early too.

My schedule is 3 Eclipse kits and then three cheap "tweaker" kits....which gets some cork poppers racked so the Eclipse kits can rest longer.
 

Bplewniak

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This thread is encouraging. I just started making kits 2 months ago and have 3 kits resting in carboys now with an inventory stacked up keeping me busy. Congrats on your results so far.
 

RiverRat

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I am hoping that mine will improve with age. I started a year ago in August with a WE Selection Chard - it just recently started to resemble a commercial chard, but a poor one at best. In September I made CC Showcase Merlot - recently tasted ok (not good) the day after it was opened. I have made a Luna Bianca, Bravado, Eclipse Sauvignon Blanc, Selection NZ Pinot Noir, and WE LE Blanc de Noir all within the last 6-9 months and all taste disappointing. This post gives me hope that age is all they need to become a good table wine; although, I must admit I'm starting to be concerned that the fault lies within my methods.
 

Boatboy24

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@RiverRat: Sorry to hear of your disappointment. While the reds are definitely lacking early on, they are OK to me; though they have excessive fruitiness and almost a perceived "fake sweetness". Over time, that falls back, and the tannin starts to come through. I highly recommend additional tannin on red kits though. 18-24 months is a good schedule for high end red kits, in my experience. White wines are a different story. By 6 months, they are beginning to really come around, and by a year seem to be 'mature'. I've made the Eclipse Sauvignon Blanc twice. Both times it took six months to be approachable, but was OK at that point. By 1 year, I really liked it, as did everyone to whom I served it. Not quite as much zing as some commercial ones, but others have added a bit of tartaric acid to fix that.
 

RiverRat

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Thank you, Boatboy24. I currently have four (Eclipse SL Merlot, RJS Super Tuscan, Selection Arg. Malbec, and RJS RQ Grace) bulk aging and an RJS En Primeur Pinot Noir on the way. I have quit using sorbate, and I'm hoping the bulk aging process will help (plus it will keep my hands off opening bottles too early). I think I will try your tannin suggestion to those bulk aging, excluding Grace. Again, this post gives me hope as to what may come later.

Here is a question for which I fear the answer: How important is it to check SG throughout the first week, and does it matter if the SG has reached .992 - .990 before transferring into secondary? I usually transfer within seven days, but I have found that often the wine has already fermented dry. Could that be part of my problem?
 

AZMDTed

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Here is a question for which I fear the answer: How important is it to check SG throughout the first week, and does it matter if the SG has reached .992 - .990 before transferring into secondary? I usually transfer within seven days, but I have found that often the wine has already fermented dry. Could that be part of my problem?
Most of my reds have fermented dry in primary after 5-7 days. It won't affect the outcome, so don't worry about that.

Another thought on aging wine. My experience mentioned above is for WE Eclipse Kits, generally with skin packs. As far as lower end kits without skin packs, I really haven't noticed them improving significantly over time. I know there is general wisdom that says mix up mid priced kits with high end kits for early drinkers while waiting for the good stuff to age. I did that too when I first started. If I were doing it again, I'd only buy the best kits I could afford. To my taste high end kits are better drinkers at any age than were the mid level kits I made.
 

DG2001

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Very unlikely. Your wine at that point still has a lot of CO2 and the off gassing from it should protect your wine from oxidation. You say that your wine are disappointing, is there a particular off taste that you are getting?
 

tjgaul

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On aging whites . . . I've bottled one Riesling kit (California Connoisseur) and a few Gewurztraminer (RJS) kits, plus a Moscato and the Island Mist Cucumber Melon Sauv Blanc. It seems like getting past the 8-9 month mark on the kits without F-pacs makes a big positive difference. On the kits with F-pacs it seems like this is the point where the wine starts to sweeten up and possibly be past its peak. The Riesling was decent, but nothing exciting to start. Now it is delicious.

Anyone else see similar results with the f-pac kits?
 

RiverRat

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Very unlikely. Your wine at that point still has a lot of CO2 and the off gassing from it should protect your wine from oxidation. You say that your wine are disappointing, is there a particular off taste that you are getting?
The taste and smell of all my wines might be described as... "green"? There could be potential down the road, but for now, I would not consider proudly sharing a bottle with a friend.

Thank you, everyone, for your thoughts. You lifted a large weight off my mind regarding the primary. Time will be my friend. I actually did start making Joeswine tweaks to small kits in hopes of having something to distract me while the large kits age, but I also realize I must continue producing quality kits to avoid going through this unbearable wait again. Apparently, seven carboys are not enough...:b
 

AZMDTed

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@riverrat Are you sure that your wine is fully degassed? That is a major problem for many kit makers and something that will absolutely ruin the taste of wine, and not get better with time. But this that can be overcome with proper degassing. Have you done some degassing tests on your wine?
 

Brian55

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@riverrat Are you sure that your wine is fully degassed? That is a major problem for many kit makers and something that will absolutely ruin the taste of wine, and not get better with time. But this that can be overcome with proper degassing. Have you done some degassing tests on your wine?
This ^^^ is one of the most common mistakes made early on in making wine from kits. I messed up at least a handful of kits before I got it figured out. A vacuum pump is highly recommended.
 

Trick

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This ^^^ is one of the most common mistakes made early on in making wine from kits. I messed up at least a handful of kits before I got it figured out. A vacuum pump is highly recommended.
I am doing degassing only after long aging before bottling, may skip fining if the wine is clear enough . Using vacuum only. Really scared of the aeration effect with the vigorous agitation.
 

RiverRat

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@riverrat Are you sure that your wine is fully degassed? That is a major problem for many kit makers and something that will absolutely ruin the taste of wine, and not get better with time. But this that can be overcome with proper degassing. Have you done some degassing tests on your wine?
No, I haven't tried the degassing test... :slp How do I do it? I use the drill method: drill about a minute, let it sit for a few minutes, drill another minute, sit, drill, sit, and so on for about an hour. Degassing temp is always above 70 degrees. Will bulk-aging solve degassing problems?

I am very excited to think that this might be my problem, and my current bulk-aging wines will have a different profile than what I've experienced so far. Thank you, everyone!
 

balatonwine

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On aging whites . . .Riesling ... Gewurztraminer
FWIIW, a "standard" dry Riesling or Gewurztraminer should age at least a year for optimal consumption. But ideally drink both before three years.

Some Rieslings can age quite well. Five to 20 years in some cases. But then the grape source and wine making style needs to be considered to determine how long they may be aged.
 

AZMDTed

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No, I haven't tried the degassing test... :slp How do I do it? I use the drill method: drill about a minute, let it sit for a few minutes, drill another minute, sit, drill, sit, and so on for about an hour. Degassing temp is always above 70 degrees. Will bulk-aging solve degassing problems?

I am very excited to think that this might be my problem, and my current bulk-aging wines will have a different profile than what I've experienced so far. Thank you, everyone!
There are many threads on this subject. For now, pour two glasses. Then stir one with a fork for a minute of so. Let it set for a couple minutes then try them. If the 'green' taste is gone from the one you stirred, then it was probably CO2.
 
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