first batch of wine- journal with questions

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Dec 24, 2008
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I’m 18 days into the wine expert 6 gal French cabernet kit. Here are the notes I’ve taken so far:
December 6, 2008- Day 1 - Primary Fermentation
• Bentonite(inc. w/ kit) into about 1 gal hot water (boiled). Stired until dissolved.
• Poured in juice kit.(inc. w/ kit).
• Toped off to 6 us gal. with cool water.
o ***(I Used water directly from tap. The kit didn’t say to boil the water then let it cool down to room temp. After reading through some books and this site, I’m thinking I might of really messed this up.)
• Took reading:
o Starting Specific Gravity 1.0775
• (1.0765 @ 70 degrees + .001 for temperate correction)
o Balling- 19
o Potencial alcohol – 10%
• Added oak chips.(inc. w/ kit)
• Added yeast .(inc. w/ kit)
• Covered primary fermenter.
o ***(Did not put the airlock until the 2nd day. Again the directions didn’t say here to use airlock as they do in later steps. After reading other sources they all say to use airlock from the start.)

December 17, 2008 - Day 8 Rack into Secondary Fermentation
• Took reading- thinking back I should of stirred it up first, which I’m assuming would have changed this reading.
o Specific Gravity 0.997
• (0.996 @ 70 degrees + .001 for temperate correction)
o Racked into 6 gal carboy
o Covered with bung and airlock
• Tasted almost undrinkable
o Very acidy and tart. Maybe a hint of vinegar, but it defiantly was not a strong vinegary taste. (never making wine before, I’m not sure at all what it should taste like after 7 days.)
I’m very curious about this.
• Topped off carboy up to two inches from bung of tap water (not-boiled).

December 24, 2008 – Day 17 Stabilizing & Clearing
• Took reading. This time I did stir the mix first, b4 drawling sample)
o Specific Gravity 0.995
• (0.994 @ 70 degrees + .001 for temperate correction)
o o% actually negative 2 balling) not sure how to read a negative percentage.
• Tasted a little better. No vinegar taste, but still tart and acidy.
o Felling a little better, but still nervous about the tap water.
• Added (all included in kit)
o Chitosan clarifier
o Mebisulphite
Pretty much with tap water is if it tastes good for drinking then its fine for wine, beer is a little different though and would use a better water source as beer is 98% water and just a little after taste can make a big differenve. You really wouldnt want to use boiling water as that deletes any 02 in the water and will starve your yeast of much needed 02. Manufacturers change instruction often but Im curious as to if this kit was supposed to be racked off earlier, say an SG of 1.020?
i was wondering what should a kit wine taste like after only a few weeks. I'm not expecting it to taste like finished wine, but i had about a half of glass that was left over from the sample i tested. I'm planning on racking it two weeks after stabilizing and clearing. if clear the directions say to bottle it, and age for at least one month before trying it. with 3 months aging recommended before it's ready. The woman who sold me the kit recommends: at the stage at which the kit says to bottle, instead rack again and age in carboy for that 1 to 3 month period, and then bottle. At this point, I plan to try a bottle, ...or two lol and age the rest in bottles for hopefully at least 3 to 6 months months.
Im curious as to if this kit was supposed to be racked off earlier, say an SG of 1.020?

thanks wade. i feel better about the water now.
as far as the SG, it says to check after 10 days of "secondary fermentation" if less than .996 then add the stabilizers and clearing packages.

when figuring the alcohol level the directions for my hydrometer say to subtract the first reading which was 10% (potential alcohol by volume) and a balling of 19, with the seconded reading which was a negative figure. What would the alcohol level be? 10% alcohol and a brix of 19. both sound pretty low for a red wine. Does this sound right at this stage? the alcohol level won't get any stronger will it? If these figures are really low, what can be done at this point?

the hydrometer i got with the kit seems pretty cheap. it just has a rolled up piece of paper with the measurements on the inside of it. How accurate are these ones that come in the basic kits you see for a "starter kit" should it read zero at 60 degrees F. with plain water?
At this point the wine will be harsh most of the time but will give you an idea of what the wine will taste like. Some wines will be better then others at this point so saying if you make 1 wine and it tastes good after 3 months in the carboy will not mean the next batch will be good at this point. I would rack after the suggested 2 maybe even 3 weeks into another carboy as she said cause you really never want to bottle from a vessel with sediment in there as you will almost always stir some up in the progress and there will be more sediment to fall out given more time and you dont want that in your bottles. This is the main reason that hear all of us bulk aging our wines as most have discovered sediment in our bottles from not being patient. I would as I said earlier rack into sniatized carboy, keep topped up for 3 or more months, add more sulfites and bottle then and you will most likely be having at least some small amounts of sediment in that carboy.

So was this kit supposed to be transferred with a higher SG as W.E kits usually say to?

Very nice log. Wish other posters gave even a quarter of that info when they post. One thing you left out is which Winexpert brand. At a guess, one of the Selections or maybe Vintners Reserve World Vineyard.

Although I am not familiar with Winexpert kits, here are my comments.

Dec 6 - tap water OK if drinkable (as already said)
- sg seems a little low, perhaps you did not stir well enough and took the sample off the top (that is 6 US gallons right?) - would have expected 1.084 or higher
- airlock on primary NOT essential, despite what you read elsewhere - many cover pail with cheesecloth - goal is to allow gases to escape and to keep foreign matter out

Dec 17
- I never stir before an sg reading - probably not a big deal except for disturbing the sediment
- undrinkable? - possibly due to high CO2 content - thats what I have noticed about wines at this stage

Dec 24
- didn't add sorbate? - it's not really necessary unless sweetening

Summary: I would say that you and your wine are in GREAT shape.

Remember, commercial reds are rarely sold before 2 (or 3 or 4) YEARS of age. So, now that the wine is in the carboy and under airlock, consider extending the time frames. Also, try to be patient once bottled. The wine will just get better.

thanks wade n cpfan for the quick responses.

i did add sorbate, must have forgot to put that in journal. thanks

cpfan- the kit is "vintners reserve world vineyard collection-French Cabernet Sauvignon"

wade- here is how the directions for that section read.
"After 10 days(in secondary fermentation), check your specific gravity. It should be 0.996 or less. Verify a stable gravity by checking again the next day. If the gravity has changed, leave the wine until the reading is stable on two consecutive days."

Doesn't that alcohol reading sound low? Can or should anything be done at this stage?

to be honest I don't see more than 6 bottles, out of about 30 from this first batch, lasting more than 1 year. maybe save 2 bottles for each 2,3,4 years. I'm sure I will be more patient with following batches, but i'm sure i'm not the first to plow through their first batch. Besides i have not build my wine rack yet. so maybe i'll blame it on the fact i don't have enough storage space.
When making any wine, go by sg readings and not time as some wines will ferment faster then others. The only reason I say this is that it would have helped to transfer your wine over at the sg of 1.010 so that it would still be fermenting and produce a layer of c02 over your wine in the carboy to protect it like a blanket. Those kits are always lower abv then the biggere kits and another reason I dont make them as they wont cellar that long.

I haven't made any of the World Vineyard kits (yet). But I am hearing very good things about them.

There are a lot of people who drink every kit within 30 days of bottling. They never need any storage space.