First time winemaker with some questions

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Sep 14, 2016
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Hey all,

I have a Cellar Craft Cab kit in the works right now. I departed a bit from the kit ingredients, I went with BM45 yeast and go ferm instead of the kit yeast. I also didn't add the supplied oak chips because I plan on aging with oak cubes after fermentation.

My questions are:

Should I add anything to the wine after transferring into the carboy from a preservative or yeast killing standpoint?

Looks Like I will be keeping it on oak cubes for at least 3 months, should I rack at all during this time?

How long are you you guys aging kit wines on oak cubes and seeing good results?

For cubes, I would say that 3 months is much longer than you need. Those cube will have "given their all" inside of 8 weeks. I would oak for 2 months, then rack.

As far as adding when you rack, if you are going for a sweet wine, then you will need to add sorbate. If you are going for a dry wine, then simply add 1/4 tsp of k-meta (the yeast will die off on its own over time.

The amount of time I oak depends on the type of oak I am doing. For cubes, I normally go from 4 to 6 weeks. For staves, I go 8 to 10 weeks. I have been barrel ageing (in 225 liter barrels) and this I let go for about 55 weeks. Ultimately, I would let you taste decide. Taste the wine every 2 weeks or so and rack off when you get to the oaking you like.
You probably didn't need Go ferm because kits have all of that in the juice, but it won't hurt.

I put about 50 of the small cubes (about an ounce or so) and leave them in a month. They don't seem to do a lot after that. The oak chips or powder added pre-ferment add some tannins as well as flavor, so you might need to add a bit of finishing tannin as it ages...time will tell.
Thanks so much for the replies. I was going to pick up some tannin powder, I will do just that. Is it best to wait to clearing before adding the cubes or can I add during secondary?
Yes, Campden tablets are just pre-measured for one gallon. You have to crush them and dissolve them but with K-Meta you ought to dissolve it or stir it in well if not pre-dissolved. (Sprinkling without stirring runs the risk of it not penetrating all the way to the bottom of your carboy or bucket.)

I am sticking with Campden tabs as I keep hearing more stories about overdosing batchs. With a campden tab I know exactly what's going in unless I can't count tablets correctly without taking off my shoes.

I just use a shot glass and crush the tablets in there with a wooden handle kitchen tool add a little distilled water and if I'm racking, put it in the new carboy before I start the racking flow. Except for the first dosing the day before starting fermentation, all my doses are going to be part of a racking process so by putting it into the carboy before I rack I know it's going to get pretty well mixed in as the carboy fills.
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Awesome, I know my kit comes with it so I will use the kit, but I will pick up Campden tabs for the future.
One thing I would add to John T's answer...if you add sorbate you have to add the kmeta as well, otherwise you run the risk of organisms munching on the sorbate and ruining your wine.

Some knowledge and observations about oak I've gotten over the years...
1. Oak present during fermentation adds softer tannins, more subtle flavor, and long chain molecules that add mouthfeel. So we add some un-toasted or light toast oak chips to almost every wine we make to give some "fullness".
2. The amount of flavor, the speed that flavor gets imparted onto the wine, and the amount of time it takes for the oak flavor to smooth out and integrate, are completely dependent on surface area. Powder is done adding flavor very quickly and is very harsh, so takes time to smooth out. Chips take a little longer and will still take some time to mellow. cubes take quite few weeks to release all their goodness, while staves take longer.
3. The amount of oak flavor will diminish with time in the bottle. So when deciding on how much oak to add (or deciding when to stop adding by taste), you kind of have to have an idea of when you want to drink it; an over oaked wine will mellow after a few years (depending on storage), and a slightly oaked wine might not show any oak character at all after a few years.
So it's day 4 of primary, and I don't get home until Monday to Check the wine. Should I add the kit chips as soon as I get home? Or should I add some tannin refresh? I could probably get a few days on oak in primary or should I I just wait at this point and OAK cube after clearing? I bought some tannin complex too so I plan on adding that as well if needed.
I'm reluctant to tell other people what they should do, but I can certainly tell you what I would do... :h

If I'm adding oak to the wine anyway, some of that will be during primary fermentation to add complexity. So I'd throw that oak in there when you get home. You can add the cubes later as well if you want more oak. It depends on what you're going for... adding oak in secondary and bulk aging will give a stronger oaky wood flavor (depending on toast). Keep in mind there was no judgment intended in that statement, and my language is nowhere near as nuanced as it should be talking about something as complex as oak additives.
I don't like going by days... What was your starting gravity and what's your gravity now? What do your instructions tell you to do?

Moving the oak to the end is a great idea. But, ignoring the instructions and markers along the way, as a general rule, is not.

Moving wine from your primary fermenter to a carboy is less about time and more about where you are in the fermentation process.

Once you're into a carboy, you're usually just protecting the wine from too much O2 as fermentation winds down and not enough co2 is produced to protect it.

Once you're fermented down to where you want (and for a cab, we're usually talking as close to 0.990 as you can get), then you transfer again, and add your KMeta, Sorbate (if you're so inclined) and clarifiers (again, if you're so inclined).

After waiting a few weeks to allow the wine to clear, rack it off the fine lees. From this point on, it's really about three things:

1. Is it degassed?
2. Is it clear?
3. Does it last like you want it to?

If the answer to 1 or 2 is "no" - wait until it is. If the answer to 3 is "no" - figure out what it's missing. If the answer to all three is yes... Rack it one last time, dose with KMeta and Bottle away.

I usually wait about 6 months before racking off the fine lees and bottling. But, that's a personal preference.
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I get home Monday and I will measure. I am not going by days solely, so much as I am referencing the timeframe on the instructions. It started out at 1.085, so now I am waiting for it to get below 1.000 to start secondary. Really the only things I haven't done to instructions is that I used a different yeast, and didn't add the oak chips supplied with the kit. All other packets and additions I have used, and plan to use.
Primary is just about finished!

Check your instructions. At 1.002 (what it looks like from here), you can probably transfer to a carboy and let it finish up fermentation.

When you're at 0.994 or lower and it doesn't ferment down any more over a few days, you're all done and ready to rack again for clearing.
Awesome, I know my kit comes with it so I will use the kit, but I will pick up Campden tabs for the future.

I don't see anybody commenting on this, so here goes.....

Unless you are making small batches (ie one gallon), I do not recommend campden tablets. Get powdered potassium metabisulphite (aka k-meta). It is easier to use and more versatile.

I have Campden tabs already, but I can go pick some up. I was just going to grind 6 tabs down for a 6 gallon batch, then add, I figured being pre-measured would be easy.

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