Finer Wine Kit Forte Cabernet Sauvignon

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Rennaisance Man
Supporting Member
Feb 22, 2015
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South Cental Pennsylvania
I used to buy kits one at a time and wind up with 30 bottles that may or may not last until their prime. These days, and my FOMO issues, I'm doing 2 of the same wines at a time. I figure 60 bottles will last me 2-3 years when the wine is really starting to shine. So far, I've done the Northern Rhone blend, the Bordeaux blend and a WE Luna Bianca two-at-a-time.

I ordered two FWK Forte Cab Sauv kits on Sunday and they're arriving today (less than 48 hours door to door - brava, Label Peelers!!). My plan is to pretty much follow the directions, except I'm aging in bulk for a little bit and adding an extra spiral of oak into each 6-gallon carboy along with the oak that Matteo includes in his kit. I typically go with a M+ toast Hungarian or French.

  1. Fermentation for two weeks; and rack.
  2. Clear for two weeks; and rack.
  3. Oak for three months; and rack.
  4. Age for another 6 months; and rack.
  5. Bottle.
I might add finishing tannins during aging.

What additional tweakery would you recommend (and why)?
I have taken to following this schedule generally:
1. Fermentation for two weeks and rack.
2. Oak for 6 months and rack - Yes I know it sounds like a long time, but the oak stops imparting much oak after about 3 months. Also, instead of 1/4 tsp Kmeta, I use 1/2 tsp 1 time.
3. Clear for 2-3 Months rack
4. Bottle

That's 1 less racking, sometimes after step 2, there isn't a rack, so it's 2 less rackings. All rackings are done with an AllInOneWinePump, so under vacuum, removing CO2.

Racking and bottling are the two times the wine gets most Oxygen uptake, just my way, YMMV.

I tend not to make very many more tweaks to these kits, I don't think they benefit from them.
Craig and I are on the same page. I've gone 16 months on oak cubes, and have proven to my own satisfaction that extraction is essentially done at 3 months. Rack as few times as is feasible.

Keep in mind that the enemy of Good is not Bad, it's Better. E.g., "This wine is good but I can make it better."

You're not making a low end kit that requires fixing. I have two FWK Forte kits in bottle where I did nothing beyond the kit other than barrel aging for 9 months. Nothing more was required to make a better-than-average wine.
I agree with you both. I add more oak because I’ve come to realize that gets me what I want in my reds. But I don’t do, or at least haven’t done, too much to the FWK wines. Haven’t seen the need.

Interesting that you both skip that two week of clearing after the initial ferment (my step 2). I do it because I worry that those less-than-fine lees might impart off flavors if I kept the the wine on them too long. But that might be me just being overly cautious.
I've given a wrong impression. I don't leave the wine on the gross lees, and I don't believe Craig does, either.

Gross lees supposedly drop within 24 - 72 hours after completion of fermentation, so when I rack on Day 14, the gross lees should be down. Whatever drops after that should be fine lees.
I've given a wrong impression. I don't leave the wine on the gross lees, and I don't believe Craig does, either.

Gross lees supposedly drop within 24 - 72 hours after completion of fermentation, so when I rack on Day 14, the gross lees should be down. Whatever drops after that should be fine lees.
So no danger of off-smells then. I never thought of them as gross lees. But just less than fine…
So no danger of off-smells then. I never thought of them as gross lees. But just less than fine…
The difference between gross lees and fine lees can be difficult to judge. If you see fruit chunks, it's obviously gross lees, but most of the time it all looks like sludge. I found numerous references to gross lees dropping in 24 to 72 hours, and it's repeated enough that I'm willing to provisionally trust it.

I say "provisionally", as I also read a published research paper that stated that grape solids rot immediately and if the wine isn't racked immediately, it will be ruined. Just 'cuz something is published officially doesn't mean it's correct. :p

I was taught to get the wine off the gross lees relatively quickly, to avoid off aroma and flavor, and a lot of wine research says the same thing. However, in Burgundy and other places, EM up to 90 days is done to produce long aging wines. Tannin is extracted throughout the process, so it makes for heavy, tannic wines, which require years to soften. There is also the potential for spoilage, so it's not necessarily a safe technique.

Folks doing EM with kits/skin packs? It's not the same thing as with fresh grapes, as the amount of solids in a skin pack or two is a lot less than with fresh grapes. Plus seeds are a consideration, although Forte kits now include seeds, so that's likely to make a difference.

Regardless of kit or grape, a 2 week fermentation with the primary sealed at ~1.010 is ok. The CO2 cushion protects the wine, and it's not a long duration so the risk of spoilage is greatly reduced, especially when dealing with wines above 13% ABV. This cuts a racking, as the gross lees should have dropped, so I can move the wine to secondary and not worry about racking soon. If there is a thick layer of sediment, I may rack in 2 to 4 weeks, but it's situation dependent.

Read about "sur lie" and "battonage". Winemakers in Europe have been doing it a long time, and it works. IME over the last couple of years, leaving wine on the fine lees is perfectly safe. When I put reds in barrel, it's mostly clear, e.g., I rack off the sediment into the barrel roughly 4 weeks after start, and then leave the wine for ~12 months. The first 9 months I gently stir the barrel at topup time, to homogenize it, then take a tasting sample. The last 3 months I let the wine settle so it's clear at bottling time. I have to use a powerwasher to get the sediment out of the barrel at cleaning time.

That's my risk tolerance. Based upon experience and research, this works for me.
1. Ferment for a month, I add extra oak & a tbsp of tannin
2. Rack and add 1/4 c glycerin with the C/K. Settle for a month
3. Rack to a secondary glass carboy for another month
4. Rack to a Better Bottle, through a 1 micron filter - not many fine lees at this point, mainly as a polish.
5. After 4 months in plastic I either bottle or dump into my kegs. Kegs generally for table wine.

Steps 1 & 2 use CO2 for oxy protection, after that I keep the carboys topped up

Probably could do without step 3, but it's the way I'm setup and am comfortable with it.

As you see most of us do it slightly differently, but with the same results - a wine we are pleased with.
Interesting the subtle differences in our work flows. This is my current process. I say current because I’m still learning and hopefully always will be.
  1. Follow FWK instruction for fermentation for 14 days.
  2. Rack out of primary and add 1/2 tsp Kmeta. I skip the finishing pack (packet D) and the K&C.
  3. Let it clear for 3 months and rack off whatever sediment is there add 1/4 tsp Kmeta and oak. Usually just the oak that came with the kit.
  4. Move the carboy(s) to the bulk aging shelf and cover with a t-shirt (My wife calls them my other family). Leave them until at least month 12 from pitching, adding 1/4tsp Kmeta at 3 mo intervals
  5. 3-4 Weeks before bottling I filter thru 5 micron filter, add final dose of Kmeta and finishing tannins (depending on the profile I’m aiming for).
  6. Bottle 3-4 weeks later.
All racking is done with an AIO and I bottle with a BV Fill jet. White wines are treated differently in that I will bottle sooner (3-4 months) and use a 1 micron filter.
It must be said that this is my planned process. Reality is usually somewhat different depending on life’s variables and if I’m after a specific outcome. If I want a full bodied, long keeping red I will rack off of primary into a Bigmouth Bubbler for up to 8 weeks of EM, moving the skins with it. I currently have a Forte Petit Syrah and a WE PR Piedmont Nebbiola bulk aging that got that treatment.
This journey has me now producing wines that are smooth and enjoyable to drink. I’ve been thinking about adding barrels to my process but need to better understand the theory and practice before I invest in them. Plus I’m not sure I have the room for it.
Kits aren't fresh grapes and I believe that there are vastly less gross lees with kits than with fresh grapes. I rack after fermentation completes and therm not again for a fairly long time. The gross lees, if there are really any, are in that first bucket.
So you’re not on a three month schedule? What’s a long time?
My Cabernet Sauvignon FWK went to 0.998 within 4 days since pitching the yeast. My bucket doesn't have a lid so now it's either rack it to carboy and get rid of the skins, or leave it for next 10 days and then rack it. I think the fermentation will stop within next day or two. Is it safe to leave it for those 10 days in primary covered with a cheesecloth?

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