Questions for the newbie!

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Aug 23, 2009
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I just found out I had a ton of muscadine grapes growing near my home and I got the notion to make wine. The problem is, I have no idea about any of it. I found some recipes and the terminology was beyond me at times.

How important is acid levels and how do I test it?
What's a pectic enzyme and where do I find it?
What's the difference between the yeast and the yeast nutrient and where do I find those?
And what in the world is a Campden tablet?

If any of these questions could get an answer, I would be greatly obliged.
Hello Mioa,

lovely to have you here, ask as many questions as you like..;)

a lot of the information on how things interact in winemaking is easily found in our files as well however to answer your questions.

All of these things can be purchased at your local homebrew shop ( if you have one) ... or online and they can be shipped out to you.

Acid levels can be tested with a kit.. that said i don't have a kit and still make good wines.

pectic enzyme is a used to break down the cell structure of fruits to release more sugars and flavours into your wine.

yeast are the little beasties that convert your sugars into alcohol.. the nutrient is seperate and feeds the yeast up to a nice healthy colony so it can do a great job for you.

campden tablets are made to give you an accurate dose of sulphite per gallon of wine. This is a preservative and also inhibits bacteria.

One piece of equipment you will find invaluable is a 'hydrometer'

here are some other terminologies that you may come across...

Wine books are notorious for including all sorts of strange terms that aren't used in normal, every day language. What do these words mean? Here are the most common terms and their meanings:

Aging : Letting a wine sit for months to years, to allow its flavor to properly develop. Aging is often done in oak barrels or in glass bottles.

Alcohol : When yeast eats the natural sugars in the grapes, along with oxygen from the air, it creates as an end product alcohol and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide bubbles out of the wine before it's bottled. This process is called fermentation.

Blending : Mixing together two different wines to create a blended wine which has flavors of both of the original wines. Classic Bordeaux, for example, is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

Brix : Usually thought of as a 'sweetness scale', Brix measures the amount of sugar in the original grape juice.

Cap : The leftover grape skins and stems and such that float on top of the liquid during primary fermentation.

Capsule : Not used on many wine bottles in modern times, the capsule was a foil or lead covering for the cork, often used to keep rats or mice from chewing their way into the cork.

Carboy : Glass or plastic bottles used for home winemaking. These come in a large range of sizes, from 1 liter up through 20 liter and larger.

Chaptalize : To add sugar into a grape juice that does not naturally have enough sugar to make a decent wine.

Cold Stabilization :. In essence it is chilling a wine solely to precipitate out the natural potassium bitartrate crystals, to ease wine buyers' fears that it is unnatural.

Enology : The Science of Winemaking.

Extended Maceration : Letting the red grapes sit for a while before being pressed, so that they flavor and richness develops.

Filtering : Sending a wine through a filter cloth or paper, to remove any remaining sediment or impurities.

Fining : Adding a substance to a wine - often clay or egg whites - to collect together impurities and sediments in the wine. The wine is then racked, leaving behind the 'sludge'.

Hydrometer : A measuring device that tells you the specific gravity of a wine. This helps you determine the amount of alcohol in the wine.

Malolactic Fermentation : This is a secondary fermentation done to convert the malic acid in a wine to lactic acid, giving it a smoother flavor.

Methanol : Methanol is wood alcohol, and is poisonous. It is made normally from wood, coal or natural gas. This is NOT the kind of alcohol created in winemaking.

Must : The original grapes, stems, skins, and liquid that is used to create a wine.

Oxidation : Oxidation occurs when air comes into contact with a developing wine. Usually a fault in a wine, it causes the wine's flavor to change and the liquid to brown.

Pigeage : When you make a red-grape wine, the skins of the red grapes form a 'cap' on top of the wine while it ferments. This cap must be broken up and stirred back into the wine to give it a lot of contact. This breakingup is called pigeage.

Pomace : What is left behind when the must is pressed, and the juice is all removed. Pomace is often used for a traditional Italian drink, Grappa.

Primary Fermentation : The main fermentation that turns a vat of grape juice into a wine. This is where the yeast works on the sugars in the raw juice, converting those sugars to alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Racking : When you move a wine or developing wine from one container to another, leaving behind whatever sediment has collected at the bottom of the first container.

Stuck Fermentation : This is the term for a fermentation which simply won't begin, or which begins but then loses its wind partway through the process.

Sulfite : Sulfite is normally added to a wine to kill off the wild yeasts, so that a certain yeast can be added to the wine. Also, sulfites help a wine age.

Tannins : Tannins are natural substances found in grapes, and also in tea, chocolate, and other items. They help a wine age properly, but can also give some people headaches.

Yeast : Yeast is a one-celled organism that is found naturally on grapes, that turns the sugar in grape juice into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Some winemaking regions use solely the natural yeasts that come with the grapes. Others kill those off with sulfites, and then add in a special yeast that is known to work well with their grapes.

Welcome Mioa to our forums. We are here to help. What I suggest you do first is to go to the first thread in this forum area and down load the PDF file books that are beginners guides to wine making. Read through those and then start posting your questions. We will help you out.

One other thing you night do is to post up your location to see if we have any members that are local for you that may be able to show you step by step how it works. Some of the things you asked such as the importance of acidity are really important for a good wine. Particularly with muscadines as you normally always have to balance this wine as muscadines are very acidic.

One other thing to ask. Have you had Muscadine wine? It has a unique flavor. It is the only grape that will grow where I live but unfortunately I do not like it that well. It is OK but not my favorite.

Go to this thread to find the beginner books.