Questions to RJS

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Jasienic

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Here are my comments, put on RJS FB site. No answers yet.

Wishing RJS all the best. I am dedicated customer with about 50 RJS kits under my belt. I am very worried about recent changes at your company. Any honest information about your future would help a lot. We need you! Somebody has to compete with Andrew Peller Ltd.!
1. Your website is a total mess. Better shut it down, till it is done properly.
🙁

2. No more Hightails?
🙁

3. No more limited release production? Last was 'Double Down', quite successful. It was 2019.
🙁

4. Reducing volumes? Hard to believe that it will improve final products. For sure it will lower shipping fees.
🙁
 

pillswoj

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I emailed my concerns directly to them on Feb 23, I got no response.
 

wineh

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I found your #1 not believable, so I went there. You are in fact, correct. What a mess! Good luck getting answers.
 

Gilmango

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Re #3 - does the Arcana collection announced January 2021 and released now qualify?
  • Spain Tempranillo Merlot – The Empress January 2021 reveals all
  • Spain Muscat – The Chariot January 2021 reveals all
  • France Cabernet Sauvignon – The Emperor February 2021 reveals all
  • Italy Nero d’Avola – The Magician March 2021 reveals all
  • France Rosé – The Wheel of Fortune April 2021 reveals all
Re #4 - even as a newby to kit winemaking I am definitely worried about reduced volumes. I even bought more kits then I planned to get RJS kits before the volumes were reduced. Then again, I just bought a 6L kit which will make 6 gallons at a somewhat premium price (Finer Wines from Label Peeler).
 

cmason1957

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I've done two kits from Wineexpert with the slightly lowered volume and I have to say, I don't think it's a bad thing. I did the Fiero Primitivo and started the Sangiovese Rose. Both have more body and less kit taste at the start. The Primitivo is among one of the best kits I have made. I'm willing to believe the kit manufacturers might know what they are doing.
 

heatherd

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I've done two kits from Wineexpert with the slightly lowered volume and I have to say, I don't think it's a bad thing. I did the Fiero Primitivo and started the Sangiovese Rose. Both have more body and less kit taste at the start. The Primitivo is among one of the best kits I have made. I'm willing to believe the kit manufacturers might know what they are doing.
If I recall, the slightly lower volume allowed the juice to not need to be pasteurized which then gets rid of the kit taste.
 

Jasienic

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If I recall, the slightly lower volume allowed the juice to not need to be pasteurized which then gets rid of the kit taste.
Pasteurization is a must. Producers would be in big trouble if they sell not pasteurized product.
"Kit taste" is not from pasteurization. It is from our mistakes during wine production.
Reducing volume from 18 to 14 liters (or from 16 to 10) is not "slightly lower".
 

Tipsy

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I spoke with my kit supplier on the weekend about this. These folks sell and stock a huge amount of wine kits. It is literally a warehouse full of kits. They have customers who have dealt with them for many years. She said the feedback they are getting from their long time customers is that the smaller volume from vineco and winexpert are as good or better than before. Whether or not RJS will be as good as the other companies is of course the question. Her opinion is that she is confident they will be. They are highly competitive and it would be foolish to not keep the quality on par with the others. I guess time will tell. I just picked up two of their RQ kits so they are still making limited quantitiy wines. They were both 18 litre, but all the new regular wines are now 14 (en primeur line). Another comment is that their website may not be good but that is not really a reflection of their wine making ability. I personally have my fingers crossed that their wines will remain good.
 

heatherd

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Pasteurization is a must. Producers would be in big trouble if they sell not pasteurized product.
"Kit taste" is not from pasteurization. It is from our mistakes during wine production.
Reducing volume from 18 to 14 liters (or from 16 to 10) is not "slightly lower".
The information I stated is directly from RJS about pasteurization and their shift to smaller kits.

New Look, Same Great Kits! : Means Cork and Cap
 

StreetGlide

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I've done two kits from Wineexpert with the slightly lowered volume and I have to say, I don't think it's a bad thing. I did the Fiero Primitivo and started the Sangiovese Rose. Both have more body and less kit taste at the start. The Primitivo is among one of the best kits I have made. I'm willing to believe the kit manufacturers might know what they are doing.
I have had the Fiero in a barrel for 2 weeks now and I have to agree, this is going to be a fantastic kit. I’m thinking of getting another one in case it really is a LP item
 

Gilmango

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The information I stated is directly from RJS about pasteurization and their shift to smaller kits.

New Look, Same Great Kits! : Means Cork and Cap
The link is to what WinExpert said when they reduced kit sizes (not RJS) but safe to say RJS says similar things now that they too have reduced kit sizes. The most relevant part I found in the link was this, "Our new kits require less heat treatment which means better color, aroma and flavor." But nowhere is pasteurization mentioned.

That less heat treatment approach also resonates with what I read (or saw in the video) about the new Finer Wines kits. Basically that they are concentrating the grape juice more by using some vacuum method, rather than by heating it. Here's a quote from Finer Wines: "So, here we are introducing a new type of wine kit to you. It is different because it is not pasteurized. It is shipped cold. It is the only way to receive this high of quality wine from a kit. It is also super concentrated using a low temperature vacuum evaporation process. This allows us to ship you a much smaller, easier to handle, lower shipping cost kit that has not seen the damaging heat of kits that can sit warm." (source: Finer Wine Kits | Label Peelers, Inc.)

Since neither RJS nor WinExpert are shipped cold, I am pretty sure (but not certain) that they are both still pasteurized in order to stay shelf stable for months or even years. There may also be chemicals added which keep them shelf stable, but still allow them to ferment when yeast is added. So I'm guessing that RJS and WinExpert are also using the same "low temperature vacuum evaporation process" which Finer Wines touts, and that is the "less heat treatment" which the link you posted brags about.
 

heatherd

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I've done two kits from Wineexpert with the slightly lowered volume and I have to say, I don't think it's a bad thing. I did the Fiero Primitivo and started the Sangiovese Rose. Both have more body and less kit taste at the start. The Primitivo is among one of the best kits I have made. I'm willing to believe the kit manufacturers might know what they are doing.
Great to know! I agree.

I am looking forward to hearing more as your new-style kits get some age and you can compare them to your prior kits.

I'll be able to do the same as I have a new WE Cabernet Sauvignon kit ready to make, to compare against the old WE Cab I already made, and also have a Finer Wine Cab with double skins kit on the way from Label Peelers. I'm a ways out from being able to compare them all equally.
 

Hypno

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Pasteurization is a must. Producers would be in big trouble if they sell not pasteurized product.
"Kit taste" is not from pasteurization. It is from our mistakes during wine production.
Reducing volume from 18 to 14 liters (or from 16 to 10) is not "slightly lower".
Please explain the “our mistake” part, im
Curious
 

Gilmango

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I'm not the OP @Jasienic but just here to say that (1) there are tons of more detailed threads on this very WMT which discuss "kit taste" what it is, tastes like, and speculate about how it may or may not occur and how to overcome it (plus many who don't taste it at all); and (2) it is very reminiscent of the same discussions in homebrewing forums around "extract twang" that is said to occur when brewing with malt extract rather than "all grain". Point is just that "kit taste" and "extract twang" are super controversial and there are no clear answers on whether they exist, what caused them, how to beat them, etc.

Honestly, I think lots of beginner flavor issues which occur probably do get pinned on extracts (whether sanitation, yeast health, fermentation temperature, etc.) which are not the fault of the extracts. But even when those are controlled for, many folks seem to really be able to taste something when the wine or beer is made from a liquid concentrate (nearly all of which are pasteurized (unless shipped frozen or very cold), and all of which are concentrated using temperature/vacuum pressure control). Others don't seem to taste it as much. I don't have answers. Maybe it is like cilantro, you either enjoy it, don't mind it, or 100% can't stand it?
 

winemaker81

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@Gilmango, a large percentage of winemakers report an off flavor in their kit wines, so it's safe to say that "kit taste" is a real thing. While it's possible to chalk some of these reports to "beginner mistakes", far too many experienced winemakers report it. I pondered your comments and used a process of elimination:

Environment? Far too varied to consider across winemakers. In my case? My winemaking environment has not changed in 18 years, so I can eliminate it in my situation.

Yeast? Most kits use EC-1118, which I've used in numerous non-kit wines, without producing kit taste.

Fining Agents? Bentonite and kieselsol/chitosan are the typical ingredients, and I've used them in numerous non-kit wines, without producing kit taste.

Sorbate? Used in numerous non-kit wines with no off taste. Plus I skip it if the kit wine is dry and some of these have had kit taste.

Oak & sulfite? These can be ruled out as being far too common.

This leaves the concentrate. Reviewing my kit wines of the last few years, the kit taste is most common in the lower-end kits, especially RJ Spagnols. The RJ Spagnols dessert wines, which are 100% juice, stand out as not having kit taste, as do the high-end Winexpert LE kits.

I lack any knowledge regarding what in the concentrate causes kit taste, so I won't speculate. It's something in the process and my anecdotal speculation points toward the concentration part of the kit construction.

Of note -- I started Winexpert Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay 10 liter kits last September. Neither displays any hint of kit taste, so the new formulation may honestly be improved.
 

Jasienic

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Yes, I agree. This would be helpful information so I can learn more how to avoid the early "kit taste." Thanks.
Let me answer questions from Khristyjeff and Hypno.
About 25 years ago my wines were definitely not great, and absolutely had that bad strain of taste, which we call now "kit taste". Not for the last 20 years. We were doing blind testing with friends, our wines against decent wines from stores. Store wines never won.
I don't have definite answer why exactly "kit taste" happens. There are lots of articles online about that. For me, I have changed 4 things during production of my wines. It resulted with 100% success to eliminate "kit taste".
1. During fermentation, and soon after, I regularly remove lees from the wine, at least 3 times during the first 3 weeks. I do it with conical fermenters, so no siphoning is needed. I don't use buckets to start fermentation.
2. I do care to keep my wine away from oxygen. I don't top carboys with similar wine. I have bought tank of nitrogen, and I blow this gas over the surface of wine after fermentation has ended. I do it when wine is still in conical fermenter, or in the 7 gallon carboy.
3. I don't use the cheapest wine kits any more.
4. I have my temperature controlled cellar, where my wines can wait for consumption. :)
In my opinion, especially 2 first points are responsible for eliminating "kit taste".
Hope it helps...
 

Jasienic

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Here are my comments, put on RJS FB site. No answers yet.

Wishing RJS all the best. I am dedicated customer with about 50 RJS kits under my belt. I am very worried about recent changes at your company. Any honest information about your future would help a lot. We need you! Somebody has to compete with Andrew Peller Ltd.!
1. Your website is a total mess. Better shut it down, till it is done properly.
🙁

2. No more Hightails?
🙁

3. No more limited release production? Last was 'Double Down', quite successful. It was 2019.
🙁

4. Reducing volumes? Hard to believe that it will improve final products. For sure it will lower shipping fees.
🙁
So, I've got nice response from RJS. Hightails and limited release kits will not be continued. :-( Please notice, that Limited Release kits are not RQ (restricted quantity). RQs will be released yearly, no change here. They agreed that lowering volume of the kits brings lots of savings with shipping costs.
I would not pay much attention what owners of wine kit stores are saying about quality of the lower volume kits. Regardless of the truth, they always have to give us positive answer. That is obvious, unless you believe in what car salesmen tell you about cars. :)
If you follow the changes on the content label of the kits, displayed on the kits' boxes, you can see that, year after year, the grape juice is disappearing. Concentrates, and other corrective additions are more and more common. I believe, and experience myself, that final product tastes better and better, but it is less and less real wine, as a product of fermentation of the pure grape juice. This is why producers, so often add the word "Style" to the description of the kit. It is e.g. no more Cabernet Sauvignon. It is Cabernet Sauvignon Style, which is not the same, but could still be enjoyable.
Oh, RJS website is fixed now.
 

winemaker81

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Out of curiosity, can you put a ballpark figure on that claim? I can't relate to what you mean by "large".
Offhand, no. Over the years I've read a lot of posts regarding kit taste and a lot of folks have chimed in that they have encountered it. Folks I've spoken with in other venues have reported it. I've had it often enough myself -- In the last 5 years I've made 18 kits. 6 exhibited kit taste.

I note that the dessert wines (ports), fun wines, and high end kits did not exhibit the taste -- the problem wines are the low end and a few mid-range kits. FYI, I classify low end as < $100 USD, mid-range as $100 to $140, and high end > $140, based upon my local prices.

Regardless of the count, it's not a trivial number and it happens to experienced winemakers as well as novices. Does this give you a better feel for my point?

3. I don't use the cheapest wine kits any more.
This is the most likely source of your success. I'm not saying your activities 1 & 2 don't contribute to your success, but the source material is the common limiting factor. As I stated above, IME the low end kits were most likely to exhibit kit taste.

Last night we bottled the Winexpert 10 liter kits -- Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Neither has a hint of kit taste and both taste really good at the 7 month mark. This is a very limited test, but it provides some evidence that WE's statement that the new formulization is better. When others report their results, we'll have a better feel.
 
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