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ABC

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I have been making wine for two years now. I always make Cabernet using juice and I use R56 yeast with malolactic and french oak medium chips. I have had pretty good results to this point but it just never tastes quite the same as a bottle of Cabernet you get at a restaurant. Today I was racking and I ended up with half of a carboy so I decided to bottle it. It was from a batch I originally started six months ago so it was still a little "carbonated". I used my wine whip for about 15 minutes to remove the excess "carbonation" which is something I normally dont need to do. I bottled the wine this morning and opened a bottle this afternoon. I then left the bottle open for about five hours by mistake and now it tastes amazing. Just another side note that I do not use any sulfates. So finally to my question. Am I doing something wrong during the process where the wine isnt getting enough surface area to air ratio? I usually bulk age in the carboys filled to the neck with airlocks on top until I need wine to drink and then I bottle it. Thanks in advance for any advice.
 

Johnd

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@ABC , a few things may be in play here, particularly when comparing home made Cab to commercial Cab of good + quality.

1. It’s really difficult to emulate the fermentation process of a commercial wine when working with juice only, skins, pulp, seeds, and stems play a role in the process and are allowed in the ferment in different scenarios, but juice bucket wine is void of their presence. Much body, flavor, tannin, mouthfeel, aroma, and other organoleptic properties may be left behind.

2. Many decent Cabs are barrel aged, which will give a different oak impression than chips, plus the intrinsic properties of wooden barrels serve to smooth out the wine through micro oxidation, and enhance the flavor by concentration. Hard to duplicate in a carboy.

3. The fact that your wine improved with five hours of air contact means that it would love to get some age on it before being consumed. There’s no need to store wine in a carboy once it’s finished to your satisfaction, when it’s done, bottle it. It’ll age better in the bottle.

  • You could up your Cab game considerably, if you’re so inclined, by starting with fresh grapes or frozen must, not just juice. You could use a “butt bucket press” and not have to buy one if you don’t want to.
  • If that alone doesn’t satisfy you, consider getting a barrel, Vadai has them for under $200 for a 6 gallon, it can be reused for years and years, reducing the cost / bottle to mere pennies. Switching to larger oak products will help, Wine Stix and Spirals work well in carboys.
  • Regardless if you do either of the two above, set up a production / storage situation such that you’re bottling your wine when it’s “finished”, stored for future consumption, consumed when it is around its peak (determined by taste testing).
 

pillswoj

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You say you have been making wine for 2 years, to me that means your first batch may be almost ready for consumption. :b I have never had a commercial bottle of Cab that was less then 2 years old (most are 3+) and in my kit wine making I now don't even sample a Cab until 24 month after starting. The only solution I have found is to make more and build up a reserve.
 

ABC

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Thank you for the replies. I will have to look into building up more of a reserve and the possibility of barrel aging. Would it help to not fill the carboys all the way into the neck so that there is more air contact with the surface area in the carboys?
 

Johnd

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Thank you for the replies. I will have to look into building up more of a reserve and the possibility of barrel aging. Would it help to not fill the carboys all the way into the neck so that there is more air contact with the surface area in the carboys?
No, that’s not how you get micro oxygenation, it’s how you get oxidation. Sounds like your protocol for topping up is just fine, no need to change it.

Didn’t mention it earlier, but give serious consideration to the expeditious use of sulfites, your wine may not survive the years it needs without it.
 

jgmann67

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As a cheaper alternative to barrels and wine stix, you might switch to oak cubes instead of chips. Maybe look into tannin additions, too. Also, 100% agree with the sulfite suggestion.

Unfortunately, we live in a generation that impatiently waits for the microwave to finish heating our dinners. It sounds like you have your winemaking down pretty well... just add time and be amazed with the results.
 

tradowsk

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There's also glycerin that can be added to give juice-only wines more body. You have to figure out the amount by taste, but I added some to a merlot and cabsauv and it really helped the mouthfeel and brought out the flavor more.

But yeah, bottle aging imho is superior to bulk aging because the bit of oxygen that comes in through the cork really does wonders for the wine's development.
 

cmason1957

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But yeah, bottle aging imho is superior to bulk aging because the bit of oxygen that comes in through the cork really does wonders for the wine's development.
Bottle versus bulk aging is a never to be answered question. Ask 10 winemakers get 11 opinions kind of thing. I am in the they are both needed camp. I look to what commercial wineries do, even those without oak barrels generally leave the wine in bulk for at least a year and then in the bottle for at least a year. So for me, I do the same thing. In bulk, the entire batch has the same magical chemical processes taking place. You don't get that once it is in the bottle.
 

NorCal

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As others have said, your findings on your Cab show your wine is begging for my time and micro-ox. Aging in a barrel gives you both.
 
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