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WineXpert Taste Test of 5 Eclipse Lodi Cabs

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AZMDTed

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This afternoon I did a blind taste test with my wife on 5 WE Eclipse Lodi Ranch 11 kits we’ve made over the last 26 months. Here are the kits and some notes on their making and aging:

3 month old LR11, made with 6 weeks Extended Maceration (EM), currently bulk aging in carboy. Added 1 cup of currants to skins, and used 1 1/2 tsp of Tannin Rouge Soft on skins, BM 4X4 yeast. I did not use a clarifier on this kit, all other kits used supplied Chitosan.

7 month old LR11, used BM 4X4 yeast, added 1 Medium French Oak WineStix for 6 weeks, aged in new Vadai Oak barrel for 4 more weeks, 1 tsp Tannin Riche Extra added. Aging in Carboy now.

12 month old LR11, kit yeast, aged in Vadai Oak Barrel for 3 months. Total time before bottling was 11 months.

17 month old LR11, made IAW kit instructions, but with 2 months of carboy aging before bottling. All other kits had natural corks, this one had a Nomacorc.

26 month old LR11, made and bottled IAW kit instructions.

That’s a pretty good spread of kits. Too many variables as I’ve matured in my wine making to call it a head to head test, but nonetheless a good comparison. As I’ve mentioned before I’m not a good tester and a worse writer, my wife is somewhat better than me, but we’ll never win any prizes so please take this as just a data point of our likes and preferences.

Winner: 26 month old LR11. Thankfully not a surprise
Very close Runner up: 3 month old Extended Maceration. This is a huge surprise.
Number 3: 12 month old, with 3 months in Vadai.
Distant Number 4: 17 month old
Number 5: 7 month old.

Nose: The best nose by far was on the 3 month old EM kit. On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being a $50 Napa Cab, I’d put this one as a decent 6 with a very nice Black Cherry scent. Best nose I’ve ever had on a kit. I don’t know if that’s from the EM process, the currants I added, or from not using a clarifier. Could any or all of them that made a much better nose.

Second best nose was on the 26 month old. It’s probably a 5, but not nearly as robust as the EM kit. Next best was the 12 month old kit which spent 3 months in a barrel and the nose was probably mostly from the oak. The others didn’t have much a nose, with the 7 month old kit being barely noticeable at all.

Body: The best body was a tie between the 3 month old EM kit and the 26 month old kit. Both had a very good medium to full body. The 17 month old was next best on body, but a somewhat distant 3rd. The 7 month old had no body and the year old had a light body.

Flavor: This is where my wife and I disagreed some. I thought the best flavor was from the 12 month old kit that spent 3 months in a barrel. It could be because I just enjoy the oakiness in my reds. My wife enjoyed the EM kit best. She found it had a nutty flavor and nice blackberry finish. I noted some tannins still in the EM kit, but noted that it had a very good flavor as well though I didn’t get any nuts in it. I thought the 26 month old wine had a great mature flavor profile which I really enjoyed. My wife on the other hand thought it was too sweet and jammy. I didn’t get either of those, but I won’t say that either of us is right or wrong. The other two had a nice taste, just not as developed as the ones I just mentioned.

I realize that we’re kind of all over the map here, but those were our notes. Here are my key things I’m taking away:

1. Aging really does change the wine for the better, developing better body and flavor as time goes on.

2. The Extended Maceration technique is truly interesting. I don’t know how much improvement we’re getting from the EM process, or from not fining out the solids as per the instructions, but together it makes an incredible wine. I’m very anxious to follow this thru for another two years and see if it keeps improving. If it does then this may produce the finest wine I can get from a kit.

3. Barrels are awesome. Again, I may just be a oakophile, but 3 months in a barrel really improves wine much more rapidly and better than a carboy and early bottling. I want to see what happens in another year with this wine and see how much more the flavor and body improves.

4. Corks. All of my wines had natural corks except the 17 month old. It was made the same as the 26 month old but corked with a nomacorc. Despite it being the second oldest wine, it came in 4th place, just above the 7 month old wine. The only obvious difference is the cork. I won’t blame it all on the cork, but perhaps the lack of oxygen transfer in the synthetic cork is hampering its maturation.

Not scientific, or perhaps overly useful. But it’s another data point for folks to think about.
 

sour_grapes

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That is a great comparison, Ted. Thanks for writing it up.

I believe you have a thread documenting your extended maceration process. If so, would you mind pointing me at it?
Thanks!
 

ceeaton

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Ted, really nice write up, thanks a bunch for sharing! Can't wait to try that EM Cab someday. Might have to go git me a wide mouth fermonster.
 

AZMDTed

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Thanks!

Hmmmm.... I have no empty carboys, but I do have an empty big-mouth bubbler, and a kit waiting for me.... Hmmmm....
Sounds like a problem and a solution all wrapped up together. Give it a shot and see if it works for you as well as it seems to be working for me.

Tim Vandergrift said he would update his progress this month so I'm anxious to see his report when it comes out.
 

AZMDTed

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Ted, really nice write up, thanks a bunch for sharing! Can't wait to try that EM Cab someday. Might have to go git me a wide mouth fermonster.
Craig, thanks. I'm looking forward to our chance to get together, hopefully with the others, so that I can get some experienced thoughts and suggestions on the EM Cab as well as my other wines.
 

ceeaton

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I'm interested to pursue further whether the Nomacorc's do seal so well that they slow down the aging process. My Forza batch I made right when the kit first came out was bottled using those corks (and they are in my "wine sanctuary" so there are 22 x 750 ml left). I'm pretty sure a few others near us did make that batch, so that would be another interesting set of wines to taste when we do get together, in addition to your Lodi Cabs.
 

traveler94

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Hey Ted why did you use BM4x4 and not the yeast that came with the kit, which is usually EC-1118?
 

AZMDTed

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Hey Ted why did you use BM4x4 and not the yeast that came with the kit, which is usually EC-1118?
Hi, good question. EC-1118 seems to be very common in kits from WineXpert, and maybe all the rest too. My experience with EC-1118 is that it is a powerhouse yeast that will reliably convert sugar to alcohol under all but the worst conditions. It makes very good wine too, but it isn't the best for most situations except perhaps Champagne and fixing stuck fermentations. As you gain confidence in your wine making you start realizing that the goal of kit manufacturers is to make a good wine that is nearly foolproof. It's the foolproof part that may lead to some decisions that let successful wine making take precedence over making the best wine possible.

BM 4X4 is a relatively new yeast and many other members have been using it for the last year or two. Here is a write up from Scott Labs:

"Lalvin BM 4X4® is a blend of BM45 and a complimen*tary strain chosen by Lallemand to provide all the advantages of BM45 with even greater reliability under difficult conditions.

Positive interaction between strains means a more dependable fermentation together with increased aromatic intensity, color intensity and length of finish"

It's the latter part that prompted many of us to try it. At the risk of perhaps a less reliable kit process, the chance of getting increased nose, color and finish is a real draw. So if we can get a slightly/somewhat better wine with just a tiny bit more risk, why not give it a try? And so far the risk side doesn't seem to have come to pass. I've not heard of any failed wines due to using the 4X4. Whether it produces a noticeable difference in nose, color or finish is still up in the air, but worth the shot.

You won't go wrong using 1118, and the kit manufacturer will stand behind any problems it causes. But if I can improve, even slightly, the nose or finish of my kit wines I'm going to try. That's really the purpose behind the whole EM experiment in the first place too.
 
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ehammonds

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I've had great luck with 4x4 too and plan to keep using it. I'll keep the 1118 on hand as an emergency, but I'm loving the results of my swaps.
 

traveler94

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Thanks Ted, very informative answer. I started with kits a long time ago but stopped winemaking when I moved to Florida, I didn't have a good, cool place to store the wine. I returned to NY five years ago and started again, but used refrigerated juice pails from Ca. I used various yeast strains but never, never liked the red wines from the refrigerated juice. I was about to give up but decided to try the kits again. They have improved enormously and I am getting great results. I have never use the sorbate, and now that I have some built up "stock" I am going to stop using the bentonite and any other clarifiers, which I never used years ago. I like to long term age in carboys and I filter before I bottle. With few exceptions all the kits I have made included EC-1118. I think my next "tweak" is the yeast and I will now try it your way. Thanks again for your intelligent and informative response.
 
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