Trying to understand "kit taste"

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spleisher

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Hello everyone,

I've posted on this subject before, but as a fairly new home wine maker, I've really been unable to accurately describe what I am tasting, so I've probably been mis-representing it in previous posts.

Basically, in all the samples I have taken of the wine(s) I have made, as well as a finished bottle of "kit" wine I bought from a local do-it-yourself winery, I have noticed a certain flavor. I want to emphasize that they don't taste "bad". I don't think there is anything wrong, and i am pretty confident that I have done my kits properly. Not sure about the one from the store, as I couldn't observe their processes.

I know it's going to be hard to answer my questions if I can't really articulate what I am trying to say, but I'm hoping someone will follow what I am rambling about, and might have noticed it too.

Here's one key factor: None of the wines I have tasted (with the possible exception of the kit wine from the store) have really had a chance to age properly. Friday, I couldn't stand the wait any longer and opened a bottle of RJS Grand Cru Intl Red Zinfandel I bottled a little over a month ago.

It tasted good, but it didn't taste like any Zin I had ever had before. I would chalk it up to the wine just being very young, but the fact that the store bought bottle of kit wine I tasted had the same flavor kinda spooked me a little.

Now, to describe the flavor, if I can: I guess I would maybe describe it as slightly "tart". It has a dry finish, but has a sweet-ish quality. That may just be the tart flavor I am describing. I would suspect a C02 issue, but there's no evidence of that in my bottle. However, the one I bought from the store was a little foamy, maybe, if that makes sense. Not bubbly, but slightly foamy, like on the legs if you swirl the glass. If I didn't know any better, I might suspect Co2, because it has a certain bite to it.

Ok, I need to stop rambling and let someone respond. Again, it doesn't taste bad, just different. It may very well be that I just need to hold my horses, and that I am just tasting too early. But the store where I bought the bottle says they age theirs at least 6 months, and it still had this flavor.

So, can anyone glean any sense of what I am tasting here? Is it kit taste? Just way too young? A little of both? If both, how much does "kit taste" tend to dissipate with time?

Thanks so much for your responses, and your patience.
 

rawlus

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many have commented on a so-called "kit" taste. personally i have not seen this. but i don't drink reds until they've aged 2 years.

if you think about the commercial wines you buy in the store - what are the vintage dates on those bottles? reds are likely at least 1 year old, usually 2-3. and many of these are just so-so wines. really nice ones with good balance and complexity are often 3+ years old.

a red wine 1 month after bottling is not going to be good under any circumstances IMHO, it's barely getting over bottle shock. and it takes longer than you think for all the elements to settle down and come into balance. at 6 months it may be passable as a table wine, but one has to accept that it is only 6 months in the bottle and that is not a very long time in terms of wine, it is still an infant.

my personal viewpoint is, what many comment on as kit taste is really more an underage wine syndrome than it actually being made from a kit or concentrate. with age, most of this "kit" taste goes away.
 

wyntheef

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are you possibly comparing wines that have undergone mlf to ones that haven't?
 

spleisher

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are you possibly comparing wines that have undergone mlf to ones that haven't?
Hmmm, not sure. I haven't done anything with MLF other than read a little about it. Mainly, I'm just comparing what I am tasting in the kits I have made so far (and the one kit bottle I bought that I mentioned above) to what I am used to tasting in commercial versions of the same varietal.

I think it might just be more of what rawlus is saying. It may just be that I am expecting too much from my wine too soon after bottling.

I think mainly I am just a little nervous about the whole thing. I'm pretty sure it is going to work out, but I've gone and dived head first into home wine making. It's how I do all my hobbies. I pretty much go overboard with everything. But here's what I am trying to accomplish, and why I've decided to go whole hog. My goal is to ultimately buy little or no store-bought wine. It's cheaper and a heck of a lot more fun to make it myself. But, in order to to that, I have to spend a few months making wine at a pretty good clip to get a collection going. Then, at some point I can back off and make a kit of two a month to just slightly out-run the pace we drink it and give it away.

So, I'm on kit number 7 or so since the holidays. I've dropped about a grand at this point, so it's been a fairly sizable investment. So, I might be slightly nervous about making sure it was a wise one.

Anyway, thanks for any and all thoughts. I appreciate it!
 

rawlus

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wyntheef brings up a good point too. almost every commercial red has undergone MLF, while almost every red kit, has not/will not. MLF definitely has a profound impact on sensory evaluation of the wine. body, texture, balance.

as to your desire to get off commercial wines and drink homemade exclusively. that's an ambitious challenge with kits only. i still drink 50% commercial wine, though most is bought from brokers, wineries and vineyards (no retail/mass market wines)...

if you truly want to make wines that challenge what you are accustomed to from very good commercial providers - i would slow down on kits a bit and look at what you can do for next steps into juices/musts and eventually grapes... there is a good deal more variables to deal with, more chemistry and labwork, more record-keeping and more control or responsibility over the final outcome, but the results are usually more rewarding if you are truly trying to challenge yourself.

and in the near-term, you'll prob have to continue to consumer commercial wines until the kits you've made have at least matured to optimal drinking. :) either that or trade wines with someone else, a local winemaking club or something.
 

Dugger

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I recently made 3 red kits and, for the first time, purposely left out the sorbate to see if this would reduce the sweetish taste I have also noticed in young red wines. As rawlus mentioned, time is the great healer of this - wines I made that are 2 years old or more do not have this taste.
Whether leaving out the sorbate makes any difference or not, I don't know yet. I have read that sorbate will add some sweetness so it's possible - on the other hand I don't recall this being a problem with white wines ( don't make too many of these) so I may be way off base.
.. Doug
 

wfd15400

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Sorbate adds a bubblegum like taste. It is only really necessary for semi-sweet wines. Any wine with a FG of less than 1.000 should not need any Sorbate.

A group of us have made many white and red kits. The whites work fine but we have always noticed the "kit taste" in the reds. The taste does go away after ageing (+18 months) but we have never been impressed with how the reds age. The final red wines have never tasted as expected for the style we made e.g. the Cabs don't taste like a Cab,...

We recently started some batches from frozen grapes (Cab and Pinot) both are tasting much much better than any kit and taste like you would expect. Both batches are in Malo-lactic fermentation. So far, the process hasn't been any more difficult than making a kit. At this time, we will not try another Red wine kit.

Note, Malo-lactic fermentation is not recommended for Kits!

If you are in need of a great book get - Techniques in Home Winemaking: The Comprehensive Guide to Making Chateau-Style Wines by Daniel Pambianchi Well written, very complete and easy to understand.
 

jdeere5220

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I am by no means an expert, but my limited experience is that young wines give off a couple of qualities that you never find in 3+ year old store-bought wine. The first is an almost overwhelming fruit aroma and flavor. I think a lot of people can confuse flavor with sweetness. These kit wines are low in sulphites and generally lower in ABV, and when young have more of a fruity flavor than you will find in any store-bought wine. That's a good thing in my book, it's something you would pay high $$$ for at the local wine shop.

Second young reds have what I can only call a "green" taste. I think it's the tannins, it's like biting into seeds or leaf stems. Given time these tannis combine with other molecules in the wine to improve the finish, pucker factor, overall balance, etc...

I bought a batch of Spanish Rioja from my local wine shop last year, and of course drank about 15 bottles within a couple weeks. Wasn't thrilled, but thought well for $5 / bottle what did I expect. Then I drank the last 10 bottles this past fall, after sitting in my basement over the summer. WOW! At 9 months this was as good as any $25 bottle I've ever had.

I just started making my own kits this year, but I'm really trying to be patient and figure the batches I'm bottling now are for NEXT YEAR!
 

rob

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Boy, I got to tell you I am on my 3rd kit of Cabernet and it is not only drinkable right at bottling but I have yet to find a commercial one as good. I do take the time to adjust the acid and ph. I is a little weak, but I am ok with that ( not into a strong full body wine) I bottle it in 4 weeks and it is gone in 6
 

Dugger

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Boy, I got to tell you I am on my 3rd kit of Cabernet and it is not only drinkable right at bottling but I have yet to find a commercial one as good. I do take the time to adjust the acid and ph. I is a little weak, but I am ok with that ( not into a strong full body wine) I bottle it in 4 weeks and it is gone in 6
Is this a kit, or a bucket of juice? I'd be surprised you have to adjust the acid/pH of a kit wine - I've never tested one but these are supposed to be already well balanced.
 

rob

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It is a kit, everybody assumes that all is in balance, but if you run the test you might surprse youself, now with that said will these age out to the proper balance, more than likely, but if you would like a drinkable wine sooner than later It is worth a try.
 

cpfan

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It is a kit, everybody assumes that all is in balance, but if you run the test you might surprse youself, now with that said will these age out to the proper balance, more than likely, but if you would like a drinkable wine sooner than later It is worth a try.
Did you run the test before or after fermentation?

My understanding is that the acidity is tied up differently in kits (Winexpert at least) and that standard acid testing produces incorrect results. I doubt I could find the relevant references as it is from 2-3 years ago.

Also, which exact kit?

Steve
 

WhineMaker

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I have to admit I probably drink my reds too soon. I've got around 15 batches under my belt in a year. Each batch of red has 10-15 bottles that I will not touch until aged at least 1 year, or as long as our willpower holds out.. Only red I found I did not like was a Reserve De Chateau Barolo(paklab). It was very thin and believe it or not was more drinkable when it was bottled than recently. Have about 20 bottles of that one and will let it age at least a year before trying again.. Paklab also makes Vino Italiano which I have had much better luck with, and it's cheaper than the Reserve Du Chateau.. All my reds have had that "kit" taste, which I personally attribute somewhat to the wine being thin.. Not necessarily a bad taste, just different. And like others have said, most of the reds I have made do not taste true to varietal. The closest was a LOVZ 12L kit (added zant currants in addition to the grape pack it came with), and this one also had less of a kit taste to it. I find the whites have been most consistant matching commercial/varietal wine taste. I have not ventured into high end red kits yet(100.00+), mainly because I have been satisfied by the lower end kits I have done. I have also done many fruit wine kits, and none of these have had the "kit" taste, even the red ones.(pomegrante zin, wildberry chianti) I have added sugar and 1/2 the f-pack to the primary on every fruit kit and have had great results(rest of f-pack just before bottling).. Sorry for the rambling!! Hope this helps..
 
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