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facn1989

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How do you make your wine the best it can be? I just started this hobbie and follow kit instructions to the T. I don't have space for bulk aging, so I bottle as soon as the instructions say to (usually about 6 weeks from pitching yeast to bottling).

Does anyone add extra tanning, oak, raisins, etc to their high end kits? If so, when exactly do you add it, how long, etc?

I'm afraid of messing with the wine and screwing up the balance the manufacturer intended.

I heard about extended maceration but would need to read way more about it

Thanks
 

pillswoj

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Tweaking High End RED Kits, Definitely read up on Extended Maceration. other then that I will often add more oak while bulk aging, and this year I got a 20 L Barrel and will start barrel aging some of my batches.

For the high end kits the number one tweak is to not even sample them until about 12-18 months - 24 would be better
 

sour_grapes

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To directly answer your question, I generally do two tweaks to high-end kits. I add extra tannins (some during primary, some for finishing), and I swap the yeast.
 

Ajmassa

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Some easy things to tweak
-throw instructions away upon opening box :) just kidding..sorta
-100% skip sorbate if fermenting dry
-bulk age longer
-switch out for choice of yeast (and good opportunity to start utilizing nutrients).
-oak powder/chips/tannin to primary (add before pitching yeast)
-bulk age longer
-forget raisins. Add grapes! Here’s a link for a 9lb grape pack I’ve used. Totally worth it. http://www.juicegrape.com/Mosti-Mondiale-All-Grape-Pack/
-choice of oak during aging
- Add sugar to bump sg to 1.095-1.1000
-bulk age longer
- if skins pack give a shot at adding directly with no strainer bags.
-maybe find a way to play with temps keeping in 70’s. Lengthening time on skins. <—what I’m currently looking into
-buy a case of 375mL ‘split’ bottles and fill a half dozen each batch. Use for testers during bottle aging.

-lastly make some space for 2nd carboy or wait longer! 6 weeks is pure insanity!co2/sediment dropping/weak oak etc... But I imagine popping the 1st cork being quite the adventure.
 

jgmann67

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Some easy things to tweak
-throw instructions away upon opening box :) just kidding..sorta
-100% skip sorbate if fermenting dry
-bulk age longer
-switch out for choice of yeast (and good opportunity to start utilizing nutrients).
-oak powder/chips/tannin to primary (add before pitching yeast)
-bulk age longer
-forget raisins. Add grapes! Here’s a link for a 9lb grape pack I’ve used. Totally worth it. http://www.juicegrape.com/Mosti-Mondiale-All-Grape-Pack/
-choice of oak during aging
- Add sugar to bump sg to 1.095-1.1000
-bulk age longer
- if skins pack give a shot at adding directly with no strainer bags.
-maybe find a way to play with temps keeping in 70’s. Lengthening time on skins. <—what I’m currently looking into
-buy a case of 375mL ‘split’ bottles and fill a half dozen each batch. Use for testers during bottle aging.

-lastly make some space for 2nd carboy or wait longer! 6 weeks is pure insanity!co2/sediment dropping/weak oak etc... But I imagine popping the 1st cork being quite the adventure.
The only thing I might add is to bulk age longer. [emoji1303][emoji12]

Make space - cruise Craigslist for used glass carboys if money is an issue.

Also consider getting an AIO to aid in transfers and bottling. It will aid it degassing, too.
 

Doug’s wines

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Only thing I would add to this list for whites is sur lie aging. Here’s a primer:

http://winemakersacademy.com/sur-lie-aging-explained/

Since we can’t do MLF on a kit this is the next best way to adjust mouthfeel.

Adding: one other suggestion is to get 1 gallon or 3 gallon car boys and split your batches. Bottle half (or more) exactly as kit instructions and hold back half to do something interesting. 1 gallon jugs don’t take up much space at all and can easily fit on a shelf out of the way.
 

pgentile

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What all the above said. I skip the sorbate and clarifiers. Sometimes add tannin's, and usually oak a little more. I also often swap yeasts. And yes let it age. My biggest issue with wine making is having the patience to let time get it to it's best.
 
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facn1989

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Some easy things to tweak
-throw instructions away upon opening box :) just kidding..sorta
-100% skip sorbate if fermenting dry
-bulk age longer
-switch out for choice of yeast (and good opportunity to start utilizing nutrients).
-oak powder/chips/tannin to primary (add before pitching yeast)
-bulk age longer
-forget raisins. Add grapes! Here’s a link for a 9lb grape pack I’ve used. Totally worth it. http://www.juicegrape.com/Mosti-Mondiale-All-Grape-Pack/
-choice of oak during aging
- Add sugar to bump sg to 1.095-1.1000
-bulk age longer
- if skins pack give a shot at adding directly with no strainer bags.
-maybe find a way to play with temps keeping in 70’s. Lengthening time on skins. <—what I’m currently looking into
-buy a case of 375mL ‘split’ bottles and fill a half dozen each batch. Use for testers during bottle aging.

-lastly make some space for 2nd carboy or wait longer! 6 weeks is pure insanity!co2/sediment dropping/weak oak etc... But I imagine popping the 1st cork being quite the adventure.
Thanks for the info but still have questions. Please take into consideration I have no space for extra carboys to bulk age. I bottle as soon as instructions say to make carboy/bucket available for next kit.

- Why skip the sorbate? what does that achieve?
- I already have a huge wine fridge so temperature control is not a problem. What benefit does bulk aging provide other than slower temp swings? How does it make the wine taste better? or is it just that it gives you flexibility to tweak as it ages, but doesn't inherently produce better tasting wine than bottle wine?
- I'll have to read more about yeast before getting comfortable on switching them, but how does different yeast make a better final product?
- do you add more oak than the kit brings?
- how to know how much tannin to add? the kits are made to be balance a certain way, can't extra tannin mess up balance?
- do you add raisins or the mosto mondiale grapes even though most high end kits already bring a 2 pound grape pack?
- I read loose grapes are kind of a pain. But does it produce better wine because it has more contact with the liquid rather than using the strainer bag?

Thank you!
 

Ajmassa

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Throw caution to the wind and tweak away. Your questions and thoughts on are on target. Not all have one answer. And often debated on here.

-sorbate needed for sweet wine so sugar doesn’t ferment later on. Dry wine not needed.
-correct on aging. BUT 6 weeks not only limits tweaks but is risky. Won’t even know if an issue arises let alone troubleshoot. It’s a long list of why aging in carboy is beneficial.
-switching yeast isn’t a big deal. A few heavyweights to use that are proven winners. Before deciding ask here. You’ll get good insight. Kits tend to supply ‘failsafe’ yeast- tolerable to conditions but offer nothing extra.
-oak chips/tannin powder during primary improve wine body/color. But won’t impart much oak flavor. Oak in aging does that. That ones a curveball when 1st learning. But it’s science man. Just go with it. Add more or different than supplied. Amount or type is too personal. I Can’t tell another man how much oak to add. Each batch and maker unique. Its like “How much sugar in my coffee?” Moot point if bottling 6 weeks tho. I like 1 oak spiral for 3 months for 6 gal. And 1 cream 1 sugar. Black if feeling lazy.
-I do extra tannin in primary. (Grape skins, oak chips, powder) but I don’t mess with em later. Playing with fire at that point.
-grapes/fpack no wrong way. Do whatever you want. No rules. More grapes won’t hurt you. I’ve only used raisins when being lazy sorting fresh grapes before crushing.
-loose grapes vs bagged. Your questions is often debated. Nobody actually knows even if they say they do. Do both ways and see what you think.

I recommend a juice bucket too. Will give you a different perspective. And remove the shackles/safety blanket of instructions actually forcing you to do whatever you want. It’s freeing. And would help your worry wort tendencies. Unless you do something extreme it’s hard to ruin a wine. Maintain proper so2 and headspace and go to town.
 

pillswoj

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On bulk aging, when doing the big kits with skin you will have sediment in the bottle if you bottle early, I often get sediment in the bottle after 6 Months of bulk aging.

Not a huge issue if you decant prior to serving
 

Doug’s wines

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As @pillswoj suggests, sediment is the biggest issue with early bottling and you pretty much have no choice but to use the clarifiers that come with the kit to get it done in time. Still will probably drop sediment though.

I personally believe there is nothing wrong with bottle aging, although most people really prefer bulk aging especially with the more expensive kits. Some Advantages of bulk are that you have an opportunity to taste and determine how flavors are integrating, you then have time to tweak and adjust if you like. Degassing can be done naturally and fully as the stir method doesn’t really seem to get it all and it can’t escape the bottle and if it’s in there, it picks up funny smells if it stays in the wine too long. You can help minimize gas if you keep the wine warm throughout the process 70-75F, however a hot ferment is faster and does affect the flavor profile which is usually fine, but for some wines (ex: Resiling) may not be what you want. Another advantage of bulk is that the wine ages slower. Bottles age the wine faster and you only get so much time in the bottle before the wine turns. So bulk can buy you a year or more of additional net age. Finally bulk allows full flavor integration and avoids minor bottle variances that could occur if things like tannins, oak,etc aren’t fully distributed throughout the wine.

You can still Post fermentation oak (and tannin) with the standard kit timeline, do this right after secondary and use oak chips, I wouldn’t use spirals as the chips give up their mojo faster. 2-4 weeks is usually ok and after 6 weeks they’ve mostly given up everything they’ve got. If you taste a wine after secondary that seems very fruit forward, and is a good oak candidate (most reds, some whites) then start by trying 1 cup of medium toast France oak chips for a 6 gallon kit. Try to rack a bit aggressively before bottling to ensure even distribution of the oak flavors or you might end up with some minor bottle variance (you still might). Bottle a few half bottles as tasters so you can try the wine earlier (smaller bottles age faster and you don’t waste as much wine if it isn’t good). Open 1 at 3 months and another at 6 so you can get an early read on how you think the 1 cup of oak is doing and if you want more oak or a different toast try it on the next batch.
 

facn1989

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Thanks to all for the extremely helpful information! Will definitely start adding some of these tweaks and tips into my next kits
 

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