WineXpert WE Limited Edition Grenache Carignan

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bobofthenorth

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We started making WE kits while we were living on our boat on Vancouver Island. There's a great little shop - Valley Vines to Wines - in Duncan where we made many wonderful batches of primarily Stag Leap Merlot and various ports. When we moved back on land I found a shop that will sell me WE kits - they're hard to find in Saskatchewan. Over the weekend I started 2 batches of the LE Grenache.

My wine room stays a pretty steady 62 degrees F so normally I wrap brew belts around my primary fermenters and set the belts at 25C (roughly 76F). A couple of weeks ago I had a long conversation with Michael Amico who runs a great little wine supply store in Saskatoon. He told me that he has some customers for his juice pails who deliberately leave the pails with him, in his cooler, from delivery in the fall until he turns the cooler off in the spring. He says those individuals are convinced that the extended ferment at low temperatures in the cooler does a better job of extracting flavour. Frankly I'm skeptical but I thought I could go a very small step in that direction by fermenting at a slightly lower temperature so this time I didn't wrap my primary fermenters. I was worried that they might be slow to start but they behaved pretty much as they would have with the brew belts and they're going strong right now. They were maybe slightly slower to get going but 4 days in you would never know it. Generally I would move them out of the ferment buckets into carboys after 5 or 6 days but this time I think I'll give them a full week before that first racking.
 

GaDawg

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Wouldn’t more contact time with the skins extract more flavor?
 

bobofthenorth

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Wouldn’t more contact time with the skins extract more flavor?

I guess that's the theory. I'm skeptical that my palette is sophisticated enough to detect the difference. I never use the WE cloth baggie that they want me to put the skins in. I tried once and it turned into a gong show so now I just squeeze the bag of skins into the ferment pail and then rinse it out with hot water to make sure I get everything into the fermentation. That leaves a large amount of lees but I typically move everything to a carboy and let it continue to ferment under an airlock until nothing is happening.
 
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Over the weekend I started 2 batches of the LE Grenache.

I also picked up this kit, but it is sitting in a cool place for awhile, until my just arrived juice buckets of Chilean Cab Sav and Malbec fermenters continue to exhale. If you don't mind, Bob, would you provide an update on how this one goes every so often?

Additionally, I am with you, I doubt my palette would be able to detect any difference from free floating grape skins or skins wrapped inside a mesh bag. For the WE kits (or any kit), I have typically kept the skins in with the must for 2 weeks (or a couple days more) in the primary fermenter (bagged/should I say steeped?), and then racked to a carboy. I plan on doing the same with this kit. I haven't used any brew belts on any kits yet (I do add heat around the juice ferments). That said, my room temp is pretty consistent at 69-70 degrees so I'm curious how your cooler ferment goes. Any idea what the must ferment temperature rose to?
 

bobofthenorth

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I couldn't answer your temperature question so I went and floated a thermometer in the must. I have always assumed there was some heat from fermentation but evidently in this case not enough to measure. The must and the room are both solidly at 62F. There's plenty of action going on. I'm inclined to agree that longer will be better so maybe I'll leave everything in the primary bucket for 2 weeks.
 
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Over the weekend I started 2 batches of the LE Grenache
How goes your LE Grenache, Bob? I just took an hour off of work to go downstairs and start mine in the fermenter. Juice/Water/Bentonite/Grapes/Oak chips added. I'm short a carboy, but that is a problem in a few weeks :) I'll let the must mix overnight and then take my brix reading to find if I want to add some sugar (increase the ABV), then I'll pitch my yeast. I'll keep my ferment in the 70-71deg F range. I must say, that fresh juice and oak smell hit me hard and now I just want to sit and savor the aroma. Pretty much like hops at a brewery, but a deeper savor. Now, I've done it. I need a deep, dark, red, oaky, bottle of something....and a comfortable chair! No more work today!
 

bobofthenorth

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Since you asked .........

I racked it for the first time yesterday. As I wrote earlier, my wine room is a pretty consistent 62 degrees year round and this time I didn't add any supplemental heat. I left it on the skins for a full 2 weeks which was yesterday. I didn't check SG yet - I've got the 2 batches under airlocks and I'll leave them that way for at least another 2 weeks and then get a final SG before I stabilize it.

I confess to liking the taste of the juice pre-ferment. I've always liked Welch's grape juice and WE juice is like Welch's on steroids. I stir the must at least once a day for the first week and the bonus is that I get to lick the spoon.

We've got a Cab Sauv that I made from a juice pail in the drinking box right now. I always bag a portion of my production which is a habit formed when we were making wine and living on a boat. Bottles are a genuine PITA on a boat - always making noise and in danger of breaking. Bags are easy to store and even easier to dispose of once empty. We've retained that habit now that we're dirt dwellers so there's always a box of red on the counter for easy drinking. I've also got a carbonated keg staying cold in the porch with a batch of backsweetened Skeeter. I make it to around 8 or 9% ABV and then backsweeten with frozen lemonade. Its a great summer tipple and, although you wouldn't know by the thermometer, summer is just around the corner.
 
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We've got a Cab Sauv that I made from a juice pail in the drinking box right now
Sounds like you have a nice batch of Grenache coming along, and I do agree with you the taste of the juice is good! I just pitched my yeast this morning.

Your 'bagging' the wine sounds like an interesting endeavor, it makes a lot of sense being on the water in a boat. While I have bought a couple of 'wine in a box' cartons, I haven't thought of trying this for home use. That said, I'm sure your boxes are better and your take on the Skeeter Pee sounds delicious. Another month....another month....I keep telling myself summer is coming :)

Thanks for the update, Bob.
 

fermenter

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I got one of the WE Grenache Carignan kits but it will have to wait until I get home next fall after construction season is done to start it. So far the wife isn't willing to start a batch without me there. Hate to think it will be over a year before we can really enjoy something that sounds so promising. I will keep an ear to your progress.
 

bobofthenorth

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Your 'bagging' the wine sounds like an interesting endeavor, it makes a lot of sense being on the water in a boat. While I have bought a couple of 'wine in a box' cartons, I haven't thought of trying this for home use.

Its really a very practical solution. It definitely lacks the "snob" appeal of a well labelled bottle but from a practical standpoint its hard to beat. I still bottle some from my "good" (ie. non-skeeter) batches but I put a lot in bags too. We use the bottles for gifting and for the rare occasion when we have company for dinner. The bags store in my cellar way more compactly than bottles. Once opened they collapse as they empty so there is no worry about leftover wine oxidizing. They always dispense the exact amount you want - how often have you had dinner, finished one bottle, wanted one more glass but thought "no, I really don't want an opened bottle left over"?

If you decide to give bags a try be advised that there is a huge price range for the bags so it pays to shop around. Mine come all the way across Canada from Nova Scotia but I buy them in bulk and get the price down to under a buck a bag, including all the shipping to get them here.
 

bobofthenorth

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What's the shelf life of the wine in bags?

I really don't know but I see no reason why it would be any different than wine in bottles. I've had long discussions about this with my oenophile sister-in-law. She and her husband introduced us to the wine shop we used on Vancouver Island, Valley Vines to Wines. She maintains that proper aging requires air exchange across the cork. It simply don't believe that happens. If three oxygen molecules managed to cross the cork barrier annually their impact on the 750 ml of wine in the bottle would be .... nothing.

When we first started bagging wine at Valley Vines Pat was pretty skeptical - I'm sure I was her first bag customer. Over time though I know it became a more common practice for them. I used to tease her about recycling milk jugs but I never went that far. Bags just make sense.
 
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I really don't know but I see no reason why it would be any different than wine in bottles
We are talking about totally different materials. Glass is not permeable and corks (natural, agglomerated, and synthetic) are a known quantity. The material used for bags is more O2 permeable, plus there is a LOT more surface area than cork.

According to the Black Box Wines FAQ:

Does box wine have a limited shelf life even if it isn’t opened?

Yes. Black Box Wines are best within the first year. The date the wine was packaged is stamped on the bottom of the box.

A bag-in-box wine has a shorter shelf life than bottled wine because microscopic amounts of oxygen actually pass through the surface of the bag over time and age the wine. This oxidation also happens in bottled wine, but at a much slower pace. You can drink box wine after a year, but the flavors will have faded.

Our distributors and retailers should pull expired wine off the shelf. If you try a Black Box Wine that doesn’t taste right, please return it to the retailer and alert us through our contact page.



Numerous other commercial sources, including Wine Spectator, say to use box wines within a year of manufacture.

None of the bag-in-box vendors I found stated the lifespan of unopened wine, but did state an open box is good for 4 to 6 weeks, especially if refrigerated. This indicates the wine is likely bagged with no air or an inert gas, and breaking the seal introduces some air, so the seal is not as good as many claim. Given this, I question how long a home-filled bag is good for.
 
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Numerous other commercial sources, including Wine Spectator, say to use box wines within a year of manufacture.
I'm finding the same thing, Bryan. The Bibs or plastic bags, while BPA free are safe for a long time (definitely over a year), however the oxidation that occurs with the Bibs will impact the wine slowly, with a drop off in quality past the 8 month mark (Wine Folly) or a year (Wine Spectator).

I have learned through this discussion to look on a box to find if there is any type of release date/use by date before I purchase one. And on the other hand, if I find a use case for drinking multiple bottles at a function (party/wedding/etc), perhaps it makes sense to purchase a few bibs and a box, fill them up, save my bottles (easier at home than finding and saving them later), and use the box method for pours. Maybe even package up a quick drinking summertime 'fun' wine (6 months or less). Something to ponder on.
 
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And on the other hand, if I find a use case for drinking multiple bottles at a function (party/wedding/etc), perhaps it makes sense to purchase a few bibs and a box, fill them up, save my bottles (easier at home than finding and saving them later), and use the box method for pours.
That seems to be the safest use for bibs. I don't generally buy box wines, but after this research, I will certainly read the "sell by" date before buying one.

One of my mentors bottled everything in gallon jugs. The first time in his cellar, I did not immediately realize that the walls of the hallway I walked through was made up of 4 count boxes of US gallon jugs. He had more wine in his cellar than most wine stores, and that's not an exaggeration. If was mind boggling.

When he needed wine, he decant a gallon into five 750's or four quarts.
 

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