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What was your biggest 'ah ha moment' to help you make better wine?

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David Lewis

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I've only been making wine from grapes for three years now. Each year it gets progressively better and each year I learn a ton on what to do and what not to do. I am a huge lurker on this site. I love to read but rarely reach out for help. It wasn't until this past while that I asked for some help from this site that I realized that I was missing a lot from my knowledge base. Everything that I was doing in the beginning was good(ish). In general everything that I was doing was by the MoreWine book of doing things. But I guess I only read the first couple chapters and never learned to properly take care of my wine after the press and after moving the wine off the gross lees. I had no way to test for MLF completion and had no idea of SO2 management. For me, this was my 'ah ha moment' and I am hoping to cure those problems this year and make a good wine (or at least something my wife likes).

With that being said... What was the lesson that you learned that helped you get to the next level?
 

Johnd

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I've only been making wine from grapes for three years now. Each year it gets progressively better and each year I learn a ton on what to do and what not to do. I am a huge lurker on this site. I love to read but rarely reach out for help. It wasn't until this past while that I asked for some help from this site that I realized that I was missing a lot from my knowledge base. Everything that I was doing in the beginning was good(ish). In general everything that I was doing was by the MoreWine book of doing things. But I guess I only read the first couple chapters and never learned to properly take care of my wine after the press and after moving the wine off the gross lees. I had no way to test for MLF completion and had no idea of SO2 management. For me, this was my 'ah ha moment' and I am hoping to cure those problems this year and make a good wine (or at least something my wife likes).

With that being said... What was the lesson that you learned that helped you get to the next level?
Three things.
First was when I found this site, caused growth by leaps and bounds.

Second was barrel aging in real wood barrels, big developmental changes in my wine.

Third was moving from kits to grapes (fresh and frozen).
 

Rice_Guy

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* assuming that sulphite was zero at every transfer and dosing appropriately
* judging wine, judge training, comparing my tastes with the neighbors
. . helps seeing defects I have not produced
. . more experienced judges suggested fixes
. . different people have different sensitivity
* sampling as many different wines as I can
. . helps to be part of a Vinters club

this is a good topic, I hope it stays active for years
 

CDrew

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Year 4 here. It seems like I learn something every time. But like the rest of life, the mistakes you make are the best lessons.

-Enzymes pre-ferment will improve your wine more than any other single thing I have found.
-Better grapes make better wine. Get the best quality you can.
-It is easy to overdo Oak.
-Testing of pH, TA and SO2 is fun, and you can really feel in control of your wine's destiny.
 

Juniper Hill

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These have made a big difference for me:
Oak barrels - mine are neutral now, but have a huge impact on softening red wines
Susse reserve method - if back sweetening a white wine add unfermented must
Sourcing the best grapes that I am able
Testing brix, pH and TA and making corrections preferment if needed
 

ibglowin

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Adding on to what John has said I have to add:

1) Knowing when to say when during the press....... More is not always better.

2) Realizing that it's a complete waste of time to try and do any type of straining or filtering during press. Its all going to come out or settle out sooner or later. Press is just step one in a long process of clarification. Don't sweat the small stuff.

Three things.
First was when I found this site, caused growth by leaps and bounds.

Second was barrel aging in real wood barrels, big developmental changes in my wine.

Third was moving from kits to grapes (fresh and frozen).
 

Chuck E

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I've only been doing this 3 years.

1. Knowing what trouble smells & tastes like
2. Learning about what different strains of yeast do
3. Using bench testing when using additives

But, really all the tips on this thread & this blog have made me a much better and more consistent wine maker.
 

mainshipfred

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Great thread! Really don't know where to start, this forum, going from kits to grapes, the AIO pump and getting the proper equipment are way up there. But I would have to say getting to know professional winemakers personally and understanding their different approaches has helped the most.
 

David Lewis

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* assuming that sulphite was zero at every transfer and dosing appropriately
* judging wine, judge training, comparing my tastes with the neighbors
. . helps seeing defects I have not produced
. . more experienced judges suggested fixes
. . different people have different sensitivity
* sampling as many different wines as I can
. . helps to be part of a Vinters club

this is a good topic, I hope it stays active for years
Interesting ideas on judging wine. I just recently started down the path of learning and understanding the tasting of wine in an effort to better understand the wine that I make. I started with this class, it is a free UC Davis course on the matter that is basic but has some good points: Wine Tasting: Sensory Techniques For Wine Analysis . Now I just need to take the time to finish this :)
 

Ajmassa

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Great thread idea.

A definite ‘ah-ha’ moment for me was learning that adding oak during the fermentation and adding oak later in aging—- ARE 2 COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THINGS! And how oak in fermentation isn’t adding any ‘oak essence’ but rather utilizing the additional tannins for better extraction of different characteristics from the grapes. (sacrificial tannins)

not only did it help my understanding of the use of oak in making wine— but really helped me to understand what’s actually taking place during fermentation ——-which helped my winemaking all around.
 

jackl

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I grow my own grapes in my micro-vineyard and my growing conditions such as weather, soil, and location are far from ideal. I record each years harvest to include weight, time of harvest, spraying regime, pH and Brix. I’m amazed at how the grapes change from year to year and have learned how to improve the quality and consistency through vineyard management. I also have a better understanding of how I need to adjust my wine making process to compensate for the differences in the grapes.

Also, with all of the science and sanitization behind wine making, I marvel at how my grandfathers who came directly from Italy were able to make good wine following a basic process.
 

David Lewis

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I grow my own grapes in my micro-vineyard and my growing conditions such as weather, soil, and location are far from ideal. I record each years harvest to include weight, time of harvest, spraying regime, pH and Brix. I’m amazed at how the grapes change from year to year and have learned how to improve the quality and consistency through vineyard management. I also have a better understanding of how I need to adjust my wine making process to compensate for the differences in the grapes.

Also, with all of the science and sanitization behind wine making, I marvel at how my grandfathers who came directly from Italy were able to make good wine following a basic process.
My hat is off to you. I have brown thumb and am a pretty ok wine maker. If possible i would like to at least be a good wine maker that doesn't kill everything I touch.
 

David Lewis

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Year 4 here. It seems like I learn something every time. But like the rest of life, the mistakes you make are the best lessons.

-Enzymes pre-ferment will improve your wine more than any other single thing I have found.
-Better grapes make better wine. Get the best quality you can.
-It is easy to overdo Oak.
-Testing of pH, TA and SO2 is fun, and you can really feel in control of your wine's destiny.
CDrew,
I would never have imagined that it was only year 4 for you. I have seen a lot of posts/comment from you and would have guessed that you had been doing this for so much longer.

And I agree, our mistakes are our best lessons. I just re-bottled my wine that was pressed 2 years ago and am naming it '2 Many Wrong Mistakes'.... I keep blundering this batch and keep finding ways to cure my mistakes. And then I find a new way to blunder it. I finally got it (thanks polyclar and these forums) to the state of drinkable and then bottled it. Only after bottling it did I realize that it was a little flabby and could have used some acid. I took the left over, added some acid and the realized that it was actually pretty darn OK. Of course I realized this after bottling it for the second time. With each mistake I learned a little more. I just hope I'm not the type of person to keep repeating my mistakes :)
 

NorCal

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I can‘t say that there was any one moment, rather a collection of learnings, each having an incremental improvement in my wine making ability. Not a year has gone by that I didn’t learn something that made my wine better. Most of which I’ve discussed on this the commercial vs. homemade thread.
The best home made wine I’ve had or tasted as a judge were from winemakers who continually improved their wine. Most were not satisfied with their wines, even though the wines were excellent.
 

G259

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My hat is off to you. I have brown thumb and am a pretty ok wine maker. If possible i would like to at least be a good wine maker that doesn't kill everything I touch.
I also tell everyone that I have a 'brown thumb', but isn't acceptance the fist part of being free?(!)
 

David Lewis

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I can‘t say that there was any one moment, rather a collection of learnings, each having an incremental improvement in my wine making ability. Not a year has gone by that I didn’t learn something that made my wine better. Most of which I’ve discussed on this the commercial vs. homemade thread.
The best home made wine I’ve had or tasted as a judge were from winemakers who continually improved their wine. Most were not satisfied with their wines, even though the wines were excellent.
Yep. I have to admit that thread you have is one of those that i check daily for updates. Some great info!! I feel that the wines that you are making may be comparable to some cab francs that are in the $30-$40 price range. For my wines they may have reached the 10-12 price range (that may be generous). I am eager to be in your spot where you are looking to take a really good wine to a great wine. :)
 

Mac60

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Well I have been making wine for 20+ years, learning from friends of old school wine makers, who's thought process was just get grapes, crush them and let the natural process work. "I don't add shit to my wine" was the mantra. The problem I had was most of their wine tasted like shit and I wanted more. So I read and experimented with putting "Shit" in my wine. I made incremental improvements, but it wasn't until the last 4 years I made exponential progress on the quality and taste of the wine we produce. I believe it was the feed back and knowledge I gained from reading post and getting responses that I have posted on the forum that have made the most difference in the quality of wine we currently produce. This year I believe will be one of the best vintages we have produced. This has been the case for the last 4 seasons.
Thanks to everyone who has replied to my post and give me insight and advice.
Mike
Cosa Nostra CellarsCosaNostra3.jpg
 

sour_grapes

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Well I have been making wine for 20+ years, learning from friends of old school wine makers, who's thought process was just get grapes, crush them and let the natural process work. "I don't add shit to my wine" was the mantra. The problem I had was most of their wine tasted like shit and I wanted more. So I read and experimented with putting "Shit" in my wine. I made incremental improvements, but it wasn't until the last 4 years I made exponential progress on the quality and taste of the wine we produce. I believe it was the feed back and knowledge I gained from reading post and getting responses that I have posted on the forum that have made the most difference in the quality of wine we currently produce. This year I believe will be one of the best vintages we have produced. This has been the case for the last 4 seasons.
Thanks to everyone who has replied to my post and give me insight and advice.
Mike
Cosa Nostra CellarsView attachment 67311
I was reading your post, but in my peripheral vision I could see the triskelion device at the top of your picture. While I was trying to read your text, my distracted brain wondered whether this was from the Isle of Man or from Sicily. Then I got done reading your text, and saw that the heading of your picture was "Casa Nostra." Of course, :slp. It would have to be Sicily on a winemaking forum, no? I was an idiot for not knowing before then. (To be fair to me, I was reading text while this thought process was happening! :) )
 

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