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

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Jay204

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I was considering trying saignee this year and backed out of it. For those that have are using this method, have the results been worth it?
I found that by taking 15-25% of the juice off I got a more complex, fuller boded, deeper coloured red. I will always saignee with any red going forward (unless I don't want those characteristics). My wines seemed thin prior to saignee

As @CDrew mentioned, an added bonus is the rose you can make from it. It gives you another type of wine that is ready to drink early.
 

mainshipfred

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Just finished adding the MLB and remembered 2 ah ha moments by two members.
Since I do sequential inoculation I wait until all the wines finish AF and inoculate them at the same time. I used to measure each carboy individually for the amount of bacteria and Acti-ML. I believe it was @Johnd who recommended mixing the entire packet with the Acti-ML then use a syringe to place the proper amount in each carboy which saves a lot of time and I believe a more accurate approach.
The second came from @Ajmassa. After adding the bacteria I fill the carboys to the max making it hard to stir. AJ's recommendation was to use a racking cane to stir. Since the cane is hollow it takes up very little space.
 

winemaker81

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I re-read the thread -- although there is not much detailed explanation, there is a wealth of ideas for the new, and maybe not so new, wine maker. Reading through everyone's ah-ha moments provides ideas for learning and research.

A couple more moments for me:

1. The different between fresh fruit and concentrates. I started out with fresh non-grape fruit, migrated to fresh grapes, and much later migrated to kits when I didn't have a good source for grapes. When I found a source last year (after 20 years), I re-learned a LOT of things.

2. Barrels. I made my first wine in 1981 (that's where the "81" in my ID comes from) but didn't own a barrel until a year ago. That dramatically changed my perceptions. Granted, not everyone has the space to handle a barrel, and it's not for everyone. However, if it's possible, I recommend it.
 

David Lewis

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I re-read the thread -- although there is not much detailed explanation, there is a wealth of ideas for the new, and maybe not so new, wine maker. Reading through everyone's ah-ha moments provides ideas for learning and research.

A couple more moments for me:

1. The different between fresh fruit and concentrates. I started out with fresh non-grape fruit, migrated to fresh grapes, and much later migrated to kits when I didn't have a good source for grapes. When I found a source last year (after 20 years), I re-learned a LOT of things.

2. Barrels. I made my first wine in 1981 (that's where the "81" in my ID comes from) but didn't own a barrel until a year ago. That dramatically changed my perceptions. Granted, not everyone has the space to handle a barrel, and it's not for everyone. However, if it's possible, I recommend it.
One of these days I will make a wine that is worthy enough for a barrel!!

On a side note, I do some fruit wines and cider and I feel that these wines have gotten much better as a result of some of the lessons that I am learning from some of my bad (or not so great) wines. The plum wine that I made for my father-in-law actually turned out good enough to slap a nice label on it and proudly share it with friends. And I have been asked if I ever plan to cell any of my cider. If I can get people asking that about my wines, then I will be a very happy camper. Each year gets better as I learn more from all of you.. Maybe this year is it, maybe next :)
 
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winemaker81

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@David Lewis, remember that good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment. ;)

Another important lesson is that not all wines are going to turn out great. Yes, we want them to ... but things don't always go our way, regardless of what we do. So we figure out how to make the best of the situation.

Last year's Malbec has an aftertaste that I can't identify, it's harsh. My solution was to back sweeten with cherry juice -- I'm still not terribly fond of it, but everyone else likes it. I call it a win!
 
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The single biggest “aha” for me was learning how to use inert gas to manage head space.

Edit to clarify: Not so much managing headspace as using gas to purge (sparge?) container prior to racking in order to exclude O2.

The result was that when other people drank it their reaction went from a polite "It's pretty good" to "You made this?!!"
 
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purpletongue

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This is a great thread question. I'm a newb to the art and only have about a year or so. But what I feel stands out so far...

1) Slow down and enjoy the process and journey. I often find myself frustrated or sore at times dealing with all the carboys, cleaning and sanitizing. Slow down. Listen to music and enjoy the process. Try to organize your time so you don't have to rack multiple carboys in one night or else.

2) Take detailed notes. Make a tasting journal to develop you palette.

3) Don't sweat the small stuff. On disappointment, drink and appreciate the not so special wine with the same reverence you drink the the exceptional wine. One may argue it's not possible and that's the point of the art, but one can argue it's a good exercise to develop a positive attitude toward your art. I just cracked a cheap table bottle of Greek wine I bought. I was really disappointed with the first glass. Now that it's breathed a bit in the decanter, the next glass is so much nicer. Thus, always be positive. I suspect the grapes and especially the yeast hate negativity.
 

purpletongue

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The single biggest “aha” for me was learning how to use inert gas to manage head space.
Head space does annoy me as a newcomer. Haven't used any inert gas yet. But do find that significant brain energy is spent on working out volumes for different containers when racking down.
 

Rice_Guy

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two years ago I made a really out of balance mulberry, ,, since then I have designed TA to fit the sweetness I like on finished wine.CC431117-10DF-46D1-A0EF-F68DC9ACFA7A.jpeg
commercial sodas, teas, juice boxes, cider, etc also will produce a sloped line, but shifted to the left. ,,, a guess is that 10 to 14% alcohol has an innate sweetness ,,, wines from others, are in this data set
 
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winemaker81

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Now that it's breathed a bit in the decanter, the next glass is so much nicer.
Excellent point!

Decanting can make a huge difference in the wine. But if you're not going to finish the bottle, use an aerator. I have this one, but any brand works.

A while back I poured 2 glasses of wine for a friend, asking which she liked better. Both glasses were the same wine, one aerated and one not. She tasted them both and told me her decision -- she much preferred the aerated one. At first she didn't believe they were the same wine -- the aerated one was so much better.

Not all wines are that much improved by aeration, but I notice that older reds are.

If we have guests for dinner, I'll decant a bottle an hour ahead of time, otherwise I use the aerator.
 

purpletongue

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The single biggest “aha” for me was learning how to use inert gas to manage head space.

Edit to clarify: Not so much managing headspace as using gas to purge (sparge?) container prior to racking in order to exclude O2.

The result was that when other people drank it their reaction went from a polite "It's pretty good" to "You made this?!!"
Interesting that avoiding that seemingly negligible amount of O2 has made such a difference for you. B/c as I'm sure you know, some oxygen isn't a bad thing as long as it doesn't cause excessive oxygenation sequel to spoilage.
 

purpletongue

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Excellent point!

Decanting can make a huge difference in the wine. But if you're not going to finish the bottle, use an aerator. I have this one, but any brand works.

A while back I poured 2 glasses of wine for a friend, asking which she liked better. Both glasses were the same wine, one aerated and one not. She tasted them both and told me her decision -- she much preferred the aerated one. At first she didn't believe they were the same wine -- the aerated one was so much better.

Not all wines are that much improved by aeration, but I notice that older reds are.

If we have guests for dinner, I'll decant a bottle an hour ahead of time, otherwise I use the aerator.
Agree, it's very fascinating the role oxygen plays in both the creation and the serving / consumption aspect of wine.
 

purpletongue

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two years ago I made a really out of balance mulberry, ,, since then I have designed TA to fit the sweetness I like on finished wine.View attachment 68474
commercial sodas, teas, juice boxes, cider, etc also will produce a sloped line, but shifted to the left. ,,, a guess is that 10 to 14% alcohol has an innate sweetness ,,, wines from others, are in this data set
This is an interesting graph. I think it deserves a new thread. I'd like to hear you explain your thought process and what the data means to you.
 

Rice_Guy

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This is an interesting graph. I think it deserves a new thread. I'd like to hear you explain your thought process and what the data means to you.
To me the data set means,
If I am formulating a mixed berry juice or a bottle of tea or a natural soda with high consumer acceptance, I should aim for the line.
If I am formulating a kids beverage as high C I should stay in the area called sweet.
YES there are exceptions to every rule which can maintain grocery store shelf space that are off the line but then I have to also figure out where the balance is (ex long flavor notes and high acid in cranberry juice)
Wine is a food product and has traits that follow grocery store products (in this culture/ market)
 

purpletongue

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FYI- as long as you have CO2 build up in the headspace you have a protective gas.
Yes, you're right, during primary and secondary it isn't so much a problem dealing with headspace because the must is producing c02. In primary lots of headspace is fine. Secondary, well it's sort of up to the neck. But once it's not producing c02, then it's gotta be no headspace at all and 02 becomes a real enemy. And that's where racking down and topping up etc... is sort of annoying. But perhaps as I gain more experience the flows between the vintages will prove easier.
 
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