Why is my wine 'thin'?

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three_jeeps

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Been making red wine for a number of years from both grapes and juice buckets, primarily Merlot or cabs. The results from the juice buckets and more drinkable than the grapes. However, both approaches produce wine that is ‘thin.’ By that I mean the color is not as deep as Merlot or cabs from the wine store (e.g. Sterling, Kendal Jackson, etc.). In addition, the bouquet is hard to detect and the feel in the mouth is ‘thin’….my spouse joking says it is like drinking grape juice. It does have a reasonable alcohol content – about 11-12%.

I do use a ph meter and titration kit to adjust the acid when necessary, but for juice buckets hardly ever need to do any adjustment. The last couple of batches with a cab and Merlot were improved with MLF with a smoother feel in the mouth, but overall the result is still ‘thin.’ I do use medium French oak and rack 2 sometimes 3 times over the course of a year before bottling. Sitting in a carboy and racking is my approach to clarifying the wine – which seem to work well. I don’t use any sulfites in the process.

I am not sure what to change to make the wine more full-bodied….Am considering a different varietal such as zinfindal or Malbec (not fond of Malbec because to me, they are harsh in the mouth).

Any suggestions to improve the result are appreciated.
Just as a clarification, I am primarly interested in how to better the product from buckets. My results from starting with grapes are bad/largely undrinkable, but that is another discussion...
Thanks
 
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Johnd

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With juice buckets, it's not surprising to find that the wine is a bit less colorful and / or full bodied, as you aren't getting the benefits of contact with the grape skins and pulp.

You should be able to achieve better results with wine from grapes. The extent to which you achieve the extraction of the color and body compounds from the grapes depends upon a lot of factors. Quality of the grapes, yeast selection, cold soaking prior to fermentation, clear juice removal just after crushing (saignee), fermentation tannins, fermentation enzymes, use of Opt-red, fermentation temperatures, length of time on the skins during fermentation, pressing vigor, decisions about whether or not to mix free run and press run juice, having enough tannin in the finished wine to maintain color binding, just to name a few.
 

NorCal

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Merlot is a pretty light varietal to start with, but getting that fullness and flavor in the wine IS the biggest difference between a homemade wine and a good commercial wine, in my opinion. There are a number of things you can practically due, many of which are discussed on this thread.

I think the biggest opportunity with Merlot is to add 2-5% Petit Verdot, but that becomes a style and taste profile decision. I have a carboy of exactly that from the left overs from the 2019 barrel. I like it so much that I’m planning on doing a 60 gallon Merlot blend barrel this year.
 

cmason1957

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You may want to add some extra tannins, either finishing or cellaring tannins, morewinemaking (as well a other places) sell adjuncts to help with that fullness. Those may also provide some of the darkness. Another thing you may consider is vegetable glycerin, be careful with this one as it can add a sweetness to your wines as well. A little goes a long way.
 

Rice_Guy

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add viscosity building ingredients. Glycerin as Craig mentioned or gum arabic. Gums also stabilize color.
 

Ignoble Grape

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For grapes:

Consider experimenting with whole-berry fermentation (semi-carbonic) to add complexity. This produces different flavors of the wine and when you do the punch-down it will break open the skins and slowly release additional fructose, extending the primary fermentation by a few days, and give the wine more time on the skins. Agree with @Johnd do a cold soak before adding yeast. Freeze some 2 liter soda bottles and throw them in your primary, rotate them out to keep the temperature cooler and inhibit fermentation for a few days.

I'm thinking about adding stems back into the must to add additional body, but evidently (others can correct me here cuz I haven't actually done it yet) I need to be careful that they're fully ripe or it could add green flavors.

Probably the easiest thing to do would be to blend - as mentioned by @NorCal . Merlot is helped tremendously by a little Cabernet, Petite Verdot, or Cab Franc. Pick one or several, and experiment. The different grape varietals all produce different body structures and will round out that mouthfeel. Cabernet is helped by Merlot, Petite Verdot and Cab Franc. Et voila! The classic and traditional Bordeaux blend. It's tried and true.

Glycerine works, but I can taste it in the wine - others can't.
 

sdibley

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11-12% seems a little low for cab/merlot, alcohol and residual sugar are important factors contributing to "body" mouthfeel, also more alcohol might help with aromas becoming more volatile. As for color it's all about skin contact. What goes wrong when you start from grapes?
 

NorCal

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11-12% seems a little low for cab/merlot, alcohol and residual sugar are important factors contributing to "body" mouthfeel, also more alcohol might help with aromas becoming more volatile. As for color it's all about skin contact. What goes wrong when you start from grapes?
Good point. Alcohol is a good solvent that extracts the color from the skins and the lower that is the lighter the color will be. 20 brix is closer to a Rose target brix than a red, if you can get closer to 25 you will also get more full flavors.
 

Steve Wargo

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I've not had thin results as yet with my bucket wine. Though I don't touch it for 6 months or longer after making it, and add 2 lbs of crushed grape skins during fermentation, or Zante's raisins. I do notice that store-bought wine stains my teeth. I think it's the color additives that they use. I use Oak wood chips, but even with wines that I don't use wood chips, I've not had a thin feel to it after 6 months of age. Oh yea, I add table sugar to my grape juice during fermentation to kick up the ABV. I haven't had too, but some people use Add-ins that are supposed to increase mouthfeel like Glycerin, Gum of Arabic. For Coloring I think they use some Red Coloring agent made for wine. That's it
 

BernardSmith

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Some yeasts are known to be high glycerol producers and those yeasts will add greater viscosity to your wines resulting in better mouthfeel. What yeast do you tend to use?
 
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