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.
 
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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.
 

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.
 

FXibley

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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
 

MHSKIBUM

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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
My big revelation came when a friend who previously worked as an exec at a wine kit company said my low priced kit didn't contain enough juice — 8 litres. All the top kits contain 12-18 litres of juice concentrate. I shorted the water from the 23 litres the packaging recommended to 19 litres. What a difference in depth and mouth feel. From there, I've improved the wine's smoothness and complexity with grape skins, 8 months of bulk aging, and just plain aging at least a year. I tried adding other stuff - tannins, glycerine, etc. without any clear indications they improved the wine.
By the way, the top kits (I've only tried the RJS En Primeur and RJS RQ series) are marvellous and full bodied when you follow the instructions exactly. Neither kit has aged enough but the samplings I've had at three months and six months tell me that in another year or two I'll have exceptional quality wine that matches the best $20-25 commercial wines.
 

three_jeeps

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My big revelation came when a friend who previously worked as an exec at a wine kit company said my low priced kit didn't contain enough juice — 8 litres. All the top kits contain 12-18 litres of juice concentrate. I shorted the water from the 23 litres the packaging recommended to 19 litres. What a difference in depth and mouth feel. From there, I've improved the wine's smoothness and complexity with grape skins, 8 months of bulk aging, and just plain aging at least a year. I tried adding other stuff - tannins, glycerine, etc. without any clear indications they improved the wine.
By the way, the top kits (I've only tried the RJS En Primeur and RJS RQ series) are marvellous and full bodied when you follow the instructions exactly. Neither kit has aged enough but the samplings I've had at three months and six months tell me that in another year or two I'll have exceptional quality wine that matches the best $20-25 commercial wines.

thanks for the reply. Sorry but I am a bit confused by your posting. Specifically, for the RJS En Primeur and RO series, are you saying one should reduce the water to 19 liters from 23, OR, are you saying to follow the instructions in these kits exactly?

Also, I don't quite get 'my low priced kits dont contain enough juice' Are your producing kits? name?
Thanks
J
 

crushday

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Actually, @MHSKIBUM ’s post is a complete departure from your original post. Both @Johnd and @NorCal are on point. Something doesn’t seem right to me having traversed from kits to grapes. There’s absolutely no meaningful comparison to wine made from grapes and wine made with kits. Kit wine is actually enjoyable and I assume that juice buckets are a step up from kits. But admittedly I’ve never made wine from a juice bucket. However, wine made with grapes resides in a completely different universe. If you’re only getting a AVB of 11-12% I would begin to wonder about the quality of your starting medium as that seems woefully low IMO. And, you report that your wine made from grapes is undrinkable. Maybe it’s your process?

Although not inexpensive, you should check out getting a pail or two shipped from winegrapesdirect.com. The Crews brothers have a great thing going and the wine produced is on par with any commercial wine you can buy for $50+ a bottle.
 

joeswine

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The fact is if you bucket juice has been diluted down or has poor structure to start with there's ,I would refer you to ( Tweaking cheap wine kits) and look there for improvements.
Base juice with poor structure are hard to correct.
 
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I assume that juice buckets are a step up from kits
Juice buckets are exactly what the name implies -- grape juice. Since there is no concentrate, it's a step up from kits. My understanding is that some have been balance, others maybe not.

For white wines? It's juice, so I'd expect essentially the same result as from fresh juice. Reds? As @Johnd said, without the skin contact during fermentation, the color, aroma, and taste extraction will be lesser.

@three_jeeps, the advice provided so far has been good, although there's a lot of it and it's probably confusing. I'm paring that down to my top 5 items that you can do to improve quality.

1) Investigate other vendors. Quality of the juice is critical. A lot of folks on this forum have had repeat success with winegrapesdirect.com, so I feel safe in recommending it. Frozen juice buckets are another option.

2) Purchase a skin pack for each bucket. As previously noted, without extended skin contact during fermentation, you're not getting everything you could. Skin packs are a step in the right direction.

3) Enzymes. In 2020 I used Scottzyme Color Pro on my reds, and got amazing results. Color and body are night-n-day between those wines and the previous year. A lot of folks like OptiRed and other enzymes, so there is a wide choice. Start another thread asking about enzymes for red juice buckets -- you'll get feedback. Note that use of enzymes must be used with a skin pack to get a result, as the enzymes work on the pulp & skins.

4) Fermentation oak. Add 8 oz shredded oak before fermentation starts. This adds body and helps with color stability.

5) Aging oak. Adding 1 or 2 oz toasted oak cubes during bulk aging (3 to 5 month duration) will add complexity.
 

MHSKIBUM

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In answer to Three_Jeeps: re brand of cheap wine kits. I've (blush) been buying my kits from Costco — $105 Cdn for Argentia Ridge 60 bottle kits and $99 Cdn for similar bottle promise from Cellar Master. By the way, these kits often go on sale for $20 off.
I short the water to 50 bottles, give or take, and the result has been a drinkable every day wine that I believe competes with most wines in the $10-$12 Cdn range at local wine stores. When I add grape skins and extend the time on the lees for an extra two weeks, I can up that to perhaps $12-$13 wine.
That said, after I held a tasting for my neighbours four of them are now getting me to help them get into winemaking. They say the wines I make from these kits are equivalent to $15-$18 commercial bottles.
When I spend my hard-earn bucks on a commercial bottle of wine I am very picky so perhaps my store picks are better than theirs.
I've been thinking about making wine from bucket juice but after conversing with folks in my city who buy juice buckets, I'm slowing that down until I learn more. The consensus is that there's a big, big difference in what you get from brand to brand. The cheaper buckets will make wine that's no better than the cheapest kits and there's no shorting the water. The more expensive buckets are better but you have to choose wisely.
 
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MHSKIBUM

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thanks for the reply. Sorry but I am a bit confused by your posting. Specifically, for the RJS En Primeur and RO series, are you saying one should reduce the water to 19 liters from 23, OR, are you saying to follow the instructions in these kits exactly?

Also, I don't quite get 'my low priced kits dont contain enough juice' Are your producing kits? name?
Thanks
J
Sorry for the confusion. Do not reduce water for En Primeur or RQ kits. That's only for cheap kits.
 

joeswine

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Not really its all about structure and ABV.
GOOD QUAILIY KITS CAN AT TIMES REQUIRE TWEAKING.
Cheaper kits are for beginners and the adventurous of us.
To each his or her own.
 
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