Wine Kit - clearing & aging?

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Brant

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Before someone smokes me for not doing more research, I've already spent hours reading through previous posts. I'm not completely new to forums and totally understand that people get upset when newbies don't use the search button. Trust me, I totally understand. Please have some mercy on me.

That being said, I'm struggling a little bit with my first batch of wine (from a kit) and I'm hopeful that someone on here with a lot more knowledge is willing to share some of it with me.

The wine kit is Master Vintner Winemaker's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon - it's a 6 gallon kit. I bought it off Amazon. So far I've followed the kit instructions as close as possible.

I degassed the heck out of it after racking. Added K-Meta, 2 part K-C (for clearing), and K-Sorb. I'm in the clearing stage right now and it's been approximately 7 to 8 days and it has not cleared up. I added a second dose of K-C (Super-Kleer brand) last night in hopes that it would help speed things up. According to the instructions, the wine should be clear and ready to bottle by now. It has been stored at 64F to 66F.

First question: I think I'm going to wait and bottle until right after Christmas. This will give it more time to settle out and "age" in the carboy. Is this OK to do or ill advised?

Second question: Should I give the wine another dose of K-Meta (potassium metabisulfite) right before I bottle it? I read about people dosing with K-meta every couple months during aging in a carboy or barrel. I don't know how relevant this is to a wine that is only sitting for 5 weeks before bottling. I don't own all the fancy equipment to test PH and SO2 so I understand that I'm looking for a "rule of thumb" answer and not the exact science answer. I just want to make sure my wine doesn't spoil prematurely but I don't want to jack up the quality by being excessively cautious.

Third question: I also have no idea how long these kit wines last in the bottle before they turn to vinegar. Any insight on this???

Thanks in advance for any advice/help you graciously provide. This may be my first time making wine but I hope it isn't my last. I'm a hands-on type of person and I love building and making stuff (like brewing kombucha). I think the wine thing is right up my alley.

-Brant
 
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Welcome to WMT!

First -- relax! Winemaking is a patience game. Kits set an expectation of quick results -- to be fair it works -- but patience is still your best friend. Your wine is probably fine -- it's a natural process and does not always work as you expect. Post a picture of the wine.

What is the specific gravity (SG)? You added sorbate, so if the ferment wasn't quite done, it might have been slow enough that the sorbate prevented it from continuing. [Sorbate does NOT stop a fermentation, it prevents a renewed fermentation by preventing the yeast from reproducing.] But it may help us to know the SG. Use 3 significant digits to the right of the decimal, e.g., 1.020 instead of 1.02.

You'll find the general recommendation on this forum is to NOT bottle kits on the vendor's schedule. At this time I bottle kits after 5-6 months of bulk aging, and have 6 kits that will go into barrels for a year. After fermentation, treat all timeframes as minimum values, e.g., "2 weeks" should be treated as "at least 2 weeks".

There are usually more than one reasonable answer to any winemaking question. Regarding K-meta additions? Some folks test the pH and carefully calculate how much K-meta to add. I'm on the other end of the spectrum -- add 1/4 tsp K-meta per 5-6 gallons at each racking after fermentation, and at bottling time.

Your first batch will be good for 3 to 9 months. That's not when the wine goes bad -- it's when you finish the last bottle. For most beginners, that first batch seems to evaporate right out of the bottle! ;)

A good quality red kit should have at least 5 years of shelf life, probably longer. Good hygiene during the winemaking process and proper dosing with K-meta help ensure that.
 
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Welcome, Brant
What @winemaker81 said. I only use the Hydrometer and thermometer to track fermentation progress. I have a pH tester but rarely use it. With kits that adjustment is already done by the maker and I would be reluctant to try any further adjustment no mater what my tester is telling me.

And yes patience, patience, patience. I bottled my first batch too soon and it had way too much sediment. It tasted fine but I don't like the floaties.

Good luck with your first!
 

salcoco

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raise the ambient temp to about 70deg f or greater the wine should clear then. I follow the 1/4 tsp per five gallon schedule at least every three months. kit wine can last 5 years of more properly stored.
 

Brant

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Awesome! Thank you all very much for the help/info. I've been telling myself that I need to have patience but I also figured the instructions on the kit were not open to interpretation. I'm starting to realize that this is far from an exact science.

I stopped the ferment at 0.990 sg. The fermentation (bubbling) had appeared to stop a day or two before that final reading. I had temps around 73F throughout fermentation so I think it finished a day or two ahead of the kits recommended schedule. I'm out of town but will post a pic later this week or weekend.

Based on what you guys are saying, I will probably wait even longer to bottle. I had kinda hoped to bottle to clear space for a new batch of something that I could bulk age and wait to bottle after we burned through the first batch.

Bryan (winemaker81) or salcoco, can you give me a quick rundown on how you recommend that I bulk age in a carboy? Do I leave under airlock for (X) weeks and then move to a rubber stopper for remaining? Do I leave it in the same carboy for entire time or rack to a new carboy on a set schedule? I read some about people bulk aging homemade wines but haven't see a clear suggestion on how to age a kit. Also, if I'm racking on a set schedule during the bulk aging, how do you recommend adding K-meta and not introducing a bunch of air in the process? It obvisouly needs to be mixed/stirred in when it is added, right? Should I add it to the clear carboy before racking and let the racking process do the mixing for me? Or is the air concern a non-issue?

Thank you all for being my training wheels on this. Hopefully I can learn up and help someone else someday.

-Brant
 

salcoco

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as it sis a red wine I would rack every three months add k-meta at the 1/4 tsp [per 5 gallon dosage. use a airlock through out the aging do taste test seems fine bottle. no air problem when dissolving k-meta . can add powder directly and stir or take a sample of wine dissolve powder in sample and add then stir. you can bulk age up to a year if desired. it will also age in the bottle.
 
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I'm starting to realize that this is far from an exact science.
Winemaking is an art. We apply as much science as we can, but it's a group of natural processes we can strongly influence, but never fully control.

I find it best to view winemaking from a POV similar to Ian Malcolm, not John Hammond. Of course, wine won't eat you, so winemaking is much safer than Jurassic Park. At least until someone crosses Cabernet Sauvignon with a T Rex ...

Based on what you guys are saying, I will probably wait even longer to bottle. I had kinda hoped to bottle to clear space for a new batch of something that I could bulk age and wait to bottle after we burned through the first batch.
Buy more carboys! :p

Our membership runs the breadth of winemaking. Some folks make 1 gallon a year, as that is all they want and/or need. Others produce the 200 gallons that US Federal law allows for head of household for personal use. [no clue what other countries allow, if there is even a limit.] Plus everything in between.

You'll find that uncontrolled, carboys will multiply like rabbits -- thankfully they don't multiply like tribbles.

Figure out what you want, what you need, and what reality will allow you to have. Keep in mind that once the wine is bottled, you have to store those bottles. You also need to acquire empties before bottling ...

Bryan (winemaker81) or salcoco, can you give me a quick rundown on how you recommend that I bulk age in a carboy?
I do pretty much what @salcoco does, although I've tweaked my process in the last couple of years.

I don't use solid bungs in carboys, as bungs do not allow for pressure changes due to air pressure and/or temperature. During early stages I use airlocks, and during bulk aging I've switched to silicon vented bungs. If well seated, they allow excess gas to escape, allow nothing in, and do not need checking the way airlocks do -- airlocks can evaporate, which is bad. Check your airlocks weekly.

Another change is that I only rack if the wine needs it, e.g., it has a buildup of gross lees (fruit solids). If it's just fine lees (yeast residue) I do not rack, but I do add K-meta every 3 months. Withdraw wine with a thief, add K-meta, gently stir with a drill mounted stirring rod, and replace the extracted wine.

Regarding O2 damage -- oxidation is a factor of wine volume vs. air volume vs. time. Oxidation does not typically occur quickly. A large volume of wine with a relatively small headspace will take a lot longer to oxidize than a small volume of wine with a large head space. While it's generally a good idea to limit the number of rackings, it's necessary to perform some (number depends on each wine's specifics), so don't sweat it.

Regular dosing with K-meta protects the wine. SO2 binds with contaminants, including O2, rendering them harmless. This is why we have to add K-meta periodically -- it gets used up.
 

Brant

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Bryan, you're funny, knowledgeable and very helpful... I truly appreciate the replies! Thank you so much!!!

I've already started to dream of additional carboys but I have two obstacles that are currently causing me pause. 1st is sufficient space. I have a decent sized wine closet that maybe has space for an extra carboy. It has built-in storage for a fair number of bottles. I also have a large pantry but that belongs to my wife. I do not have a cellar or large work area other than the garage. Our house is on slab (concrete on grade) in TX without a basement so I have little in the way of out-of-sight storage options and my wife is not keen on growing a collection of carboys in every corner of the house.

The current wine batch is clearing in my wife's walk-in closet amongst her clothes. That closet happens to be the coolest place in our house. I promised her that it wouldn't erupt and paint all her dresses red (fingers crossed). She is rightfully hesitant and typically doesn't fully buy into my hair brained ideas until they produce fruit... in this case wine. We are both wine drinkers and I hope that this first batch turns out amazing so I can sell her on the prospect of building our lab/inventory. She is my second obstacle. If she doesn't see this as a joint venture, it's going to be tough road. I spend a lot of time away for work so I need her to do some of the "heavy lifting" while I'm gone. I tend to be a perfectionist and she is more of an efficienist (I think I just made up a word). I'm about doing it right and she is about getting the most done in a day. I don't hold this against her as she is also homeschooling our three kids.

My grandfather made wine from berries he grew from their garden and what they locally sourced or hand picked. Gooseberry & chokecherry are a few I recall. This was in North Dakota. He was quite old and I was still pretty young when he died so I never was able to glean anything from him. Part of my desire to do this is to pick up on something that he enjoyed and, to my knowledge, nobody else ever picked up in the family. I don't remember his wine tasting good but I doubt very much that most 9 yo think wine tastes good anyway. So right now I'm starting with a kit and time will tell where I end up.
 

sour_grapes

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Welcome to WMT! I cannot add to the good advice you already have gotten!
 
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The current wine batch is clearing in my wife's walk-in closet amongst her clothes.
Do you juggle live cobras for fun?

Actually, once fermentation is done, the wine is quite stable and the likelihood of any type of problem is close to zero.

Plan your fermentations when you expect to be home for 2 weeks (assuming that happens), and kick off the ferment the day you get home. Once fermentation is complete, you can schedule around things, e.g., if you add K-meta at 3.5 month instead of 3, it's fine.

Good luck!
 

Brant

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So I guess the most important next question is... what should my next kit be? Any recommendations for a reputable red?
 
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The big question -- whattaya you and your wife want? White? Big red? Medium red? All of the preceding?

I'm very familiar with Winexpert and RJ Spagnols. In September 2020, I made 2 of the WE Reserve (10 liter) kits, an Australian Cabernet Sauvignon and Australians Chardonnay, which were served at my son's wedding reception in October 2021. Both were a big hit.

Currently I've got 9 Finer Wine Kits, distributed through labelpeelers.com, in process. Folks spoke very well of the kits they started last year, so I took a chance. So far, the results appear good. There are several threads in the Kit Wines forum regarding the FWK -- the FWK founder Matteo posts as does Matt P of LabelPeelers.

Just guessing, I recommend making a quicker drinker such as a WE Reserve kit or a FWK Tavola kit. RJS has kits in this range, but I haven't made them in a while and don't know their current name. Depending on your consumption rate, making a couple of quicker drinking kits may be advisable. This gives you something to drink while the longer aging wines are aging.

The WE Reserve kits were very good at bottling time, which was 7 months after starting. Six months later they are even better.
 

Sailor323

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Yes, patience. It's a natural process and you shouldn't try to speed it along. Also, wine rarely turns to vinegar in the bottle; that process requires oxygen. As bottled wine gets older and reaches a certain (indefinite) point it just loses its fruitiness; sometimes all that is left of the wine is its acidity but that's not vinegar. I've had commercial wines do this.
 

Mike Parisi

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Welcome to WMT. I am also pretty much a newbie, and have only made kits. Made my first in late 2019 and made 4 over the winter 2019/20. Made 3 the next year. I live in southern Arizona, and use the garage, so I have to wait until it is cool enough to start a kit. I don't use a lot of space. I have a 6 foot long table that I use. The boxes with my equipment kit and extra carboy store esiy under the table. Primary fermenter and full carboys go on top of the table when in use. It works well for me. The table is squeezed in between a large storage rack and my workbench. Check your garage space to see if you can make room for a 6 foot long table.

Regarding what kits are nice (and easy). First off, I only drink red wines. I really enjoy Nero D'Avola, from Sicily. The only company that makes a kit is Mosti Mondiale. The kit comes with a full 6 gallons of juice, so no water needed. I have made it twice, and it is my favorite. I have another one in the garage, which I will start as soon as the garage temperature stays below 75. If you want to try this one, I can let you know the best places I have found to nuy from. The first I bottled as soon as it was clear (about 2 weeks after the degassing, etc). The second I waited close to 2 months after the final racking/degassing. And both are quite good, very drinkable 2-3 weeks after bottling.

Two other kits I have made that I really like are the WineXpert Fiero and the RJS Super Tuscan. I have also made the WineXpert Nebbiolo, which is good, but very oakey if you use all of the oak that comes with the kit.
 

Brant

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Thanks everyone for the suggestions. Both my wife and I are red drinkers. I like dry and she likes both. The only whites I've ever tolerated were on the sweeter side but I'm honestly not a fan of sweet wines in general. I don't think either of us are very picky when it comes to specific types. I would say that we prefer cabs over most others. I used to venture and buy all sorts of different brands and styles but found that most of the time we just end up disappointed. There seems to be a lot of poor quality/tasting wines in the store imo. I still enjoy trying different wines but I like to know that what I'm buying is going to be something I will enjoy drinking.

I just ordered winexpert's california trinity red. Reviews seemed decent. I want to do a couple more budget kits before I jump into something more high end. I'll check out labelpeelers and the FWK series.
 

ratflinger

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I would just order from Label Peelers, Before the FWK had come out I experimented with the same varietal/class of kits from WE and RJS. The WE was a tad bit better at 6 months (which surprised me). LP has good prices on WE & FWK
 

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