WineXpert Kit Chemistry Off?

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we5inelgr

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Hi all,

I've just begun making wine from a kit: Selection Premium Vieux Chateau Du Roi (Chateauneuf du Pape)

I'm going to follow the instructions, except for the sorbate.

I've added the water & bentonite per the instructions, mixed (did not start fermentation), and took some chemistry readings (using an SC-300).

The pH reads 3.93 and the TA reads 4.4 g/L.

This is my first kit, so I'm not sure if readings like this (high pH and low TA) are common in kits.

Should I proceed with fermentation and assume the kit is indeed fine...as WineXpert intended? Are those readings affected enough by the presence of the bentonite mixed in?

Or, do those numbers warrant intervention by adding some Tartaric acid to bring the pH down to around 3.5 - 3.6 and increasing the TA?
 

we5inelgr

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most kits have been balanced. I would contact Wine Expert and discuss this issue with them
thanks for the reply! I called Wine Expert and they stated those numbers were "in the range."

while i'm tempted to just proceed, I'm still concerned the wine won't be as good as it could be if I don't adjust the pH and TA. However, only being familiar with making wine from fresh grapes, I'm just not sure if I add some Tartaric Acid that it will screw up the kit and waste not only money but time. However, if I proceed without making the adjustment, will it turn out 'flabby' and underwhelming?

Perhaps I'm over thinking it.

Has anyone else out there made a similar adjustment to a kit?
 

Boatboy24

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I'd leave it. Wine kits contain a high proportion of malic acid. While your overall TA might be low, it is likely sufficiently offset by a high proportion of the harsher, malic acid. Adding tartaric will most likely throw it off balance.
 

ceeaton

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thanks for the reply! I called Wine Expert and they stated those numbers were "in the range."

while i'm tempted to just proceed, I'm still concerned the wine won't be as good as it could be if I don't adjust the pH and TA. However, only being familiar with making wine from fresh grapes, I'm just not sure if I add some Tartaric Acid that it will screw up the kit and waste not only money but time. However, if I proceed without making the adjustment, will it turn out 'flabby' and underwhelming?

Perhaps I'm over thinking it.

Has anyone else out there made a similar adjustment to a kit?
I haven't made a similar adjustment, but I did make that same kit. I started it 6/14/2016, it's still aging in the carboy, and from my notes it doesn't need any more acid. I agree with @Boatboy24, if you add acid you will most likely throw the final flavor out of balance. Let it ride as is and trust the manufacturer's process, they've made a lot of kits for a long time. If you don't like once it has aged a year or so, you could always add some additional tartaric at that point, or better yet, make the kit again (like right now) with additional acid and do side by side comparisons a few years down the road.
 

we5inelgr

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Perhaps I'm one of the rare birds, the crazy ones who run chemistry tests on their wine kits to see what the numbers really are, :confused: haha.

Anyway, the pH and TA just didn't look right to me so I thought I'd "experiment" a little and try to bring them a little closer in line with what red juice from similar grapes should be.

I mean, a pH of nearly 4 seems way out of whack. Not to mention, less microbial stable and since I want this wine to age, that's another concern (aside from a 'flabby' wine).

I decided to add 29g tartaric to the 6 gallons (prior to pitching the yeast) in an attempt to bring the pH down to around 3.7. The intent was to get closer to 3.5-3.6 but at the same time not add a larger initial dose of t.a. A bit of a middle ground.

I also made a yeast substitution from Lalvin EC-1118 to Lalvin RC-212 which is more suited for this style wine. I know the fermentation will be slower & not as vigorous, but that's ok, I'm not in a hurry. I also did not add the oak powder/chips that came with the kit. I'll add oak stix to the carboys during bulk aging.

My goal is to make this the best CdP like wine I can from this kit, even if it takes more time and tinkering.

Thank you all, for your reply's and suggestions. I appreciate it!
 
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cmason1957

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I once measured the numbers on a wine kit. It was several years ago and I have forgotten exactly what they were, but I do remember they seemed way out of whack to me. So I adjusted them in a similar way that you did. The wine was not very good at the end, part may have been my inexperience at the time, part I attribute to the additions I did.

You may regret not adding that oak powder/chips at the start, those are sacrificial tannins or structure for the wine. They add little, if any oak taste, but do add body to the wine.
 

we5inelgr

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You may regret not adding that oak powder/chips at the start, those are sacrificial tannins or structure for the wine. They add little, if any oak taste, but do add body to the wine.
I wondered about that for a moment, however, I'll be adding oak during bulk aging.

I believe the reason kits use oak powder and/or slivers/chips is due to their lower cost relative to including something like a wine stix or stave.
And, using the powder during fermentation means the oaking of wine can occur quicker so the wine is "ready" to drink quicker.

Since I'll not be consuming this wine in a month or two, and will be aging it, adding the oak during aging should give the finished wine the same oak characters.

At least, that's the thought ;) Time will of course tell.
 
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we5inelgr

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I haven't made a similar adjustment, but I did make that same kit. I started it 6/14/2016, it's still aging in the carboy
Have you tasted it lately? How is it? I'm very much looking forward to seeing how mine is coming along in a year or two.
 

ceeaton

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I wondered about that for a moment, however, I'll be adding oak during bulk aging.

I believe the reason kits use oak powder and/or slivers/chips is due to their lower cost relative to including something like a wine stix or stave.
And, using the powder during fermentation means the oaking of wine can occur quicker so the wine is "ready" to drink quicker.

Since I'll not be consuming this wine in a month or two, and will be aging it, adding the oak during aging should give the finished wine the same oak characters.

At least, that's the thought ;) Time will of course tell.
From what I gather, the idea of adding the oak powder that the kit comes with is to supply some tannins that will be available to precipitate out of the wine with certain proteins in lieu of tannins that naturally are supplied by the grapes used to make the kit but are locked in a matrix with some of the natural colors. So by not adding the oak powder, you may lose some of the red color that is being supplied by the grape juice that originally came with the kit.
 

ceeaton

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Have you tasted it lately? How is it? I'm very much looking forward to seeing how mine is coming along in a year or two.
Okay, twist my arm. I haven't tipped a carboy for quite some time, but I guess it is like riding a bike, once learned you never forget how to execute the procedure.

Really nice nose, more than for most of my kits. I'll have to admit I added 3 lbs of used Pinot Noir grape skins from an all grape fermentation (that's how I introduced my yeast (RC-212)), so that probably enhanced the nose a bit. This somewhat reminds me of the Selection Sangiovese kit I did a year earlier. It is a bit more complex, doesn't have quite as much body or mouthfeel, and I'm having problems discerning any distinct individual flavors, other than an initial burst of dark cherry. It is very smooth and has no off flavors, just not really distinctive at this point. I am noticing a bit of blueberry in the finish, which helps differentiate it from the Sangiovese, which had a very "bright" finish, whereas this one seems a bit flat or muted, as with some of my blueberry wines that seem to have a slight bitter finish (this one isn't bitter but it isn't fruity either).

I can still tell it was made from a kit, has some concentrate type flavors to it (hard to describe, but I know it when I taste it). Not offensive at all, and will probably not be noticeable once I bottle it in a few months.

Oh, and it doesn't lack in acidity. I'll be curious how yours turns out. I guess I could add a small amount of acid to a measure sample and try and replicate what you added, though who knows what will remain post fermentation in your wine.

Hope that helps.
 
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we5inelgr

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From what I gather, the idea of adding the oak powder that the kit comes with is to supply some tannins that will be available to precipitate out of the wine with certain proteins in lieu of tannins that naturally are supplied by the grapes used to make the kit but are locked in a matrix with some of the natural colors. So by not adding the oak powder, you may lose some of the red color that is being supplied by the grape juice that originally came with the kit.
Thanks for this info.

I wonder, though, is there something inherent with kit juice that requires the oak powder during primary fermentation...that fresh grape juice doesn't have and thus the reason it doesn't need the powder? In other words, what about kit juice makes it advisable to use oak powder so early on in the process vs simply using oak during aging (like fresh juice)?

I guess my question regarding the 'sacrificial tannins' is this...

If they are important in red wine kit making...why aren't they just as important for use with fresh grapes and therefore 'everyone' uses them during primary for fresh grapes as well?

Are we assuming the kit juice is that significantly inferior (i.e. naturally poor tanin, grapes harvested at sub-optimal phenolic ripeness, etc.) to fresh juice that oak is required up front?
 
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cmason1957

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You don't need to add them to fresh grapes, since you have all the tannins from the skins, seeds, and any thing else that makes it into the must.

I add oak chips to most of the red grape juice buckets that I make. Sometimes I just add sacrificial tannins. And yes, it's are somewhat deficient in tannins, I think.
 

Ajmassa

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As far as the acid goes, Boatboy24 gave some great insight. With the misleading TA via malic. 1st time I tested a kit i got funky #s and went through the same thought process
But it’s a kit, not grapes. I was advised to throw caution to the wind and let’r ride. And everything fell into place. 3.3 wine from 3.9 juice somehow. (I stopped measuring the TA on kits)
Same thing with the tannins/powder/chips. Cmason57 and ceeaton explained it well. Oak tannin in primary and stix in bulk are effecting the wine very differently.
Currently have Châteauneuf du Pape juice bucket aging. I added FT Rouge tannin, 1 cup of oak chips, and about 10 lbs of grape skins to the primary. Maybe a light toast spiral later on. Whatever it takes!
 

ceeaton

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I guess my question regarding the 'sacrificial tannins' is this...

If they are important in red wine kit making...why aren't they just as important for use with fresh grapes and therefore 'everyone' uses them during primary for fresh grapes as well?

Are we assuming the kit juice is that significantly inferior (i.e. naturally poor tanin, grapes harvested at sub-optimal phenolic ripeness, etc.) to fresh juice that oak is required up front?
I end up using Opti-red and Tannin FT Rouge ( https://morewinemaking.com/products/tannin-ft-rouge.html ) with my fresh juice buckets/grapes to help preserve the colors. I could use saw dust if I had it, I guess.
 

rustbucket

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I made this same kit in December of 2015. While I didn't check the chemistry, the wine did turn out very well and is one of my favorite. I have another Chateauneuf du Pape going since I liked the results I got from this kit, the Winexpert Eclipse Nocturnal Kit.

Although liking the result of that 2015 kit, some of the characteristics of the wine were not in accordance with Chateauneuf du Pape appellation rules. One of those rules state that the alcohol level must be at least 12.5% with no chaptalization allowed. My wine was 11% alcohol when bottled. Also, I would describe my wine as medium bodied with the tannins not being that harsh.

So, while to me, this was a tasty blend of the underlying GSM gapes, the batch may not have met French AOC requirements.
 

we5inelgr

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I made this same kit in December of 2015. While I didn't check the chemistry, the wine did turn out very well and is one of my favorite. I have another Chateauneuf du Pape going since I liked the results I got from this kit, the Winexpert Eclipse Nocturnal Kit.

Although liking the result of that 2015 kit, some of the characteristics of the wine were not in accordance with Chateauneuf du Pape appellation rules. One of those rules state that the alcohol level must be at least 12.5% with no chaptalization allowed. My wine was 11% alcohol when bottled. Also, I would describe my wine as medium bodied with the tannins not being that harsh.

So, while to me, this was a tasty blend of the underlying GSM gapes, the batch may not have met French AOC requirements.
I measured the brix on this kit at 22, so it will probably turn out around 11% or so as well. I was very, very tempted to add corn sugar, but chose not to since I was already tinkering with the juice by adding some t.a. and using a different yeast.

I'm surprised how low the brix are on these kits!
 
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we5inelgr

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Thanks to all who responded with advice.

After reading the advice here and elsewhere, I went ahead and added the oak powder and 'slivers' that came with the kit, during the 2nd day of primary.

Adding 'Oak Adjuncts' to wine fermentation's is apparently a lot more common that I had thought. And, according to some articles, they are used primarily to
mask green characters and bringing forward favorable phenolics and to increase the 'mid range' mouthfeel, with many saying it really doesn't affect the color (at least, as much). Guess that's up for debate. Some more info:
The Influence of Oak Chips Added at Various Stages of Winemaking on Sensory Characteristics of Wine
and
Addition of wood chips in red wine during and after alcoholic fermentation: differences in color parameters, phenolic content and volatile composition
"These results confirm previous studies (Del Alamo Sanza et al., 2004; Gambuti et al., 2010) showing a positive effect of wood aging on red wine color stabilization. However, when chips were added during fermentation, a different pattern was observed. Intensity values (Id) increased after the first month in all the samples but to a lesser extent (with the exception of AF sample) in comparison with the samples where chip addition took place after fermentation."

As most of you probably know, Scottslab has quite a few different Tannin products for use during different stages of winemaking.

I think going forward, I'll be adding something like either Tannin FT Rouge to Red must, or Tannin FT Blac Soft to whites and rose's made from fresh grapes.

Right now, this CdP kit is going through a very vigorous fermentation!

I've learned something new about winemaking, and that's usually a good thing.
 
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