WineMaker News Page

Updated August 24, 2020

Winemaking Supply Shop Status During COVID-19

With the quickly evolving situation worldwide due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we thought the best way to serve both hobby winemakers and winemaking retail suppliers was to provide a list of current business status. We will continue to update the information on this page as the situation evolves. Please support your local winemaking supplier through these challenging times for everyone. Click here to find the supplier listing.

Oak Adds Bitterness?

Photo by Charles A. Parker/Images Plus

We hope every winemaker who reads this magazine knows some of the positive phenolic compounds that oak products can add to their wine. Tannins provide an astringency that can make wine have a drying effect on your mouth. Then there are the flavonoids that, depending on the toast level and origin of the wood, provide coconut, vanilla, and smoky-spice flavors to wines aged on oak. But a newly published study by a group out of the Université de Bordeaux in France has found that there may be more than just that. What the study focused on was the contribution by a class of phenolics known as coumarins may also be adding bitterness to wines that are oaked. Coumarins are bitter compounds known to deter herbivory, protecting the oak trees from being eaten. Through experimentation, they found that oaked wines are much higher in coumarin levels than wines not aged in oak, and the longer the wine was aged in oak, the higher the coumarin levels.

Mexico Is Now the Reigning Champ of Cabernet Wines

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

That’s right . . . not Bordeaux, not Napa, not Margaret River . . . the 2020 top accolades at the Concours International des Cabernets (CIDC) went to the winery Viñedos Don Leo, located in the Coahuila province in north-central Mexico. As many readers of this magazine know, Cabernet is the most planted wine grape in the world. The 2020 CIDC judged 200 elite Cabernet wines (both Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc) from 24 different countries to determine the champion. Not only did the grand champion trophy go to Viñedos Don Leo for their 2013 Don Leo Gran Reserva, but they also won a gold medal for their Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah blend as well. This just goes to prove that there are still plenty of undiscovered gems in the wine world. Don’t discount a wine region just because you have never heard of a winery from there before.

New Kit Size, Process, and Look for Winexpert Kits

Photo courtesy of Winexpert

Winexpert has invested significantly in their processing facilities and the way in which they package their juices allowing them to create new, smaller kits. The smaller kits require less heat treatment, which means better color and better flavor — which leads to better wine. With the new process, Winexpert has also redesigned their packaging, kit portfolio, and logo. The new smaller-sized kits and packaging will be rolled out to retailers in the coming months. Learn more at

UC-Davis Announces the Release of Five New Grape Varieties

Pierce’s Disease is a bacteria that was introduced to the US over 140 years ago and has been a scourge of grape growers in many warm, humid climates since. Photo courtesy of

For the first time since the 1980s, UC-Davis is releasing several new wine grape varieties to the public. Three of the new grapes are red while the remaining two are white varietals. All of them are highly resistant to Pierce’s Disease, which according to the Robert Mondavi Institute Center for Wine Economics, cost California wine grape growers an estimated $100 million a year. Taste tests from initial plantings have been encouraging. The new varieties are a native New World grapevine species Vitis arizonica, which carries a dominant gene resistance to Pierce’s Disease, that was cross bred with Vitis vinifera over multiple generations. The three red grape varietals are named: Camminare Noir, Paseante Noir, and Errante Noir. The two white grape varietals are named: Ambulo Blanc and Caminante Blanc. While only limited plant material will be released in 2020, a more widespread release is expected in 2021. To learn more visit:

New Products

FerMonster Strainer

Available in two sizes, MonsterMesh and MiniMesh, these strainers were designed to fit on the tops of FerMonster™ and PET carboys. There are multiple ways these strainers can work for winemakers and you can have more than one going at a time. Tasks such as topping up can now be done by adding sanitized glass marbles right into the strainer. Oak chips, grape skins, and powders can also be added to the strainer in order to prevent clogging.

Winemaking Instruction

Musto Wine Grape Company is releasing a series of online winemaking instructional courses taught by Winemaker Frank Renaldi. These courses are designed to be in-depth, how-to winemaking videos to help you grow as a winemaker. With a broad range of levels, these classes are for beginners up through seasoned veterans looking to hone their skills. Learn more about what is available at:

GOFermentor App

If you haven’t had a chance to check out the GOFermentor system, it is definitely worth a visit to their site. Users of the GOFermentor can take their winemaking experience “virtual” with their new app. The GOFermentor can now be controlled remotely, with the ability to adjust parameters such as fermentation temperature, punch down schedule, initiating a punch down, plus receive notifications about status changes. An LCD control panel is provided if WiFi capabilities are not available in your location. You can find a video on YouTube titled “Go App” or learn more at

Stars in a Glass

Fans of sparkling wine rejoice, a new book by UC-Davis graduate and award-winning winemaker Pedro Vargas outlines the process from start to finish. Stars in a Glass sets its sights on shedding light on the too often shrouded world of méthode champenoise sparkling wine techniques. This is a production manual with step-by-step instructions on making sparkling wine in your house/winery and includes charts to help make the process easier. This book is meant to educate both hobby and professional winemakers. You can find it at better bookstores and on Amazon.

Upcoming Events

October 15, 2020

Entry deadline for the American Wine Society (AWS) 2020 Amateur Wine Competition. Open to all amateur winemakers and includes still, fortified, and sparkling wines made from vinifera, native, and hybrid grapes. Also judged by certified judges will be wines and ciders made from fruit, vegetable, flower, honey, and grasses. The cost is $25 (AWS member) / $35 (non-member) per entry. For more information visit:

November 7, 2020

Entries from all regions for the 47th Annual US Amateur Winemaking Competition will be accepted from October 1 through November 7. Judging will be held November 21. The entry fee is $20 per bottle and payment can be made online. Prizes will be awarded for winners, and all of the score sheets will be mailed to participants. More information is available on the web at

May 20-23, 2021

COVID-19 Update for WineMaker Conference San Luis Obispo – Paso Robles: Our upcoming sold-out 2020 WineMaker Conference has been postponed to 2021. The event will still be in the same exact location in San Luis Obispo, California. Our 2021 program will feature the same great lineup of workshops and seminars planned for late May 2020. We will be posting here the revised schedule of seminars, special events, workshops, and winery tours soon for 2021.