WineMaker News Page

Updated November 2, 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.

What Makes Vitis vinifera So Special?

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Geneticists at UC-Davis have successfully unlocked one of the deeper mysteries surrounding what makes domesticated Vitis vinifera so special in the grape world — the trait that causes vinifera grapes to grow in large and plentiful bunches. Most grape species in the world have male and female plants and their grape bunches can be sparse and irregular. The mystery begins when we learn that male grape vines do have female parts and vice versa. But the female’s pollen will be sterile while male plants have pistils that are reduced and incapable of being fertilized . . . in other words, also sterile. But domesticated wine grapes are hermaphroditic, meaning every vine contains fully functional male and female flower parts. This allows pollination to occur with a very high success rate.

What the scientists found was that it actually required two distinct mutations, in two separate genes, for this transformation to occur. In other words, two mutant wild grapes species must have mated: One a male with unsuppressed female fertilization capacity crossed with a female with unsuppressed male fertilization capacity . . . a recombination event. This “freak” mating event that occurred thousands of years ago gave rise to our fruitful, domesticated grape vine. Why this happened remains a mystery, but how it happened, genetically speaking, can now be explained.

Cider Vocabulary Standardization

Photo by Brenda Collins

The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) announced that they have approved a grant of $500,000 to Virginia Tech and Cornell scientists to standardize the vocabulary used for cider. Currently, definitions for criteria such as sweetness levels are set by the individual cider producer. This can mean that one cidery’s “dry” cider may actually contain quite a bit more sugar than another cidery’s. Their goal is not to dictate how different cidermakers make their beverages, but rather to have consumer’s expectations be met. This is similar in a sense to the way many in the wine industry must comply with rules when describing a newly-released wine, such as varietals versus blends.

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 Products

Fermtech’s a’Pour System

Fermtech has released a new wine dispensing system named a’Pour. The reusable container is designed to preserve 8 bottles (6 L/1.6 gal.) of your wine while eliminating bottling, corking, and labeling. The wine will stay fresh for up to 6 months in the oxygen barrier bag. Each a’Pour system includes a dispenser, pre-sanitized oxygen barrier bag, and a novel Pressure FillerTM to further simplify the filling. To view product videos and learn more, visit their website.

The Goode Guide To Wine

Author Jamie Goode is back at it, bringing his observations, lessons, and opinions that have made him a recognized voice within the wine world. In a series of short and blunt chapters, he celebrates what is exciting and interesting about wine, asks how we could do things better, and points out some of the absurdities of wine culture. Jamie Goode has a distinct philosophy when it comes to wine, and he knows you may disagree; if you do, that means it’s working.

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

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.