WineMaker News Page

Updated January 5, 2021

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.

Wine and Cheese Lovers Rejoice

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If you’re a fan of wine and cheese, today is your day to celebrate. A new study put out by a team of scientists out of Iowa State University noted that these two items can improve both cognitive function as well as combat against age-related cognitive degeneration such as Alzheimer’s disease. When the team evaluated a study of nearly 1,800 aging adults and their consumption of a broad range of food and drinks, what they uncovered was that cheese was hands down the best food to enjoy in order to protect against cognitive problems later in life. They also found that moderate daily consumption of alcohol (red wine in particular) improved cognitive function. If this topic peaks your interest, you can learn more at:

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?

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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.

New Products

The Big Book Of Cidermaking

Christopher Shockey and Kirsten K. Shockey turn their expertise to the world of fermented beverages in a guide to home cidermaking. With expert advice and step-by-step instructions, The Big Book of Cidermaking equips readers with the skills they need to make the cider they want: Sweet, dry, fruity, farmhouse-style, hopped, barrel-aged, or fortified. Readers will benefit from the authors’ years of experience cultivating an orchard and their experiments in producing their own ciders. This book is for any cidermaker, whether starting with apples fresh from the tree or working with store-bought juice. Cider recipes range from cornelian cherry to ginger, and styles including New England, Spanish, and late-season ciders. You can purchase a copy at better bookstores or at:

Brewer’s Best® Kombucha Kits

A new series of kombucha recipe kits by Brewer’s Best® allows home winemakers to craft their own flavored kombucha at home. Each kit comes with the ingredients to craft one gallon (3.8 L) of fresh kombucha and is available in four flavors: Blackberry, hemp, passion fruit, and raspberry. Note that these kits do not include a SCOBY for fermentation, which needs to be purchased separately from a supplier. SCOBYs are not included since they can be reused time and again and don’t need to be started fresh each time. First time making kombucha? Each kit comes with its own detailed, step-by-step instructions for a successful batch the first time and every time.

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:

Upcoming Events

Backyard Grape Growing Online Boot Camp with Wes Hagen

January 29, 2021

Former professional vineyard manager and WineMaker’s longtime “Backyard Vines” columnist Wes Hagen will lead an online Boot Camp for four hours detailing all the steps a small-scale grape grower needs to know: Site selection, vine choice, planting, trellising, pruning, watering, pest control, harvest decisions, plus more strategies to successfully grow your own great wine grapes.

Home Wine Lab Skills Online Boot Camp with Bob Peak

February 12, 2021

It’s very difficult to make great wine if you don’t know how to properly and accurately test your wine. WineMaker’s “Techniques” columnist and Technical Editor Bob Peak will take you step-by-step online over four hours teaching you live how to properly test your wine for sulfites, malolactic, acidity, sugar, and pH. You’ll have the chance to learn visually how to run these tests on your own wines at home.

July 15-18, 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 middle July 2020. We will be posting here the revised schedule of seminars, special events, workshops, and winery tours soon for 2021.