Wine Wizard

Learning To Taste Wine At Different Stages

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I apologize in advance for the lengthy response, but this is a fantastic question and I really wanted to flesh out my answer for you. You’re absolutely right to realize that tasting


Bottling Blues Leads to Kegging Thoughts

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Hey, I’ve been there . . . a couple of years ago I also entered into unknown territory. After years of bottling one of my commercial Pinot Noirs in Stelvin screwcaps, I embarked on an adventure into the land of wine kegs, or “wine-on-tap.” I kept hearing from sommeliers and restaurant staff how by-the-glass programs

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The Wine Wizard’s “Pearls of Wiz-dom”

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Thanks for your kind words! I always really enjoy the WineMaker Conferences and connecting with the readership — it helps me put names and faces to the invisible readership out there and


Campden Tablets Best Practices

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The great thing about Campden tablets (a convenient form of dosing in sulfur dioxide for home winemakers) is that they will inhibit the yeast and bacteria you do not want (which are sensitive to sulfur dioxide) while allowing the yeast you do want to continue to power through the fermentation. Longtime readers of my column

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Getting Grape Updates During Growing Season

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Sometimes local AVA (American Viticultural Area) groups will have data available on their websites or emails available to members (the latter is the case with, for example, Napa Valley Vintners). For the most part, however, home winemakers won’t be members of these kinds of groups (they can cost thousands of dollars to join) so they

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Coping With Grapes Affected By Smoke Taint

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Some characteristics found in smoke-tainted wines are the same that can be found in toasted oak barrels. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com I’ve heard rumor that a couple of smaller wineries that have experienced smoke taint in their grapes are indeed evolving that wine into new styles. Depending on the grape type and level of impact,

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Bottling Tips and Checklist

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Bottling day gets easier with equipment upgrades and practice. But whether your first or fiftieth bottle run, certain fundamentals need to always be followed. Photo by Brett Cook I totally get it! There are some great articles about bottling in the WineMaker article archives at www.winemakermag.com. Though it’s a topic my fellow authors have covered

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Learn Some Wine Judge Etiquette

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Congrats on getting invited to your first ever wine judging! I’ve been judging wine competitions, both for home and commercial winemakers, for over 15 years now and they’re always a great way


Post-Fermentation Wine Acid Adjustment

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Great topic and great questions. If you’ve read my columns over the years, you’re familiar with my mantra of acid being the “backbone” of wine, as well as the importance of having the correct pH for long-term aging. The higher the pH (lower acidity), the more spoilage organisms like Lactobacillus and Acetobacter can get a

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Troubleshooting Malolactic Fermentation

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Well, it’s tough to say what would make one cloudy and the other clear, except for the fact that they may not have been identical coming from your fermenters. If you did blend/homogenize after pressing, then it’s possible you’re seeing the cloudy wine (pH 3.77) going through the MLF (malolactic fermentation) a little more quickly

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Finding A Vinegar Storage Space

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You got a chuckle out of me. Indeed, how dare you introduce vinegar to your wines! I’m actually very happy that you’re writing so you can learn how not to introduce vinegar


Tips For Making Cantaloupe Wine

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Because cantaloupes have high pH, my guess is that the red speckles you’re seeing in a layer on top of your wine are bacteria colonies and no, they are not to be expected. According to a fruit pH chart I found online from Clemson University, the pH of cantaloupes usually falls in the range of

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Judging Fermentation Completion

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While the density of water at room temperature is 1.000 standard gravity, finished dry wine should be less dense than that. Photo courtesy of Tim Vandergrift It certainly sounds like you are getting into the dryness zone. Specific gravity is the ratio of the density of a liquid in relation to the density of water,

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Dealing With Acid Issue on a Raspberry Wine

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I really applaud you for keeping such detailed records and testing regularly. This really helps me when diagnosing issues and coming up with ways to help. I want to start off by saying that raspberries are a really high-acid fruit and that high titratable acidity won’t necessarily track with the pH like it does in

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Barrel Alternatives: Matching quality grapes with oak

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New oak barrels can provide a lot of character to wine, but they are a sizable investment. Photo courtesy of MoreWine! Hey, I see you, I hear you, and I’m so here for you! The average price for a French oak barrel has really become very high in the last couple of years (decades?) and

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Effects Of Using Killer Yeast In My Winery?

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I’m glad that you are attuned to your yeast and realize that some strains are “killer factor positive” and one is “sensitive.” I really wish that the yeast industry had come up with a different term than “killer,” it makes it sound like yeast cells are going to, like some monster from a 1960’s B

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Sensing Ripeness In Grapes

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Hey, it happens to me too. But fear not, we’re going to impart some information that’ll give you the confidence to pick even if you don’t know the Brix number. Many winemakers like knowing a lot about the batch of grapes they’re going to be picking, from sugar level (Brix) to acidity (pH and total

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Uneven Ripening Of Grapes

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Many thanks to you for being a WineMaker magazine reader! We love being a source of helpfulness in the sometimes difficult-to-navigate world that is international small-scale winemaking. Uneven vineyard ripening is indeed a difficult thing to contend with. If one’s vineyard is large enough, it’s easy enough to divide it into “blocks” that ripen right

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Cures To An Oversulfited Wine

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Since you can’t measure your free and total SO₂, let’s do some numbers to see what kind of a potential problem you might be facing. First off, let’s talk about your bottle-rinsing


Advice For A Beginning Winemaker

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Winemaking is always a learning process and even those of us that have been doing this for a long time still learn a lot every harvest and all year-round! However, that being said, I do have some tidbits for new winemakers. In my Winemaker’s Answer Book I spell out what I think are probably the

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Remove A White Film on Carboy

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Wow, looks like you’ve got a serious case of “Ring Around the Carboy.” Thanks for sending in the picture, I always love it when readers do that because, especially in cases like these, it gives me a good visual to go from. I can see that pesky stain on the inside of the neck of

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Steps To Preserve Your Oak Barrel

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Well, the first thing I always say is, “A full barrel is a happy barrel.” That means that the barrel is best stored with wine in it! The acidity of the wine (generally reds tend to be a pH of 3.5–3.8-ish) keeps spoilage microbes at bay and of course the wetness of the wine keeps

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Achieving Cold Stable Wines

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For those readers who are not familiar with the article referenced, I talk about how it was likely a reader’s malolactic fermentation would pick back up again when the weather warmed up again in the spring (he wanted to over-winter his wine undergoing MLF outside in order to help it get cold stable). It sounds

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Rules Of Fining

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Indeed, after using most fining agents there will be a layer of sediment generated and you’ll need to rack the wine off of it accordingly. Fining agents, by definition, are introduced into a wine to interact with whichever of the wine compounds you are trying to mitigate or reduce. For instance, bentonite is a natural

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Topping My Wines Off

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As I explain in my book, The Winemaker’s Answer Book, oxygen can be a friend of wine (especially during active primary fermentation) but is more often its enemy. One of the biggest jobs of being a winemaker entails minimizing oxygen (air) contact in our aging wines by keeping our containers 100% full, or “topped up.”

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