Ask Wine Wizard

Advice For A Beginning Winemaker


Maria Latham — Duluth, Minnesota asks,

I’m just starting out making wine and I’m a little petrified of making some (OK, a lot) of mistakes as I go along. Do you have any advice?

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 top five “Rookie Mistakes” that those new to winemaking are prone to make: Picking grapes too early or too late: Once you pick you can’t go back and the path to wine is already laid out before you. Pick your reds at 22 °Brix and you should make a rosé . . . wait for riper fruit to make a “proper” big red wine. Inappropriate must adjustment: You can make little tweaks by adding acid (if pH is too high), water (if too ripe), or, in the case of home winemakers, a little sugar if needed to boost alcohol. Overdo it, however, and you’ve just thrown the whole balance off. Not understanding the destructive power of oxygen: Oxygen can ruin wine, oxidizing its bright color
Response by Alison Crowe.