Wine Wizard

Discussing Pros v. Cons of Pinot Noir

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Pinot Noir has quite a reputation. Often known as the “Heartbreak Grape” and lovingly discussed, dissected, and degustated (is that even a word?) by rabid Pinot-philes the world over, Pinot Noir was being talked about in the wine world well before the movie Sideways thrust it onto an international stage. Many years after Miles and

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Chilled Red Wines

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Though especially welcome in summertime, and especially tasty with regards to Pinot Noir, I break the “room temperature reds rule” year round and with many varietals to boot. In the depths of


Gum Arabic

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Here goes some gum arabic info . . . I was first introduced to it at Bonny Doon when Randall Grahm brought it back from one of his jaunts to France, around 1999 or so. We did extensive bench trials with it in many of the Bonny Doon wines, and in some cases chose to

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Acetobacter Problems

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Well, it seems like you have been paid a visit by a colony of Acetobacter, aka acetic acid bacteria. They love air, eat alcohol, and turn it into carbon dioxide and vinegar. Not fun. The biggest issue is that no matter what, once you’ve got them and they’ve produced a certain amount of acetic acid,

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pH Reanalysis

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The answer to your question depends on the size of your batch. The bigger your batch, especially if it’s must all mixed together with juice and skins, you need to mix quite a bit longer. Let’s say for example you have a 5-gallon (19-L) carboy of Chardonnay juice and you are adding 1 g/L tartaric

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Sulfite Timing Question

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That’s a great question with a very simple answer. You should not add postassium metabisulfite (SO2, or sulfur dioxide) to your wine between primary and secondary fermentation. Because the SO2 will inhibit


Cork Variability

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You’re absolutely right, raised corks can either be a problem (if they’re too high, or too high of a percentage from bottle-to-bottle) or it could be nothing at all. The devil is in the details and finding out why. Bear with me while I break down a few possible causes and their implications of what

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The Sulfite Blues

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Your nose (bruised apple/sweet smell) and your chemical analysis (loss of Free SO2) are telling me that you have an oxygen ingress problem and aldehydes and perhaps an increase in VA (volatile acidity) are the result. Please do your future wines a favor and always switch from fermentation “burper” bungs to hard bungs upon racking

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Passion Fruit Wine

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Well, I will admit I have never made a passion fruit wine (living in Napa, those pesky grapes just seem to be the most convenient sugar source at hand) but I will give you what advice I can. Passion fruit (or Passiflora edulis) is a popular worldwide flavor. The fruit is eaten in desserts and

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Brown Colored White Wine

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Sorry to say, but it sounds like you’ve got a no-bueno situation. White grapes should always be pressed as soon as possible after picking in order to reduce juice (and subsequent wine)


Fining Red Wines

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Red wines are typically not fined as often as white wines, to which we often add bentonite in order to remove potentially haze-causing proteins. The tannin from the skins of red wines tends to bind with excess protein, the agglomeration of which will precipitate out during the fermentation process. Nor do we usually cold-stabilize red

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Use Of Bleach In A Winery

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My rule is no chlorine bleach in my wineries, never, nohow. Anything containing chlorine might contribute to the dreaded “corked wine aroma,” 2-4-6 trichloroanisole (TCA), in your finished wines. It can be


Questionable ‘Premium’ Grapes

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That’s an interesting data set you present there. What I’m about to tell you, please take with many grains of salt because I am not privy to the growing locations of your California Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grapes and, for instance, would expect very different quality numbers from a Zinfandel grown in Dry Creek

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Ripper Test On Red Wine

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The short answer to your question: yes, if you dilute your wine sample before running a Ripper analysis for SO2, you then need to multiply your result by the dilution factor you used in order to get a correct result for the true batch of wine. It’s indeed common for winemakers to dilute red wine

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Wine Pump Options

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Wow, can I fly to the Philippines for a little research and equipment-scouting trip? We can sample some of your wine, do a little research into tropical fruit winemaking, go see what


How To Date A Country Wine

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Well well, what do you know? That’s a question I’ve never been asked before in all my years of writing this column! The spirit of the vintage laws for commercial wine is that the year on the label, if one is listed, reflect the year that the fresh fruit was grown. This is so consumers

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Over-yeasting?

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There are a few effects on a wine if you add more yeast. Number one, the fermentation might start a little faster and go to completion faster because there are simply more cells to eat the sugar, and each can only eat a certain amount of sugar at a time. This will, in turn, increase

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Bottle Selection For Sparkling Wine

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Ah, the Wiz has visions of broken bottles in your future and it’s a prognostication I wouldn’t like to see become reality. Let’s just say my Fermentation Magic 8 Ball says, “See


Vinifera in Florida?

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I would be very cautious (or at least very realistic) about buying Vitis vinifera vines for your Florida vineyard. Most states in the country have their own burgeoning vineyard and winery region but there is a reason America’s “wine country” flourishes in places like Napa, California, and not Naples, Florida. It can be summed up

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Post-Fermentation Acid Adjustments

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I would only adjust with tartaric acid, and not an “acid blend” that contains either malic or citric acids. Both of the latter can be fermented by organisms in the bottle. On


Finding Ideal SO2 Levels

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You do an excellent job of outlining one of the major conundrums we all experience in the winemaking world. How much SO2 do we need to add to our wines to keep them safe? How much is too much? To be very honest, it’s something even commercial winemakers do “by feel.” While I wish we

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What Kind Of Water To Use In My Wine Kit

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To address your first question: A chemistry teacher in high school once mentioned that since distilled water was free of minerals and many dissolved gasses, it behaved differently in osmotic equilibrium situations


Color Problems In My Pinot Noir

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I had this exact problem happen to me this year with one of my lots of Russian River Pinot. Thankfully, the original brick-red color disappeared and was replaced by bright red once the fermentation got going and the wine got back into a reductive carbon dioxide-rich environment and after a few day’s skin exposure. On

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Transporting Wine

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When moving wine, the main thing to be concerned about is temperature change and since you’ve got carboys, spillage! For the first factor, any kind of moving truck where the back payload


Harvesting Decision Making

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That is indeed a situation I face every year and is part of the delicate dance of being a winemaker. As many of my readers know, I believe that picking is the single most important decision you will ever make in a wine’s life. Once you do that, the road to what that wine can

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