Wine Wizard

Growing Grapes In Albuquerque

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I’m thrilled for your new move because Albuquerque is just about as far north in New Mexico as you want to be planting traditional wine grapes of Vitis vinifera. Many grape types thrive in this drier, sunnier and often higher-altitude state, and some fabulous wines (Gruet’s amazing sparkling wines are some of the best-known) are

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Sluggish Fermentation Woes

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Hmmm, it sounds like you’ve got a little bit of sugar left there. I would start, however, with a quick check of your numbers to be sure. A °Brix of -1.0 (0.995 specific gravity) is where “dryness” starts when measuring with a hydrometer. Please make sure you are temperature-correcting your hydrometer reading. If your juice/wine

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Hangover Myths Revealed

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I just read the article you refer to, which seems to claim that “natural wine” (an ill-defined term, which in the article seems to mean “minimal sulfites added except at bottling” or


Cooking With Wine

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Making a red wine reduction is a great way to create a concentrated, flavorful sauce! I do it frequently myself when I’m cooking and it works great with red, white or sweet wines. Just be aware that when you have a cup or so of wine simmering away on the stove, what is simmering off

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Using Tartaric Acid

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I absolutely recommend that you bring your TA up and your pH down after MLF is complete. This is best accomplished by tartaric acid, because wine bacteria will not consume tartaric acid;


Hybrid Grapes Winemaking

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Good for you for planting a nice selection of grapes! You’re absolutely right, that with Utah’s higher latitude, often-high altitude, and warmer summers, you get a bit more extreme growing season than many of us in the rest of the country. For you, winterkill is a real issue, so frost and cold hardiness is essential.

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Over-Sulfited Wine

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Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy. Sounds like you have a lot of sulfur dioxide in that wine! Assuming standard FSO2 for bottled wine being around 25 ppm, am I correct in


Free SO2 Levels

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It seems that you and Craig are going through many of the same issues (see this question and answer). Like I mentioned to Craig, it’s really impossible to add enough sulfur dioxide to retard a yeast fermentation because, contrary to popular belief, yeast just aren’t that sensitive to SO2. Unlike bacteria, yeast can still have

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Stuck Fermentations

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Before you start going crazy with a fermentation restart protocol, are you sure that it is really stuck? The first thing that I would advise you to do is to taste and compare your wine with your stepdad’s. At 9%, and compared to 15%, you should notice sweetness on the palate. If your wine tastes

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Pomace Compost

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Pomace, which is the skins, seeds and stems leftover from wine processing and pressing, can indeed be returned to the field as a soil amendment. You deposit it in a thin layer


Ring Around The Carboy

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The short story — and the good news — is that no one will get sick from this batch because no human pathogen can survive in wine. Alcohol and acidity will kill off any bacteria or yeast that could survive in the human ecosystem and make you or your friends and family sick. For example,

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Transplanting Vines

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Depending on the age of the grapevine, and it sounds like it could still be young since you say it’s “small,” it is indeed possible to transplant grapevines. It takes a lot of care and often takes a lot of time and elbow grease, however. Grapevines quickly establish very deep, wide-reaching root systems and the

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Calculating ABV

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This is a great question. Luckily the answer is simple. You still only calculate potential alcohol based on the original Brix reading. “Negative Brixes,” or when the density of your fermented solution reads below the 0.00 °Brix mark on your hydrometer, happen because they are just that: Fermented. Alcohol is much less dense than water

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Why The Tiny Bubbles?

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There are so many microbes that can produce tiny bubbles in new wines that perhaps your question should be, what microbes will not produce tiny bubbles in dry must? Everything from (of course) Lactobacilli (AKA LAB or lactic acid bacteria) to Acetobacter (which produce acetic acid) to spoilage yeasts like Brettanomyces will produce carbon dioxide

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Adjusting Acid In An Aged Wine

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You can absolutely adjust acidity in a wine when it is one year old. Though I often say that it’s best to do major adjustments early on in a wine’s life (since


Freezing Grape Must

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If you have the freezer space I say freeze, freeze away! It’s actually somewhat common (for those grape producers who specialize in it like Brehm Vineyards, Vino Superiore, or Wine Grapes Direct) for growers to freeze grapes and ship them to areas of the country where they don’t grow so well naturally. I myself used

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Over-Sulfited My Wine

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I’m not sure if in the above question you are referring to having over-added to grape juice or to finished wine. Regardless, adding 45 grams of potassium metabisulfite, which is about 58% sulfur dioxide (SO2), to 60 liters of wine will yield quite a bit of SO2 (to put it mildly). I calculate that’ll get

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Sulfite Question When Blending Wine

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You bring up a very good question. For the compound you’re talking about, sulfur dioxide, you’ll probably come pretty close to what you would predict based on knowing the volume and the current free SO2. This is just like alcohol, residual sugar, or titratable acidity and can be predicted based on a simple volume to

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Get Your Swirl On

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I say Toe-may-toe, you say toe-mah-toe . . . this sounds like a bizarre wine myth in the making that we should just quash right here. Though undoubtedly, swirling your wine glass


Natural Fining For White and Rosé Wines

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Well, an old-timer winemaker I used to work with would say, “The most natural fining agent for any wine is time.” What he meant was that with time, solids fall out, proteins eventually coagulate and fall to the bottom of the aging vessel and tartrates reach an equilibrium so they aren’t in excess and big

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Glass vs. Wood

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Home winemakers tend to ferment in glass carboys (big 5-gallon/19-L jars, essentially) because they are usually better-sized and more convenient to a home hobbyist than larger vessels like a 59-gallon (223-L) barrel.


Refermentation Questions

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It’s hard to tell exactly what may be the issue because wines that just finish fermenting and are so young often have “funny” smells and do indeed not smell like the finished wine that you are used to buying off a shelf. It’s hard to know if you are experiencing a bacteria or yeast-caused issue.

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White Film In My Wine Barrel

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It sounds like you are doing the right thing. This is probably an aerophilic “flor” type yeast that is eating alcohol, and in the presence of air (if it was slightly untopped) decided to have a little fun in the headspace. If you don’t feel the taste or aroma are really damaged or changed, completely

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Covert Winemaking

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I give you credit for being so dogged in your desire to try fermenting! The great news about yeast is that, as I’ve often said in these columns, yeast live everywhere around us. They are naturally present on the skins of many fruits and vegetables and even in the air you’re breathing right now. The

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Sediment In A Fruit Wine

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I definitely would re-think your pre-bottling aging and fining procedures. Many wines, especially those made with fruit other than grapes, are susceptible to flocculation (a fancy term for sediment) and visible fallout. Wine is a complex chemical soup and many reactions take place over time; wine isn’t always what it seems to be in early

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