Wine Wizard

Adding Campden Tablets to Wine

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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. The little packet of yeast

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Adding Sambuca to Wine

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Well I like your moxie. Sometimes it takes a little thinking outside the box to really make our beverages sing, and in your case (though it would be anathema to a commercial winery, for which this kind of thing is prohibited by law) you just might want to give it a try. That’s perhaps the

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Putting A Value On A Vineyard

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I’m very sorry about your vine loss. I do agree with Dr. Lockwood that you will probably lose the vines that were knocked down. You might want to really work closely with your insurance company because they might compensate you on different metrics, like replacement cost, market value or just on the current year’s crop.

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Making Maple Wine

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Maple sap is a great source of natural sugar and certainly qualifies as home winemaking material. What is less certain, as you have found out, is how much of those subtle maple aromas and flavors  will stick around in a finished wine. I’m glad you’re experimenting with adding acid. Like you’ve discovered, maple syrup just

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Deprived Vines

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It sounds to me like you possibly have a heat and/or overexposure problem there with your vines. I’ll share a little personal anecdote with you about a similar situation that I have some experience with in hopes that it relates to your own situation and helps you out. I have a Malbec grapevine in a

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Bottle Sediments

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It can be wrenching for a winemaker to look at his or her bottles developing a sediment over time. Many fruits, especially those high in pectin, proteins, or phenols are especially prone to sedimentation during aging. It’s often just too hard to wait long enough for everything to precipitate out of solution (months, sometimes years)

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Yeast Options

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Good for you for thinking “outside the box” and going with a different yeast choice. I love both D80 and D254 for Syrah. D80 was isolated by the ICV in 1992 from the Côte Rôtie region of the Rhône Valley in France and is characterized, in my experience, by its big mouthfeel and licorice and

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White Crystals After Crushing

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I’ve had a similar experience — both with having to pick gapes at sub-optimal times (curse you, weather!) as well as having that rough white residue on my crush equipment. The residue, which resembles a thicker than normal layer of hard water scale, comes from the grapes themselves. From what I understand, it’s simply an

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Malolactic Fermentation Timing

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I’m a little old school when it comes to malolactic fermentation, but it’s always served me well. There are some winemakers who try to get a jump on malolactic (ML) completion and co-inoculate with ML bacteria and wine yeast at the same time, but in my mind this is a little risky. You see, yeast

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Mellowing A Big Wine

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Even my “purist” winemaking friends usually aren’t opposed to doing a little egg white fining when it comes to smoothing out the rough edges on their big reds. It’s an ancient and


Chlorine In My Wine

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Oh dear. I fear that your wine has been contaminated not just with chlorine, but with the dreaded TCA, or tri-chloroanisole aroma defect. Also known as the “corked” aroma, TCA is the scourge of winemakers the world over. Commercial as well as home winemakers have to be wary of this common wine aroma defect. The

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Dealing With High Brix Grapes

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You definitely want to water down that high-sugar juice before you pitch your yeast. High Brixes lead to high alcohols, which lead to yeast that just can’t complete a fermentation. Stuck fermentations


Is Potassium Sorbate In A Port Necessary?

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I’m with you. If I was making a Port-style wine and it was 20% alcohol and 100–150 g/L residual sugar (10–15%) I would forgo the potassium sorbate altogether. I am not a fan of potassium sorbate because I think it makes wines taste funny and seems to be a holdover from an earlier era when

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The Facts About Wine Headaches

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I’ve seen a few of these kinds of articles (ahem, I mean advertisements) floating around on the internet and it always results in an epic Wine Wizard “facepalm” upon reading. For starters,


Screwcap Closures

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Those are all great questions, let me see which order I’ll tackle them in. Firstly, we discuss corks for the most part on the pages of WineMaker Magazine not because they’re the only closure choice out there available to winemakers but because they’re simply the easiest closure for home winemakers, i.e. winemakers that typically bottle

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Sniffing The Cork

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You are more in the right here than your brother; when buying wine at a restaurant you really just smell and taste the wine. If the wine smells and tastes fine to


Yeast Pitching Rates

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Good for you for branching out. Apple cider has astronomically increased in popularity in the United States in the past few years and I see an increasing number of wineries trying their hand at the fermented-apple beverage. But back to the questions at hand. As to your wine kit coming with two packets of different

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Dealing With A Copper Problem

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That’s too bad that you added more copper sulfate than you intended to. Copper is an effective, legal, and ancient (the Romans knew about its curative powers in winemaking) tool for reducing (no pun intended) stinky rotten egg defects. Hydrogen sulfide is often the culprit and ionic copper, delivered in the form of copper sulfate

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Calculating Residual Sugar

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That’s certainly an interesting question and one for which the short answer is “no such equation exists.” The longer answer attempts to help explain why, even though you think you should have all the parts that you need to solve for unfermented sugar. As I was considering whether to answer your question for this issue

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Making White Zinfandel

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Funny you ask this question as I’ve just now got three tanks full of 2016 Monterey Pinot Noir rosé fermenting in the winery. White Zinfandel, contrary to what some folks think, is


Dealing With Volatile Acidity

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Not knowing any more information than you give above, it’s tough to make specific recommendations so I’ll start with the general ones. Whenever you suspect VA (volatile acidity, or the production of vinegar) in your wine, make sure you’re protecting against the most obvious enemies of newly-aging wine: Oxygen and spoilage microbes. The first thing

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Testing for MLF Completion

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In the old days we would use paper chromatography to monitor the completion of malolactic fermentation (MLF). We dotted little drips of the sample wine, along with liquid standards of malic and lactic acids, onto a piece of paper. When dry, we rolled up the paper and stuck it in a big mayonnaise jar full

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Red Wine Stabilization

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Ever open a bottle of red wine you’ve lovingly saved for 20 years only to be disappointed as a brick-orange liquid followed by a brownish sludge falls into your glass? The issue of color optimization and retention in red wines is a large and complicated one — I could probably write at least ten articles

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Evaporation Clarification

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Thanks for clarifying your question a little bit. I am glad to hear you regularly top off your barrels, it’s a practice all of us need to do. Alcohol and water definitely do evaporate out of barrels (along with small amounts of other volatile aroma constituents of wine) and the resulting headspace does need to

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Oak Barrel Seepage

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I’ve certainly had the odd leaker (or three) but I’ve never experienced trans-stave leakage of the scale that you describe. Before I delve any deeper, I first of all would like to say that your situation is unusual and one that warrants an immediate customer service call (read: complaint) to your barrel supplier. It is

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