Wine Wizard

Allergic To Sulfites

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Certainly you can try to pasteurize (heat at a certain temperature for a certain amount of time) your wine if you like. Many foods and beverages (like milk) are so heat treated in order to kill any bacteria, yeast or other organisms. Louis Pasteur, the Frenchman who gave the process his name back in the

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Can Lysozyme Arrest MLF?

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In my day job in Napa, California (as Winemaker for Garnet Vineyards as well as other consulting projects) I bottle plenty of “partial ML” Chardonnay every year and love the style. In fact, my Garnet Vineyards Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is about two-thirds malolactic complete, depending on the natural acidity of the year (lower acid years

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Late Malolactic

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To shed light on your query, the Wine Wiz consulted the Winemaking Magic 8 Ball™ and the answer that floated to the top was, “Outlook not good.” If your 2010 Zinfandel still hasn’t gone through ML fermentation (where malic acid is consumed by lactic acid bacteria, turning it into lactic acid, softening the wine and

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Overspiced Wine Situation

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There’s nothing like a wine with what I call “the elbows sticking out” to ruin one’s mood. Especially frustrating is when one has followed a recipe or kit instructions to the letter only to find that the procedure has yielded less than satisfying results. Spices and other added flavorings in home winemaking are one of

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Soapy Taste In Wine

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Though tough to define as it can smell different to everyone, there is unfortunately no wine lab analysis panel you can run that says, “Yessir, you’ve got an over-abundance of Ivory Soap Flakes on your hands.” However, if you don’t like it in your wine, it’s a problem. Delving into the wine chemistry literature of

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Fining Fruit Wines

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The short answer is that yes, I would absolutely cut down on the amount of clarifying agent you use if you don’t have enough wine volume for the recommended 5 gallon (19 L) batch listed on the packet. Because I don’t know what is in your “pre-measured packet,” it’s hard for me to get into

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Perfecting Pyment

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Congrats for breaking out of the mold and taking it upon yourself to adapt a recipe to your own preferences! I always love it when readers, and my own winemaking buddies, take what they know or have done, and give it a good tweak. Pyment, or a fermented beverage made with both grape sugars and

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Making Dry Muscat

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Sounds tasty to me! I love a dry (or even off-dry, maybe with residual sugar of around 5 g/L), crisp Muscat wine. Historically, Muscats have been used in many wine types, from sweet and desserty to fortified to dry. I’ve made a few myself in my career, starting with the infamous “Vin de Glaciere” dessert

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Fun With Wine Filtration

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The fun of filtration! I’ll deliver the bad news to you and my readers first by telling you that really no matter how tight of a pore size you use to filter your wines, there is always the possibility of sediment developing over time. In fact, with red wines, it’s actually just about guaranteed. You

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Kombucha In My Winery?

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Just like I would not let a buddy of mine do any Brettanomyces beer-brewing experiments in my winery, so should you not do Kombucha and wine together in your kitchen (or garage) winery. Brettanomyces is a classic wine “spoilage” yeast responsible for a host of off aromas, often described as “barnyard” and “Band-Aid.” In addition,

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Stuck Fermentations

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Unfortunately, there are hundreds of possible causes of stuck and sluggish fermentations, and sometimes, even after careful investigation, we still can never understand what the cause may have been. With Mother Nature


“Fruit Floaties” — Strawberry Wine

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I just saw your picture and wow, that does indeed look like a floating brain — or two! Luckily, that is a great shot of what I would call typical “fruit floaties” combined with some of the fruit’s natural pectin, and I don’t think it’s anything to worry about. You see, when you make wine

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Alternative Sweeteners

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I hear you on the high pH/high TA unbalanced wine issue. I myself have dealt with some vineyards and some wine lots where I have had to add so much tartaric to high pH musts just to keep the pH below 3.85 after malolactic is complete. The causes of this in the vineyard is worth

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Empty Airlocks

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It sounds to me like some “bad bugs” (ambient bacteria or yeast cells) got into your wine. After four years of aging, having a batch infected due to a bad airlock must be heartbreaking I’m sure. Depending on what the organisms are and how long the wine was exposed, it’s quite possible that the wine

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Softened Water In Wine?

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That is a wonderful question! It’s estimated that it takes anywhere from 2–10 gallons (8–38 L) of water to make a gallon (4 L) of wine. Most of that estimate is for sanitation but there’s no doubt a little bit gets mixed up in the wine when we rehydrate our yeast or dissolve tartaric acid.

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Fermentation Troubles

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Hi Lauren, great question. There are so many steps along the way where a fermentation can get into trouble, or “go pear shaped” as my interns from New Zealand used to say. We could almost do a walk through from start to finish, or even picking to dryness and say well, it could go south

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Importing Juice vs. Fresh Grapes

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Well, it seems to me that Chile to New Jersey is an awfully long haul. I often, in my blog and in this column, advocate that the distance from vineyard to crushpad be as short as possible. Your friends are right; distance and, especially, time, can cause a degradation of quality. When a grape cluster

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When Life Gives You Limes Make Wine

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Very, very interesting. I have to say that the zest of 21 limes for three gallons (11 L) of liquid seems like a lot of lime-y-ness to me! I can only imagine that indeed, it did have a very strong lime peel taste. My suggestion for “taming” this would be a dilution strategy. The aroma

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Color Loss in Candy Cane Wine

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Well, well, well. Candy cane wine is one I have never heard of! However, as one of my winemaking professors always said, you can ferment just about anything as long as you can find the right microbe to do it! Candy canes certainly have a sugar source (sucrose), so wine yeast will definitely chew through

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Moldy Odor In My Wines

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Would you be surprised to know that you may be doing absolutely nothing wrong? Even though you tried to sanitize your corks (assuming you are using natural corks and not artificial corks) by soaking in a sulfite solution before bottling, it’s almost impossible to completely eradicate all of the organisms that could cause TCA (trichloroanisole)

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Calculating Molecular SO2

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Sulfur dioxide, or SO2, has many benefits in winemaking and has been added to wine for centuries to act as a preservative. When you add SO2 to your wine, part of it will bind up with other wine components like acetaldehydes, polyphenols, and weakly, to sugars (contributing to “total SO2”) and some will remain free

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Exploring The Corking Options

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The choice of bottle closure is a topic that winemakers the world over debate with regularity. Every time a new bottle closure or packaging method comes out (twist off? Glass? Stainless steel kegs?) the pros and cons are trotted out, and for very good reason. Whether for function, form, or just for marketing purposes, there

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Adding Some Sparkle To Your Wines

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Fermentation by itself is tricky but secondary fermentations for sparkling wines are especially so because your new yeast must fight against existing alcohol (which is toxic to yeast), depleted nutrition, and potentially toxic (to the yeast) compounds left behind as the primary yeast died out. To maximize your chances of a successful in-the-bottle fermentation you

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Measuring Brix in Fermentation

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Like most everything in winemaking, the glib answer is, “It depends.” The real answer, however, is much more complex and as you intimate, experience can play a large part in fine-tuning your


Red Wine Sediment

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I applaud you for your patience in aging your bottled wines that long! Would you be surprised to know that in the US most bottles of wine are consumed within 72 hours of purchase? Well, perhaps they just don’t have the love and appreciation for a finely-aged wine that you do. I would also add

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