Writer: Alison Crowe
Stabilizing A Fruit PortMEMBERS ONLY
Well, in the olden days of fortified winemaking, potassium sorbate (a potassium salt of sorbic acid) wasn’t even a thing. While sorbic acid does occur naturally in some plants (rowan berries and hippophae berries, to be exact), almost all of the world’s potassium sorbate is made in a laboratory. In addition to potassium sorbate being
Tips For Rehydrating Dry YeastMEMBERS ONLY
Photo by Jason Phelps Rehydrating dried yeast is a simple and straightforward process, and one that I find to be essential when using dried yeast for winemaking purposes. The simple answer to your question is no, do not use distilled water for yeast rehydration. Distilled water is not osmotically balanced, which means that it can
Sacrificial Tannins ExplainedMEMBERS ONLY
Oak galls are one source of tannins that winemakers may consider adding at various stages, including active fermentation as sacrificial tannin. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com Tannins, or the compounds in grapes (and oak barrels) that contribute to a pleasing sensation of astringency in red (and some white) wines, are found in grape skins and seeds.
Sacrificial Tannins Explained, Yeast Rehydration, and Stabilizing A Fruit PortMEMBERS ONLY
The term “sacrificial tannins” is something that gets casually tossed into the winemaking lexicon by those who have been in the trade for a while . . . but what does it really mean? Get an explanation along with tips for rehydrating dry yeast and techniques to properly stabilize a fortified wine.
Tips For Blending WineMEMBERS ONLY
I think that’s a pretty cool idea! How many of us are lucky enough to hang out with such an obviously collaboratively minded group of folks? And, though it may seem daunting, there’s nothing like jumping in and getting started. At the very least you’ll learn something going through the process yourself and I’m sure
Making Wine With Smoke-Effected GrapesMEMBERS ONLY
Indeed, the last few years (2017 and 2020 especially) grape growing areas in Northern California and other parts of the state including the Central Coast have experienced historically large wildfires. If grapes are exposed to smoke, winemakers should be alert to the possibility of smoke taint damage to grapes and to finished wines during and
Blending Guidance and Smoke Taint MitigationMEMBERS ONLY
Winemaking may be more a science, but blending is definitely an art. The Wizard has some tips for a rookie winemaker looking to possibly blend five different wines. Also, make sure you’re up on the latest knowledge and mitigation methods surrounding the phenomenon known as smoke taint.
Oak-Aging Advice and Strategies for a Chaptalization MistakeMEMBERS ONLY
Maintaining wine while it ages in oak is an important task. Make sure you are taking the appropriate steps. Also, a winemaker can’t get their latest wine to start fermentation. The Wine Wizard unravels the mystery behind the unfermentable juice.
Strategies for a Chaptalization MistakeFREE
It sounds like you’re doing a lot of things right, especially being that your grape wine has taken off, but your plum wine is just plum tuckered out. Seems like you’ve got
Oak Barrel Aging AdviceMEMBERS ONLY
Hi Larry, congrats on your new piece of equipment! I’m sure you’ll find it adds to the kinds of wine you can make. Since you just filled your barrel and it’s brand new, you might want to open the bung and check the wine level now, since it’s been three weeks. Sometimes new barrels are
Learning To Taste Wine At Different StagesFREE
I apologize in advance for the lengthy response, but this is a fantastic question and I really wanted to flesh out my answer for you. You’re absolutely right to realize that tasting
Bottling Blues Leads to Kegging ThoughtsMEMBERS ONLY
Hey, I’ve been there . . . a couple of years ago I also entered into unknown territory. After years of bottling one of my commercial Pinot Noirs in Stelvin screwcaps, I embarked on an adventure into the land of wine kegs, or “wine-on-tap.” I kept hearing from sommeliers and restaurant staff how by-the-glass programs
Tasting Wine In Stages and Bottling BluesMEMBERS ONLY
As a winemaker evolves, learning how to evaluate their wine during different stages of maturation can be key. The Wine Wizard has some thoughts on what to expect when tasting wines at various young ages as well as kegging homemade wine.
The Wine Wizard’s “Pearls of Wiz-dom”FREE
Thanks for your kind words! I always really enjoy the WineMaker Conferences and connecting with the readership — it helps me put names and faces to the invisible readership out there and
Using The Smoke, Campden Tablets, Getting Grape Updates, and Some Pearls of Wiz-domMEMBERS ONLY
With wildfires on the rise in many wine regions around the world, smoke taint has become a common phrase. Learn about it and ways winemakers may be able to try to make the best from affected grapes. Also learn about Campden tablets, getting news on grape growing conditions, and some other pearls of wiz-dom.
Campden Tablets Best PracticesMEMBERS ONLY
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. Longtime readers of my column
Getting Grape Updates During Growing SeasonMEMBERS ONLY
Sometimes local AVA (American Viticultural Area) groups will have data available on their websites or emails available to members (the latter is the case with, for example, Napa Valley Vintners). For the most part, however, home winemakers won’t be members of these kinds of groups (they can cost thousands of dollars to join) so they
Coping With Grapes Affected By Smoke TaintMEMBERS ONLY
Some characteristics found in smoke-tainted wines are the same that can be found in toasted oak barrels. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com I’ve heard rumor that a couple of smaller wineries that have experienced smoke taint in their grapes are indeed evolving that wine into new styles. Depending on the grape type and level of impact,
Bottling Tips and ChecklistMEMBERS ONLY
Bottling day gets easier with equipment upgrades and practice. But whether your first or fiftieth bottle run, certain fundamentals need to always be followed. Photo by Brett Cook I totally get it! There are some great articles about bottling in the WineMaker article archives at www.winemakermag.com. Though it’s a topic my fellow authors have covered
Learn Some Wine Judge EtiquetteFREE
Congrats on getting invited to your first ever wine judging! I’ve been judging wine competitions, both for home and commercial winemakers, for over 15 years now and they’re always a great way
Bottling Tips and Wine Judge EtiquetteMEMBERS ONLY
Bottling is typically the final step towards producing wine where a winemaker can foul things up. Get some recommendations from the Wizard on when and how to bottle your wines. Also get some pointers on proper etiquette of being a wine judge.
Practical Advice For Oak Chips and Volatile AcidityMEMBERS ONLY
Q I am using Flextanks and oak chips for my wine and am really liking the results. However, I put the oak chips in loose and they clog up the tubing and pump when I rack. I was thinking of making some bags out of mesh to put the oak chips in, but was wondering
Malolactic-palooza and The Importance Of pHMEMBERS ONLY
Malolactic fermentation can be finicky even for professional winemakers, but there are protocols winemakers can follow to help avoid the headache (and heartache). Learn those along with best practices for a post-fermentation acid adjustment.
Post-Fermentation Wine Acid AdjustmentMEMBERS ONLY
Great topic and great questions. If you’ve read my columns over the years, you’re familiar with my mantra of acid being the “backbone” of wine, as well as the importance of having the correct pH for long-term aging. The higher the pH (lower acidity), the more spoilage organisms like Lactobacillus and Acetobacter can get a
Troubleshooting Malolactic FermentationMEMBERS ONLY
Well, it’s tough to say what would make one cloudy and the other clear, except for the fact that they may not have been identical coming from your fermenters. If you did blend/homogenize after pressing, then it’s possible you’re seeing the cloudy wine (pH 3.77) going through the MLF (malolactic fermentation) a little more quickly