Procedure

How do I know if I have stirred my wine enough to degas it?

The key is to stir your wine very, very vigorously until there are no more bubbles rising to the top of your carboy. Once you have done this, stir it one more time, just to make sure! One of the most common flaws in homemade wine is excess CO2. This excess CO2 will give you a fizzy taste sensation on the tongue. If you are finding this to be a common problem with your wines, you will need to stir more. Wine Sense sells a neat tool called The Wine Whip and it is one of most popular equipment pieces. The Wine Whip will fit into any standard power drill. The Wine Whip’s 3pronged design is the most effective way to degas your wine.

Can I re-use corks?

No. Once a cork has been in a wine bottle for any amount of time it will lose its straight shape. More importantly a used cork would be at high risk for microbial growth, which would spoil future bottles of wine.

Should I add elderberries and banana flakes to my wine kits?

Elderberries and banana flakes were at one time used in an attempt to compensate for the aromatic and flavour shortcomings of the concentrates used before 1985. Since then concentrate production methods have improved to the point where you can now match fine commercial wines- as a result these additives have fallen out of favor. Although some wine kit styles (although rare) use elderberries to achieve a specific character, there is no reason that you should be required to add these types of additives to a good quality wine kit. In fact the addition of these additives would bring down the quality of a quality wine kit.

Can I degas my wine by pouring it back and forth between two pails?

NO! Pouring your wine back and forth between two pails will oxidise your wine. Follow the instructions that came with your wine kit and simply stir the wine vigorously when the instructions advise. If you don’t enjoy stirring, Wine Sense sells a neat tool called The Wine Whip- the fastest and most effective way to degas you wine.

My wine kit has 4 packs of oak powder. Do I use them all?

Yes. Many of today’s wines are offering big oak flavours. Many California Cabernets and Chardonnays and in fact most Australian wines are known for their big, oak character. For example, the Selection Australian Chardonnay is designed in this fashion and has enough body and character to handle 4 packages of oak. It is not uncommon at all to find more than 1 pack of oak in many of the Selection styles.

Whenever a wine kit calls for the addition of any item you are to add all of the packages of that item.

Which pads should I use with my Buon Vino Mini-Jet Electric filter?

The Buon Vino #2 pad will do a fine job of filtering both red and white wines. If you are expecting to age the wine for an extended amount of time you can also run your wine through a set of Buon Vino #3 pads but this is optional. The key to remember is to make sure your wine is properly cleared prior to filtering. Wine Sense also recommends using only Buon Vino brand filter pads with your Mini-Jet filter- other pads do not meet the quality standards for the Buon Vino Mini-Jet filter and may result in inferior filtering.

How often should I rack my wine?

There is common misconception that the more you rack the wine the better. Many people don’t want to stir up the sediment that has settled out of their wine at the stabilizing stage. In fact, many of the fining (clearing) agents that are used need a large amount of sediment to work effectively.

Another misconception is the more they rack the wine the clearer the wine will be. Racking your wine will not give you a clearer wine- once the fining agent has done its job the only way to improve the clarity is to filter your wine.

The only thing that excess racking guarantees is exposure to oxygen. Unnecessary exposure to oxygen reduces the ability of the wine to store and may damage the wine due to oxidation.

Follow the instructions that come with your wine kit and rack your wine only when it is recommended.

Should I filter my wine?

The short answer is yes. Although today’s fining agents do a very good job of clearing wine, filtering does offer many benefits to your wine. The most obvious benefit is that your wine will have a professional clarity and polish that can only be achieved by filtering.

The nice thing about filtering is that it actually forces the wine ahead in its evolution. As wine ages, yeast and certain flavour and colour compounds combine and settle out leaving sediment. This aging process enhances the wine by leaving a smooth, clean flavour. Because filtration does such a good job of removing these compounds, it effectively force ages the wine.

Give your wine two to four weeks in the bottle to allow it to recover from “bottle shock” and ‘filter shock”- your wine needs time to recover from being handled and disturbed. After this you will see the advantages of filtering, both in visual clarity and in taste. Your wine will continue to improve with age.

Note: Some people believe that filtering a wine removes body and character from the wine- none of the filter pads available to the home winemaker are capable of doing this.

The instructions for my wine kit tell me to sprinkle the yeast over the must (unfermented wine). The instructions on the pack of yeast say to re-hydrate the yeast first. What should I do?

Re-hydrating the yeast will give you the highest live cell count, however the difference is negligible over not re-hydrating. Re-hydrating yeast is such a precise endeavour, if done incorrectly you end up with less than adequate yeast cell-counts and the resulting problems as a result.

Empirical evidence shows that yeast know what to do when sprinkled directly over the must and will give you perfectly acceptable results. So follow the instructions that come with your wine kit and just sprinkle the yeast over the must.

What kind of carboy is better, plastic or glass?

There was a time when we would have always recommended using glass over plastic. Designed specifically to ferment wine in, today’s plastic carboy is probably the preferred choice.

Today’s Plastic Carboy is safer and you can see through it just like glass. They don’t stain or retain odour and flavour and best of all they don’t break if you drop one.

Most importantly they’re about 15 pounds lighter than glass carboys which is a huge benefit when carrying or cleaning.

Do I have to add the potassium metabisulphite and potassium sorbate in my wine kit?

Yes. If you do not add them you run the risk of your wine spoiling or if you sweeten your wine, the risk of re-fermentation. Always follow the instructions that come with your wine kit.

I just mixed up my wine and the hydrometer reading is low. What is the problem?

There are two solutions to this problem. Your hydrometer is set to read at 60 degrees Fahrenheit- therefore if the temperature of your must (unfermented wine) is 80 degrees your hydrometer will read low. For every 10 degrees F you are over will have to add .002 – .003 points of specific gravity. Or you can wait until the must cools and take a new reading.

The other solution is to grab your spoon. After you have added the water to your wine kit it is crucial to stir the must vigorously. Wine concentrates are so viscous that they don’t actually mix well with water. Unless the wine is well mixed, it will stratify, with the top layer being very dilute (often below S.G. 1.050) and the bottom layer being extremely concentrated (sometimes above S.G. 1.100). This will throw off any attempt at an accurate specific gravity reading from your hydrometer and can cause problems with your fermentation. So remember, when starting your wine kit – stir well!

Why does my wine taste fizzy?

Even though a wine may have finished fermenting it may still be saturated with Carbon Dioxide (CO2). If this is the case, bottling the wine with the fizziness intact may result in some problems. Depending on the conditions, the CO2 could expand pushing the corks out of the bottles. Excessive CO2 will also provide you the pleasure of drinking a sparkling wine when it is supposed to be still (sparkling Cabernet Sauvignon, anyone?).

To get rid of the CO2, stir your wine. Most wine kits call for vigorous stirring when the fermentation is complete and the fining (clearing) agent is added. This stirring is needed to “degas” the wine. Like shaking a soft drink, the vigorous stirring forces the bubbles out of the wine. This not only prevents the wine from being fizzy in the bottle, but will also help the fining agent work well. If you are not sure whether your wine has been properly degassed at bottling time, simply put a small sample in a clean clear glass. If bubbles start appearing on the side of the glass within a few minutes (like a soft drink), you have more degassing to do.

To make degassing your wine easier Wine Sense carries a The Wine Whip. The Wine Whip will easily de-gas your wine with less work for you.

Should I use distilled or filtered water to make my wine?

The easiest answer to this question is if you enjoy drinking your water, you can make your wine with it. The high level of acids and minerals that are in the wine kit itself make any content in the water you use negligible. Chlorine levels in the public water supplies are federally regulated and are not high enough to affect your wine. Chlorine also dissipates very quickly into the atmosphere so any perceived flavour would not last during fermentation. The only concern is using water from a water softener as the sodium levels are very high and may be tasted. Any money spent on filtered or distilled water would be better spent on the wine kit. You will see a more significant difference in taste by buying a wine kit with a volume of fresh varietal grape juice in it.

My wine is cloudy, what should I do?

On occasion a wine kit may not clear properly. There are a few solutions to this, filtering is not one of them. Wine filters are for polishing clear wine. You will likely plug your filter pads if you try to filter a cloudy wine; as a result you end up with a wine just as cloudy as you started with. Sometimes all it takes is a little patience and a wine will clear out on its own. Using another clearing agent may help or stabilizing the wine’s temperature will allow the wine to clear. Contact Wine Sense and we will be able to provide the correct solution to your problem

It is possible to avoid clearing problems- here are some common causes:

Stabilizing your wine too soon- if you stabilize your wine before it is completely fermented out (use your hydrometer!) you will cause the still active yeast to become sluggish and lazy resulting in a wine that will not clear out.

Not degassing properly- Excess CO2 will inhibit the clearing process. Temperature Fluctuation- If you have an inconsistent fermentation temperature the wine in the carboy will start to circulate as it warms and cools. This will keep sediment in suspension.

Racking your wine- if you rack your wine off the sediment prior to stabilization and your instructions do not tell you to you will have clearing problems. Many wine kits require the sediment to work with the clearing agent in order to clear the wine (follow your instructions).

Temperature Fluctuation- If your fermenting area does not have a stable temperature your wine will warm and cool through out the day as the room warms and cools. When this happens the wine circulates inside the carboy keeping sediment in suspension. Remember your house’s thermostat is only accurate in the room it is in and set back thermostats mean your house warms and cools through out the day. A Heat Belt will ensure a consistent temperature.




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