Wine Making Tips

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How should I store my homemade wine?

Think of Angle, Light and Movement When Storing Wine

Wine making at home requires attention to every little detail. Many guidelines tell you at what temperature to keep your wine stored. However, don't overlook other elements in the room that could detract from your wine once its made and waiting for use. Think about the angle you store your bottles, the light in the room and minimizing movement of bottles once they are stored. Table wine is stored horizontally so that the wine stays in contact with the cork. This keeps the cork moist which prevents air from entering the wine. Fortified wines other than port are stored standing. If bottles are stored with the labels up, it will be easier to see the deposit of sediment that forms on the opposite side of the bottle when it comes time to open it. Wines should be stored in such a way that you don't have to move them around to get at a particular bottle. Once a wine is laid down, it should stay there until it is opened. Light will prematurely age a bottle of wine. Incandescent or sodium vapor lights are better for a cellar that fluorescent lighting. While clear bottles are most susceptible to light, ultraviolet light will penetrate even dark colored glass. Ultraviolet light may give a wine unpleasant aromas and ruin it. Extra care should be given to sparkling wines as they are more sensitive to light than other wines.

   
Can I make wine out of something other than grapes?

The "other" wine

You may be one of those people who like to do things for themselves. Then, making wine at home is for you. But what if you don't like the taste or are tired of using grapes. How about strawberries, blueberries, chickory or even dandelions! Wine is not limited to just using grapes. Just about any fruit can be turned into wine. Your own taste will dictate the need for additional sugar and acidity. Also, you may have to add yeast if there is not enough naturally on the fruit in order to get the fermentation process started. Oh, the possibilities!

   
What new technology is out there for home wine makers?

New Contraption Makes Wine Making Easy

You've heard of an iPod, but have you heard of a WinePod? Similar to the way way iPods have made listening to music easy, WinePods are promising to make wine making easy. Now that consumers are able to adopt vines, participate in hands-on wine camps and blend their own wines at custom crush facilities, you might be wondering how long it will be before professional winemakers are rendered obsolete. That's not likely to happen anytime soon, but a new machine called a WinePod could turn thousands of regular folks into instant winemakers. It's an all-in-one "home winery" that does everything from crushing to fermentation to acting as the user's winemaking consultant. Just order the grapes, pop them into the machine and hit the "on" button. A sleek, egg-shaped, stainless steel contraption, the WinePod is priced at $2,000. It's a 4-foot-tall, compact enough to even fit in an apartment.

   
What equipment should I buy to make my first batch of wine?

Essential Wine Making Equipment

According to Wine Spectator Magazine, more and more Americans are making wine. If you dream of joining the legions of Americans doing this, first make a list of this basic equipment to get you started. To make a 1 gallon batch of wine, you'll need to purchase the following from any homebrewing or home winemaking supply shop. 1. Large nylon straining bag 2. Food-grade pail with lid (2 to 4 gallons) 3. Cheesecloth 4. Hydrometer 5. Thermometer 6. Acid titration kit 7. Clear, flexible half-inch diameter plastic tubing 8. Two one-gallon glass jugs 9. Fermentation lock and bung 10. Five 750 milliliter wine bottles 11. Corks 12. Hand corker It is essential that the equipment is sanitary. Wash all of your equipment thoroughly with hot water, boiling what you can. It's a good idea to arm yourself with a strong sulfite solution to rinse any equipment that comes into contact with your wine. To make it, add 3 tablespoons of sulfite powder (potassium metabisulfite) to a gallon of water and mix well.

   
How do I monitor sugar levels when making wine?

Monitor Sugar Levels

To produce great wine, the fruit should have a high (but not overly high) sugar content or "brix." Brix is the term used to designate the percentage of sugar in the grapes before fermentation. For example, 23° brix will be converted by yeast to 12.5 percent alcohol, more or less, depending on the conversion efficiency of the strain of yeast used. When making your own wine, you must monitor the sugar level with your hydrometer, a handy device you can buy at a winemaking supply shop. The fruit should taste sweet, ripe and slightly tart. When wine making, to bring the sugar concentration up, make a sugar syrup by dissolving one cup of sugar into one-third of a cup of water. Bring it to a boil in a saucepan and immediately remove from heat. Cool before adding in small amounts, one tablespoon at a time. To lower the sugar level, simply dilute your must or juice with water. The temperature of your must can also be adjusted to provide the perfect environment for yeast cells. Warming up the juice gently (don't cook or boil it) is an easy way to bring it to pitching temperature without damaging the quality of the wine. Fermentation can sometimes reach into the 80 F to 90 F range, though the 70 F range is standard for reds (whites often are fermented at cooler temperatures).

   
What do I do if the my grapes are too cold as I make wine at home?

What to do if Your Grapes are Too Cold

When wine making at home, if your grapes have been refrigerated or are too cold, use this unorthodox but quick trick, courtesy of Wine Maker Magazine: Heat up a small portion of the juice in the microwave, mix it back into the fermentation pail and retest the temperature. An electric blanket wrapped around the fermentation pail also works, but takes longer. For cooling, add a reusable ice pack and stir for a few minutes. Pitch the yeast when the temperature reaches 70 F to 75 F for reds and 55 F to 65 F for whites.

   
How do I bottle my homemade wine?

Racking and Bottling Your Wine

"Racking" means transferring the fermenting wine away from sediment. You insert a clear, half-inch diameter plastic hose into the fermenter and siphon the clear wine into another sanitized jug. Then top it off and fit it with a sanitized bung and fermentation lock. This can be a delicate operation when wine making at home and it's important to go slowly. You don't want to stir up the sediment, but you don't want to lose your siphon suction. Bottling the Batch: To bottle your wine, you simply siphon your finished product into the bottles (leaving about 2 inches of headspace below the rim), insert a cork into the hand corker, position the bottle under the corker and pull the lever. It's always wise to buy some extra corks and practice with an empty bottle before you do it for real. Also, keep in mind, when finally enjoying your wine, remember this tip on recorking it: use the opposite end of the cork that was closest to the wine. Because of the spongy nature, the cork has absorbed some liquid, and thus the dry end of the cork will fit more easily into the mouth of the bottle.

   
How do I make sure I use the best grapes for making wine?

Inspect Your Grapes and Adjust the Juice

Wine can be made from grapes, fruits or berries. Winemaking experts can't stress enough to inspect your grapes before you begin making your own wine. Make sure the grapes are ripe by testing the way a good handful squishes in your hand. The grapes you use for your wine making also must be clean, sound and relatively free of insects and other vineyard debris. Discard any grapes that look rotten or otherwise suspicious. Also, it's very important that all the stems are removed, since they will make your wine bitter. Once you've cleaned your grapes, adjusting the juice, or "must," of your wine is critical. Luckily, it's also easy. Acid content is measured with a simple titration kit; you can buy one at a supply shop. The ideal acid level is 6 to 7 grams per liter for dry reds and 6.5 to 7.5 grams per liter for dry whites.

   
Do wine making kits have all the answers?

Kits Don't Always Have The Answers

There are kits on the market designed to help wine making at home go smoothly. They help you mix, ferment, package and enjoy your wine. Plenty of these kits are helpful and work well. However, the kits don't always answer all of your wine making questions. So be sure to do some reading on the topic of wine making before using them. For example, users claim that some kit makers don't emphasize what to do during the stabilization process. This leaves some home wine makers scratching their heads during the second fermentation step - wondering whether they should mix all the sediment back into the batch before stabilizing it. The expert consensus is, when making your own wine, resist the urge to rack the wine before stabilizing it. During secondary fermentation, the sediment at the bottom of the batch must once again be mixed into the wine and allowed to settle again. Some home wine makers are tempted to stop the process right there, since the rest of the liquid looks clear. According to experts and those who have experimented with both ways of doing it, this would be a bad idea because the clarifying or fining agent acts much more efficiently when it works in combination with the contaminants that are mixed back into the wine. So if your kit doesn't specify what to do during certain steps, have a wine making guide or other literature handy as back up.

   
Can I compete nationally with my homemade wine?

Competition for Home Winemakers

If you enjoy making your own wine, why not get competitive? An amateur wine competition has been an integral part of the American Wine Society (AWS) national conference for almost as long as the Society has existed. However, you must be an AWS member to participate. Membership to AWS is open to any interested wine enthusiast, professional wine maker, amateur wine maker, grape grower, or curious novice. It costs anywhere from $30 to $52 a year, depending on if you join before or after July and whether you want a full year's subscription to the publication. There are lots of membership benefits, such as participation in local, regional and national events, receiving the Quarterly American Wine Society Journal and Quarterly AWS Newsletter, technical manuals, bulletins, videos, and vintage charts among other privileges. The competition has become a great opportunity for AWS home winemakers to showcase their creations and have them judged by their peers. In a two-tiered system of judging, hundreds of wines in dozens of categories are evaluated. Medals and other honors are awarded to makers of wines deemed worthy. The winemaking event also provides a learning opportunity for AWS members wanting to know more about evaluating wines. They may participate in judging sessions by observing the process, and by tasting and rating the wines for their own education.

   
What tools to I need to make wine labels?

Making Your Own Wine Labels

Now that you've made your own wine, you'll want to make wine labels to finish the job. Here's what you'll need: Assuming you'll want to create several labels at once instead of making them one at a time by hand (each 6-gallon batch of wine produces around 30 bottles), here are the items that you'll need to make your own wine labels: 1. Computer 2. Printer (do you want color or black and white labels?) 3. Plain/gummed paper or label stock 4. Software that supports graphics and labels (Microsoft Word, Microsoft Publisher, Print Shop, FileMaker Pro, Microsoft Access, Microsoft Excel) 5. Scissors or paper cutter 6. Scanner (to add chosen art or photos onto your label) 7. Digital camera Don't forget to prevent your ink from running. After you print your wine labels and allow the ink to dry, spray a waterproof coating on the labels before cutting or separating the labels, then apply the labels to the bottle.

   
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