Wine Log Series – Luva Bella Fall Juice – 10-19-11

Welcome to the  third post of my Wine Log Series. With this series, I am documenting how to make wine by recording my wine notes on this blog. If you missed part 1 and 2, you can find them here and here.  I racked the wine on 10/19/2011 and got an updated SG reading on all the wine,

Burgundy: SG .994 has a cherry flavour.

Shiraz: SG .990 has an alcohol flavour with a cranberry after-taste.

Valpolicella: SG .990 Taste like currants.

Viognier:  SG 1.025 Taste like peaches.

Since then all the wine has been bottled with the exception of the Viognier.  The Viognier is taking longer to ferment out and on 3/29/2012 clarifier was added to help it clear. On 4/08/2012 sulphite was added.  It has a sweet peach flavour.    This wine is sweet enough to be considered a dessert wine and will make a nice gift.  It should be bottled shortly.

The Valpolicella was the first to be bottled, on 2/2012.  It has a sweet cherry aroma and is a full body wine.  It is tangy on the back of you tongue has a cherry flavour with lite smoky undertones.  It needs some aging time in the bottle for it to hit it’s great potential.

The Burgundy and the Shiraz were bottled on 3/2012. These are my two favourites. The Burgundy has a blackberry aroma with a full body. It tastes like a chocolate covered strawberry. This turned out to be an excellent selection and one we will order again. The Shiraz has a tart cherry aroma with a medium body.  It has a nice blackberry flavour with a hint of cherry and a nice smoky after taste.

This concludes this series of the wine log. We will start a new series soon when we start the spring wine juice we have ordered.


Basic Wine Making Equipment

In the first post about Basic Wine Making, I talked about sanitation and how important it is to successful wine making. In this post, I am going to go over the wine making equipment you will need to make wine. I will describe what each item is for, and when you can use items you may have around the house.

Primary Fermenter – This is the first thing you will need. Generally it is a food grade bucket used to ferment the wine at the beginning of the process. Any food grade bucket will work. If you have a bucket that came with food in it, you have a food grade bucket. Wine making supply shops sell 5 gallon ones for around $15. You can also get them at your local big box store. Be sure you get food grade plastic. Food grade plastic is denser than regular plastic and won’t harbor bacteria as well as regular plastic.

Secondary Fermenter – This is where you rack your wine to after it leaves the primary fermenter. I prefer to use a glass carboy for this step. You can also use the plastic water cooler jugs. Glass is easier to keep clean, plastic is lighter. Choose which ever one you prefer.

Airlock and Bung – This is a S shaped piece of plastic you fill with water. It will let the CO2 gas from fermentation out, while blocking outside oxygen from getting inside. The bung is a rubber stopper with a hole in it for the airlock. This goes on the secondary fermenter. You can get bungs in many sizes. They can be small enough for a wine bottle and large enough for water cooler bottles and everything in between.

Hydrometer and flask – This is used to measure the amount of ferment-able sugar in a wine prior to fermentation. A hydrometer is calibrated to read 0 when floating in water. As you add sugar to water, the water become more dense and the hydrometer will float higher. This is how you figure out how potent you wine will be. You take a reading before fermentation and a reading after fermentation, subtract the two, then you know how much alcohol is in your wine.

Siphon Hose – This is just a rubber hose used to siphon wine from the primary fermenter in the secondary fermenter and from one carboy to the next.

Wine Thief – This is a long tube used to take a sample of wine from a carboy for testing.

Wine Bottles – You will need something to keep your finished wine in. Save your wine bottles. Have your friends save wine bottle for you. Ask local restaurants what they do with their old wine bottles and see if you can have some. You can also buy them at you local wine making supply shop.

Corker – This is used to put the corks in the wine bottles. Hand corkers generally have two levers on each side. You put a cork in the corker, place it on top of the bottle, and push the levers down to push the cork into the bottle. There is also a floor model corker that is easier to use, but it is more expensive. Pick which ever one suits you.

Corks – These are used to seal your bottle of wine. The most common sizes are #8 and #9. Most wine bottles are #9, most champagne bottles and #8. If you are not sure what size you need, take your bottle to the local wine supply shop and ask them. Only use new corks.

Acid Test Kit – Used to test the acid in your wine prior to fermentation. You won’t need this if you only make kit wines. Kit wines have already had their acid adjusted. If you make wine from other fruits, you will need an acid test kit.

If you have never made wine before, and you just want to try it one time to see if it is something you might like, then the above items are probably the bare minimum. If you decide you want to make more wine, then there are some items that will make the whole process easier. They are listed below.

Auto-siphon – This is a handy device you can use to siphon the wine from one container to the next. You just attach you siphon hose to it, place it in the carboy or bucket, give it a couple pumps and the wine starts flowing. Far easier then sucking on the end of the hose.

Bottling Wand – This device goes on the other end of the siphon hose and is used at bottling time. It has a small plunger on the end and when you push it down on the bottom of the bottle, it lets the wine flow and stops the flow when you lift it from the bottom of the bottle. It is far easier that trying to pinch the siphon hose to stop the flow of wine.

Carboy Brush – This is just a large brush with a handle long enough to get to the bottom on a carboy. They are useful for stubborn rings on the inside of the carboy.

This is the equipment needed to start making wine. Keep in mind you can start small with 1 gallon containers for fermentation. They will be less expensive than 5 gallon containers. If you enjoy the hobby, you can upgrade to larger containers later. In my next post, I will explain the wine making process in detail.


Basic Wine Making: Sanitization in Winemaking

It has been awhile since my last post, so I decided to do a series on Basic Wine Making.  I teach a wine making class here in Portersville, but for those of you who could not make it, I am going to go over what I teach in class. This is going to be a multi-part series starting with sanitization.

I have been making my own wine for over 12 years now. I started my journey making wine completely by happen-stance. One year, my father decided he wanted to make some pear wine because he had lots of pears from his fruit trees. One of his buddies decided to help him with this project. Now, my dad likes to jump right into new projects and since he had so many pears, he decided to make 55 gallons of pear wine! He got an old plastic 55 gallon barrel, put in the pears, some water, 25 pounds of sugar and a brick of bread yeast.

He stirred and stirred, it bubbled and fermented, this went on for a few weeks. After a couple months, we had this barrel full of nasty, vinegary, pear flavored concoction. It certainly was not wine. We had to dump this stuff down the drain.

After this first failure, I figured I would try to make a batch of wine. One of the first batches of wine I tried to make was a Strawberry wine. I did a little research on the Internet, borrowed an old crock pot, bought some wine yeast and tried to make strawberry wine. I boiled some water, added some sugar, added the strawberries, fermented it in a old crock pot, and it failed spectacularly. It was the most terrible thing I ever tasted!

For the record, don’t try to make wine in a crock pot that has been used to make sauerkraut… EVER!

Other than the fact that I should not have used a crock pot that had been used for sauerkraut, the other big mistake I made was not to sanitize my equipment. Which leads me to the point I am trying to make here.


I can’t stress this enough. Proper sanitation will solve 90% of your problems before you have them. Wine spoilage is almost always the result of not properly sanitizing something along the way. Make sure your equipment, buckets, carboys, siphon hose, and anything else that touches the wine are all properly sanitized. Sanitizing involves more than just washing your equipment with dish soap, so I will explain how to do it properly. In fact, you don’t want to use dish soap to clean your equipment, you want to use a clenser like B-brite.

There are 2 types of sanitizers that I have used in wine making. The sanitizers are Sulfite solution and Star San. Star San and Sulfite solution are no-rinse sanitizers. What that means is that you can use them with out rinsing the solution off the equipment with water. Star San is an acid based sanitizer and will not harm your wine. Sulfite is found naturally in wine and also will not harm your wine.

I mostly use Star San for sanitization now. I mix my Star San at 1/4 ounce per gallon, the directions say use 1oz for 5 gallons. Leave your equipment stand for a few minutes to give the sanitizer time to work. You do not have to rinse your equipment after using Star San. Another no rinse solution you can use is sulfite solution. You can make this by mixing 2 ounces of Potassium Metabisulfite into 1 gallon of water. You can then spray your equipment and give it a few minuets to work.

I clean my equipment with B-Brite after each use and then let air dry. B-Brite is an oxygen based cleanser. When I am ready to start another batch of wine, I’ll sanitize the bucket, spoons and any other equipment by spraying everything down with Star San. Then I will make my wine. After a week or two, I rack the wine out of the bucket. I will then rinse the dirty bucket with cold water. This will remove any sediment, fruit, and wine still in the bucket. Once the bucket has been rinsed, I will use B-Brite to wash out the bucket. I make sure to get B-Brite on every surface of the bucket, inside and out. I use it like dish soap and clean the whole bucket. To make a B-Brite solution, mix one table spoon into 1 gallon of water.

I used to use a sulfite solution to clean my bottles prior to bottling. I would fill the bottles with the sulfite solution, give them a couple minuets to soak then pour the solution from one bottle into the next. I would leave the bottles wet to add a little sulfite to the wine to keep the wine from spoiling. The one downside is that sulfite solution has a bad sulfur smell. I have switched to Star San to sanitize my bottles. Now I check the sulfite levels of my wine while it is bulk aging. I will go over this in more detail in a later post.

This concludes the first post in the series Basic Wine Making. I hope you understand how important proper sanitization is to Wine Making. It will solve 90% of your problems before you have them. In the next post, I will go over the equipment used in Wine Making and each items purpose.


Bottleing Time

I recently bottled some Cru Select White Chocolate Port I had aging in the cellar and I thought I would take the opportunity to describe my bottling process.

First, make sure your wine is done! I usually leave my wine bulk age in carboys for at least 6 months. This gives the wine time to finish, clear and out gas. These conditions are important for a good bottle of wine. If wine is bottled cloudy it will clear in the bottle and leave sediment in your bottles. If you bottle before the wine is finished fermenting, it will pop the corks out of the bottle and wine will be on the floor! ( Elderberry wine is hard to remove from carpet!) If wine is bottled before it has out gassed, there will be off smells in the wine. Make sure the wine is finished fermenting, clear, and smells good before bottling.

So the wine is done, the next thing to do is clean and sanitize your bottles. I use a sulfite solution to clean my bottles, but you can also use B-Bright or Star-San. I make my sulfite solution with 1 once of Potassium Meta-bi sulfite in 1 gallon of water. (This mixture will smell of sulfur, so don’t take a big whiff.) I fill each bottle with this solution, leave it sit for a couple of minuets, then pour it into another bottle. You can reuse this solution as long as it looks clean and smells like sulfur.

While I am sanitizing my bottles, I have my corks soaking in some water. 1 gallon of wine will fill 5 of the standard 750ml wine bottles, so I soak 5 corks for each gallon of wine. Make sure all the corks are covered with water. I soak mine in a Tupperware bowl with the lid on to keep the corks from floating.

Next I rack the wine into the wine bottles. I use an auto-siphon and bottle filler, but all you really need is a piece of hose that is only used for racking wine.

After he wine bottles are filled, I cork the bottles. I have a hand corker, and I place the wet corks into the corker, place the corker on the bottle and push the corks into the wine bottle with the hand corker.

I leave the bottles stand upright for three days so the corks dry and seal the bottle. After that, I lay my wine bottles on their side in the cellar. That is all there is to bottling wine!