How Long Before Wine Yeast Starts Working?

Wine Yeast Held By Home WinemakerI bought your wine making starter kit and am up to the point where you add the wine yeast. I added the yeast about 12 hours ago and nothing has happened yet at all. Is this normal? The reason I ask is because I have made wine before in just a gallon milk jugs and added brewers yeast and instantly it foams. Can you please let me know…

Thank-You,
Harley
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Hello Harley,

The short answer is that you should expect to see activity of some kind within 36 hours, but usually within 24 hours. The fact that you are not seeing your wine working within 12 hours is not all that unusual. Just how long before your wine yeast starts working depends on numerous factors.

In regards to your previous batches, when making wine in a gallon glass carboy or something similar, it is expected that the fermentation will take off sooner. This is because you are using the same amount of yeast in a single gallon that you would be using in the typical five or six gallons of a wine making kit. The higher concentration of yeast cells, means your yeast will start fermenting sooner.

That’s the short answer to your question. The long answer is I don’t think there is a thing wrong with your wine must or wine yeast, but if you are still concerned I can go over some things that may put you more at ease.

  • The #1 reason a wine yeast fails to ferment is temperature.
    The wine must is either too hot or too cold. Temperature plays a major role in how fast or slow a wine yeast starts to ferment. The temperature should be between 70 and 75°F. The further you get from this fermentation temperature, the harder it is for the wine yeast to start fermenting. If you are not sure what temperature your wine must is at, you may want to consider getting a wine thermometer.
  • The #2 reason a wine yeast fails is improper re-hydration.Shop Thermometers
    The direction on most packets of wine yeast will tell you to re-hydrate the yeast in warm water before adding it to the wine must. The directions will specify a certain temperature for specific length of time. Normally, it’s something like 105°F. for 10 minutes. If you followed these direction, exactly, you will not have a problem whatsoever. But, if the temperature was hotter than the directions say, or if you left the wine yeast in the warm water for a longer length time than you were supposed to, you could have killed all or a significant portion of the yeast. If most of the yeast was killed it will take much longer for the fermentation to start. The fermentation may also be slow or sluggish once it does start.

In either of the above cases the solution is simple. Depending on the issue, either get the wine must to the proper temperature, or add another pack of wine yeast. Problem solved!

Just how long before your wine yeast starts working can depend on a number of different factors. The above two are by far the most common we run across, but if neither of these sound right, you may want to take a look at, “Top 10 Reasons For Fermentation Failure” that is listed on our website.

After have said all of this, it’s still only been 12 hours since you added the yeast. The most likely scenario is that it will have already started bubbling by the time you read this. While many fermentation will start before this, taking longer than 12 hours is not all that unusual.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

It’s All About The Grape!

Napa Valley Grapes MalbecI was talking to one of our customers on the phone, yesterday. We got to talking about the different homemade wine kits he’s made over the last few years. He mentioned how he used to make wine using ingredient kits from our European Select and Legacy brands, but now he only likes to make wine from our top-end kits such as Cellar Craft Showcase.

He was thinking about making wine from fresh grapes this year and he wanted to know which I thought would make a better wine: our top-end wine ingredient kits or wine he made from fresh grapes?

I told him the answer’s simple. As an individual winemaker, you will almost always get a better wine using our top-end homemade wine kits. There are several reasons for this, but the most important and basic one has to do with the grape. A common mantra throughout the wine industry is:

No wine can be better than the grapes used to make it.

Or, as some people like to put it, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. If you have mediocre grapes, the best you can hope for is mediocre wine. Only stellar grapes are capable of making a stellar wine and that’s what you get with our top-end wine ingredient kits.

Unless you are fortunate enough to live in Napa or Sonoma, the grapes that are going to be available to you are most likely not going to be of the same caliber as grapes used to make our high-end homemade wine kits. Although, I am certain that there are many exceptions to this, the fact remains that the odds are way out of your favor when going on the open market to find wine grapes.

The grapes used in our high-end wine ingredient kits such as: Cellar Craft Showcase or Atmosphere, are grown in select regions of the world. They come from the same fields used to produce many high-dollar wines found on the commercial market.

Shop Wine KitsI told him that this doesn’t mean he shouldn’t make wine from fresh grapes. The experience is wonderful and it’s a time that can be shared with family and friend. Wine making from fresh grapes has it’s rewards regardless of the quality. All this really means is don’t expect to make a killer wine with everyday wine grapes… expect everyday wine.

Here’s what the difference between wine ingredient kits and fresh grapes boils down to: If you’re looking for ultimate quality, go with the homemade wine kits. If your looking for the ultimate experience go for the fresh grapes.
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Do You Have To Filter Homemade Wine?

MiniJet Wine Filter SystemI have been reading your blog for some time. My neighbor makes wine and said I should try it.  I have a question. He uses a wine filter to clear his wine. Do you have to filter homemade wine? He says it is not but I don’t see how if you don’t have something to clear it.

Eric
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Hello Eric,

Let me start off by saying that you can make perfectly clear homemade wine without using a wine filter of any kind. You do not need to filter a homemade wine for it be clear. Let me explain why…

What causes a wine to be cloudy is mostly wine yeast. The yeast multiply themselves into a colony of incredibly huge numbers during the fermentation. This wine yeast is finer than flour and adds a milky look to the fermenting wine must. Even though the wine yeast cells are microscopically tiny and can easily be stirred-up by the fermentation. They will also settle out through gravity once the fermentation activity has stopped. The other stuff like the pulp and tannin from the fruit will fall out even before the yeast.

If you do absolutely nothing, the wine yeast cells will settle out on their own, usually within a matter of days. This is why you do not have to filter the wine. It will become surprisingly clear on its on if given a chance.

If you would like to speed up the process you can use something called a fining agent. A fining agent is something that you add directly to the wine must. It collects the particles together and drags them to the bottom more quickly than they would on their own. A particular fining agent routinely used by many wineries is Bentonite.

You may be asking yourself at this point, “if the wine yeast will settle out on their own and I can use fining agents to speed up the process, then why does my neighbor have a wine filter? And furthermore, why do wine filters even exist“?

Wine filters do have a purpose in wine making,
but it’s not to clear up a cloudy wine.

 

A wine filter is designed to make a clear wine look even clearer. A wine filter should only be used on a wine after it is already visually clear. It filters out wine yeast, even beyond what the human I can see. This level of filtering adds further polish or luster to the wine causing it to illuminate more brilliantly.shop_wine_filters

It is important to understand that a wine filter is not something that strains the wine. The wine is actually forced under pressure through extremely fine filter pads. It filters the wine so fine that it can make a white wine look like a solid piece of glass in the wine bottle. With this kind of filtering power, using it on a wine that seems even slightly murky will cause the filter pads to clog up quickly. The wine needs to look absolutely clear to the naked-eye before the use of a wine filter can even be considered.

My suggestion to you is to go ahead and make a batch of wine and don’t worry about using a wine filter for now. Most home winemakers do not filter their wines and are absolutely satisfied with the clarity. Once the wine is finished and had time to clear, take a look at it and see if you are happy with its clarity. If not, then you can revisit purchasing a wine filter system to filter that wine.

Just remember that if you do decide that you need to filter your homemade wine, we have several different models of wine filters in stock that can be shipped the same day your order.

Happy Wine Making,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

A Simple Guide To Metabisulfites

Sodium Metabisulfite, Potassium Metabisulfite and Campden TabletsI have a quick question that I can’t find the answer to. I’m hoping you can help me out. Which is better, campden tablets, sodium metabisulfite or potassium metabisulfite? I’ve looked in several places but don’t understand why you need all 3 to make wine.

Shaun
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Hello Shaun,

Thanks for the great question. This is an issue that perplexes many wine making hobbyist. So I’m glad you brought it up.

The first thing to understand is that all three of these wine making ingredients do the same thing: Campden tablets, sodium metabisulfite and potassium metabisulfite, they all add sulfites to a solution. Whether it be wine or water the result is the same. Regardless of which of the three you use, the result is the same. Sulfites are being added to the liquid.

So what’s the difference? Not much. The main difference between sodium metabisulfite and potassium metabisulfite is that one will leave residual amounts of sodium in the wine and the other some potassium.

Many home winemakers will lean towards using potassium metabisulfite instead of sodium metabisulfite in their wines as a means of avoiding more sodium intake in their diet. But in reality this is somewhat futile.

If the normal recommended dose of sodium metabisulfite is used—1/16 teaspoon per gallon—the residual sodium being added is equivalent to one slice of pickle per case of wine. Not enough to affect the flavor and certainly not enough to affect your diet.

Potassium metabisulfite is slightly stronger than sodium metabisulfite by volume—17% stronger—but this is not enough to be taken into account if you are only making 5 or 10 gallons of wine at a time. With either we recommend the same dosage.Shop Sulfite Tester

Now that we have cleared that up, what makes Campden tablets different from potassium and sodium metabisulfite? Again, not much. Campden tablets are nothing more that potassium metabisulfite in tablet form. The tablets are measured in a dose for one gallon of wine. You simply use one tablet per gallon.

So in the case of tablets, it’s a matter of  convenience. If a home winemaker is only making a gallon or two of wine at a time, they may want to use Campden tablets instead of having to measure out a 1/16 teaspoon dose for each gallon, just to keep things simple.

As to your question as to which one is best to use, in reality it just doesn’t matter. I say, ‘pick one and go with it’. Many home wine makers will use sodium metabisulfite for sanitizing their equipment and wine bottles and then use the potassium metabisulfite to go directly into the wine for preservation. But in reality, if you don’t want to buy both… not a big deal.

Happy Wine Making,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

How To Add Yeast To A Wine Must

Wine yeast is an essentialYeast Starter For Adding To Wine Must ingredient of any wine recipe. It is the critical ingredient that does all the work. Wine yeast consumes the sugars in the wine must and converts them into alcohol and CO2 gas. Without the yeast you would have no wine.

There are three different ways to add yeast to wine must. Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a brief overview of each of them:

Add The Yeast Directly To The Wine Must:
This is the most common method. Simply open the packet of wine yeast and sprinkle it directly on top of the wine must. There is no reason to the stir the yeast into the liquid. It will dissolve into the wine must just fine on its own. Sprinkle the yeast and let it be. The obvious advantage to this method is that it takes no effort. The disadvantage is that you do lose some of the yeast’s ability to ferment effectively at the very beginning of fermentation. The result is a delay in the startup of fermentation – usually a matter of 3 or 4 hours.

Re-hydrate The Yeast. Then Add To The Wine Must:
The wine yeast that you get in little packets has been dehydrated. All the moisture has been taken from the cells to make them inactive while in storage. Re-hydrate means to add water back to the yeast. When this process is done before adding the yeast to the wine must, you get a fermentation that takes off more quickly.

It’s no coincidence that this is the method you will find on the side of most packets of wine yeast. The producers of these yeast packets would prefer you use this method. The problem is that if you do not follow the directions “exactly” you can easily kill the wine yeast.

Typical wine yeast re-hydration directions will read something like:

“Put the yeast in two ounces of water that is between 104°F. and 109°F. for a period of 15 minutes.”

This method works well if you follow it without wavering in time or temperature. But if you don’t use a thermometer to verify the water’s temperature, or if you leave the wine yeast in the water for longer than directed, you can easily kill most or all of the wine yeast.

Make A Yeast Starter. Then Add To The Wine Must:
This method is often confused with re-hydration, but it’s not the same thing. Re-hydration is getting the wine yeast back to its original state by adding water with it.  But a yeast starter is actually letting the yeast ferment on a small amount of must before adding it to a batch of wine. A yeast starter usually take one or two days to get going before it is add to the entire batch.Shop Digital Thermometer

Making a yeast starter is fairly straight-foreword. If the wine must is already prepared you can use it as the starter. One pint of wine must in a quart Mason jar and a packet of wine yeast works perfectly for a five gallon batch of wine. If your batch is larger, multiply the starter’s size proportionately.  Add a 1/4 teaspoon of yeast nutrient along with the yeast packet and cover it with a plastic wrap secured with a rubber band. Prick a pinhole in the plastic wrap to allow the gasses to escape.

If you don’t have the wine must at hand you can use our Winemaker’s Quick Starter to create a starter without the wine must. It comes with complete directions on how much to use, etc.

Regardless of the starter size or how it was made, you want the wine yeast to maximize its level of activity before adding it to the wine must. You will see the yeast starter begin to foam up. I usually tell people to pitch the starter into the wine must once you see this foaming start to slow down. In other words, once the foaming has peaked. This is usually 12 to 18 hours after starting.

When you make the yeast starter you can sprinkle the packet of yeast direction into it, but the purist will re-hydrate the wine yeast in water, first, before doing so.

The advantage with the method of adding yeast to a wine must is that you will get the quickest and most thorough fermentation. Your yeast will also be under little stress, so the chance of the yeast producing any off-flavors is very minimal. The disadvantage is that it is more work, and you do need to plan ahead since the starter needs a day or two to get going.

How you decide to add yeast to your wine must is entirely up to you. Any of these methods will work. Just consider the advantages and disadvantages of each one, and go with what works best for you.
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Wine Myth #64: The Older The Wine, The Better The Wine.

Couple Shopping For WineLet’s clear some things up. In general, wine does improve with age… but only to a point. Like many facets of life, there always seems to be some misinformation that makes its way to the realm of common knowledge. This seems to be the case with the myth: the older the wine the better it tastes.

Different wines age differently. Some wines age gracefully for 10 or 15 years. Other wines show improvement for a year or two and then plateau. Then there’s that very small group where no aging at all is ever going to do any good: might as well drink it now, because it ain’t gettin’ any better.

While all wines do vary in the way they age, one thing that is common among them all is that they each wine has its own life cycle. This fact can be partially surmised just by taking notice of the descriptors used to describe the aging qualities of a wine.

For example, a newly bottled wine is called young. Then later after some aging characteristics become evident, the same wine might be called mature. Then if the wine is not drank and left to set beyond its prime, one might refer to it as fallen-over.

Words like: young, mature and fallen-over, should give you a good sense as to how a wine goes about progressing through life. It improves for a period of time, just like everyone expects. Then it peaks in quality. Then it eventually declines. It’s the “decline” part that fails to make it into the realm of “common knowledge.” With each passing year the wine is actually becoming worse instead of getting better.

A wine doesn’t necessarily fall-over over night, but it will do so slowly over an extend period of time. For a big wine that has taken 5 or 10 years to peak in quality, we may be talking about a decline over several decades. For a wine that has peaked in a matter of a few month, we may talking about a decline over 2 or 3 years. Regardless, it is good to understand that:

There comes a time in any wine’s life
when it is begging to be drank!

 

Shop Wine BarrelsThis older-the-wine-the better myth has partially been perpetuated by the wine industry itself, although not intentionally. Many wines go up in price as they become older. This gives the perception that it is worth more because it is becoming better. With each passing year you can see the price of many vintages going higher and higher. In reality, this has less to do with the wine becoming better and has more to do with the wine becoming rarer.

If a certain vintage has been deemed to have aging potential, wine collectors will gravitate towards it and deplete its inventory level on the open market. When this happens it then becomes a simple issue of supply-and-demand. The fewer bottles left, the higher the price that can be commanded for that particular vintage.

The point here is: don’t judge a wine by its age. While wines do get better with age, they can also get worse.
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

7 Tips For Using Your Acid Test Kit For Wine

Acid Test KitUsing a wine acid test kit is fairly straight forward. The instructions that come with the kit are easy to follow, and the process is somewhat simple. Where things can get confusing is learning how to interpret the readings. When using the acid test kit you are looking for a color change in the wine sample as you add solution to it. Determining when that color change occurs can take some practice.

With that in mind, here are 7 quick tips for using your acid test kit. These are tips on how to use an acid testing kit so that you can get the most accurate readings:

  1. Play Around With The Acid Test Kit Before You Actually Need It
    The acid test kit will provide you with about 50 tests, so you can afford to play around with it a bit and get use to how it works. If you don’t have a wine you want to test, you can test Welch’s concord grape juice. We already know from experience that you should be getting a reading of .67% with this juice.
  1. Use A White Background When Looking For A Color Change
    Look at the wine or wine sample with a white background behind it and in plenty of light. A sheet of paper or a white wall will work fine. Having a white background will help you to determine more clearly if the wine is experiencing a color change.
  1. Use A Second Sample As A Comparison
    Having a second test tube filled with the same wine sample will allow you to see more accurately if the wine is changing color or not by comparing the two. Only one test tube comes with the acid test kit, but we have additional glass test tubes you can order separately.
  1. Make Sure The Color Change Is Through The Entire Sample
    One common rooky-mistake when using the acid test kit is not waiting until the entire sample changes color. When you first add drops of the reagent you will get streaking. This is streaks of color changes that are noticeable in portions of the wine sample. This does not count as a color change. Agitate the sample until the streaking goes away. Then see if you can notice a color change in the entire wine sample.
  1. Heavily Colored Red Wines May Need To Be Diluted With Distilled Water
    Some wines are so darkly colored that you can’t tell if a color change has occurred or not when using the acid test kit. In these situations you will want to dilute the wine sample(s) with water. But not just any water. It needs to be distilled so that the alkalinity of the water does not affect your reading.
  1. Calculate The Acidity By The Amount Of Reagent Used, Not The Amount Left In The SyringeShop Refractometers
    This is a good one. Many times we have run across this error. The amount of acidity in the wine is calculated by how much reagent it took to change the wine’s color. This is measured by a graduated syringe. You slowly add regent to the wine sample until the color changes. Now you need to know how much reagent you used, but many first-timers will do their calculation based on the amount left in the syringe. Be sure you do your calculation based on the amount of reagent you used. Forget about what’s left in the syringe.
  1. Only Use The Acid Test Kit Either Before Fermentation Or Before Bottling
    This tip is pretty straight-forward. You do not want to test for acidity while there is CO2 from the fermentation still in the wine. Doing so will throw your reading off. The most convenient times for this is before the fermentation takes place, or before bottling the wine. It is important to de-gas the wine because some residual CO2 will stay saturated into the wine until it is persuaded to leave.

BONUS TIP!
Don’t Be Afraid To Test The Wine More Than Once

I have found that it is faster to do two tests than it is to do one. It can get pretty monotonous adding little drops of reagent to the wine and waiting for a color change. Yet, that’s what it takes to get an accurate acidity reading. It can take several minutes to get to the color change, and by then you might not even be paying that much attention.

So here’s what I do. I do a quick acid test, first. I put reagent in the sample fairly quickly and look for the color change. All I am trying to do with this first test is to find out ‘about‘ how much reagent it takes to get to the color change. Once I know the ‘about‘, I get a new wine sample and start all over again. I add reagent to just short of where I previously got my color change. Now I add a drop of reagent at a time, and wait for the color change.

There you have it: the 7+ tip on how to use an acid test kit for wine. They are basically some insight that I have learned the hard way of the years. Now you know them too!
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Do Your SunCal Concentrates Make Sweet Wines?

SunCal Wine ConcentrateI was looking at your homemade wine kits and was wondering about using the SunCal concentrates to make a Chianti. I saw in the directions that for all the SunCal kits call for 6.5 pounds of sugar. Does this mean that these wine recipes are going to make a sweet wine? I have made wines in the past from buckets of juice and other wine making materials from a local supplier and never had to add sugar.

Barry H.
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Hello Barry,

This is a great question about an area of wine making that seems to cause a lot of confusion for some winemakers.

Alcohol is made when yeast consume sugar and turn it into alcohol. If the fermentation is successful there be no more than a residual amount of sugar left in the resulting wine – nothing that would make the wine sweet. All the sugar you add in the beginning is meant to be turned into alcohol leaving the wine dry.

With most homemade wine kits all the original sugars that the grapes provide are still in the concentrate. You are simply adding water to bring the concentrate back to a juice so that you can make wine with it. With the buckets of juice you got locally, all the original sugars were in them, as well, so no additional sugar was needed to achieve a reasonable alcohol level.

But in the case of SunCal Concentrates, not only is water taken out during the concentration process but some of the sugar is removed as well. This is why you need to add the 6-1/2 pounds of sugar. Without doing so you will not get enough alcohol from the fermentation.

Shop Grape ConcentrateBut what if you want a sweet wine, you say. This is something that is controlled after the fermentation has completed. It has nothing to do with the sugar added in the beginning; it as to do with the sugar added after the fermentation. If the fermentation goes as planned, you wine should always turn out dry.

If you want to sweeten your wine, the time to do it is right before you bottle. Just sweeten it to taste and then add a wine stabilizer (potassium sorbate) to eliminate any chance of re-fermentation, or you can use Wine Conditioner which has sweetener and wine stabilizer mixed together.

With this basic understanding of the role sugar plays in a wine you can make any of our wine recipes or homemade wine kits as sweet or as dry as you like. Make the wine the way you like!

Happy Wine Making,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

7 MORE Random Wine Making Facts…

Sharing Wine Making FactsA few weeks ago we posted the blog, “7 Random Wine Making Facts…”. It had such a great response we decided to put some more wine making facts into a post.

These are trivial little pieces of information that randomly shoot off into different areas of wine and winemaking. Some of them you may already know, but do you know them all?

  1. A single packet of wine yeast multiplies itself many times over during a fermentation. That little 5 gram packet of wine yeast you put into your fermentation will typically regenerate itself by 100 to 200 times. Most of the growth happens during the first 3 to 5 days of fermentation. This is what it takes to have a vigorous fermentation.
  1. All grape juice starts out clear. If you go out into the vineyard and lightly squeeze a wine grape of any color: red, blue, purple, black, green, yellow… you will get the same color grape juice, clear. Squeeze the same grape harder and roll it between your fingers, and you will notice that the juice coming from the grape is no longer clear. The color starts to release from the skin and join in with the grape juice. The color of the grape juice comes from the grape skin, not the grape juice itself.
  1. All wine contains vinegar. This wine making fact throws many for a loop, but no matter whose wine it is, who made it, or where you got or bought it, the wine has vinegar in it. This is because vinegar, also known as acetobacter, is a natural byproduct of a wine fermentation. The wine yeast actually produces low levels of vinegar while fermenting. Most wines have a level of vinegar on the order of .02% to .06%. Small indeed, but enough to contribute to the wine’s overall character in subtle ways.
  1. Here’s a handy piece of math that may interest you. Take your wine hydrometer and get the starting Specific Gravity (S.G) minus the ending Specific Gravity (before and after fermentation), and times it by 131. This equals the alcohol in the wine. As an example, let’s say your wine hydrometer reading at the beginning of fermentation is 1.100, and your ending hydrometer reading is 0.996. You take 1.100 minus 0.996. That equals 0.104. Times 0.104 by 131. That gives you an alcohol reading of 13.62%. Could be handy!
  1. Shop Wine Making KitsOne grape vine produces about a gallon of wine. This is a very general wine making fact, but gives you a good ballpark, rule-of-thumb to go by when thinking about planting some grape vines. Some variables that affect this amount are: the type of grapes planted, the climate, the soil, and how well you maintain the trellising and punning.
  1. Grape vines do not produce a full crop until their 4th year. This wine making fact relates to #5, above. When starting a vineyard, you need to plan ahead. The first two years will have no substantial harvest. During the third you will have enough grapes to do a test run of your wine making. It won’t be until your forth season that you will have a full-fledged, complete and usable harvest.
  1. You can freeze your wine making fruit. One problem with making garden fruit wine is getting enough of the fruit all at one time to make a complete batch. No worries. Just freeze the fruit until you do have enough. Freezing the fruit will help to break down its fiber. This makes it easier to extract the flavor into the wine.

There you have it, 7 ‘more’ random wine making facts. Can you think of anymore? We’d love to hear them and share them with other home winemakers. Just comment below and we’ll pass it along.
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Why Allowing Your Homemade Wines To Breathe Is Important…

Man Allowing Wine To BreatheI made my first wine and it came out great. I made a Cabernet Sauvignon from one of your homemade wine kits. I started it in January and aged it with oak chips for 6 month. Then bottled. It still tastes a little young. Something I do not understand is that it taste better after I let it sit out for a few hours. Why does it improve when left out?
Jason
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Hello Jason,

Thanks for the great question! I believe you have stumbled upon something that is, in large part, ignored by most home wine makers. What we are talking about is allowing the wine to breathe.

It is important to understand what is meant when we say breath in this context. We are not talking about taking breaths as a living thing would, but rather, we are talking about decanting the wine and allowing it to react to the air. The wine is being freed from the suffocating confines of a wine bottle and cork.

To let the wine breathe the bottle is normally poured into a carafe. The wine is simply allowed time to sit. But unlike the hours you mentioned, the wine only needs to be given maybe 10 or 15 minutes when using a carafe. If you are just popping the cork from the wine bottle the effect will take longer and not be quite as dramatic. Using a carafe significantly cuts down how long you need to let the wine breathe.

shop_wine_kitsWhen allowing a wine to breathe some chemistry takes place. First, fumes release from the wine. Any off, volatile gases that may have built up while in the wine bottle are given the time to release and dissipate. Also, the natural bouquet or aroma of the wine is also allowed time to develop and blossom.

The second process is the wine starts a subtle, oxidative exchange with the air. This reduces the harshness of the wine’s tannin structure. It rounds-off the rough edges of the wine’s flavor. This gives the wine a more mellow character.

Both of these processes can dramatically alter the character of the wine. The operative word here is “can”. Sometimes allowing a wine to breathe can cause just as much damage as it can help. In some cases, it may make no difference at all.

For example, older wines that have fully aged tend not to do to well when allowed to breathe. Their tannin structure is more fragile and more susceptible to collapsing. This will cause the wine to take on a flat or flabby character.

The better wine candidate is a younger, red wine. One with a lot of body and tannin, but has not yet had enough time to take fully advantage of aging. This brings us back to the Cabernet Sauvignon you made: a lot of tannic structure with layers of flavors waiting to be developed.

To sum up, allowing your wines to breathe is something I suggest you experiment with, but you don’t need to let your wine sit out all night. It’s not necessary. A half hour is the maximum amount of time I would recommend. And, don’t automatically allow all wines time to breath, only do so with fuller-bodied, red wines that can still use some aging.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.