Why Does My Wine Taste Better The Next Day?

Wine Poured From A CarafeI really enjoy the wine making information in your newsletters. I bottled my first wine, a California Merlot, last May. It aged in 6.5 L carboys and had 8 months of French oak chips. I racked it twice. It is still a bit young, but interestingly, if I decant the wine and drink it 24 hours later, it is a much better wine. Can you speculate as to why does my wine taste better the next day?

James — MI
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Hello James,

The wine taste better the next day because you are allowing time for it to breathe. What is really going on when a wine breathes is it is being introduced to fresh air again, something that it hasn’t had contact with for quite some time. By pulling the cork and simply letting the wine bottle stand or by pouring the wine into a carafe, the air will start a mild oxidative process that will soften the rough edges of the wine’s tannins.

It also allows time for any odd gasses to escape that may have developed during the aging or maturation process. Allowing a wine to breathe has also been known to intensify both the flavor and bouquet of a wine — something that can be a problem for wines that have not been fully aged, however this is not true in every case.

While allowing time for the wine to breathe can be a benefit for some, for most it will have no benefit at all, and for others it may even bring damage, particularly with older wines whose flavor structure has been known to collapse very shortly after decanting. The wines that are most likely to benefit from breathing are younger, heavy reds that have not yet had time to take complete advantage of the aging process. And, it just so happens that young, red wines is whats readily available to the home winemaker.

How long you should let the wine breath is another issue. Usually we are talking minutes not hours. More than likely 60 minutes would have been just as good as waiting for the next day to drink your homemade Merlot. As a general rule-of-thumb the younger the wine the more time it may need to take full advantage of breathing, but to say a wine needs until the next day to breathe is excessive from any perspective. Think in terms of a few minutes with a probability of improvement on up to an hour.shop_wine_making_kits

With all this being said, unless you have previous experience with decanting a specific wine, giving it time to breath can be a bit of a crap shoot. In the case of your Merlot, you have specific experience with it, so I would not hesitate to let it breathe for 30 minutes and see what you think.

In the case of an unfamiliar wine: if it is white, allowing time for it to breathe is pointless; if it has been aged more than 4 years, not recommended; and if it has been aged 8 or more years, it could be risky in the sense that the wine’s structure could collapse altogether giving the wine a flabby character. Stick with the red wines that are heavy in tannins and short on aging.

James, I hope this answers your question as to why your wine tastes better the next day. You are not the first to bring this up, and I have even experience myself. Just look at allowing wine time to breathe as once more tool that can help you get better enjoyment out of the wines you’ve made.

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.

Making Sulfite Free Wine To Reduce Headaches

Making Sulfite Free WineThis is a subject I get about at least once a week. People are desperately interested in making sulfite free wine.  Usually it is because they are suffering from headaches that they are attributing to sulfite allergies. For this reason they want to make their homemade wine without sulfites.

The major foil to making sulfite free wine is that sulfites are a natural byproduct of fermentation. In winemaking we talk about sulfites in terms of ppm (parts per million). Wine fermentations will naturally produce sulfites somewhere on the order of 10 to 20 ppm.

This amount may seem small, but compare it against the fact that the average bottle of wine on the market only contains about 65 ppm or the fact that any wine in the U.S. that has more than 10 ppm must have on its label, “Contains Sulfites,” then it starts to become clear that the amount of sulfites made by a fermentation is, in fact, significant to the wine’s total content.

So the answer is, “no.” You can not make sulfite free wine. There will always be some sulfite in your homemade wine. Now lets move on to the next logical question…

 

Can I make wines without adding sulfites?

The answer is: certainly you can. But, you should also be asking the question: do you want too? Sulfites such as Campden tablets or potassium metabisulfite are added to a wine for a reason: to keep the color and flavor fresh Shop Campden Tabletsover time, and to keep it from spoiling. If the level of sulfites are too low, then it is susceptible to being overcome with bacteria, mold and other detrimental spoilers. Making sulfite free wine does not come without its own risk.

Because wine has alcohol, and alcohol is a preservative, the amount of sulfites needed to keep it from spoiling is very small as compared to amounts we find in the foods we eat everyday. Fruit juices, for example, can have on the order of 200 to 300 ppm; dehydrated fruits, conservatively around 1,000 ppm; and salsa around 1,000 to 2,000 ppm. These are much higher amounts than the 45 to 85 ppm you will typically find in wine.

With this in mind, to me it doesn’t make sense to short your wine the minuscule amount of sulfites it needs to help protect it from spoilage. And, it doesn’t make sense to blame such small amounts of sulfites on headaches when so much of it is in the foods we consume everyday. That brings us to the next logical question…

 

So Why Do Some People Get Headaches From Wine?

There are a certain number of people who do get headaches from drinking wine – even as little as one glass – but as explained above, blaming this on sulfites is not reasonable.

Besides the fact that there is not that much sulfite in wine to begin with, there are a couple of other reasons why this doesn’t add up, as well:

 

  • Shop Wine FiltersSulfite allergies are much more rare than there are people having headaches from wine. According to medical industry reports, there are somewhere between 500 thousand to 1 million sulfite allergy sufferers in the U.S. This equals only about 1 in 300 to 600 people.
  • A headache is not the primary symptom of a sulfite allergy. Asthma or having trouble breathing is the very first problem to show up.

 

A great article on this subject is titled, Red Wine Headaches. It covers in fair detail other possible reasons why someone might get a headache from drinking wine, such as histamines.

 

So, What Should I do?

If you are still not convinced that sulfites are completely innocent of all charges, then you might want to consider taking better control of the sulfites. Don’t completely eliminate additions of sulfite to the wine, but lower the level of sulfites. Don’t worry about making sulfite free wine but maybe try adding less sulfites, instead.

For example, right before bottling the wine, instead of targeting a sulfite level of 55 ppm for red and 70 ppm for whites, maybe shoot for 35 ppm in reds and 50 ppm for whites. Reduce the amount of sulfites in your homemade wines. Don’t necessarily eliminate additions to your wine.

Shop Sulfite TesterYou can take readings with a Titrettor Hand Tool and Titret Test Vials. By taking control of your sulfite levels in this way, you can be certain that no more sulfites are in the wine than absolutely necessary to keep it fresh.
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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.

Is Older Wine Better?… Not Necessarily!

Is Older Wine Better?From the incredible prices being cried out at a Sotherby’s wine auction, to the fluffy articles that float around in today’s life-styles magazines, people are continuously being fed the notion that the older the wine is, the better it will be.

But is older wine better? Unfortunately, the answer is maybe – maybe, not! The ol’ mantra: “the older the wine the better”, is just that – a mantra. It’s a generalization that is just as likely to be false as it is true. The reality with any wine is that there will always come a time when it would be best to drink up!

Wines don’t endlessly increase in quality like an investment fund or like a home increases in value. They have a life cycle, a beginning and an end, much like any living thing. At first, there is a steady rise in quality; then a flattening out; and eventually a slow decline.

The aging cycle of a today’s commercial wines are fairly well mapped and predictable. Some wines have very long life-cycles, involving many years, even decades. Then there’s other wines who’s aging potential is not so long. Based on the type of wine, how it was made, combined with an observation of its character at bottling, a timeline can be laid out by the winery that shows the optimum time to drink that particular wine. Once this theoretical point is reached, any additional aging is futile. In fact, too much aging beyond that point will result in a very slow decrease of the wine’s quality.

The very same holds true for homemade wines. There will come a point in each wine’s life when more aging will not be a good thing. Holding on to it will only provide you with less and less quality as time goes on – a direct mocking of the phrase, “the older the wine the better”.

Shop Wine Making KitsThe whole point of bringing this to light is that some home winemakers get into the game of saving their wines instead of drinking them, putting bottles away like heirlooms, thinking they’re going to become more exceptional as time goes by, saving them for their granddaughter’s wedding and all, but in reality this is little more than a waste of good wine.

By all means let the wine age. It my take 3 months. It might take 3 years. Every so often pull a bottle out and see how it is doing. Is it becoming more mellow? Is it developing any complexities or layers of flavors? If yes, then great, let the rest age longer. But when no improvement can be detected between samplings, then simply put, it’s time to start drinking.
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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.

The Ultimate Wine Pairing Guide

Not sure what wine to serve at your next dinner party? Check out our brand new wine pairing infographic for help selecting the right wine for the right meal. Throughout the month of July we will be featuring various recipes and suggested wine pairings for each food category, so keep checking back!

Ultimate Wine Pairing Guide by EC Kraus