Making Wine In Cold Weather

Making Wine In Cold WeatherI live in Louisiana in the south. Is it too late to make wine? Is there a problem making wine in cold weather? I have a lot of fruit left from the summer.

Mildred M. — LA
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Hello Mildred,

You can make wine all throughout the year without any problems. The only real issue is that you need to control your fermentation temperature. For a wine fermentation to go as it should, the temperature range needs to be between 70° and 75°F. If you get out of this temperature range, issues can arise, but beyond this, there is nothing wrong with making wine in cold weather.

If the temperature gets below 70° the wine yeast will start to go dormant. They can slow down to the point of not being active at all. This is known as a stuck fermentation. Or, the wine yeast may not start up at all. Warm the fermentation up to 70°F., and you will start to see activity.

This temperature range is true for most wine yeast except for a few exceptions like Red Star Pasteur Blanc wine yeast which can ferment at cooler temperatures without stopping completely. However, it will ferment very slowly.Shop Thermometers

If the fermentation temperature starts to get over 75°F., then the wine yeast can start to produce funny off-flavors and aromas. The resulting wine will not have a clean taste.

Beyond these concerns, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be making wine in cold weather, even in the middle of winter. Just have a means of controlling the fermentation temperature.

If you are not sure that you can keep the fermentation in this range, you may want to look into tying an artificial source of heat. It needs to be a very gentle source of heat. Most items you find around the house such as heating blankets are too warm and will put the fermentation well over the 75°F. This is just as bad, if not worse, as having the fermentation too cool.

If a fermentation is too cool there is no permanent damage done to the wine. It’s just not fermenting. Warm it up and the fermentation will start up again. But, if the fermentation becomes overly heated, youShop Heating Belt can encourage bacteria growth and the production of unwanted enzymes in the wine. Nothing harmful, but it will make the wine taste off or fowl, and it will be irreversible.

You may want to consider getting a thermometer for monitoring temperature when making wine in cold weather. Putting your hands on the side of the fermenter and guessing is not good enough. If you are making temperature adjustments you should have a fermentation thermometer of some type.

A heating belt is one way to warm up your fermentation a few degrees. This works good for cold basement situations or when fermenting in some cold corner of the house. It’s basically a strap that goes around the fermenter and plugs into an outlet. The only downfall is that there is no way to adjust its temperature of this belt.

Something else you can do when making wine in cold weather is to get a thermostat power switch. This is a power-interrupt thermostat with a temperature sensor.Shop Temp Controller It plugs into an outlet and controls the power to a heating source – such as a heating blanket or the heating belt – base on the temperature to which it has been set.

Mildred, I say if you got the fruit, then go ahead and make the wine. The month doesn’t matter. Making wine in cold weather is easy to do. It’s simply a matter of taking control of the fermentation’s temperature.

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.

There Are Black Spots In My Wine

Black Spots In WineI have made a number of batches of fruit wine and consumed most of it. This is the first time I have used cherimoya in a persimmon blend. Cherimoya is a very sweet fruit, large amounts of sediment, and does not fully clear after racking it four times.

The bottled wine is stored on its side in a dark environment for 6 months. Placing a bottle on its side creates a small air bubble at the top most section of the bottle. A black spot appears on the inside of the bottle within the air bubble. Most of these black spot will merge with the wine after the bottle is turned upright for a day or so.

What is this black spot in my wine?

Name: Mark A.
State: Hawaii
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Hello Mark,

It’s hard to know precisely what these black spots in your wine are, but normally we associate having black spots in your wine with either a mold or bacteria growth. Combined with the fact that it is appearing where there is an air pocket in the wine bottle, I would say that it is more likely to be a growth of some sort. This is where you would typically see mold or bacteria to start to grow – next to the air.

Shop Potassium MetabisulfiteIf you did not add a sulfite to your wine before bottling such as: Campden tablets, potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite, this would strongly add to my belief that a mold or bacteria is trying to grow in your wine. Sulfites are needed to help protect the wine from spoilage while it is in the wine bottle.

In addition to bottling time, you should also be using Campden tablets in the wine must before the fermentation. This is to rid the wine must from contaminates that may have come along with the fruit. The sulfites are added 24 hours before the wine yeast. Leave the the fermenter uncovered during this 24 hours to allow the sulfites to dissipate, otherwise they can interfere with the fermentation.

If you did not sanitize your wine bottles in addition to cleaning them with soapy water, this would also make me think that you are dealing with a mold or bacteria and could easily be the reason you have black spots in your wine. Cleaning the grime from the wine bottles is not good enough. They need to be sanitize with something like: Basic A or B-Brite. Any of these will easily destroy the microscopic contaminants that can grow in your wine.Shop Basic A

If you have been doing all the above, it is still possible for a mold  or bacteria to contaminate a wine and cause these black spots to form in your wine. It’s just a little harder to know how it is happening. It could be from the corks, screw-caps or whatever you are using to close the wine bottle. It could be from a piece of equipment you are using that has a nook-or-cranny that is not getting sanitized sufficiently. It could also be something as blindsiding as the sulfites you are using are old and expired. Any and all things must be considered.

After having said all this, I would like to point out that if you had said the black spots where at the lower part of the wine bottle my answer would have been completely different. I would have attributed this to tannins dropping out of the wine. This is very common and expected with some wines. But the fact that you said the black spot were next to the air pocket makes all the difference in the world.

Shop Bottle TreeAny time there are black spots in your wine, there is reason for concern. At this point I would be very hesitant to drink the wine for fear of getting sick. It is possible to save the wine by putting it all back in a fermenter; add sulfites, and re-bottle. The sulfites will kill the mold or bacteria. However, I do not recommend doing this if there is any question to the smell of flavor of the wine. Adding sulfite at this point will only stop the wine from getting worse and make it safe to drink. It will not improve the wine’s flavor or aroma. So if the wine taste or smells bad now, don’t waist your time and effort. Dump it.

Best Wishes,
Ed Kraus
—–
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 Wine Ingredient Kits Need Adjusting?

Wine Ingredient Kit That Does Not Need AdjustingI purchased a California Connoisseur Merlot concentrate kit. Do wine ingredient kits need adjusting of any kind. Like does this concentrate consist of tannins?  If it does, would it hurt to add tannin to help it’s staying qualities? Should I have an acid testing kit?  If so, does the tannin have to be added during/before fermentation or can I put it in at any time? Are there any other adjustments that need to be made to these wine ingredient kits?

Doug B.
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Hello Doug,

Thank you for this great question about adjusting wine ingredient kits.

All of the wine ingredient kits we offer have been adjusted and bench-tested with sample batches to produce a balanced, stable wine with great flavor. Any attempts to make further adjustments with various wine making ingredients such as wine tannin, acid blend or flavorings are completely unnecessary and more likely to be counterproductive.

These wine ingredient kits come complete with all the additional packets of wine making ingredients you will need to add to the wine along the way. All that is required of you to make a perfectly balanced wine is to follow the instructions that are included with these wine ingredient kits.

TShop Wine Kitshe producers of these kits crush the grapes and allow the juice to sit on the pulp until the right amount of flavor, color and body components are extracted from the grape skins into the juice. After the extraction process, the pulp is removed and the grape juice is concentrated, and sample batches of wine are made. It is at this time that any necessary adjustments are made to the grape concentrate for the sake of flavor balance and stability.

You can go ahead and make adjustments by adding other wine making ingredients to the wine must, however you will be running the risk of upsetting the stability and flavor balance of the resulting wine. In the case of adding tannin to a wine ingredient kit, you could be adding more than the wine will be able to saturate or hold within the liquid. This could result in the development of dark, dusty deposits in your wine bottles over time.Shop Wine Making Kits

Doug, I hope this answers your question about adjusting wine ingredient kits. I hope you can start to see, a lot of care goes into the production process of these wine ingredient kits, so much so that they do not need any further adjusting of any kind. Once they are packaged they are ready to be made simply by following the directions that come with them. Add the additional packets as called for, and you will be making a stable wine with great balance and flavor.

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.

Starting And Final Specific Gravity Readings For Wine

Taking Final Specific Gravity ReadingI am in the process of making my first batch of Scuppernong Wine. The SG [specific gravity] at the beginning was 1.116… The process has been going on for about 8 weeks now. The SG now is 1.030… I still see activity. What should the final specific gravity reading be when the wine is complete?

Name: Charles P.
State: South Carolina
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Hello Charles,

To answer your question, you should expect a final specific gravity for wine somewhere between .992 and .996 on your hydrometer.

Your starting specific gravity reading was a little high, so your wine yeast has a lot of work to do. Normally you would want a starting specific gravity between 1.070 and 1.100 for wine. Yours was 1.116. This may be more than the wine yeast can handle.

 

There are two reasons for this:

  1. Shop HydrometersSugar acts as a preservative. If the concentrate of sugar becomes too high, it can actually interfere with the wine yeast from even starting. Your fermentation started, so obviously this is not an issue for this fermentation.
  1. Wine yeast has a limited tolerance to alcohol. As the alcohol level rises in the wine must, the wine yeast finds it harder and harder to ferment, sometimes to the point of not being able to ferment at all. This would be known as a stuck fermentation.

 

Your starting potential alcohol level was between 15% and 16%. A majority of wine yeast will have a hard time fermenting to this level of alcohol.

My guess is that your fermentation will become very slow as it ferments the last few percentage points of sugar. If this is the case, just be patient and give it plenty of time to do its thing. As long as you can see some slight progress, you are okay.

However, depending on the wine yeast you used, the fermentation may not be able to finish at all – a stuck fermentation. If this is the case, you may be forced into a situation to where you need to dilute the wine must with water to cut its alcohol level. This will help the yeast to start up again and finish the fermentation.

Shop Hydrometer JarsSince the starting specific gravity for your wine was so high, I would recommend that you also take a look at the Top 10 Reasons For Fermentation Failure. By doing this you may discover other things that can be done to help the fermentation along and get the final specific gravity for your wine where it needs to be.

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.

Using Concentrated Grape Juice For Topping-Up

Topping Up Wine With ConcentrateOn the question of head space in the secondary fermenter–Can you add concentrate grape juice?

Gavin V. — GA
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Hello Gavin,

I’m assuming that you are referring to our resent blog post on ways to reduce head-space in a fermenter.

Certainly, topping up wine with concentrate is something that can be done, however realize that you are adding sugar. In fact, the concentrated grape juice is mostly sugar.

If the fermentation has completed, this will add more fuel for it to start up again. For this reason it is important that a wine stabilizer such a potassium sorbate also be added along with the concentrated grape juice. This will help to eliminate the chance of your wine having a re-fermentation.

If the fermentation has completed you do not want it starting up again. You will also need to take into consideration the more-obvious issue – that is – the concentrated grape juice will make the wine sweeter. If you want your wine to be dry, this would not be what you’d want to use top up your wine.

If the fermentation is still going, then adding the concentrated grape juice will increase the potential alcohol of the fermentation. There is always the possibility of Shop Potassium Sorbateraising the alcohol level too much, bringing the wine out of balance. Very seldom will you ever want the total potential alcohol of a wine to go over 13%, and only then if your wine has a lot of flavor. Wines with higher alcohol will have a tendency to taste hot and less flavorful.

It is also important to understand that topping up wine with concentrate will also add more acidity to the wine. Just like there is a lot of sugar in the concentrated grape juice, there is a lot of fruit acid. It is possible that using it to top up your wine could make it too tart or sharp tasting. This is the case regardless if the wine is still fermenting nor not.

So, if your wine must is low in acid and you like your wine’s off-dry or even sweet, then topping up your wine with a grape concentrate may be a good option. But, other than this scenario, I do not think this is a great option for you.

Regular grape juice would be a much better choice.

Since the regular, un-concentrated, grape juice will have about the same acidity level as a wine, blending the two will not change the tartness of the wine to any noticeable degree.Shop Grape Concentrate

The sugar will still be a consideration. If you want your wine to stay dry as it would normally be after a fermentation, then grape juice – concentrated or not – would not be what you want to use. On the other hand, if you like your wines a off-dry or the wine is still fermenting, then grape juice might be something to consider.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
—–
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 Rack Wine Into A Secondary Fermenter?

Why Rack WineI’m making a batch of your European Select Merlot using your wine making products. I have the wine brewing in a plastic fermenter and it should be reaching a specific gravity of 1.010 tomorrow according to my wine hydrometer. It’s still bubbling actively after 7 days. According to the directions that came with the wine kit I should be racking the wine into a secondary fermenter at this point. Why rack wine into a secondary for the rest of the fermentation? Can’t I just leave it fermenting for another 12 days in the same container….don’t understand why the transfer is necessary at this point.

Thanks,
Tony F.
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Dear Tony,

This is a question we get from time to time, and you’re right, it doesn’t seem to make sense, particularly when you are dealing with concentrated homemade wine kits. Why rack wine to a secondary fermenter when is seems to be fermenting perfectly fine?

When you make wine from fresh fruits, the juice is fermented with the skins and pulp for the first few days so that the juice can extract body, flavor and color. This is a process call maceration. Siphoning the wine after a few days seems logical in this situation. You need to get the skins and pulp out of the way; racking the juice to a clean fermenter seems like a good way to do it.Shop Auto Siphon

But there’s another reason why we rack wine into a secondary fermenter besides just getting skins and pulp out of the way, and it’s why you need to rack the wine now, even though it’s from concentrate with no skins or pulp involved. It’s called sediment or lees.

Whether or not there’s skin or pulp, a heavy layer of sediment will develop in the bottom of your wine fermenter. It’s primarily made up of yeast cells that were produced during the fermentation Having excessive amounts of this sediment in contact with the wine over extended periods of time can cause off-flavors to become noticeable in the resulting wine.

Most of the off-flavors stem from the fact that some of the active yeast cells will try to consume the dead yeast cells the lie at the bottom as the sugar starts to run out. This is a process known as autolysis. So for a clean tasting wine you need to get the wine off the bulk of this sediment. This is why you need to rack a wine into a secondary fermenter.Shop Carboys

Just as the wine instructions that came with your European Select wine kit imply, it’s usually around the 7th day that almost all of the fermentation has completed, and the activity begins to slow down. This makes it an opportune time to get the bulk of the sediment out of the way. There will be more sediment to follow as the wine clears up, but not nearly as much as the fermentation will have at this point in the process.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
—–
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.

What Causes A Nutty Flavor In Wine?

Nutty Flavor In WineMy red wine harvested this year is currently going through a malolactic fermentation, but it has a nutty flavor that has persisted for a month or so. I have never tasted this particular flavor in a wine undergoing malolactic fermentation before. What causes a nutty flavor in wine?

Jack W. – TX
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Hello Jack,

A malolactic fermentation can have a light, nutty influence on a wine, but it is typically not noticeable in reds. It is more likely to be a characteristic experienced in whites, more specifically, Chardonnay.

If the your homemade wine has a nutty flavor or taste that is more like hazelnut, I would not be concerned about it too much. It is most likely coming from the malolactic culture. But, if your homemade wine has more of a bitter nut flavor, giving almost a metallic impression, then it could be something called autolysis.

Autolysis is a process that can happen as a fermentation runs out of sugars. The active yeast cell – still looking for food – will begin to consume the dead and inactive yeast cells that lay at the bottom of the fermenter. In doing so, the yeast produce an enzyme that puts off a bitter-nut to metallic flavor. This is the more common reason for having a nutty flavor in wine – particularly, such a young wine.

Shop Potassium BisulfiteThe one sure way to keep autolysis from occurring in any wine is by not allowing it to sit on any dead yeast cells for extended periods of time. A few days, or even a couple of weeks is fine in some cases, but neglecting the wine further than this can result in the autolysis process occurring enough to put a nutty flavor in wine.

If you have been keeping up with your rackings, then I doubt autolysis is something that should have even brought up here. In this situation the nutty taste is most likely to be all caused by the malolactic fermentation, but if you still have the wine on the sediment from the primary fermentation, then autolysis is a very real possibility.

If after reading this you feel that the nutty flavor or taste in your homemade wine is coming from the MLF, you have a choice. You can allow the MLF to continue, or if you do not like the flavor, you can permanently stop the MLF by adding a dose of sulfite to the wine. A teaspoon of potassium metabisulfite for every 16 gallons will be sufficient. This will keep it from getting any more intense. If you feel the nutty flavor is coming from autolysis, then you will need to rack the wine into a clean vessel, away from the sediment.

Regardless of why there’s a nutty flavor in wine, it is irreversible. I have seen situations where the nuttiness has reduced or mellowed with aging, Shop Malolactic Culturebut I would not count on it happening. As a benefit, the nuttiness could end up working out to compliment other characters that develop as the wine ages. This would help by promoting the wine’s complexity.

Jack, I hope this clears up what’s happening to your wine for you. If it is a light hazelnut type flavor I would not consider it a defect at all. Consider embracing it. But if it’s a flavor you just can’t stand, hit the wine with sulfites and see what develops with a little 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.

How Do You Make Brandy?

Still For Making BrandyMy name Charles, I live in NC, I have been making wine for about 7 years and have made all kinds, by the way you all got a great website, what I would like to know is how do you make brandy. I looked for a brandy recipe but can’t find one. Can you help me?

Thank you
Charles
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Hi Charles,

Making brandy is more of a process than following a recipe, and it is certainly more involved than wine making, but if you’d really like to know how to make brandy…

Brandy is essentially a wine that has gone through a distillation process. Distilling is when the alcohol and certain essences are steamed off the wine and collected into a separate container. Alcohol will steam off at a lower temperature than water so by controlling the temperature it is possible to leave water behind. What you end up with is a liquid that has a much higher alcohol concentration.

This is obviously an over-simplification, but essentially this is the answer to your question: how do you make brandy? It is an additional step beyond making the wine.

The term brandy is normally related to a distilled grape wine. Cognac, for example, is a distilled grape wine. But you can also distill other types of wines to make other types of brandys. Common examples of this would be apple wine being distilled into apple brandy or peach wine being distilled into peach brandy.

Answers, how do you make brandy.Most people are surprised to know that the brandy is a clear liquid at this point. It taste a little harsh and can give off somewhat of an oily impression in the mouth. To bring the brandy to a form that you and I would recognize as brandy, it needs to be aged to some degree.

Depending on the quality and style of the brandy being made, it will need to be aged anywhere from 1 to 50 years in barrels. The toasting of the inner wall of the barrel is where the brandy will get its familiar color.

So as you can see making brandy takes some serious dedication, maybe even more so than wine making. I personally leave it to the Hennessy’s and Martell’s to bring brandy to my world.

It is important to note here that – unlike making wine – distilling an alcohol is illegal in the United States unless you have registered with the ATF. This means bringing your operation up to their rigorous code. It also involves a tremendous cash bond that basically makes it impossible to impractical for any individual to set up a operation for personal use. If you choose not follow the laws of the land then you are considered to be a moonshiner making moonshine.

If you would like to read more about distilling, including distilling brandy, we do have a book on the subject. The “Lore Of Still Building” has a lot of information about distilling principals as well as how to build various styles of stills.

Charles, I hope this answers your questions. You’re not the only person to ask, “how do you make brandy?” So, I thought this would be a good time to post this to the blog, as well.

Best Wishes,
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.

The Benefits Of Wine Kits vs Fresh Grapes

Wine Kits vs Fresh GrapesWhat is the going opinion of making wine with fresh grapes and crushing them, as opposed to using a wine kit? Is one better than the other by default, or would you say either method can produce excellent or horrible results?

Phil B. – TN
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Hello Phil,

Thanks for bringing up this great question about wine kits vs fresh grapes. It’s a question we get from time to time, so I’ll be more than happy to answer it here…

Whether you are making wine from grapes or making wine from kits the quality of the wine starts with the quality of the grapes. There is an adage in the wine making industry that says:

“You can never make a wine that is
better than the grapes used to make it.”

 

What this means is that you’ll never make great wine out of poor wine grapes. The quality of the wine always starts with the quality of the grapes.

When making wine from fresh grapes the individual winemaker usually has a limited selection of grapes to choose from. Quality can suffer when dealing in the take-it-or-leave-it type of market that often arises for the home winemaker.

The quality of grapes that you will find in wine kits varies from good to outstanding. It is not in the interest of these kit producers to spend their time preparing and packaging poor wine grapes. It doesn’t make economic sense, so great care is taken to locate and acquire grapes that are above average quality.Shop Wine Kits

This is one of the major advantages to using a wine kit vs fresh grapes. You are able to rely on the wine kit producer’s expertise in selecting quality grapes. So on the whole you’ll be starting with a better quality grape when using a wine kit than when obtaining grapes on your own. Of coarse, there are always exceptions. Living near a grape growing mecca such as Napa can turn this point on its head, but for most home winemakers, this is a consideration that should be given some weight.

We offer an array of different brands of wine kits. As you go up the ladder in price, the finer your selection of grape – starting with our California Connoisseur wine kits which produces fine, everyday drinking wines on up to our Cellar Craft Showcase wine kits which features specially selected grapes from specific wine regions around the world. Currently, there are over 150 grape juices, and they’re available all throughout the year.

How much you spend depends on the level of taste. Some people are completely happy with the California Connoisseur wine kits and could not tell a difference even if they did choose a more expensive kit. For others, the California Connoisseur simply would not do. How far up the ladder one goes is very much a personal choice.

Shop FermenterUnfortunately, quality grapes do not guarantee a stellar wine, it’s just the first requirement necessary to get there. Between the grapes and the wine bottle is a whole host of other factors such as: acidity, alcohol, sweetness, etc.

Making wine from a wine kit alleviates you from these variables. This is because all these factors have already been taken care of for you by the wine kit producers. They balance the acidity, sugar content and many other features such as clarification and oak treatment to match the typical character of the wine you are making. By eliminating as many variables as possible they are helping to insure that you will make a remarkable wine every time. This is a very valuable benefit of using wine kits vs fresh grapes – especially for the beginner.

Now having said this, I understand completely that we are talking about a hobby, and for some, part of the hobby is the passion that goes into the picking, the crushing, the pressing, and so forth. I get that. And if this is you, I completely support your efforts to make wine from the dirt to the wine bottle. I’m just trying to bring total objectivity to the consideration of using wine kits vs fresh grapes.

Shop Wine Making KitsSo while both wine kits and fresh grapes holds their own rewards, by starting with a wine you are virtually eliminating any chance of producing a bad wine. Add to that the incredible selection that is now available to the home winemaker and it starts to become apparent that a wine kit is the way to go for the beginner.

I hope this covers all your questions and curiosities about wine kits vs fresh grapes. Please realize that regardless of which path you decide to take, we will be more than happy to help you in any way you need.

Best Wishes,
Ed Kraus
—–
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 Power of Blending Homemade Wines

Person Blending WinesI have been following your blog for some time and find it very helpful. I have a question about blending wines. I am an amateur winemaker starting with grapes and moving on to fruit wines. I recently made about 3 gallons of semi-dry red raspberry wine from frozen raspberries that came out very nice but intensely full of flavor. My wife describes it as “almost wanting to pick the seeds out of your teeth”. Although it has a very nice finished wine I am thinking of blending a portion with other wines. I have a young peach that I will experiment with in a small batch but not sure about peaches and raspberry. What I am wondering is if you have any suggestions in blending this with a commercial wine such as a Riesling or a chardonnay.

Name: Ray S.
State: Connecticut
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Hello Ray,

Blending homemade wines is a very subjective endeavor, but one that can improve a wine that is out of balance in some way. In a nutshell, you need to find a wine that is on the opposite end of the scale of the fault you are trying to fix, and then figure out how much of that wine you need to add to fix your wine’s fault. This is what blending wine at home is all about. It’s a technique for making 1 + 1 = 3.

In the case of your raspberry wine, it sounds like the flavor is too intense in some way. This usually means that the wine is too acidic. That would be my guess, but don’t let me tell you what is at issue. Think it through.

Citric acid is the primary acid in raspberries and would make the wine too sharp or tart tasting, particularly if the fruit used to make the wine happened to be too tart, or if too much raspberry was used.

Shop Grape ConcentrateIf the wine is too puckering or has a dry bitterness or astringency as opposed to sharp or tart flavor, this is usually from too much tannin in the wine. This can happen when the fruit is over processed or left in the fermentation too long. The tannin is in the fibers of the fruit. When the fruit is over macerated – like when using a blender – too much tannin releases causing the wine to be puckering or bitter.

When blending homemade wines it’s up to you to make the determination of what really is the fault, and then after doing so, choosing a wine to blend that has the opposite characteristics.

From what you have said, I would venture a guess that you should blend your wine with something along the lines of an apple or pear wine. These wines do not have a lot of flavor and are not all that tart or astringent. This is because the primary acid in these wines is malic as opposed to citric. This is a fruit acid that is not nearly as sharp on the tongue. These wine’s also tend to have lower levels of tannin than most. The resulting effect would be that the intensity of the raspberry flavor would be knocked down and and tartness or puckering taste would be marginally neutralized, as well. But having said this you could try any wine that has a light flavor profile.

Regardless of the wine you choose to try, when blending homemade wines the one Shop Fermenterthing I strongly urge you to do is to do test blends first. Don’t pour a whole bottle of wine into your 3 gallons of raspberry and see what you think, but rather, take a measured sample of the raspberry wine and added to it a measured sample of the wine you have chosen to blend. You can even go so far as to have a series of different blending ratios and have someone else do a blind tasting to determine which on is best.

The point here is to be methodical and not whimsical when blending homemade wine. By doing so you increase you chances considerably of ending up with a wine that you can’t wait to drink instead of a wine that you can just tolerate.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
—–
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.