Wine Time Factory for Friends

Wine Time Factory for Friends
A home-based winemaking hobby with professional enhancements

Wine Making Options

Kit Wine Making – Tweaking for performance

The additional ingredients used to enhance the quality of the wine are few but highly effective. You can add more as you acquire experience to enhance specific wines. A basic “tweaking” kit should include:

  • Oak: Aging in oak barrels is a process used in almost all commercial red wines and many white wines. It adds complexity and structure to the wine. When making wine at home the use of barrels is difficult and cost prohibitive. Through the use of liquid oak or oak chips you can simulate the barrel-aged wines at home. Oak gives wine many flavors, ranging from the light smoky flavor found in a good fumé blanc to the warm vanilla notes in a good gamay. Liquid oak is acquired by extracting the essence of oak from barrels and then holding it in an alcohol base. Liquid oak will instantly add oak flavoring to your wine, but it lacks the complexity of chips. Oak chips are milled from barrels and are available in toasted and untoasted styles, light to dark, and in French or American varieties. They demand more work than liquid oak, but the results are worth it.
  • Tannins: Tannins occur naturally in wines, particularly red wines, and add complexity and depth. Their natural source is the skin of the grape. Tannins give the wine its astringency and dryness. The sensation of tannins on the palate is often described as that of an aspirin tablet dissolving on the tongue. The same puckering of your mouth is sometimes experienced when drinking wine. Tannin additives for kits are available in liquid and powdered form. The liquid form is easier to use.
  • Glycerin: Glycerin is used to smooth and refine the roughness of your wine and make it ready for the table sooner. Use it sparingly; as the wine ages, the flavors will soften naturally and excess glycerin will make your wine flabby and tasteless. One rule is to never use more than two teaspoons per batch.
  • Wine Conditioner: Conditioner is merely liquid invert sugar that is stabilized with potassium sorbate. It adds sweetness to your wine. You can make your own conditioner by bringing to a low boil a solution of two parts sugar to one part water. When the sugar is completely dissolved, let the mixture cool and clear.

Making Wine

Wine instructions are structured based on the age of your must/wine. Tweaking the kit wine will only require a couple of alterations.

  • Day one: Follow the directions in your kit for day one, but hold aside four to eight ounces of concentrate. Put this concentrate in a sanitized container (food grade) and place it in the refrigerator or freezer until day 20. (If you are making a 15-liter kit, hold back two to 2.5 times as much and freeze). Add one cup of table sugar to the mixture (called must) to keep the specific gravity at the proper level (to compensate for the removed concentrate). The specific gravity measured with your hydrometer should be 1.080 plus or minus 0.005. If it is higher, your wine will be higher in alcohol. Pitch your yeast by warming the must to 80° F and sprinkling the yeast on the surface. There is no need to stir.
  • Day six to eight: Rack your wine from the primary fermenter to the carboy using your siphon. Your specific gravity should be around 1.020 or lower. Do not be afraid of transferring some sediment, but try to keep the amount low. Most kit instructions will have you top up your wine with water. While this will reduce the risk of oxidation, it will water down your wine. It is preferable to top up with a similar wine. At this point, however, many wine makers believe that oxidation is of little concern because CO2 is still being released, so topping up is optional.
  • Day 20 or 21: This is the time to make the wine your own; let the winemaker’s art show! Pull out your tweaking kit and get your palate ready. Rack the wine from your carboy into your primary fermenter. Do not use any of the additives yet. Remove two six-ounce glasses of wine. Use one to tweak your wine and one as a comparison.

Have a small sip of the wine. It may be a little yeasty now, but this taste will dissipate as the wine clears over the next week. Get ready to use your additives, making adjustments to the wine in your glass. Do not add anything to your fermenter until you achieve the taste you are looking for in the glass. Except in the case of the oak chips, you will add the ingredients to the sample glass by dipping a toothpick into the additive (about one-half inch deep) and then mixing it with your wine. Keep track of the number of times you dip your toothpick — you will use that number to approximate how much of the additive to use in your fermenter.

Let your reserved concentrate return to room temperature. Add a small amount (using the toothpick) to your glass and taste again. This should smooth out the wine and add some fruit flavors. Add the concentrate bit by bit until you are happy with the taste.

Add glycerin sparingly to soften your wine. Remember, excess glycerin can ruin the wine.

For most white wines these two steps should be sufficient to perk up the taste. If you want a sweeter wine, such as a piesporter, and the wine is fruity enough for your tastes, add the wine conditioner with a toothpick.

Tannin should be added only to red wines. Notice how this gives the wine a velvety smoothness. Continue until you achieve the taste you enjoy.

Oak can be added to reds or whites. Chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and many noble varieties of whites can benefit from oak. Almost all reds will benefit from oak. Oak can be added in two ways. Liquid oak can be added to the wine by using the toothpick method. The addition of oak chips is more difficult. Start by stirring the wine in the primary fermenter to remove the C02 (stir for five minutes three times, letting the wine rest five minutes between stirs). Add the potassium sorbate and potassium sulfite, and move the wine into a clean carboy. Rinse about 25 grams of oak chips and add them to the carboy. Taste the wine every two days until the oak flavor appears. Next, taste every day until the desired level is reached. Rack the wine off the oak chips into a clean carboy. If you have not yet tweaked the wine with the additives, do so now. If you have, add the finings per kit instructions.

When you have achieved the desired taste in your sample glass, add the concentrate and conditioner at approximately one ounce to the toothpick. Oak, tannin, and glycerin are added at approximately one teaspoon per toothpick. Stir the wine and compare the taste to the glass you have tuned up. Add more of the ingredients to the primary as needed to achieve the same taste that’s in your glass.

The WTFFF provides for the addition of a variety of fruits and berries during the secondary and aging stages of wine. When the wine leaves WTF3, it will be in a stable state and after appropriate aging will be outstanding wine. Only at this stage will be success of the tweaks be known. Some red wine will take a year to develop its full character.

Here are a couple of tweaks that I have tried in the last year with success:

  • Amarone – add 50 g of dates during the aging process, and if bulk aging, leave them in until bottling. 1 tsp. of glycerin, if needed will improve the 'mouthfeel'. The dates seem to increase the fullness of the wine, as well as provide a bit of sweetness.
  • New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc – add about 5 ml of grapefruit zest about 2 weeks before bottling. Remove prior to bottling by racking and filtering. Provides the grapefruit nose and a bit of edge to the front of the wine.
  • Australian Shiraz - add 2 kg of Shiraz pomace, from Shiraz grape pressing in 2012. Adds a layer of tannin and increase the complexity of the wine.