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8 Winemaking Mistakes

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

If you have been making wine for a long time or just starting out, your bound to make a few mistakes.  I have found that most of my mistakes have come from trying to rush things to much.  With wine, you need to take a more laid back approach.  Honestly, that's what I like about wine making.  I just need to practice it more often.  Here is a top 8 of winemaking mistakes and how to avoid them.

1.  Incomplete Fermentation - I've been guilty of this one on numerous occasions.  I've always been tempted to bottle my wine before it has completely fermented.  A good rule of thumb is to take a hydrometer reading and if is above .995 do not bottle.

2.  Residual Sugar - Usually a product of an incomplete fermentation or it might be that the yeast you are using can not tolerate a high alcohol content.  ie.  Yeast will ferment to 12% but you put enough sugar in it to ferment to 20%.  Wrong yeast for the wine.  Extremes in temperature will also do the trick by making the yeast sluggish or having it go dormant.  That is why it is essential to keep your fermenter is a controlled environment.  If you bottle this wine, make sure you use potassium sorbate to prevent the yeast from re-fermenting.

3.  MLF Fermentation - If the wine is below .995 on a hydrometer reading and it is still sending up bubbles, then a malolactic fermentation is taking place.  This is a secondary fermentation that takes place and converts the sharper tasting malic acid to a softer lactic acid  A by-product of this is the formation of CO2 which can cause exploding bottles.  Fresh juice and grapes are more likely to undergo a MLF.

4.  Geranium Smell - This is caused by sorbic acid which is a byproduct of sorbate and lactic acid.  This can be prevented by not allowing a sweet wine to undergo MLF or if it has using sulfite instead of sorbate.

5.  Acetic Spoilage - This is caused by oxidation and will give your wine a vinegary smell.  Easy way to prevent this is to fill your bottles up leaving just enough space for temperature fluctuations.  I usually go by how much space is in the bottle of wine I have purchased as a guide,

6.  Deposits in Bottle - This one I'm really guilty of.  In my case it is because I don't filter my wines.  I rack and at each racking try to keep the lees from coming through.  I do loose about 10% of my total wine production this way but I'm willing to live with it.  Besides, those last bottles that do get a lot of deposits are usually quickly consumed and the deposit free bottles are stored.

7.  Poor Color in Reds - This is because you did not let the skins soak in the wine long enough.  Keep the skins in the must for at least 5 days and at the most 10 days.

8. Patience - Just learn to take things at a slower pace.  Don't rush with your wine.  Slow down and smell the grapes.


Special Note:  I participated in Problogger's How To writing contest last week.  There were well over 300 different posts and quite frankly, to many interesting ones to list here.  You can check out the entire list by clicking here.

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