Chilean Carmenere/ Cabernet Sauvignon Extended instructions?


I am about to start my Wine Expert kit (Chilean Carmenere/ Cabernet Sauvignon)
Would this kit benefit from Jack Keller's 6 month "Extended Instructions for Making Wines from Kits" as described here
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, or I should I follow the standard instructions that are included with the Kit?
Tom
Reply to
Tom

Tom - This is a Limited Edition kit - about as good as they get from WinExpert. I have a lot of respect for Jack Keller's winemaking skills, but his area of expertise is really fruits / vegetables / native grape varieties, not state-of-the-art kits. The extended instructions originated with Ed Goist and were posted in 2000, based on Ed's experiences in prior years. But state of the art in wine kits has changed a lot in the past years, even since the 1990's.
I tend to agree with two aspects of the extended instructions. First, once wine is under airlock, there isn't really any firm timetable for when various things have to happen. Don't feel obliged to rush the wine into bottles by the end of week 6. Second, everybody I've ever heard of who has used Stavin oak products has raved about them. If you are into big oak in red wines, you might well want to add some Stavin cubes (or replace some of the kit oak "dust" with cubes). On the other hand, I have read a lot of Tim Vandergrift's posts about all the research and testing that goes into the WE kits. I won't say they can't be improved upon, but the WE folks go to a lot of trouble to make the results as good as can be, with a reasonable level of effort by the winemaker. Your odds are slim (IMHO) of improving on their results by things like adding the bentonite after fermentation, or fermenting in a carboy instead of a bucket, or adding generic "grape tannin" or rehydrating the yeast the "proper" way instead of following the "sprinkle and walk away" instructions.
I've done a number of WE Limited Edition kits, and I've been impressed with nearly all of them. Some of the reds in particular don't really come into their own for 18 to 24 months, but when they do, they are fabulous. Since this is your one chance to do this kit, I think your best bet is to follow the instructions reasonably closely. That is my two cents -- as always, free advice is worth at least what you pay for it . . .
Doug
Reply to
Doug

Agree with Doug but would add one thing - make sure to fully ferment the wine and ditch the sorbate package, it serves no good purpose in dry wines.
Since Tim Vandergrift was mentioned, here's his take on extended kit instructions, for reference:
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Pp
Reply to
pp

Tom:
You've already received some advice that I agree with. There's nothing wrong with extending the time frames once the wine is in a carboy. Specifically I don't agree with the primary fermentation and bentonite in the instructions on Jack's web-site.
Regarding the oak. This should be a fairly big red, so it should be able to take extra oak. I have used the cubes on three wines, and am not happy (so far) with the results on the lighter two. Although the Merlot is starting to come around, it's still a bit oaky for me. The heavier red is just great with the cubes.
If you are going to add the cubes, 2 questions to ponder...do you like oaky wines? are you willing to age for a while to allow the oak to mellow?
Good luck, and hope you enjoy the results.
Steve
Reply to
Steve

Doug, I'll defer to you since I don't make kit wine but am a bit intrigued by them supplying 'oak dust' for a premium level kit. I find dust to taste like it looks, like sawdust. Everything you add or do to wine in process affects the taste to some degree in my experience. It sounds like it goes in early so that mellows it out but it's still low end product as far as I am concerned. I think chips/beans are far superior to dust, the staves and spirals seem to make sense too. Oak is a very 'personal taste' thing and does recede with time but that sound like one area where they left room for improvement, at least to me. I like your idea of using beans over dust.
It's not possible to make great wine from mediocre ingredients but it pretty easy to make mediocre wine from great ingredients so your advice to stay close to the process outlined by the mfg makes a lot of sense, they want you to buy more. I never use oak dust on anything; even vinegar- which just loves oak.
Joe
Reply to
Joe Sallustio

I have made kit wines for about 20 years now, and the one thing that impresses me most is the incredible increase in quality. Kit wines are so good now that they often win blind tastings against natural grape wines. That said, I agree with others who have observed that the kits are geared towards early consumption, and therefore, require additives to clarify, degas, and stabilize the wine much more rapidly than is necessary. As an alternative to the more complex solutions offered by Jack Keller and Tim Vandergrift, here's my simple but effective approach. Toss the bentonite, kieselol / chitosan, and potassium sorbate. For fermentation, just add the concentrate, dilute with water, add oak (if red wine or chardonnay), and sprinkle yeast on top. When fermentation stops (5-7 days), rack to a carboy, top up and attach an airlock. After 2 months, put the potassium sorbate in an empty carboy and rack into it, top up and attach an airlock. After another 4 months, rack into an empty carboy, and siphon into bottles. I've been following this very simple process for several years now. The wine is always clear for bottling, tastes great, and remains stable for at least 2 years (I can't say for sure beyond that because I always drink it up by then!). Best wishes for success in your winemaking.
Regards, Gary
Reply to
Gary Flye

I believe that Gary really does mean toss the potassium sorbate. When he says to put the sorbate in an empty carboy, he means put the potassium metabisulphite in the empty carboy.
IMO, Gary's method is probably going to work. I would add the bentonite (especially in a white) because I'm not convinced that time will clear a protein haze. Personally I would also use the clearing agents & filter. But that's just me.
Steve
Reply to
Steve

I think the kit companies have a basic problem in that they have to/ choose to dumb down the process to make it easy and foolproof even for beginners. I can understand the business rationale for this but it's the main reason why experienced winemakers want to tinker with the process. I work mostly with grapes and fresh juice but do kits occasionally, especially whites. Last fall I got a "super premium" NZ Sauvignon Blanc kit with the intention of following the directions - I used to meddle in the past and then if the result wasn't to my liking, didn't know if the cause was the kit or my meddling. In the end I still deviated from the instructions in two points:
- no sorbate - this was already discussed, - reducing the sulfite levels - the package in the kit had 4.5g of K- meta, which seemed absurdly high. I took it down to 3g but even that was too much. When I measured the sulfite before racking from the fining lees, it was 40+ ppm and very noticeable in the wine.
On top of this, the instructions usually say one can consider the ferment finished if the s.g. is below 0.998 and the level doesn't change from one day to the next. That sounds like a recipe for ending with some RS in the wine... which might be the reason for adding sorbate in the first place... which is still misguided.
So basically, following the instructions to the letter, I could end up with an off-dry white wine smelling of sulfite and bubblegum - a far cry from a good quality NZ Sauvignon Blanc.
On the other hand, I did the same kit on the side by following my usual process of making white wine from juice - no bentonite at beginning, special yeast, lower fermentation temperature, lower sulfite additions, etc., and at least in some characteristics (varietal character, aroma instensity), the kit process seemed to be better at 2 months. So overall, I think the best strategy is to follow the general framework of the instructions but don't be afraid to deviate on points that are suspect - there might be some trial and error involved to figure these out.
Pp
Reply to
pp

Joe - I expect that kits use oak "dust" or very small chips as they impart their "oakiness" to the wine much faster than larger cubes, staves, etc. I don't know where WE gets their oak "dust". While oak cubes and staves may be better in general, I think if you took a bunch of StaVin cubes and ground them into dust, you'd have pretty high- quality dust, so I'm reluctant to make too-sweeping generalizations. Also, the kits always seem to have you add the oak prior to fermentation. This supposedly has an impact on the wine, but doesn't tend to result in as much oaky flavor as adding oak later, during bulk aging.
I can say that one kit in particular (the WE Limited Edition Petit Verdot from several years ago) used (as I recall) four packages of oak, and for the first 18 months or so that was about all you could taste. ("Chateau Plywood"). At about 24 months, that changed, and at this point (3+ yrs) you can scarcely taste any oak - you really have to hunt for it. But the wine is fabulous -- I keep hoping they'll bring it back some day. :-)
Doug
Reply to
Doug

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