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Home Brew Forums > Wine, Mead, Cider, Sake & Soda > Wine Making Forum > Island Mist blackberry merlot kit... good overall :)

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Old 10-22-2010, 02:43 PM   #1
Justibone
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Default Island Mist blackberry merlot kit... good overall :)

So when my fiancee (at the time, now Mrs. Justibone) and I decided we wanted to brew a wine for our wedding, we eventually selected an Island Mist kit, blackberry merlot to be specific. The cost was about $80, so it's not the cheapest kit out there... it's a medium price kit IMO.

We bought the kit in March or so, but based on advice of the forum by some random person, we got the impression that the wine "didn't keep". We therefore intentionally delayed brewing it until just two months before the ceremony. I've come to decide the following things:

1) wine "not keeping" means -- it's not good to store it for years, months is fine (and in fact good)
2) Whatever timeline the instructions give, multiply it by four and that's probably better

Storing a kit in your house is the same as it sitting on the shelf at the store, the yeast are not any more vital by the time you get around to making the kit, and in fact, they are likely a good deal less vital. If in doubt, use fresh yeast -- that goes for all kits; beer, wine, mead, whatever. We should have gotten fresh yeast.

Using the instructions you start out brewing a merlot, the blackberry juice comes later. The instructions told us to do the first racking at gravity 1.040 or so, but I missed that because it fermented so fast. I did the first racking at 1.010 instead.

I did another racking after it hit 0.990 or so (I don't have my records with me as I write this). I believe at this point they have you add meta and sorbate to kill the yeast, and that's when you add the sweetened blackberry juice to give it a good flavor. You put it back in the carboy to bulk age it (for, like, a week?) and then bottle it after that. All told they estimate that you can make wine in 3-4 weeks or so.

How was it?

Smelly. Sulfury. Nasty. We used the proper amounts of K-meta for sanitization and also to stop re-fermentation when we added the blackberry juice, but the wine still smelled like Satan's breakfast. If we had bottled then, it would have been $80 down the crapper. We came on here and searched for solutions. We saw the copper technique, and tested that on a few ounces... not much result. We tried aerating it, and that worked great on the glass we drank, but were we about to purposely oxidize six gallons of wine? No thanks. What I read instead was that sometimes bubbling CO2 up through sulfury wine can get rid of the stench. I got some dry ice, drilled a hole in a 2L bottle cap, ran a new, clean aquarium aeration stone and hose from the 2L into the stone in the wine. Three days later, the wine was better, but whether that was from the CO2 or just time, who can say?

What caused the funk? Well, either I made a boo-boo concentrating my meta solution, or stressed yeast, or "other". I don't think it was my meta, b/c I've used the same meta on another batch of wine and there was no problem then. It very well could have been stressed montrachet yeast that came with the kit -- they have been known to make their objections known in sulfury tones when they are mistreated. As for other, who can tell?

In the end, the product was good, but the timeline is unrealistic for producing really good wine. Some extra time bulk aging in a carboy and some extra time in the bottle (4 months total now) has made the wine pretty good. It wouldn't win any awards, but what can you expect from combining an amateur and a mid-price kit?

I would recommend Island Mist kits to friends, but only if they have several batches under their belts already, or a friend with more experience nearby.

That's my $.02 on Island Mist kits.
Wine Taste 4/5
Instructions 2/5
Ease of Use 5/5

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Old 10-22-2010, 02:52 PM   #2
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Here's the wine (and our fur-baby in the BG) :



http://www.homebrewtalk.com/members/justibone/albums/justibone-s-brewing/1160-bride-groom-wine/


Last edited by Justibone; 10-22-2010 at 02:53 PM. Reason: Pic didn't show
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Old 10-22-2010, 05:52 PM   #3
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Island Mist kits are about the simplest kits to get right. I can't imagine what you did to make it taste bad. Heck, my LHBS owner makes these kits and drinks it (and gives it away) at 4 weeks. It tastes great.

I have made 3 different kinds and have not had any sulfur smell or off taste. Just follow the directions...

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Old 10-22-2010, 06:08 PM   #4
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I think it was the stressed yeast. I did follow the directions, and I admitted the one mistake I made (letting it get too dry before 1st rack). Other than that, I did follow the directions, and they are very clear. Like I said, it's easy to use... but now I wonder if it's really the best way to use those ingredients.

Not everyone's experience is going to be identical. If there is an incidence of, say, 5% of brewers have problems with a kit (who knows what the real number could be, really) then it is perfectly logical that you would have multiple good experiences and I could have one bad one.

Also, "great" is a very subjective term. I submit that the wine is not what I would consider award-worthy, but then again, I'm not a contest judge, so who knows, really? And what's better than great? If it was what I call "good" at 1 mo. in the bottle, and it's much better now, how does that compare to your experience with LHBSO's wine at four weeks?

In my opinion, this kit would, in all likelihood, turn out slightly better with a couple extra months worth of patience. I would gladly buy this kit again, except this time we are thinking of the Green Apple Riesling instead. These are good kits that make good wine, but I think next time I'll follow Yooper's instructions instead of Island Mist's.

My $.02, YMMV.

EDIT: Yooper hasn't come down with a position on this matter, by referencing her I mean her general advice of being patient and letting wine take it's time.


Last edited by Justibone; 10-22-2010 at 06:10 PM. Reason: Yooper disclaimer added
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Old 10-25-2010, 08:45 AM   #5
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One more thing I noticed this weekend: when I was taking the wine out of the box I have it stored in (upside-down to keep the corks wet) and put it in the wine rack, I saw sediment on the cork. We recommended that this wine be served cold on the label, so if people followed that instruction they probably won't get cloudy wine, but still it's rather unappetizing to see sediment in a still wine bottle. It looked more like yeast than like "wine diamonds", but neither would have been there if the wine had been given a good four to six months in carboys.

Just my opinion and preference.

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