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Old 05-05-2013, 01:03 AM   #1
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Default Wine Newbie Wants to Make a Merlot

I've been brewing beer for a while and have tossed together several batches of apfelwein because it is dirt cheap and simple. I also have a small batch of mead that I hope my wife will eventually enjoy. Outside of that my winemaking experience is zero.

But now I would like to attempt a "real" wine, a Merlot. I know kits are available, but my experience with kit beers has been poor so I am leery about buying one for wine. I have also heard it is possible to get juice in buckets.

The Merlots that I have enjoyed were generally light on tannin bitterness, nicely balanced (neither too sweet or too dry). I particularly like wines from the Furnace Brook Winery in W. Massachusetts.

Any pointers as to the best avenue to start? If someone can vouch for a particularly good kit I'm open to suggestions for those, but I'm open to anything really.

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Old 05-05-2013, 01:15 AM   #2
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I've never used them, but M&M grape might not be that bad for shipping for you. http://www.juicegrape.com/jg_sitespe...t%20Retail.pdf

Looks like they might have some decently priced Merlot, but you might need to be able to find a press because I think their juice buckets come with solids in them.

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Old 05-05-2013, 01:36 AM   #3
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Not sure where I could get a wine press, unless my LHBS supply happens to rent them. Can it be pressed the old fashioned way, say with my nude wife's well-scrubbed bare feet?

What are the advantages of having the whole fruits and skins vs. just the juice?

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Old 05-05-2013, 01:47 AM   #4
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Not sure where I could get a wine press, unless my LHBS supply happens to rent them. Can it be pressed the old fashioned way, say with my nude wife's well-scrubbed bare feet?

What are the advantages of having the whole fruits and skins vs. just the juice?
If you're going to make a good red wine, you need to ferment on the skins for the first few days, then press. I don't have a press, so I do small batches and use old fashioned squeezing technique. Crushing is first- that's done by hand (or by feet, I guess). After you crush, you ferment for about 5 days, then press.

I'd really suggest a good quality kit for a good wine in the end. A good kit is about $135-160 and makes 6 gallons of wine. The reason is that making wine is technically very easy- but there are acid adjustments to make, sulfiting, pressing, and MLF to do. It's not difficult physically, but it really takes some know-how and some specialized equipment to do it and do it right for reds.

You can buy frozen juice, but you totally lose the benefits of fermenting on the skins, and you still have the acid adjustments and might have to add tannin since you don't have the skins.

For the first go, I'd really suggest a kit. Wine kits in the $150 range tend to be excellent, and are easy to do.
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Old 05-05-2013, 02:06 AM   #5
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Are red wines "harder" to pull off well vs. whites? Would a white be a better place to start?

I've seen Winexpert kits offered through Northern Brewer with skins. Most are out of stock but I assume that is because we are not quite in grape season yet.

So the pressing part isn't crushing the fruit initially, it is really squeezing wine from the fermented skins? I'm reading that some kits come with a packet of skins - are they separated from the juice?

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Old 05-05-2013, 03:06 AM   #6
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Are red wines "harder" to pull off well vs. whites? Would a white be a better place to start?

I've seen Winexpert kits offered through Northern Brewer with skins. Most are out of stock but I assume that is because we are not quite in grape season yet.

So the pressing part isn't crushing the fruit initially, it is really squeezing wine from the fermented skins? I'm reading that some kits come with a packet of skins - are they separated from the juice?
Yes. The good quality kits have a pack of dried skins that you put in the wine during primary. You don't have to crush/press/acid adjust kits.
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Old 05-05-2013, 03:36 AM   #7
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The Winexpert kit doesn't sound too bad then. I'll keep my eyes open for that kit when it becomes available. I'll probably have to break down and get a glass carboy while I am at it.

Thanks!

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Old 05-05-2013, 03:39 AM   #8
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The Winexpert kit doesn't sound too bad then. I'll keep my eyes open for that kit when it becomes available. I'll probably have to break down and get a glass carboy while I am at it.

Thanks!
For wine kits, it has to be a 6 gallon carboy. It can be a Better bottle, or glass, but it has to be 6 gallons.
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Old 05-05-2013, 03:49 AM   #9
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For wine kits, it has to be a 6 gallon carboy. It can be a Better bottle, or glass, but it has to be 6 gallons.
Yep. I assume that my 6-gallon ale pail is OK for a 6 gallon wine primary? I did 6 gallons of apfelwein in it without any problems.

Regarding the skins - reading through the forums while making mead and ciders I've learned that some people add raisins to their musts, partly as yeast nutrient and partly for body. I did this both with my mead and my cider. Is adding raisins kind of a poor man's cheat to replace skins in wines? Is that what the skins do for the wine?
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Old 05-05-2013, 04:06 AM   #10
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I would highly suggest starting with a kit as well and 6 gallon carboy is a must. You should ferment a good red kit in a bucket with a volume of at least 7 gallons. When you ferment a high quality red kit with skins and seeds you will want to "punch the cap" once or twice a day. The CO2 coming out of the fermentation causes the skins and seeds to float to the top causing the "cap" to form and you want them to be in the liquid as much as possible. So, the 7 gallon capacity of the fermentor is necessary.

I will also suggest to buy the most expensive kit you can afford. You truly do get what you pay for. Higher priced kits are less concentrated and which means less processing for them from the manufacturer and less water added on your end before fermentation. The final result then is a much fuller bodied wine that you will want to make again.

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