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Old 12-08-2010, 10:09 PM   #1
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Default winemaking mistakes?

First of all great site and thanks for all of the info. I've learned many things since i first started lurking here.

I'm just getting started and I'm currently collecting my hardware bit by bit.

My question is based on the fact that i've never actually tasted a decent homemade wine. All home brewed wine that i'm familiar with tastes like rocket fuel flavored with fruit flavored syrup. It is usually highly alcoholic and way too sweet. I opened a 4 year old blueberry wine given to me for christmas last year with the same experience.

i'm looking for the light crisp dry/semi-dry taste like a reisling or pinot grigio
how do i get that crisp clean taste and avoid the heavy alcohol burn.


Are there common mistakes i can avoid that can prevent me from brewing rocket fuel flavored fruit syrup?

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Old 12-08-2010, 10:14 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by dusty1025 View Post
First of all great site and thanks for all of the info. I've learned many things since i first started lurking here.

I'm just getting started and I'm currently collecting my hardware bit by bit.

My question is based on the fact that i've never actually tasted a decent homemade wine. All home brewed wine that i'm familiar with tastes like rocket fuel flavored with fruit flavored syrup. It is usually highly alcoholic and way too sweet. I opened a 4 year old blueberry wine given to me for christmas last year with the same experience.

i'm looking for the light crisp dry/semi-dry taste like a reisling or pinot grigio
how do i get that crisp clean taste and avoid the heavy alcohol burn.


Are there common mistakes i can avoid that can prevent me from brewing rocket fuel flavored fruit syrup?
Ah, many home winemakers make rocket fuel, and go for a high ABV and not quality. I can honestly tell you that some of the best wines I've had in my life were homemade. My crabapple 2007 is phenomenal!

A couple of keys- keep the ABV at 12-13%, keep fermentation temperatures in the 60s, low 70s at highest, and use a quality wine yeast. Protect the wine from oxidation by using good technique. I promise you can make a great wine!
You can start with a riesling kit if you want. My friend, lschiavo here on HBT, made a riesling kit that I think was relatively inexpensive (maybe $65? which makes 30 bottles) and it was really wonderful. I make far more reds, and "country wines" so that's my experience level. If you want to start cheaper, you could try one of my recipes for apple juice wine, or even Welch's. My favorite wines so far have been crabapple, chokecherry, and dandelion, but they require some advance planning!
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Old 12-08-2010, 10:20 PM   #3
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Thanks yoop.
How do i keep the ABV at that level, should i take readings and sorbate when it gets to that level, or use a yeast that will die off at that level?

iIwas under the impression that you just let a wine ferment intil it stops and you're stuck with whatever ABV you end with.

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Old 12-08-2010, 10:28 PM   #4
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Thanks yoop.
How do i keep the ABV at that level, should i take readings and sorbate when it gets to that level, or use a yeast that will die off at that level?

iIwas under the impression that you just let a wine ferment intil it stops and you're stuck with whatever ABV you end with.
I think yoop means to target your starting gravity to that level, not your FG. For example, don't jack up recipes with a bunch of sugar.

I'd add that preparation of wine yeast, while not quite as finicky as beer yeast, leads to better fermentation. On my last mead, I followed ken schramm's recommendation of go ferm solution in a cake pan, followed by a slow acclimation of yeast to must by ladling in a little bit every 10 minutes.

The yeast are taking over the mead! It is a steady, impressive act they are performing
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Old 12-08-2010, 11:58 PM   #5
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keep the ABV at 12-13%, keep fermentation temperatures in the 60s, low 70s at highest, and use a quality wine yeast.
+1

Kits are a very easy way to get some experience with temperature, fermentation, gravity readings, etc. While not dummy-proof, they are close, IMO. Plus, even some of the lower-end kits (particularly whites) can produce very good wines.
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Old 12-09-2010, 12:08 AM   #6
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If you keep it down to 12-13% and use a slow yeast, it is easier to recover from a mistake as well.

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Old 12-09-2010, 12:33 AM   #7
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Thanks yoop.
How do i keep the ABV at that level, should i take readings and sorbate when it gets to that level, or use a yeast that will die off at that level?

iIwas under the impression that you just let a wine ferment intil it stops and you're stuck with whatever ABV you end with.

As Philrose said, you make the OG at a decent level- 1.085 or so for many wines. Then, allow it to ferment out. It should go to .990-.994 or so. If you need to sweeten it later, you can stabilize the wine with campden (sulfites) and sorbate and then sweeten to taste. Wine yeast don't predictably die out at a set level- in a happy fermentation, some wine yeast strains can go past 18% or so. So, you have "hot" sweet alcohol but not great tasting wine, if you just try to overwhelm the yeast.

You can control the ABV easily by controlling the OG.
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Old 12-09-2010, 12:47 AM   #8
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The way I have been doing it is to figure out hot high of ABV you want, and match that to the yeast as close as possible. Take how sweet you want the FG, and add the sugar to get the OG to the tolerance of the yeast - 1 or 2%.

What happens is like I want 20% ABV finished, and I like it to be about 3% potential left, so I tun the potential up to 23% or 24%. When it gets close to the end of active fermentation, the yeast have thinned themselves out and slowed down. When it gets down to 4%, I rack it and add campden and sorbate and it ticked down another 1 or 2. This leaves me with a sweet wine that I like. You can change the numbers but the idea is for most of the yeast to die from the alcohol, and the few remaining are taken out from stabilization. It leaves a limited number of yeast to contend with at the end if you match it all up. And stabilization keeps it from running on forever for that last 1% so it can start the aging process.

And the best thing of all is stopping fermentation like this keeps the yeast from going hungry and eating each other and releasing toxins into the wine that takes forever to clear up.

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Old 12-09-2010, 12:49 AM   #9
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exactly the information i needed. thank you all very much. ""hot" sweet alcohol" is what i'm used to. i think the inexperienced ppl i've gotten homebrew from must start with a higher OG (Original Gravity?) then attempt to backsweeten to cover up the rocket fuel taste. at least thats what it tastes like.

is there a link to the abbreviations or terminology most of you use? i couldn't find it in the FAQ category.

thanks again to all of your responses

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Old 12-09-2010, 12:55 AM   #10
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oh another thing. How cold is too cold to ferment? my basement hovers in the mid to high 50s this time of year.

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