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Old 04-29-2009, 02:03 PM   #1
Chad's Avatar
Sep 2007
Apex, NC
Posts: 1,028
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I just splurged on my first wine kit, a Selection Estate New Zealand (Marlborough) Sauvignon Blanc. It was a little pricier that I might have liked, about $150, but my wife, who generally supports/tolerates my beer brewing hobby, is skeptical about home wine making. I figure I have one shot to win her over with a good, home crafted version of her favorite wine. Was I right in thinking the pricier kit would result in a higher quality wine? She specifically prefers New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, and this was the only kit that guaranteed juice from vineyards in the Marlborough region of New Zealand.

In reading the instructions, I'm shocked by the short times for each stage of fermentation: five to seven days in the primary, 10 days in secondary, eight days tertiary (stabilising and clearing stage)? The only one that makes sense, given what I know of wine making, is 28 days for the clarification stage. Are these times the equivalent of the beer kit instructions we always warn new brewers to ignore, you know, the ones that say to transfer the beer to a secondary after seven days? Or are these times accurate and appropriate for kit wines? I'm willing to go longer if it will improve the wine.

Secondly, I'm a bit surprised by the yeast selection, Lalvin EC-1118. I've always thought of this as Champagne yeast. The product information sheet on this wine says,
The expression of this amazing explosion of fruit is aided by our special proprietary yeast: by careful management of the yeast strain, Selection Estate New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc casts long, rich flavours, redolent with grass and currant leaves, and a crisp dry finish.
However, I was under the impression that Lalvin K1V-1116 was specifically a Sauvignon Blanc yeast, so I was surprised to see EC-1118 in the kit. I'm okay with a dry wine. My wife prefers them that way. Should I swap the yeast out or give the kit maker the benefit of the doubt that they selected the correct yeast for this wine?

Thirdly, the instructions call for sanitation with metabisulphate. I have some that I've used in cider making before, but is this a task my usual Star San can handle equally well? I suppose the real question is if there is anything wine-specific about using metabisulphate that makes it more appropriate than Star San for sanitation?

Thanks for the help, folks. I appreciate it.
Chad Ward
An Edge in the Kitchen
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Old 04-29-2009, 02:13 PM   #2
rsmith179's Avatar
Feb 2009
Cleveland, OH
Posts: 934
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Always trust the kit makers regarding how to make their wine. Their instructions make a perfect wine in my opinion and aren't to be messed with. Especially after spending that type of $$ on some juice. I've made a few kits and have followed the instructions exactly with just fantastic results.

Not too sure about the yeast question.. so I'll pass that along to someone else. Regarding sanitization, you should have absolutely no problem with using StarSan instead of metabisulphate. StarSan is my go-to sanitizer and I trust nothing else to do the job that StarSan does. I think winemakers in general use a lot of metabisulphate, so it only makes sense that they would recommend using that as the sanitizer. I guess this would be the only part of the instructions I don't follow.

Also, make sure that you read the instructions, and then re-read them again. There are some steps, especially at the last racking, that need to be followed in a particular order. For example, my last Riesling kit (very pricey) came with three different clarifying products. I HAD to add them to the wine in a very particular order. If those products were added in a different order, the wine would not have cleared properly. I guess that just goes to show you that you really do need to follow the steps for your kit.

Good luck with this wine and I'm sure the SWMBO will love it. Only problem now is that my SWMBO loves it too much. Beer's cheap to brew... Wine, not so much.
"Brewers enjoy working to make beer as much as drinking beer instead of working."
-Harold Rudolph

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Old 04-29-2009, 03:28 PM   #3
Aug 2008
Stoneham, MA
Posts: 97
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My two cents:

Instructions are guidelines and various factors can influence them, such as temperature. Your hydrometer is still the best gauge for telling when when your wine needs to be racked to secondary and when it's done. White wines are obviously easier to tell when clear. Red wine benefits from aging more than most white wines. Instructions should give you aging times. Bulk aging in a carboy can sometimes be easier than aging entirely in separate bottles. I'll defer to someone else to answer this better...

Yeast - I, too would go with what was put in the kit. Lalvin 1118 is recommended for a lot of kit wines where Lalvin 1116 is used a lot for fresh grapes and juices. 1118 also creates very compact lees, which is a good thing! Again, perhaps someone with more expertise could elaborate.

I've been taught that in comparison to beer brewing, wine-making has a 2 step process of cleaning and sanitizing. Use any sort of beer/wine cleaner such as B-Brite, C-Brite, Star-San, etc. but then also use sodium metabisulphite (k-meta) to sanitize. Mix 2 oz. meta to 1 gallon of water. Rinse all equipment with solution prior to use - do not rinse. K-meta can also be reused (ex: pour small amount into one wine bottle, thoroughly swirl to coat entire inside of bottle and then pour into next wine bottle and repeat...) K-meta can be stored and used for as long as it retains the sulpher smell - when that is gone, mix new batch. K-meta solution is also used in the fermentation lock rather than water (with beer) since it will be on for a longer period of time and the water would become stagnant - environment for bacteria. Some people use cheap vodka instead.

And while beer may be cheap to brew in some cases, wine can also be very economical. If your kit was $150. and it makes 30 (750ml) bottles, then that's $5.00 a bottle! Not bad! (Even adding purchased bottles and corks it's still fairly reasonable!) But we're all in it because it's a fun hobby and we enjoy making it! Hope this helps! Have fun!

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Old 04-29-2009, 03:44 PM   #4
Be good to your yeast...
Saccharomyces's Avatar
Jun 2008
Pflugerville, Texas
Posts: 5,447
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The Selection Estate wines are fantastic. As they are you won't be disappointed with the kit at all. From my experience I recommend you wait to rack at each stage until the wine drops completely clear, which can take longer than the instructions say, there is no point in racking off the lees if you are still taking sediment along for the ride! I would also add a few Campden tablets out of the tertiary to prevent oxidation and and go for an extra racking of a month for extra clearing unless you plan on filtering the wine to remove residual yeast before bottling.
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