Winemaking Tips and Advice
Winemaking is like other crafts—the more you practice the better you will become. However we all like shortcuts so here's a few tips and some good advice that will have you making better wine right now.
Use the right equipment
Make sure you use the proper equipment. That means food-grade materials and containers large enough to hold the amount of wine you're making plus room for the rising foam produced during the fermentation. Your equipment should be clean and in good condition. Scratches or stains can harbour bacteria which can spoil your wine. We recommend that starting winemakers purchase new equipment. Equipment for winemaking is fairly inexpensive and can be used over and over.
Maintain the proper environment
You'll want to make sure that your winemaking environment is clean and tidy. Wipe up any spills as soon as possible. Fruit flies are attracted to fermenting fruit and if they get in your wine they can spoil it. Make sure your working area is organized and tidy. This will make it much easier to work in and you will make less mistakes.
You will also need to maintain a constant temperature during the fermentation. Fluctuatiing temperatures can result in an unfinished fermentation and negatively affect the flavour of your wine. There are different ways to maintain constant temperature. Two of the most common methods is to ferment in a room that is thermostatically controlled or use a heating belt made especially for fermentation. Do not use common household heating pads. They may overheat the wine and kill the yeast.
Use good quality ingredients
There is no substitute for quality. A good chef will use only the freshest and best ingredients to make their dishes. The same goes for winemaking; you're results will depend mostly on the quality of the ingredients you choose. Use the best wine kit or juice that you can afford. Make sure it is fresh and use it within the manufacturer's best-before date. The best kits contain 100% grape juice and concentrate with no or very little added sugar. Choose these if you can.
Get that gas out
Fermentation produces roughly equal parts of alcohol and carbon dioxide gas. We want to keep the alcohol but get rid of the carbon dioxide gas. Dissolved gas in your wine will impede clearing since the rising gas bubbles will keep stirring up yeast sediment. Carbon dioxide gas will also give your wine an unpleasant odour and taste so it's important that we address this problem. You can shake or stir your wine with a spoon to help drive off the gas but that can be pretty labour intensive. The best method is to use a special wine degassing rod that fits your electric drill. These are much more effective and your arm will thank you. So stir and stir until you get that gas out.
Age your wine
Go to your local wine store and you will be hard-pressed to find a wine that has not been bottled for at least one year. The reason for this is that wine undergoes complex chemical reactions which involves the sugars, acids and compounds such as tannins which alters the aroma, colour, mouthfeel and taste of the wine. This makes it more pleasing to the taster. So if you want your wines to taste better age them for at least six months.
Store your wine under the right conditions
It's important that you store your wine out of direct sunlight and to avoid conditions where temperatures fluctuate. This will cause premature ageing and oxidation of your wine making it undrinkable. It's best to store your wine in a dark place and at cellar temperature (10-15º C). However, if this is not possible try to store it out of direct sunlight in an area where there is minimum temperature fluctuation.