Common mistakes of winemakers

When learning how to make homemade wines most new winemakers and some old winemaking enthusiasts have fallen into these pitfalls when they were making wine. It is important that you avoid these problems if you are going to make wine in your home.


• One of the most common problems most new wine makers make is not having the right amount of equipment. A lot of time new winemakers will notice that they have some of the same products in their home that the recipe may call for. Equipment such as pails, carboys, spoons and many other winemaking equipment can be found in your home.


• This equipment is different because proper winemaking equipment is made from a special material and will change what you finished product. Re- using other equipment such as barrels from other places can be detrimental to the wine, especially those that were used for food, because the food smells are now in the plastic and will taint the smell and taste of the wine. Just saving a few dollars for using equipment that you don't have to buy at the store, is not beneficial in wine making. You want to make wine buy a quality kit or pieces from real wine making stores, so that you know they will work well in creating your wine.


• Another important concept for winemaking is the cleaning and sanitation of your equipment. 90% of all problems happen because people are not cleaning and sanitizing their equipment properly and introducing germs and bacteria into your wine. Sanitation is needed to eliminate and prevent the growth of the organisms that may spoil your wine. Everything you use to make the wine should be cleaned, from the smallest item like the stirring equipment to the pail you use for fermentation; everything should be cleaned and sanitized. Sanitation treatments are available for your equipment and could save you time and money by keeping your wine and winemaking equipment free of contaminates.


• Another problem that new winemakers who are learning how to make wine from home face is a failure to follow the instructions. Some winemaking kit instructions are long and oftentimes complicated, for the new winemaker this is a hassle, and they may be tempted to simplify them or to skip steps in order to make the process go faster, however this is a mistake. Most winemaking kits were designed to give you sound advice and techniques when making wine. These steps have been tested by professional wine makers and have been found to work well if you simply follow all of the directions. Also if your kit fails to ferment or some other problem occurs, you will be unable to correct it because you did not follow the directions.


• A big problem that new winemakers face is the bad water problem. Many people put far too much emphasis on what kind of water should be put into your water, fact is any water that you drink from the tap is usually fine for wine making. However if you have a lot of hardness or the water is high in the mineral content it may lead to off flavors, and if you have a salt exchange water softener you cannot use this water for winemaking. Another helpful hint is if you are not sure about the water buys bottled water, but be sure it is not distilled water as this water does not have any nutrients or minerals in the water and may cause fermentation to be sluggish or stop all together.


• Poor yeast can be another problem for the new winemaker. The packet of wine yeast that you have will be dried and of high quality but there is a process that will need to be performed in order to revive the yeast. Some people will want to rehydrate the yeast prior to pitching it, you can do that if you wish, however you can just sprinkle the yeast on top and you will have more live cells than if you hydrate any way.


• One of the biggest mistakes that a person can make is poor temperature control; however yeast likes certain temperatures (65 degrees F to 75 degrees F) and doesn't care much for fluctuations in these numbers. For winemakers if the fermentation area is too cool the fermentation will be slow and may even stop and if it is too hot, it may ferment too quickly or kill the yeast, higher temperatures may also leave your wine open to the growth of unwanted organisms that may destroy your wine.


• A common problem that most people are unaware of is that if they add sulfite and sorbate at the wrong time it may cause irreparable damage to their wine's production. These products are stabilizers and they work to inhibit the yeast's activity. If you put them in to early they may stop your fermentation and prevent the fruit from ever finishing fermentation.


• Another thing that could be a potential problem is leaving out the sulfite all together. Some people may complain of being allergic to sulfites and will leave them out of their fermentation processes. However true sulfite allergies are rare and no wine is ever sulfite free, because the yeast makes sulfites while they are fermenting. Without the sulfites, the wine may oxidize or spoil very quickly and be undrinkable in about three months.


• A serious problem many new wine makers are often guilty of is not stirring the wine, many wine musts must be stirred vigorously, and usually this is because juice and concentrates don't always mix with water easily. Even if you think it looks like it is in diluted in the water, it is not. The wine is probably lying at the bottom of the pail or fermenter with water on top, this throws off gravity reading and makes the yeast work harder, so you will need to stir when the recipe calls for it.


• The last but probably the most important problem of new winemakers is that they are impatient; they want to open the wine right away. Most wine kits say they are ready in about 28 to 45 days, they may be too, but they are usually not ready for consumption. You will need to wait, at the very least wine taste good after a month, three months is even better to give the wine character, and six months is needed to improve the mature characteristics of the wine and give it a smoother taste. If you want a wine that is mature, smooth, clean and delicious you may want to allow it to age for at least a year before drinking.

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About The Author, Randy T Slabey