My Last(?) Kit

I started off my winemaking with cheap kits I bought off of Amazon. I then moved on to frozen must from Brehm’s and fresh pressed juice from the 2018 harvest. Between those points, I had the idea to give a higher quality kit a try. So, after a good amount of research, I chose the Washington Riesling kit by Wine Expert. I was looking for a white variety since of my first two attempts, the white was drinkable right off the bat and I wanted a kit that might kick out a product that would be pretty decent. Online reviews I read pointed me in this direction.

And yet, just as soon as the kit arrived in the mail, my interest had moved toward planning for the frozen must. At the same time, I was starting to bust out of the closet I was making wine in before moving to the basement. This all meant that the kit sat under my desk for a year, untouched.

After my 2018 chardonnay and frozen zinfandel must bottling at the end of 2018, I was starting to get antsy without much to do on the winemaking front. So, I dusted off the riesling kit and jumped in.

My approach this time was going to be consciously different. First of all, I was going to keep notes of my process. Second, I wasn’t going to follow the directions they provided. Third, I was going to skip most/all of the chemical additions the kit came with.

On taking notes, that was really just making up for my mistake in the first couple attempts. But, I figured it would be particularly important given that I’d be going off book and following my own sense. I started up a Google spreadsheet and it’s going strong.

On the decision to not follow the directions and not add the chemicals, these were partly inspired by my interest in the folks who’re making natural wines. Now, before you start laughing too hard: Yes, I get it. Making wine from damn juice concentrate is about as far from natural as you can get. But, I figure it’s a good way to gain some confidence in making drinkable wine that doesn’t use clarifiers, stabilizers, or sulfite. I’m curious as to how the character will differ or whether it will simply fail before even making it to the bottle.

I’m about half way through the process right now, but here’s what I’ve done so far and the plan going forward:

  • Add water to bring the concentration down to the intended level. In practice, I kind of messed this up. I was supposed to add water to bring it to 6 gallons, but I only brought it to about 5.5 gallons. This resulted in a specific gravity of 1.11 however, so it wasn’t crazy.
  • Sprinkle the EC-1118 yeast and place the fermenter top on loosely. With the pior kits (and with the chard/zin) I had minimized the oxygen and used airlocked containers even at this early stage.
  • The fermentation was going strong by the next morning when I checked. And I let this go for a week.
  • After 1 week, I sealed the lid and popped on the airlock. (Too soon?)
  • After another 9 days, the fermentation had really slowed. I racked it into a 6.5 gallon carboy and learned about my 5.5 gallon mistake. I added more volume by adding the additional bag of juice that the kit intended as a back sweetening element. This started the fermentation again, which was good to add that protective layer of CO2 for all that headspace.
  • After another 2 weeks, the fermentation had once again stopped and racked it into a 5 gallon carboy with the intent to let it hang there (with no headspace) and degas on its own for a few months. I ended up with a few cups excess and a specific gravity of 0.990.
  • From here, the plan is to check it at the end of August to see if it’s ready for bottling.

The excess tasted pretty harsh. I think this is far drier than the manufacturer intended. But, as it was exposed to oxygen over 24 hours, covered with plastic wrap in my fridge, it softened a great deal. I’m interested to see where it goes from here.

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