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Bayou Lacroix Vineyards | Email | Basic Winemaking | Advanced Winemaking  Email | Basic Winemaking | Advanced Winemaking  


Believe it or not, you can make EXCELLENT wines with PREMIUM wine kits. These kits are not all concentrate, they are generally 8 liters varietal grape juice and 7 liters or so of concentrate. They will cost you around $75.00 for 15-16 liters of juice. In addition, the shipping charges will be somewhat higher because of the weight involved. I know for a fact that wine competitions have been giving awards for wines made from premium wine kits. The best kits I know of to date are the "Cru Select" kits made by rjgrape co. I have not had the chance to make a wine from this particular kit as of yet, but will be soon,  I have made wines from the Cellar Classics kits and they turn out GOOD!! Cellar Classics are also 15 liters of juice and concentrate, and they ship all the additives you need to add along with the juice, but not IN the juice. Its up to you to add the chemicals at the right times. I know that Grand Cru wines have won medals and several competitions, as far as the Cellar Classics, I am not sure if they have brought home any prizes or not, But the wine is excellent. I believe there is a certain style and flair to making kit wines, and through tons of researching, asking questions, and just plain bugging folks I have come up with what I feel to be a sound process for making these wine. Lets face it, we are trying to make the best wine we can right? Well follow some of my suggestions here and I guarantee your wine will turn out good enough to pick up a Prize, even if its from family and friends. These steps are primarily what the juice makers suggest, but with the addition of some very important procedures added in. With a little artistic ability, and flair you can turn this juice into a real fine wine capable of taking home a medal..
   

***Note: Instructions below are for a PREMIUM wine kits containing a lot more juice/concentrate than standard wine kits. For standard wine kits designed to make 6 gallons of wine add water ONLY to the 5 to 5 1/2 gallon mark. This will give you a finished wine with more flavor and body.

  • Day 1

  1. You have your grape juice, so sterilize your primary fermenter, and all other equipment you will be using on this day. I highly recommend using a 6 gallon glass carboy for the primary (they suggest a plastic bucket fermenter). add your juice to the carboy. most premium kits tell your to add 1.8 imperial liters of water to the juice. I DO NOT. I add 1.5 U.S. gallons of water to the juice, this will give you a total volume of about 5 1/2 gallons of wine. This will allow you to make a fuller bodied, fuller tasting wine, with a deeper rich color. After racking several times your final wine volume will be about 5 gallons.

  2. Add 1/2 tsp. addition grape tannin to the must. (Important!! If using oak chips then don't add this, because you may end up with an over tannic wine, thats a little harsh.)

  3. Add 1 tsp. yeast nutrient. You may not need this as the juice my have sufficient amounts, but this will help the yeast work harder and help insure finishing with a dry wine.

  4. Take a hydrometer reading should be 1.092 and acid reading, this should be .68 % tartaric. These will vary some, but with the amount of water added this is usually what I get. if you add the amount of water specified by the juice maker your S.G. and acid will be lower and you may of have to ameliorate your wine with some sugar and acid. If your sugar reading is low, STIR the juice well and take another reading, it should read correctly now.

  5. Some kits provide oak chips with the juice, so add this at day 1 remember that oak will also impart some tannins to your wine so dont add any of  the tannin in the above step.(you can add later if you feel it needs more.) You can also wait and add the oak later during the secondary if you want to, to allow for extending time on the oak chips. once the water and oak (if using, I recommend it) are added, stir the must good to get the oak wet and settling into the top of the wine, then add your yeast to the top of the carboy. (Lalvin EC-1118) fit with a bung and airlock. If your using a 6 gallon carboy as I recommend, you will have about 1/2 gallon of air space in the top, this will be sufficient for the foaming that is about to occur. I ferment all my wines at a constant 66 degrees. I recommend storing your wine where it will not exceed 70 degrees. a cool slow ferment will enhance the flavors of your wine!!!

  • Day 2 -  Check on must should be foaming nicely by now

  • Day 3 -  Remove bung and airlock, and give your wine a gentle stirring on the lees. stir for about 1 minuet. remember to sterilize stirring rod! replace bung and airlock.

  • Day 4 - Nothing, check it.

  • Day 5 - Nothing, check it.

  • Day 6 - Nothing, the juice maker recommends racking on this day, but giving it an extra day will allow the S.G. to drop a little more and give another day of oaking to the must. ferment will be less active by now. Oak will be mostly settled to the bottom of the carboy by now.

  • Day 7

  • Note..  I often let the wine completely finish before the first racking.  You have this option, and some wine shops and vineyards advise to do it this way. If you wish to rack now then by all means do so, but there again you have the option of leaving the wine in the original fermentation vessel and letting it finish completely before racking to the secondary. This is your choice, and it will not harm the wine in anyway. I suggest letting the wine finish before the first racking, and even a couple weeks aging beyond that will not harm the wine. 

    • If not letting wine finish proceed to next step!!

    • If letting wine finishe in primary skip to day 31

  1. You will be racking to a 5 gallon carboy from a 6 gallon carboy with 5 1/2 gallons of must in it. This should fill your secondary nicely without the need for topping up. (see why I do it this way!!) It will also leave a little extra, you should put this in a small glass bottle for topping up with after the next racking. Sterilize your secondary fermenter, your racking cane, and racking tubes. Do a hydrometer test. it will be right at about 1.020. This is what we want!! Acid should still be right although a little lower, don't worry about this right now. I don't usually do an acid test at this stage. If you do and its a little low, that's fine you can correct this later, or add a little acid blend.

  2. Now rack your wine to the secondary keeping the racking tube below the level of wine in the receiving carboy. get as much as you can in the secondary, but leave the oak chips behind as they will have settled to the bottom by now. You will get some in the secondary and they may clog up the hose if your not careful. but with some attention you can avoid most all of the oak chips. You can rack through a funnel with a screen in it if you want to. fill the carboy into the neck, leave a couple inches space, as most of the foaming should be done by now and will not cause a problem. Replace bung and airlock. Talk to it a minuet. Use a bacterial killer cleaning solution such as formula 409 to clean the outside of the glass carboy, or even a glass cleaner is better than nothing. I keep the outside of all my glass fermenters CLEAN at all times, its better to avoid bacteria infection, rather than trying to fix one.

  • Day 8 - Day 30, Nothing just check on it and keep the temperature as low as possible, at this point even 55 degrees will be GOOD for your wine. it will slow the last of the fermentation process down and aid in settlement, as well as allowing the now wine to retain its varetial and fruity bouquet.

  • Day 31, or ther about..

  1. Wine should be finished. If it is not and is still bubbling let the wine finish before continuing. If it is finished, You can now do a second racking. Make sure you let your wine finish working before racking, we are aiming for about .990 -.995 specific gravity reading. (you may still see small bubbles but with a low S.G. reading the wine is pretty much done and can be racked)  This is a dry wine, but can be sweetened back up before bottling. I like most of my fruit wines at about 1.001 S.G. and grape whites at about the same. A grape red wine can be a little dryer and still be to my liking. This is a matter of taste and you will learn where to finish your wines at. for heavy Red kit wine, I leave them dry!!

  2. Sterilize all the equipment, and rack your wine. leave a little space in the top of the carboy (about 6" or so) if you had some extra from the previous racking, just leave that as is for now, making sure its under air lock.

  3. Your kit will usually contain stabilizer and fining agents. This is the time to add them. Also 1/8 tsp. of  potassium metabisulphite should be added at this time. On occasion with red wines I don't add the fining agents, but I do add the stabilizer. either way if you want to fine and have a clear wine much sooner, add it now along with stabilizer. I would dissolve these in some of the wine first, or some HOT water and then stir them in REAL GOOD. If you have gelatin or clairo KC you can just pour it in, if its bentonite dissolve it first. Your kit should provide instructions on this procedure. Stir!!!

  4. This additional step is important and should be done to most all wines. Once the stabilizers and fining agents are in you need to de-gas your wine. This will help remove all the carbon dioxide from the liquid. You do this for the next few days after adding your stabilizer and clearing agents.  This is done by stirring the wine real good for 3 minuets 2 times a day for 3 days. You can also complete de-gassing in one day by stirring for a few mins, waiting 15 min. and then stir again, repeating this several times. Once this step is complete you stop stirring and let the fining agents do their job. Top up carboy up into the neck with any extra wine, or boiled cooled water. If you desire to sweeten you can add a little sugar when boiling the water and use that to top up with. be careful not to sweeten to much, as more sugar can be added later if desired and it usually better to wait to just before bottling to sweeten.

  • Day 45 -

  1. Your wine should have settled out by now and should be clear. You will see the fining settlement in the bottom of the carboy. Rack the wine off the lees. If its not REAL clear leave a few extra days and keep it COOL. Make sure carboy is topped up and then replace bung and airlock.

  2. According to most wine kit instructions at this point your wine is finished and can be bottled. I recommend letting the wine age now for AT LEAST 6 months, 8 months to a year will be better. This is one of the hardest things a good wine maker has to endure. If extended aging in bulk you will want to rack in a again in a few months. The wine will be good now, but will be EXCELLENT in 1 year from now. You can also filter your wine now if desired. I recommend a 1 micron filter for reds, and a 1 or .5  micron filter for whites. If the filter is to fine it will strip your wine of body and some color as well. some vintners use only a 5 micron filter for reds, I find this is to large rating for filtering, and will leave to much in the wine, which will eventually settle out in the bottle.

If you have followed this procedure, and you started with a quality wine kit, you will have a FINE wine now. There is nothing left to do but let it age preferably in bulk, for AT-LEAST 6 months, but at least in the bottle for a good while. These wines can be very complex with a wonderful  bouquet, and nice color. Remember prior to bottling If you need it add 1/8 tsp. of potassium metabisulphite or 3-4 campden tablets to help preserve your wine, Add this only if you haven't added any yet. Be very careful you can ruin a wine with to much sulfur!!     Acid level should be great!!

This is the way I make my own kit wines:

On or about 1 month after the start of fermentation, and after the first racking (Wines finish in primary) I do not add fining substances. I stabilize with potassium sorbate and potassium metabisulphite, and then de-gas over the next several days. Once the de-gassing is finished I let the wine age in bulk and settle out on its own. I don't use finings because for one thing if you are aging for awhile the wine will settle out with out the use of them. I rack  1-2 more times over the next 6-8 months and then adjust final acidity, but its usually just fine. I sometimes add a little more metabisulphite (25-30 PPM) just before bottling. (be very careful here as you can leave the wine with a sulfur smell and taste.) I give the wine time in the bottle to overcome bottle shock, and then its open house on drinking and sampling the wine. The wine will continue to improve over the next several years..........