Saturday, February 6, 2010

Fun with Kit Wines

The long awaited WinExpert Limited Edition Trio Blanca arrived ("blanca" with an "a" on the end. That sounds wrong to this hispanic girl) and spent 6 days in primary before being racked to the secondary.

Now, I've been been kind of dismissive of the kit wines as in "I've made this! and that! and this other! Oh, and a Malbec but it was a kit." Husband points out that there are plenty of ways to screw up a kit and I shouldn't be so shy of taking pride. He's right.

Case in point: last night, I go to rack the Trio Blanca to the carboy after working all day and then having a glass and a half of wine. My carboy fills up - and there's still more wine. I grab a half gallon jug, fill that up - and there's still more wine. I finish off by filling a quart jar. Then I take the half gallon and the quart and combine them into a gallon jug with too much headspace.

It's not until the next morning that I realize this cannot be. My primary fermenter is marked at 6 gallons. The mark was obtained by filling a 6 gallon Better Bottle carboy with water and pouring it into the primary. If the primary was filled to that mark, I cannot have leftover wine!

What I have done is filled a five gallon Better Bottle. They look an awful lot alike unless you have them side by side. And, I discover this morning, both have a big "6" on the bottom! Seems to be a recycling code. Dang! That 5 gallon carboy is getting a BIG sharpie 5 right on the top!

Fortunately, fermentation is still very vigorous and I probably did no harm by racking them both to the real 6 gallon carboy at 8 o'clock this morning. Bubbling, bubbling away right now.

The other thing I learned is that oak chips are a pain in the patoot. The malbec kit had oak powder. Not the greatest but at least it doesn't get sucked up into the racking cane or clog the sink when you go to dump it out of the primary. Those buggers really swell! The up-coming Luna Rossa kit has 4 packets of french oak chips. FOUR! I'm going to put them in a nylon straining bag and put that into the primary.

Back to potential errors: I have concern that the oak chips were not in the Trio Blanca long enough to impart their full intended flavor. I am using WinExpert guru Tim Vandergrift's extended kit prep schedule which calls for a fairly quick transfer from primary (where I had the oak) to secondary (where there are just a few random floating bits).  That alone could change the character of my wine.

I also have a pound of medium toast American oak chips I bought a while back. I have a plastic tube left over from a broken hydrometer which I intended to make into an oak chip infuser - drill a bunch of holes, string a nylon cord through it, loosely pack with oak chips and suspend in a carboy. I thought my first use of this gizmo would be to oak my traditional mead but I may decide to add extra oak to the Trio Blanca. That, too will change my wine. So, if it's good, I can take credit. If it's not - well, so it goes. All part of the learning process.

The photo is Stella whose attention was first caught by the exciting noises made by the airlock and kept by the fascinating bits of oak swimming up - then back down. Right of the carboy are the Luna Rossa kit (next up when the brew belt heater is free) and the Viognier kit. Behind the Trio Blanca is a gallon of hot red chile wine and 3 gallons of blackberry mead.

The beer bottles are homebrew stout which has disappointing carbonation. They'll get opened, dosed with some additional sugar and re-capped.

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