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Tasting And Adjusting Reds During Aging

08/12/5

We need to occasionally check in on the wine‟s progress by testing and tasting every 4-6 weeks throughout the entire maturation period. What we are looking for is the following:
 
1.  Is everything all right? Is the wine still fresh and fruity? Or, are there any funky, undesirable flavors or aromas developing since the last time you checked the wine? If there are any problems, they will need to be dealt with ASAP, because the longer problems are left uncorrected the harder they are to remedy. Note: In the midst of analyzing/troubleshooting, don‟t forget to check both the SO2 levels and the pH/TA to see if these have shifted from the last time the wine was tested. This will help you – or us - to figure out what is going on with the wine if there is a problem.

2.  If the wine has no signs of spoilage, then how is it developing?

  • pH/TA: How does the wine taste; is it too acidic or too flat? Check what you are tasting against the pH and TA results. If you need to raise the pH because the wine is too acidic, adding Potassium Carbonate at a rate of 3.8 grams per gallon will raise the pH by approximately 0.10 units. The wine is then chilled to as close to 33°F as possible for two weeks. When done, rack it off of the deposit, double check the SO2 level and return to the normal aging/storage schedule.

    If the wine is too flat and could use a little brightening-up, it can be remedied by a Tartaric acid addition. (3.8 grams per gallon raises the TA by approximately 1.0 g/L)  

Refer to our Guide to Acidifying Must for a complete explanation of raising or lowering the pH/TA.
 

  • Mouthfeel/Structure: How does the wine seem when you roll it around in your mouth? Is it thin or full? Depending on the Varietal and the style of the wine being made thin may be perfect (for example: a delicate Riesling). However, if you are looking for a wine that is a little more full, then you may want to look at using a small amount of yeast-derived additives or enological tannins to help round things out. 
     
  • Tannin/Oak Extracts/Level of Barrel Impact: Each time you taste the wine, you need to pay attention to how well the tannins, flavors and aromas coming from the toasted oak are interacting with the wine. It is always easy to add a little more oak or tannin to the wine if the levels are not high enough, but be careful to not over do it. The only way to tone it down is by blending it out with another wine that has less oak/tannins.  

 
For more information on using oak in winemaking, see our Guide to Oak and Red Wine.


*Note: Due to the complexity of wine, the only way to precisely gauge how much of each product is needed to achieve your desired results for any of these addition/adjustments is to do a bench trial. This cannot be stressed enough: the place to find out that the 0.2 pH rise in your wine that was supposed to come from a 2 g/L addition of Potassium Carbonate has now resulted in a 0.4 pH shift due to an unforeseen buffering reaction is in the test bottle and not your entire wine volume...  
 

For complete information on bench trials, see our Guide to Bench Trials

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