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My Wine kit comes with Oak chips! I've heard that cubes are better, is this true?

As with most things in the winemaking world, there are pros and cons. Chips are great if you're making something that will have a shorter aging period, or when you need to extract a lot of flavor/tannins in a short period. Most wines will benefit from the slower smoother extraction you get from cubes (fully extracted in 6 months as opposed to 2 weeks for the chips).

*ProTip: chips are used during a fermentation to help counteract the effect of adverse oxygenation because of their ability to quickly diffuse tannins into the must.

My wine kit comes with a bentonite (fining) addition. Is this required?

No, commercial wineries will generally not go through a fining operation on red wine. The aging process and tannic addition of oak barrels will do a thorough enough job of cleansing the wine of anything which will cause haze. These fining agents are included in kit wines to help speed settling of compounds which would generally require over 6 months to age and drop out. Using these fining agents helps speed time to stability, allowing the vintner to get their product bottled and safe quicker. With white wines, it is still not necessary, but more generally recommended. Oftentimes cold temperatures will be necessary to drop out compounds in white wines, and this would be a more natural way to go about things. That being said, if you have no way to get your wine chilled to below 40F for at least two weeks, fining agents or filtration are oftentimes your only options. Ageing would accomplish the same thing, but oftentimes with these whites you will be losing a good amount of the fruitiness or distinctive characteristics that you want in the first place.

Why buy a Variable Volume (variable capacity, V/V) Tank?

Variable Volume tanks are undeniably one of the most versatile vessels that you can have in the winery. They are able to accommodate any volume of wine up to their limit. The lid can be held just above the level of the wine, negating excessive head space and increasing aging potential of the wine. Take the lid off and you have an open topped fermentation vessel, ideal for larger red wine ferments. If a custom tank is purchased you can have options such as cooling bands, manways, lifting arms, pumpover devices, etc. installed on them to facilitate your wineries specific needs.

What is the difference between flat bottom tanks and those with conical bottoms?

The conical bottom is a helpful feature for larger tanks when it comes to draining entirely, cleaning, etc. The slight conical shape will also assist with the dumping of lees during aging. Without the conical feature you are left with tilting the tank to fully dispense whatever is inside.

My wine is a little flabby/lacks brightness, how can I fix this?

A flabby wine is often the result of a lack of acidity keeping the fruit flavors from shining through. Oftentimes with a wine like this you can do bench trials for tartaric acid additions. Generally adding a couple of g/l will brighten a wines flavor, allowing fruit flavor to come through and brightening the palate. Test with a small volume of your wine and begin adding small amounts of tartaric acid, when you get to a place that you like, scale up the addition to your full batch!

What is racking?

"Racking" is the process of moving wine from one container to another, leaving the sediment that has formed behind.  This is normally done with a relatively slow flow to minimize agitation and oxygen uptake to the wine.