Guelph Winemaking Q & A

how to make wine and winemaking supplies in Ontario

KJ Urban Winery in Guelph is committed to providing you with the right information to help you produce your own wine from home. Below are some of our most frequently asked winemaking questions complete with responses from our team of wine experts.

Contact us if you have any additional questions or concerns and one of our team members will be happy to help.

Questions

I see in your preceeding web pages that you need a 20 L carboy, but I have an older 23L carboy. Can I use it? Or do I need to buy a 20L carboy after all?
Answer:
Our plastic canisters were designed to deliver enough juice (22L) for fermentation in one 20 L carboy (similar to 5 U.S. gallon glass water bottles) and one 4.3L gallon jug. Using a 23 L glass carboy is O.K. for the fermentation as you need some space below the neck anyway. This space prevents messy overflow and ‘blow off’ of the fermenting must. However, one needs to remember, that air is the number one enemy of wine after the fermentation is complete. Unless you have some wine on hand (of the same or at least similar variety) to top up your 23 L carboy, you must move to a smaller vessel. After you siphon off the wine to remove the sediments you will lose at least 568ml (a pint) and you are a litre (a quart) short to begin with. Remember, you can’t add that much water because you will just dilute the wine, a sin around these parts. A 19L (5 U.S. gallon) carboy, can be purchased from us.
How come I see that other frozen juice companies offer skins with their juices? Are they really needed and how much wine can I expect to get out of your batches compared to theirs?
Answer:
Fermenting Wines on the skins of the fruit is a great way to extract Tannins and color.  Some wines do not require this method and some certainly benefit from it. If you are to use only the fruit after it thaws, you can expect approximately 700 ml per kilogram of fruit maximum. KJ grape juices are skinless.

Our grape juices are hot pressed before packaging to extract as much color and tannin from the fruit as possible. This will be different than skin fermentation, however KJ believes that this is an acceptable alternative. You can also look forward to less work and an easier winemaking process. You will not have to mix the must daily to keep the skins soaked, and there will be no pressing and disposal required after the fermentation.

KJ Urban Winery in Guelph offers you commercial quality grape juices with the ease of use that all home winemakers desire!

What is an ideal storage temperature for the wine we have made using your grape juices? Do I need to worry about proper lighting conditions?
Answer:

Most fruit cellars during the winter reach an ideal storage temperature for wine. Some may even go down to freezing. We find that 5°C or 40°F is a temperature that wine can be stored in for quite a long time (4 years). Once the temperature begins to increase during the summer, people find their cellars can reach 60°F / 15°C. This is a little high. In these cases, many people feel that it would be a good idea to increase the dosage of stabilizer ( 20% ascorbic acid and 80% potassium metabisulphite), to ensure stability in the bottle.

Remember that for every degree F warmer than 40°F you can subtract 2 months off of the lifetime of the stored wine. If you have storage temperatures higher than 60 F you should increase the dosage of stabilizer accordingly to keep the wine stable. If you do this, you increase the sulfur content of your wine.

Some people find that the stabilizer content in commercial wines is too high (however the commercial wines are stable at up to 70°F), and these people get headaches and other malaise from the sulfur content. We promote cold storage temperatures because you don’t need to add very much stabilizer and your wine is closest to being chemical free. As for lighting conditions we would recommend pitch darkness. Minimize the light because ultraviolet light will visually oxidize white wine and red wines will obtain a brownish hue.

How many times should a wine be racked before bottling? Also, should sulfites be added at each racking and if so how much?
Answer:
The number of rackings depends upon the level of clarity you wish to achieve. If you have a white you want to get your wine as clear as possible. This may involve filtering the wine (if you have access to one, or own a filter machine) to meet some predetermined deadline, i.e. you want it in time for Christmas. If you are vinifying a red wine, then you rack as many times as you need to achieve a reasonable amount of clarity. As you may know, most reds don’t need any filtration. The bottom line for any wine depends on how clear you want it and when, that is what dictates the number of rackings before bottlings. As to the addition of potassium metabisulphite, we recommend it be added ONLY TWICE in the life of the wine. You stabilize the wine (with one level teaspoon per 5 gallons) right after the fermentation is done. The second stabilization occurs before bottling your wine. This may be 3 months later or 13 months later. This last dose (one level tsp per 5 gallons), ensures that the wine in your bottles in stable for its storage. Remember, the lower storage temperature you have, the better because you don’t have to add as much stabilizer (80% potassium metabisulphite and 20% ascorbic acid, [Vit C]). Do NOT add more stabilizer to your wine than this. If you do, you will increase your total sulfite levels and basically make the wine undrinkable, i.e. it will start to taste like sulfur.
I have done all the steps now, and I am just about ready to bottle. However, I do want to sweeten it up just a tad. Can you send me details and procedures on how best to do this?
You should be able to go to any store that sells winemaking supplies (like us at KJ!) and find wine conditioner. It is in fact an invert sugar (that has been modified so that yeast cannot effectively metabolise it). Do not add table sugar or glucose, as you will have a re-fermentation. If you absolutely cannot find a reliable source we can ship you 8 oz. size that we produce.
In grocery stores in Canada and the United States you can find grape juices labeled 'Made from concentrate.' Why would they take the fruit, squeeze the juice out and concentrate it, only to put water back to make the final product? Why not just bottle the juice directly?
Most suppliers would answer that juice is concentrated so that larger quantities can be shipped at a lower price. The water is put back into the concentrate at the juice destination. Our question is “What kind of water?” We also wonder about other compounds that may be stripped when concentration takes place. Obviously the bottom line here is price, not necessarily quality.
When introducing yeast to the juice we have never added pectic enzyme to our reds. Is this highly recommended? Should we be adding additional substances to the whites?
The most important polysaccharides found in grapes are pectins, which consist of galacturonic acid & methyl galacturonate chains crosslinked with various sugars. The pectin content (mainly in red wines), usually falls into a range of 0.1 – 0.2 %. Pectin splitting enzymes are found in the skins of grapes, but when natural pectic enzymes are insufficient, the winemaker often adds a commercial preparation to aid in clarification. Pectins exist in must and wines, (mainly red) as negatively charged colloidal particles, tending to form hazes resistant to traditional forms of clarification. Furthermore, since our red grapes are hot pressed to extract the anthocyanins (natural colouring agents) from the skins, this usually reduces the important pectic enzymes. As we mentioned, pectic enzymes should be added before or during fermentation to clarify the juice or wine. White juices are not hot pressed for extracting any colour, thus we do not need to add the pectic enzymes to clarify the finished product. (See more about the clarification of white wines further on).
We always rack after five weeks of fermentation. The S.G. is generally between 992 to 995. What are the cons of leaving it longer than five weeks? What are the benefits?
Answer:
The indicator for the prefered dryness is the hydrometer. Each juice (properly termed must), is always a different entity. Five weeks is definitely too long to leave the fermentation. After 8-10 days of fermentation at room temperature 21°C – 72°F, your SG will be very close to 1000 if not already below this. Now is the time to rack off the wine from the sediments. The prompt removal of yeast cells from new wine is desirable; this protects the wine from nitrogenous substances released both by excretions of the living yeast cells and the autolysis of dead cells. Nitrogenous excretions increase after the death of the yeast when autolysis (self-digestion of cellular constituents) occurs. Autolysis liberates strong reducing enzymes and produces compounds unpleasant to the taste and smell, but also favour the growth of lactic acid bacteria and so render the wine more susceptible to bacterial spoilage.

On the first rack we use a chemical called Tannisol. Any thoughts? What do you recommend?
Answer:
Tannisol is a stabilizer of Italian origin. It consists of 95% potassium metabisulphite, 3% Ascorbic acid, 2% tannin. For most people, sulphites are safe in small amounts. If you are sensitive to sulfites don’t use them. Dosage: max 1.3 tablets per 100 litres. In our store we use our own stabilizer made from 80% potassium metabisulphite and 20% ascorbic acid (Vitamin C).
We don't add gelatin or kieselsol to the white or reds. Advantages or disadvantages?
Answer:
We recommend using the kieselsol and gelatin in combination for the white wines only. It has been noticed by many other experienced winemakers (professional and amateur), that kieselsol may remove the colour from the reds. Therefore don’t use it on your reds for clarification. Gelatin helps bind the proteins and above mentioned polysaccharides into physically larger molecules. The kieselsol (colloidal silica), binds to this gelatin matrix and aids in precipitation and sedimentation.
If I need to add Vit C (ascorbic acid) to my stabilizing solution, can I do it with Vit C tablets?
Answer:
Yes you can. As a rough guideline, use one 500 mg Vit C tablet (crushed into a powder and dissolved in warm water), per 5 US gal. / (20 litre), carboy.
Do I need to add tannin or acid blend to your grape juices?
The grapes for our juices are harvested when the grapes are at their peak. This means that mother nature ensures that our product is properly balanced. All this is closely monitored by the professionals at each winery. Therefore, there is no need to adjust any acid levels or de-acidify (including using malolactic fermentation for deacidification), for that matter. There is also no need to add tannin to our red grape juices either. Our juices are simple to vinify with no mysteries like the mystery of package “F” found in other kits.
Do I need to worry about my water being hard (or soft) when making your juices?
Answer:
Other than sterilizing your winemaking equipment, it makes no difference what type of water you use. Since you NEVER add water to our grape juices, it is not a great concern like it is for other winemaking products.
I am looking for a product that is free of chemicals. I find that I am allergic to many of chemicals found in other 'kits' such as potassium sorbate. What about your product is it different?
Answer:
First and foremost, we do not encourage the use of potassium sorbate in most winemaking procedures. You can be assured that our juices do not contain this compound. Otherwise starting the fermentation would be impossible since potassium sorbate is a very effective inhibitor of fermentation.

Our preservation technique and sterility at the time of filling allows us to do away with the messy chemical balancing act that other producers (kit makers actually manufacture their product like nuts and bolts). KJ Urban Winery in Guelph goes to great lengths to ensure that our grapes come from vineyards which practice ‘natural fertilization’ techniques. They use only animal derived products and very little of insecticides if any. Even our finished product is devoid of the compound in question. In fact, our product conforms to stringent L.L.B.O. standards.

Why is your product better than similar home wine making kits in Guelph?
Answer:
First of all, we are not selling or promoting any concentrate “21 day kits.” Our pure fresh grape juices (musts), are exactly the same composition as the must used by the aforementioned wineries. Furthermore, our staff are always present at the harvest, pressing and the filling of the containers. The staff ensure proper sterility without any infringing on quality. The imported grape juices adhere to required parameters.
I have been told that I need to use Potassium Sorbate to stabilize my wine in conjunction with Metabisulfite before I bottle my wine. Why is that? Don’t they do the same thing?
Answer:
Potassium Sorbate can be used to help stabilize the wine in conjunction with Metabisulfite at the point of bottling. BUT, there are situations in which to use it, and situations in which not to use it.  Potassium Sorbate is used in wines that have residual sugars. As Sorbate is a salt that comes from sorbic acid, its main job is to inhibit the growth and proliferation of yeast, mold and other bacteria that can start a re-fermentation in your bottled wines. Notice that I used the word “inhibit”. Sorbate does not kill them.  If you have wines that you are purposefully trying to make sweeter, then an appropriate regimen of Sorbate AND Metabisulfite are required to preserve the wine, and to neutralize the chance of re-fermentation taking place.  Dry wines that have a very low amount of residual sugar do not require any Sorbate additions as long as they have an appropriate Metabisulfite treatment.  One key note on the entire Sorbate discussion is, you must never use Sorbate in wines that have undergone or that are going to undergo, Malolactic Fermentation.  The sorbic acid in the Sorbate interacts with the Lactic Acid Bacteria and forms one of the few non-repairable faults in wine, the taste and nose of the geranium plant. Yikes! So in conclusion, try to only use Sorbate with your Metabisulfite treatment in wines that have higher amounts of residual sugar, the dry wines should be fine with a Metabisulfite treatment alone.
I have found that some of my bottles of wine have a little fizz to them, and I can see some tiny bubbles along the edge of my wine in the glass. I stabilized the wine before bottling so it should not be fermenting any longer. I read on a wine making forum that I can de-gas the wine by stirring it after fermentation. Is that a good idea or will I oxidize the wine too much?
Answer:
On occasion you can find some gases still trapped in the wine when you have bottled it.  Rarely is this a case of re-fermentation. Although it is not unheard of, re-fermentation in the bottle is usually the fact of a wine that has low alcohol, a high pH and not enough Free SO2. This can be an alcoholic fermentation or a malolactic fermentation.  If you have a little fizz in your glass, chances are that it is residual gas that is trapped in the wine.  We recommend a degassing regiment after the fermentation is complete and before you stabilize the wine.  Mixing the wine side to side and not in a circle seems to work the best. Once you have vigorously mixed the wine and it has foamed up, wait until the majority of the foam has dissipated and then do another quick agitation and again let the foam settle. Each session of agitation should be no longer than about 20 to 30 seconds at a time. Once you see that most of the foam is gone, you can safely stabilize the wine and let it sit until your next step is required.  Not only will this help your gas issue, it will also assist in the clarification of your wine. As far as oxidization is concerned, the wine is pushing out a lot of gases and that keeps most of the oxygen off of the wine.  Also, you are stabilizing the wine shortly thereafter and that as well will help fight the occurrence of oxidization.  Using Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) in conjunction with Potassium Metabisulfite (if it is not already premixed) for your stabilizer, will act as an antioxidant to help protect your wine from the harmful effects of oxidization.