Winemaker Ben Spencer discusses winemaking tips for the micro-winery.

What's Wrong With My Wine? - Wine Flaws from the Cellar to the Glass

When it comes right down to it, a ‘bad wine’ can almost always be attributed to a flaw in the winemaking . A multitude of influences can determine how intense a wine is and thus how it is perceived by the taster, but the actual act of making wine is the catalyst between the grape and the glass – between plonk and quality wines. Anyone can squeeze grapes to make juice, let it ferment, and settle. That’s the easy part, and it’s quite natural – ever left a container of juice in the fridge too long?

Wine Additives – Pros & Cons of Wine Manipulation

When I started in this business, I heard a joke. Three winemakers were walking on a rural road and came to a crossroads. One of them said they should go left. Another said, right. The third winemaker pointed out that road went straight. It was decided that they would each follow their proverbial path and return to the crossroads to see who was right. When the winemakers returned to the crossroads, each was convinced that their path was the intended one. The winemakers each attempted to prove their logic. At this point in the yarn, the joker paused. After a long silence, the audience asked for the punch line. The joker said, They’re still there.

Aging Wine – An Odyssey of Containers

The wonder of nature has finally made its way to your cellar. The grapes you nurtured and fermented have relented. The bubbles of carbon dioxide have slowed from a turbid percolation to a fine sizzle and the lees have fallen. It’s time to choose a storage vessel, the place where and how your wine will age.

Winemaking: Managing Your Harvest and Fermentations

Harvest is that magical time when the baton is handed from the grape grower to the winemaker. The crop has been carried from bud break through flowering, fruit set, veraison, and maturation. For the last stretch of this process, the winemaker should be in the vineyard frequently, in close contact with the grapes with which they will be making wine. Selecting the correct picking date can be the difference between making an incredible wine or merely an acceptable one.

Home Winemaking: Setting Up Your Micro-Winery

So, you’ve decided to make some wine. You know what variety you want to try, and where you want to make it, but you’re not sure what equipment you will need or how to go about finding it. The basic necessities of winemaking are not hard to come by, but establishing a sanitary environment and anticipating potential problems is where setting up a micro-winery can get tricky.

Dry Wine or Sweet Wine? How to Manage Sugar when Making Wine

As a winemaker, much of my thoughts and actions are given to solving the problem of sugar in wine. Residual sugar in one wine can be the bane of a good vintage. But sweetness can also be another wine’s glory. In my experience, the industry standard of fermenting wines to dryness is the imperative ninety-five percent of the time. To taste a Cabernet Sauvignon that you expected would be gum-tinglingly tannic and instead tastes like a chocolate covered raspberry would be off-putting to most because a sweet Cabernet Sauvignon is not the industry standard. The profile for many wines is dryness – in other words a lack of sweetness, the absence of sugar.

Reading Wine – A Tutorial of What’s in Your Wine Glass

We’ve all had the occasion to find a little sediment in our wine now and again. Or maybe you’ve noticed that the wine in your glass is not necessarily transparent, that the wine is cloudy. Depending on the treatments the wine received before, during, and after the fermentation process, a bit of residue in the your glass can be a positive or negative sign. On one hand, a little cloudiness or sediment can denote a laissez-faire winemaking style. The winemaker, in other words, attempts to retain as much character in the final product by not fining or filtering the wine before bottling it.

Acid in Wine: A Tutorial

Let’s pretend this is Burgundy. It’s the peak of what would be the best week of your Chardonnay harvest. It’s been over one hundred days since the fruit set on the vines. In an ordinary year the grapes would be perfect, but it’s raining. It has been raining for weeks and you are beginning to taste water in the berries as you walk through the vineyard. If you try to wait out the rain, the grapes may be so dilute that making a memorable wine from the saturated grapes would be difficult.

How to Make Wine at Home: A Garage Wine Primer

One of the best parts of making wine in a professional setting is being able to see what wine is capable of – both its negatives and its positives – on a large scale. In some sense a branded wine is one that has achieved more positives than negatives and has therefore carved a niche within the industry for its particular style of winemaking. In recent years, however, scores of exceptional wines have come from very small producers who literally made their first wines in a garage. Pomerol garage wines, as well as some from California and Washington state have found acclaim in their respective markets, proving that the big producers don’t always turn out the best wines.

Mastering a World of Wine Knowledge

After ten years in the restaurant industry, six years in the wine industry, countless hours spent studying – including college level courses on the subject – I can honestly say that I still don’t “know” wine at all. It’s one of those subjects that one needs to stay on top of, like politics or the dishes piling up in the sink. The question is how do you make it from one end to the other? How do you master (or at least come to terms with) a growing world of wine knowledge?