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Winemaking Glossary

This page contains definitions of the most common winemaking terms. Click on a letter below to begin your search:
[ A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z ]

A | Top of Page

Acetic Acid
All wines contain acetic acid, or vinegar, but usually the amount is quite small--from 0.03 percent to 0.06 percent--and not perceptible to smell or taste. Once table wines reach 0.07 percent or above, a sweet-sour vinegary smell and taste becomes evident. At low levels, acetic acid can enhance the character of a wine, but at higher levels (over 0.1 percent), it can become the dominant flavor and is considered a major flaw. A related substance, ethyl acetate, contributes a nail polish-like smell.

Acid
A compound present in all grapes and an essential component of wine that preserves it, enlivens and shapes its flavors and helps prolong its aftertaste. There are four major kinds of acids -- tartaric, malic, lactic and citric--found in wine. Acid is identifiable by the crisp, sharp character it imparts to a wine.

Acid Blend
This compound is used to raise the acidity of wine, thus increasing tartness. It is comprised of equal amounts of malic, tartaric, and citric acids.
Use: Acid blend is most widely used by winemakers who start their wine recipes from scratch; you will not need this chemical if you are making wine from one of our wine concentrate kits. Its usage varies depending on the acidity of the wine or must. An acid test kit (Item #2716) should be used to determine the acidity and usage.

Aftertaste
The flavor that stays in the mouth after swallowing wine. Also known as a wine's finish, this flavor can be buttery, oaky, spicy, tart, bitter, etc.

Airlocks
Airlocks act as a check valve, allowing your wine to "exhale" during fermentation, while preventing the outside air (and wild yeasts) from entering the carboy. It's easy to use- just fill the airlock half full of cooled boiled water, and plug it into the gum stopper on top of the carboy.

Airlocks

Alcohol
Ethyl alcohol, a chemical compound formed by the action of natural or added yeast on the sugar content of grapes during fermentation.

Appearance
Refers to a wine's clarity, not color.

Ascorbic Acid
This reduces oxidation in bottled wine when added just prior to bottling (not effective for bulk storage).
Use: 1 teaspoon per 6 US gallons of wine.

Auto Siphon
Our customers have told us that starting a siphon is the most difficult thing to do properly (without wasting a lot of wine) because it requires a lot of dexterity and timing. With the FermTech Auto Siphon, siphoning has become a snap and nary a drop of wine is splashed during racking. Just attach some tubing, insert one end into the carboy, and give the pump handle a couple of strokes on the other end. Within seconds, a siphon is started and wine begins moving to the other vessel. Even experienced winemakers prefer this siphoning method because it's more sanitary than the old-fashioned way!

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B-Brite
This compound is used to sanitize winemaking equipment. It cleans with active oxygen, and does not contain chlorine or bisulfite. Effectively removes fermentation residues.
Use: Dissolve one tablespoon of B-Brite powder in one gallon of water to create a sanitizing solution. Sanitize winemaking equipment for at least one minute, then rinse with clear tap water. Discard solution after use.

B-T-F
This concentrated iodine-based solution sanitizes winemaking equipment.
Use: Dilute with cool or lukewarm water to obtain desired iodine concentration. Adding 0.3 oz in 3 gallons of water creates 12.5 ppm, while adding 0.6 oz in 3 gallons of water makes a solution of 25 ppm. Immerse items for 1 to 2 minutes; allow sanitized items to drain well or air dry. CAUTION: Never add to hot water; might stain clothes. Winemaking equipment must be cleansed separately beforehand, since B-T-F is not rated as a cleanser.

Balance
A well-balanced wine is a primary goal of the wine maker. Such a wine blends all of its components gracefully: the fruit, tannin, acid, and sugar. A wine's balance may only be realized after some aging.

Bentonite
This is powdered clay that is used as a fining agent to clarify wine. Caution: If too much is used, your wine will have an earthy flavor.
Use: Bentonite should be made up 24 hours before adding to wine. For a standard six gallon kit, add no more than 2 tablespoons of bentonite to 1/2 cup warm water; mix or shake well. The manufacturer recommends mixing 2 1/2 teaspoons into 2 1/2 cups boiling water. Mix really well, allow to cool, and add to wine. Some folks we know use a blender!

Bocksin
This solution of silicium dioxide removes H2S (hydrogen sulfide) odors and related off-flavors in wine. An indication of H2S is the smell of rotten eggs.
Use: Add 15 ml (0.5 oz) per 10 liters of wine. Stir thoroughly and wait 24 hours. Rack without disturbing the sediment. It is recommended to filter the wine after treatment. If the wine becomes cloudy, treat with finings.

Body
The impression of weight or fullness on the palate; usually the result of a combination of glycerin, alcohol and sugar. Commonly expressed as full-bodied, medium-bodied or medium-weight, or light-bodied.

Bottle
Glass bottles are the most common containers for storing wine. Glass is ideal because it does not affect the wine in any way, even during extended periods. A bottle is a bottle is a bottle..... right? Sounds simple enough, but the wrong wine bottles may not work with your corker! Typically, the wine bottles with the popular flared tip are not compatible with many of the hand-held corkers. That's why finevinewines.com is careful to stock only the bottles that will work with all of the corkers we offer. You'll need 27-32 standard 750ml bottles per wine kit, depending on the effectiveness of your racking and the number of samples drawn.

Bottles

Bottle Drainer
These bottle draining trees hold either 45 or 81 wine bottles at once, depending on the size you order. Bottle draining trees are a great space-saver for any winemaker who needs to drain bottles after washing or rinsing. Easy assembly; plastic construction.

Bottle Rinser
Use this spring-loaded contraption to effectively squirt sanitizing solution or rinsing water into your upended bottles. This time-saving device will literally pay for itself the first time you use it!

Bottle Sickness
A temporary condition characterized by muted or disjointed fruit flavors. It often occurs immediately after bottling or when wines (usually fragile wines) are shaken in travel. Also called bottle shock. A few days of rest is the cure.

Bottle Washer
If you recycle your wine bottles to save money, you'll need this jet washer to blast the gunk out of the bottom of your bottles. The washer attaches easily to a garden hose, or it can be used in conjunction with the bottle washer adapter (see below) to be attached to any standard kitchen faucet. Made of sturdy brass.

Bottle Washer Adapter
Use this adapter kit to convert the brass bottle washer for use with a standard kitchen faucet.

Bouquet
A French term for the aroma of a wine. The bouquet is often the first indicator of a wine's quality during wine tasting. Aromas may include fruit, spice, and other smells associated with a particular grape variety, region, or condition of the wine. The bouquet of a Merlot, for example, will often contain aromas of raspberry and cassis (black currant).

Breathing
Allowing a wine to mix with the air. Aeration occurs by pouring the wine into a larger container, such as a decanter or large wineglass. Breathing can be beneficial for many red wines and also for some young white wines. Chemically, breathing enables oxygen to mix with the wine, which hastens the aging process. If a wine stands open for more than 12 hours, it will begin to turn to vinegar as the oxygen continues to work. Whether to let a wine breathe before serving depends on the wine. Contrary to popular belief, it is not always beneficial to let older wines breathe prior to drinking, as this can cause them to "turn" - or go bad - before dinner is over.

Brilliant
A clear and bright - as opposed to cloudy - appearance.

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Calcium Carbonate
This chemical is basic; in other words, it lowers the acidity of your wine to within your targeted range. Calcium carbonate is often used in place of adding water to achieve a more basic wine, since adding water will dilute your wine.
Use: 1/2 oz reduces acidity by 1 ppt in 6 US gallons of wine. Be sure to perform an acid test so you don't overshoot your desired mark.

Campden
Campden, available in tablet form, is used to kill all the naturally occurring wild yeasts and undesirable bacteria in must, and thus prepare it for a "clean" fermentation. It contains potassium metabisulfite, which is a fancy term for sulfites.
Use: Use one Campden tablet per gallon of must. Crush tablets well, then mix in with the must. Be sure to add it to must 24 hours before pitching your wine yeast; if you are impatient and pitch the yeast too soon, the campden will kill it too! Campden can also be used to make a sanitizing solution for winemaking equipment; see our winemaking sanitation page for details. Each tablet contains 0.50 - 0.55 grams of potassium metabisulfite; chemically speaking, each tablet contains 57% sulphur content; therefore, 1 tablet per gallon = 75 ppm SO2.

Capsules
Capsules are used to cover the corked end of the bottle, and prevent contaminants from resting in the crevice between the cork and the bottle. Capsules are usually made of plastic or foil.

Shrink Wraps

Carboy
The carboy is an essential part of your home winemaking hobby, because secondary fermentation and bulk aging occurs within this specially crafted glass jug. We prefer the glass type of carboy, since you can visually track the entire winemaking process, and air can't penetrate the carboy wall. The 6-gallon size is perfect size for all the wine kits we sell at finevinewines.com, except the Ports, Sherries and Ice Wines, which use the 3-gallon size. We also stock 5-gallon and 6.5-gallon carboys.

Carboy Brush
With its narrow neck and large capacity, glass carboys are awfully hard to clean properly without this specialized brush. The business end of the carboy brush (bristles) is bent at a ninety degree angle - just right for ensuring proper sanitation.

Carboy Handle
Did you know that a full carboy weighs upward of 45 pounds? Don't try to move a full carboy unless you have one of these handles or a good chiropractor! They attach easily to the neck of the carboy with a wing nut assembly.

Cellar
A storage area for wine, not necessarily underground. A cellar is the best area to keep wines for aging. Ideal conditions are darkness, controlled cool temperature, and high humidity. Bottles should be stored on their sides to keep the corks from drying out.

Character
That which makes a wine distinctive. A region's winemaking tradition, soils, and grape varieties combine to produce a wine's character.

Clarification
The process of removing cloudiness in the wine by filtration and/or fining.

Cloudy
The opposite of clear or brilliant. Possibly the result of sediment being stirred up during transportation.

Cloying
Overly sweet, and lacking the correct amount of acidity to give the wine balance.

Cold Stabilization
A clarification technique in which a wine's temperature is lowered to 32° F, causing the tartrates and other insoluble solids to precipitate.

Cork Retriever
Ever accidentally push your cork inside a bottle of wine? With this magical doohickey, you can easily retrieve that naughty cork and salvage a bottle. It's the wine lover's equivalent to a golf ball retriever!

Corked
An expression meaning the wine has gone bad. Implies an unpleasant, musty, moldy smell imparted by a flawed cork. Cork can contain bacteria that will cause "off" flavors in the wine. Quality cork manufacturers bleach and process corks to minimize the chance of a bottle being "corked." Unfortunately, almost one out of twelve bottles will have some off, corky flavors. It is for this reason that alternative wine bottle closures have been tested in recent years, but the use of non-cork closures has been resisted by traditionalists. Any closure that seals the bottle airtight is a perfect one for wine. Contrary to popular belief, cork does not - or should not - let air into a wine bottle over time. It is intended to create an airtight seal.

Corks
Corks are produced from the bark of cork trees, which are grown mainly in Spain and Portugal. Corks are airtight and have for years been the best way to seal wine bottles.
Corks

Corks - Altec
Our bulk straight wine corks, made by Altec, were developed by fusing the purest part of cork (suberin) and synthetic cells. These corks have been tested for over 10 years and have been awarded "winery grade" status because of their effectiveness under adverse conditions. Other key features of these corks include:

  • Absolutely symmetrical
  • Provide optimal gaseous interchange (key to aging process)
  • Contain 10 times less cork dust content than conventional corks
  • Guaranteed 100% leakproof at a pressure of 2 bars
  • Homogenous surface - no defects on sides or ends
  • Smooth surface ideal for branding

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Decanting
A process for separating the sediment from a wine before drinking. Accomplished by slowly and carefully pouring the wine from its bottle into another container.

Dosage
In bottle-fermented sparkling wines, a small amount of wine (usually sweet) that is added back to the bottle once the yeast sediment that collects in the neck of the bottle is removed.

Dry
Having no perceptible taste of sugar. Most wine tasters begin to perceive sugar at levels of 0.5 percent to 0.7 percent.

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Enology
The science and study of winemaking. Also spelled oenology.

Ethyl Acetate
A sweet, vinegary smell that often accompanies acetic acid. It exists to some extent in all wines and in small doses can be a plus. When it is strong and smells like nail polish, it's a defect.

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Fermentation
The process by which yeast converts sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide; turns grape juice into wine.

Fermenting Bucket

This is a food grade plastic bucket that is used for the primary fermination phase of wine making. They hold at least 30% more liquid than the glass vessel that will be used to perform secondary fermentation and aging. The buckets are larger to allow room for the cap that is created during the rapid fermentation phase.

Filtering
The process of removing particles from wine after fermentation. Most wines unless otherwise labeled are filtered for both clarity and stability.

Fining
A technique for clarifying wine using agents such as bentonite (powdered clay), gelatin or egg whites, which combine with sediment particles and cause them to settle to the bottom, where they can be easily removed.

Finish
The key to judging a wine's quality is finish, also called aftertaste--a measure of the taste or flavors that linger in the mouth after the wine is tasted. Great wines have rich, long, complex finishes.

Fizz-X Mixer
What a great idea! If you've ever needed to mix ingredients within a carboy, you've probably been frustrated by its narrow neck. Just how the heck do you mix effectively with a stick-like object? With the Fizz-X Mixer, stirring in a carboy is effective and simple - just attach it to your portable drill and squeeze the trigger. The centrifugal force caused by the rotation of the shaft throws out the stirring paddles.... and before you know it, your agitation is done!

Floating Thermometer
This great temperature measurement device won't sink to the bottom! Use the floating thermometer to monitor the true temperature of your must or wine.... proper fermentation depends on it.

Fragrant
A fragrant wine is very aromatic and flowery. Common wine fragrances are floral, spice, and fruit aromas such as pineapple, blackberry, peach, apricot, and apple. The variety of the grape is primarily responsible for a wine's fruit fragrances.

Fruity
A fruity wine is one in which fruit flavors dominate the aroma and taste. Often these wines are easy-drinking and light.

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Grape Tannin
Found in skins and stems of grapes, tannin adds astringency or zest to wine. Also aids in the clearing process. Tannin occurs naturally in red wines which are fermented in the skins, but must be added to white wines.
Use: Usage varies according to the grape or fruit, but generally, you would add no more than 1/4 teaspoon per gallon to fruit wines. Not needed if making wine from a kit.

Gum Stopper [Sizing Chart]
The gum stopper (also known as a bung) works in concert with the airlock to ensure an airtight seal at the neck of your carboy during fermentation. A hole is drilled down the center to allow the attachment of the airlock. Order one for each carboy you own, plus a couple extra, since they have a tendency to disappear when you need them the most!

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Hazy
Used to describe a wine that has small amounts of visible matter. A good quality if a wine is unfined and unfiltered.

Herbaceous
Describes a wine that smells or tastes grassy or green. Often a characteristic of wines made from Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon grapes. Can also be found in very young wines that will change flavor as they age. Primarily a function of the grape variety, not soil or climate.

Hydrometer
This device is used to take many measurements - Specific gravity, potential ETOH and potential sugar - of a wine sample. The hydrometer works by floating within a sample test jar (which comes free with the hydrometer) filled with wine. Measuring specific gravity is important to winemakers, since it can tell you whether fermentation is complete. A hydrometer should be used in conjunction with a thermometer, since specific gravity of a liquid depends upon its temperature.

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K-Meta (Potassium Metabisulfite)
Potassium metabisulfite is added to wine to inhibit bacteria and yeast growth, as well as slow down oxidation. It may leave an unpleasant aftertaste in wine if the dose is too high. This chemical is also used in a water solution as an antiseptic rinse to sanitize equipment. It is identical to, but better than, Sodium Metabisulfite, because it does not add sodium to one's diet. CAUTION: Some people, particularly asthmatics, can have a severe allergic reaction to this substance.
Use: For wine: 1/8 teaspoon (1 gram) of powder per gallon of wine provides 150 ppm free SO2. A little bit goes a long way, so be careful! Always test the free S02 content of your wine (using Titrets and Titret holder) to determine the proper amount to add. Generally speaking, the target free SO2 for red wines is 20-30 ppm and 25-40 ppm for white wines. The exact target depends upon the pH of the wine.
For sanitizing solution: Dissolve 2 oz. (3 tablespoons) Potassium Metabisulfite powder in one gallon of water to make a 1.25% solution.

L | Top of Page

Lees
The deposits which gather at the bottom of the carboy during winemaking (also known as trub).

Legs
The viscous droplets that form and ease down the sides of the glass when the wine is swirled.

Length
The amount of time the sensations of taste and aroma persist after swallowing. The longer the better.

Light
A term used to describe the body or color of a wine. A light wine is usually easy to drink and not high in alcohol. Muscadet is a light white wine. Beaujolais is an example of a light red wine.

Lysozyme
This solution is used in wine to hinder or prevent a malolactic fermentation. It controls lactic acid bacteria and is made from an enzyme which naturally occurs in egg whites. A web page from Scott Lab explains what lysozyme is, how it works, and recommended dosage.
Use: Add 1 oz per 5 gallons of wine, which provides about 250 ppm.

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Mature
Ready to drink.

Mead
A wine, common in medieval Europe, made by fermenting honey and water. Recently mead has enjoyed new popularity. Wine makers now make flavored mead.

Méthode Champenoise
French term for the method used to make champagne, which is fermented in the bottle. French champagnes and many other sparkling wines are produced using this traditional French technique. The monk Dom Pérignon is credited with inventing this method.

Mulled Wine
Red wine that has been mixed with sugar, lemon, and spices, usually including cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Served hot.

Must
The unfermented juice of grapes extracted by crushing or pressing; grape juice in the cask or vat before it is converted into wine.

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Nose
The character of a wine as determined by the olfactory sense. Also called aroma; includes bouquet.

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Oak
The most popular wood for constructing barrels. Oak imparts flavors and tannin to wines during the barrel aging process; home winemakers can also accomplish this by using oak chips or powder.

Oxidized
Describes wine that has been exposed too long to air and taken on a brownish color, losing its freshness and perhaps beginning to smell and taste like Sherry or old apples. Oxidized wines are also called maderized or sherrified.

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Peak
The time when a wine tastes its best--very subjective.

Pectic Enzyme
Pectic enzyme increases juice yields from fruits by breaking down cellular structure. Also acts as a clarifier, and is used to clear hazes caused by residual pectins.
Use: Add 1/4 teaspoon per 6 US gallons of wine. If making wine from scratch, this is a good item to have in your arsenal.

pH
A chemical measurement of acidity or alkalinity; the higher the pH the weaker the acid. Used by some wineries as a measurement of ripeness in relation to acidity. Low pH wines taste tart and crisp; higher pH wines are more susceptible to bacterial growth. A range of 3.0 to 3.4 is desirable for white wines, while 3.3 to 3.6 is best for reds.

Plastic Paddle
Like its stirring cousin (see description of plastic spoon below), the plastic paddle is a good way to mix ingredients in the fermentation bucket. Made of food-grade plastic.

Plastic Spoon
It ain't high tech, but the spoon is still one of the best methods for mixing ingredients! It's made of food-grade plastic, which means it won't stain and cleans easily.

Potassium Metabisulfite (K-Meta)
Potassium metabisulfite is added to wine to inhibit bacteria and yeast growth, as well as slow down oxidation. It may leave an unpleasant aftertaste in wine if the dose is too high. This chemical is also used in a water solution as an antiseptic rinse to sanitize equipment. It is identical to, but better than, Sodium Metabisulfite, because it does not add sodium to one's diet. CAUTION: Some people, particularly asthmatics, can have a severe allergic reaction to this substance.
Use: For wine: 1/8 teaspoon (1 gram) of powder per gallon of wine provides 150 ppm free SO2. A little bit goes a long way, so be careful! Always test the free S02 content of your wine (using Titrets and Titret holder) to determine the proper amount to add. Generally speaking, the target free SO2 for red wines is 20-30 ppm and 25-40 ppm for white wines. The exact target depends upon the pH of the wine.
For sanitizing solution: Dissolve 2 oz. (3 tablespoons) Potassium Metabisulfite powder in one gallon of water to make a 1.25% solution.

Potassium Sorbate
Potassium sorbate is used to slow down yeast growth and inhibit fermentation, thus "stabilizing" your wine prior to bottling.
Use: Add 1/4 teaspoon per gallon of wine. The Wine Maker's Toy Store recommends using one crushed Campden tablet per gallon of wine in concert with potassium sorbate, because sorbate tends to work better in the presence of sulfites. Be sure to stir well, and let the dead yeast cells settle before final racking prior to bottling.

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Racking
The practice of moving wine by hose from one container to another, leaving sediment behind. For aeration or clarification.

Residual Sugar
Unfermented grape sugar in a finished wine.

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Sodium Benzoate
This is another chemical used to stabilize wines (slow down yeast growth and inhibit fermentation); generally preferred by makers of fruit (non-grape) wines.
Use: Add one crushed tablet per gallon of wine and stir well; works best in the presence of sulfites, so you should also add one crushed Campden tablet for every sodium benzoate tablet. Allow yeast to settle as lees before final racking and bottling. Each tablet contains 250 mg of Sodium Benzoate.

Sparkalloid
Sparkalloid is used as a fining agent.
Use: 1/2 teaspoon per gallon of wine. Mix required amount of powder with a small amount of cold water. Mix well until solution is smooth and creamy. Add mixture to finished wine and stir. Let wine settle for a week or more, then rack.

Straining Bags
Adding flavors to wine is great.... until you have to fetch the oak chips, berries, etc. from the wine. By using these straining bags, you can eliminate the frustration and time spent gathering up the remnants of your added ingredients. They are used much like a tea bag.

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Tannin
Substances in must that give wine a tart taste. Occurs naturally in stems, skins, and pips of grapes.

Tartaric acid
The principal acid in wine.

Tartrates
Harmless crystals of potassium bitartrate that may form in cask or bottle (often on the cork) from the tartaric acid naturally present in wine.

Trub
See Lees, above.

Tubing Clamp
Use one of these clamps to control or shut off the flow of wine as it goes through the vinyl tubing. It's a great help, especially for a one-person winemaking operation.

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Viniculture
The science or study of grape production for wine and the making of wine.

Vinometer
This instrument measures a wine's alcoholic content.

Vinyl Tubing
Vinyl tubing is used to transfer wine between vessels (racking) during winemaking, as well as during the bottling process. The Wine Maker's Toy Store only stocks food-grade vinyl tubing; it is not the same thing as the tubing one might buy at the local hardware store.

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Wine Conditioner
An additive used to take the "bite" out of young-tasting wine and add a sweeter taste. Added to finished wine just prior to bottling according to taste. A little bit goes a long way!
Use: Add 1/2 to 1 oz. to stabilized wine, stirring thoroughly and sampling after each addition, until the desired taste is achieved.

Wine Kit Enhancer
Add this stable California grape juice to enhance the taste, aroma, and bouquet of your wine kit.
Use: Add to your wine kit at any point during the winemaking process:

  • Prior to fermentation (just before pitching yeast) for flavor, aroma, and alcohol boost
  • During fermentation for topping off
  • After fermentation (just prior to bottling), for fruit flavors, aromatics, and as a sweetener

Wine Thief
As its name implies, the wine thief enables the winemaker to take a small sample of wine without disturbing the carboy. Samples of wine are taken to facilitate measurement of things like specific gravity, sugar content, pH, potential alcohol, and the like. To use it, dip the sanitized wine thief into the carboy. Wine will come into the thief from the bottom. When you're ready to withdraw the sample, simply place your thumb over the top to create an airtight seal.

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Yeast Nutrient
(Fermax) Acts as a food for the yeast and promotes rapid starting and complete fermentation.
Use: 1 teaspoon per gallon of wine, or if using tablets, 1 tablet per gallon of wine.

Yeast
Micro-organisms that produce the enzymes which convert sugar to alcohol. Necessary for the fermentation of grape juice into wine.

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