Whether you are a beginning winemaker or you have been making wine for some time and have experienced some problems, it is important to understand the most common mistakes made in winemaking so you can learn how to avoid them.
By far, the most common problem in most winemaking failures can be attributed to equipment that is inadequate. Many people make the mistake of using common household items for their winemaking because they seem to be familiar to the carboys, spoons and air locks that are required for the process. It is important to note; however, that specific winemaking equipment is constructed of special materials. Using products made from other materials can have an impact on your finished wine.
In general, it is a mistake to attempt to reuse products that have previously held other items, especially foods. While you may believe that the container is clean, too frequently food odors will have become immersed into the plastic and as a result your wine may become tainted. In addition, it is not a good idea to use even brand new plastic pails due to the fact that the UV protectants that are used in the plastic could leak into the wine. It is far better to go ahead and invest the money necessary to purchase proper winemaking equipment so that you can be certain of the success of your wine.
Failing to follow instructions is another common mistake. The process for making wine may seem to some beginning winemakers to be complicated. As a result, there usually exists a strong urge to simplify the process. This is generally a mistake. If you are an experienced cook, you probably understand the necessity to follow the directions of a recipe. Veering from the recipe usually results in disaster. The same is true in winemaking.
The quality of your water can also impact the quality of your wine. Hard water or water that has a high mineral content can result in wine that has flavors that are somewhat off or even have somewhat of a haze. It is also important to know that water from a salt-exchange water softener should not be used for winemaking. To be certain of the best quality wine, it is usually best to use bottled water for your winemaking. The difference in the results will certainly be appreciable.
Proper yeast handling is also essential. Have you ever made homemade bread? Yeast must be moistened at the proper temperature in order to become activated. If the temperature is too cold, the yeast will fail to activate. If it is too hot, it will kill the yeast. This is because yeast is a living organism and it must be handled properly for success. As a result it is imperative to make sure that you maintain proper temperature control during the fermentation process. Ideally, it is best to try to maintain a temperature between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Be certain the temperature remains consistent. If the temperature in your fermentation area is too cool, the formation process will take too long, which can lead to excess fizz in your wine.
Another common mistake is eliminating the sulfite in the wine. The most common reason for this is sulfite allergies. It is true that some people are allergic to sulfites; however, it is important to point out that even if you eliminate the sulfite from the wine the wine will still not be completely sulfite free due to the fact that the yeast always creates additional sulfites anyway. The purpose of the sulfites is to prevent spoiling and oxidation. In less than a month the wine will begin to taste somewhat off and in less than three months it will be rendered practically undrinkable.
Finally, make sure that you give your wine the proper amount of patience and time that it requires. Successful winemaking truly is an art form. In order to appreciate the results of your labor it really is best to wait the amount of time necessary for the wine to improve before you attempt to drink it. In far too many cases, beginner winemakers have believed they had a bad batch of wine when the problem was that they were trying to drink it too soon. Be patient and wait and you will appreciate the effort.