How To Make Your First Spagnols Cru Select Wine Kit
Spagnols kit wines are extremely easy to put together and ferment. The graphical and written instructions that come with each of their kits are usually sufficient to see the beginner through, but I also like to explain some of the "fine" details to those that have never made wine before, or those that have never used a kit wine. I am assuming in this essay that you have an extremely basic understanding of what you are about to do, and that you have one of the starter kits we sell, or you have pieced together your own equipment.
Most of my customers use the Cru Select or Cellar Classic wine kits. These kits give you four gallons of juice, and make approximately six gallons of finished wine. This instruction will follow that premise, but if you are using the (smaller and less expensive) Grand Cru kits you merely have to add an extra two gallons of water to the initial dilution process. This should be more clear in a moment.
STEP ONE: PRIMARY FERMENTATION
With either Series of wine kit, you will be fermenting between 5.5 and 6 gallons of wine. This means that you should have AT LEAST a 7.5 gallon (or larger) primary fermenter. This can be made from either plastic or glass without worry, but plastic seems to be the easier and more user-friendly mode. (If you are trying to make this project "on a budget," and you are a beer-maker trying not to buy any extra equipment, you CAN ferment in TWO 6-gallon buckets, by splitting your ingredients in half and dividing your fermenting liquid into two 3-gallon increments, but this is a sort-of hassle and just means you need to be much more careful in your measurements - but it can be done.)
Sterilize your fermenter(s) with BTF Iodophor, a sulfite solution, or with your sterilizer of choice. This may not be necessary, but I am a firm believer in sterilizing all my equipment for maximum wine quality. After rinsing out any excess sterilizer, put one-half of a gallon of good clean water into the bottom of your fermenter. (I like to use distilled bottled water, but if your tap water tastes great, you can most likely use it without problem, especially if you live here in the Willamette Valley).After the water is in the bucket, add packet #1 (bentonite) and swirl/slosh or stir the mixture around until no clumps are seen. The water will appear to be a muddy grey color.
Now, put the plastic spout of the juice bag through the perforated hole in the top of the cardboard box. This makes it much easier than trying to hold the bag accordion-style outside of the box. Be careful: it will be heavy in either case. You may want to prop the box on the side of a counter and have the bucket/primary fermenter directly beneath it. This way you can tilt the juice bag slowly and not hold the full weight of the juice while it drains.
Add the entire four gallons of juice into the primary fermenter, allowing it to mix with the water already in there. After the bag is drained, you will have (if you are using the Selection Series of kits) just about 4.5 gallons of "must" in your fermenter. Now, add one more gallon of good, clean water into your empty juice bag, swirl it around to rinse out any left-over flavor, and pour that into your fermenter. Mix well with a clean or sterilized spoon. You will have about 5.5 gallons of liquid in your fermenter.
Some wine kits have an included oak-powder bag. Follow the instructions that come with your kit, since different kits may add the oak at different times. You may often be insructed to add the oak right now, into the primary, but some kits require you to add it later. Please follow the instructions included in your kit.
(If your kit does NOT include oak powder, just skip this step and move on to the next...)
Mix the liquid in your fermenter well with a clean spoon. Now, float a hydrometer into the bucket of "must" and check the specific gravity. If you are not sure how to do this, please read the instructions that come with the hydrometer, or call/email me. IF THE SPECIFIC GRAVITY MEASURES BETWEEN 1.090 AND 1.100, DO NOT ADD ANY FURTHER WATER. In some cases, you will NOT add the extra half-gallon that makes the sixth complete gallon. I have found that (sometimes) making six gallons with these kits may leave them slightly more thin and watery than most people want their wines to be. A 5.5-gallon batch seems to leave it at the proper "richness" and flavor.
IF THE SPECIFIC GRAVITY MEASURES HIGHER (i.e., THICKER) THAN 1.100, SLOWLY ADD WATER TO DROP IT DOWN INTO THE DESIRED RANGE OF 1.090 TO 1.100. Under no circumstance should you go past the six-gallon point mark. At this point, you will have a fermenter filled with 5.5 to 6.0 gallon of grape juice.
Once you have reached the proper density, cut open your packet of yeast (most likely it will be Premier Cuvee) and sprinkle it over the surface of the "must." Do not stir, do not touch. Put a lid on the fermenter, and an airlock if necessary. (Main Street's 12 and 24-gallon fermenters do not need, nor want, airlocks. Our 6 and 8 gallon buckets should be sealed tight and have airlocks in place.)
Leave above 60 degrees, but below 78 degrees. The fermentation should begin (foaming and frothing on the surface of the liquid) within 12 to 18 hours.
STEP TWO: SECONDARY FERMENTATION:
After about fourteen days, depending on many factors, the specific gravity of the fermenting wine will drop to 1.000 or less. You can leave the hydrometer in the wine throughout the fermentation, or re-sterilize it each time that you test the liquid. If you remove it after each test, be sure to clean it well after removing it from the fermenting liquid so that it does not get "moldy" or harbor bacteria. When the specific gravity reaches 1.000 or less, siphon the fermenting liquid into a (best-case scenario) 6-gallon GLASS carboy. Be sure the carboy is very clean, or sterile. The wine will reach as high as the shoulders of the carboy, but the airspace as this point is acceptable, and even desired.
(If you are working under a budget, you can siphon into a 5-gallon glass carboy at this point, but you may lose several bottles-worth of wine. This is an option, but just be sure to leave a few pints of airspace at the top of the 5-gallon carboy, and then proceed to the next paragraph.)
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES, EVER, EVER, TOP THE CARBOY OFF WITH CLEAN WATER AS THE INSTRUCTIONS RECOMMEND. We have seen that this can dilute the flavor of the wine.
The instructions will now tell you to add packets #2A (sulphite)and #2B (Potassium sorbate). Some wines will also add a sweetener or finisher at this point. Stir the wine very well and vigorously to de-gas it and get all of the dissolved CO2 out of solution. We sell drill-mounted stirring rods for $19.95 at the store, or you can rent one for $5.00. These are very helpful in quickly removing all the fizzy carbon dioxide. You will also then add packed D1 and D2, which are clarifying agents. Be sure to add them in the right order, as described in your kit's instrcutions, and stir as directed by those same instructions.
Let the wine sit for about another 2 to 3 weeks, (or for about 4 to 5 weeks TOTAL from the day you started) in that 6-gallon carboy. Now it is time to rack again.
STEP THREE: FINAL AGING
Sterilize and clean a 5-gallon GLASS carboy, and rack the clarified, clean wine from the 6-gallon carboy to the 5-gallon carboy. BE CAREFUL TO LEAVE BEHIND ANY SEDIMENT WHICH HAS SETTLED TO THE BOTTOM. It is very acceptable to leave a half-inch of wine, or so, at the bottom of the fermenter, rather than risk siphoning the "lees" into your next fermenter. Since you are losing a small amount of wine from each racking, the "final product" should now fit tightly into a 5-gallon carboy. Hopefully it will be in the "neck" of the carboy, but if not, do not worry. In either case, do not add any extra water to the fermenter, you will just be diluting your wine's flavor and alcohol.
You can now let the wine sit for as little as one week, or for as long as six months. For long-term storage, keep the carboy in a cool - or preferably cold - spot: 35 to 50 degrees F is optimal. If the wine is not fully topped up into the neck, do not store it for more than two to four weeks. Spagnols's wines DO NOT need long periods of bulk aging to reach high quality. This means you DO NOT need to let it sit for more than a few weeks in this 5-gallon carboy.
When bottling, you can siphon the wine into a bucket just prior to bottling to make sure you do not touch any residual sediment that has fallen into the bottom of the carboy, or you can bottle directly out of the 5-gallon carboy if you are certain there is no sediment which may get sucked into your bottles.
Remember: aesthetically, it is VERY unpleasant to see, or drink cloudy, murky wine. Serving hazy wine to guests who do not make their own wine is even worse. Take pride in your product and be careful to produce the quality that these kits are meant to be: exceptional.
Most wines will benefit from aging.