All large wine producers have an oenologist (wine maker) on staff that has the delicate job of tasting and adjusting all the wine that the label produces. For small vineyards, this can be one person; for larger corporations, this can be a huge team of people, all tasting and mixing the wine to find the perfect balance of sweet, acidic, tannic, and more.
When making your own wine, you are the oenologist. Below is a simple list of how to recognize a problem with your homemade wine, and if found, how to fix it:
- Firstly you must taste your wine. This can be done at any stage, but if the wine is not finished fermenting, it will not be as strong. First, select the proper wine glass. For red wines, this should be a broad and round glass; for white wines, the glass will be narrower. Next fill the glass up to where the curve starts in the bowl of the glass. It is usually about a quarter of the way full.
- Now, before you even think of tasting, you must look and smell the wine first. Hold the glass against a white background and tilt it so that you can see through your homemade wine. If you cannot see through it, the glass is too full.
- Now recognize the color. For light whites wines, the color should be light gold with maybe a touch of green tint. For full-bodied red wine, the color should be deep maroon or almost purple.
- If there is a brown tinge around the edge, this means that your wine has been exposed to too much oxygen and you need to make sure there are no air leaks in your system. This can also cause the wine to taste like sherry. If so, make sure all your containers are stopped up. To fix this, add one Campden tablet for each gallon.
- Now smell your wine. Stick your nose into the glass and breathe three times getting deeper each time. Now recognize the aromas of the bouquet (how the wine smells). In white wines, some common aromas are green apple, honey, or flowers. In red wines, you can often smell plums, blackberries, or chocolate.
- If your wine has an unpleasant smell, there could be a problem. If your wine smells sulfurous, it means the yeast was added to a sulphited must too soon. Try adding one Campden tablet per gallon. If this doesn’t work, you will have to throw away your homemade wine.
- If the wine smells mousey, like vinegar, or medicinal, there is no remedy. You will have to throw the wine out. These are caused by the presence of bacteria in the must. Next time, be sure to sanitize all equipment thoroughly. A medicinal smell may also be caused by lack of acid in the must, next time be sure to add more acid.
- Now you must taste your homemade wine. Take a small sip and roll it around your mouth making sure to get it on all the parts of your tongue. You can also try aerating it in your mouth by breathing in and kind of gurgling the wine. You may look a little silly while doing this, but don’t worry, no one is watching you.
- Take time to think about what flavors come through on your palate and enjoy your homemade wine. You may taste apple or berry, or other fruit flavors. You may also taste some spices, chocolate, or black pepper coming through. If you are having trouble enjoying your homemade wine, this may mean there was an error.
- If the wine tastes too sweet, this means that the wine has stopped fermenting. Usually this is because it has reached its maximum alcohol content. Try mixing in some dry wine until you reach your desired flavor and do not add as much sugar next time.
- If your wine is too acidic, you can add a “wine acid reduction solution” or potassium carbonate solution. If the wine lacks “bouquet” and overall aroma on the nose and the palate, there is not enough acid in the must. Add 1 teaspoon lactic acid per gallon and let ferment further.
- If your wine tastes flat or lacks body, you can try a few things. Add tannin if it is too flat or try adding more concentrated grape juice. If the homemade wine is too bitter, add isinglass.
Whatever the problem is, you can always make sure to fix it the next time you try and make homemade wine. And no matter what other people may think, as long as you think it tastes good, that is all that matters.