2022 Finer Wine Kits – Sauvignon Blanc in Detail
Last updated 05/21/2022
This blog is a step-by-step description of making a Finer Wine Kits (FWK) Sauvignon Blanc according to their directions.
How is this different from previous kits? FWK has updated the Tavola white kits to include carbon. Fresh white juice is subject to browning, and the unpasteurized concentrate used by FWK is as well. Adding carbon prior to fermentation removes the browning, fixing the problem of overly dark white wines in previous kits.
Menu (Dates of Activity)
The kit arrived with Packet A missing, and I immediately emailed them, noting the problem. I don’t expect anyone to be working on a Sunday, but I’m hoping that they’ll react and send out the packet immediately tomorrow. I put the concentrate bag is in the refrigerator until it arrives.
I note that as with all previous kits, everything is well marked, including the concentrate bag.
I messaged with Matteo Lahm (owner of FWK) on WineMakingTalk, and he told me to do what I had already done, validating my decision. Not that I can think of anything else to do.
Packet A arrived today, so I immediately started the kit. My intention is to follow the instructions closely, although I may deviate in minor ways.
As the picture clearly shows, Packet A definitely contains bentonite, which is not included in previous kits.
I note that this packet seems smaller than previous kits, but these are customized to the exact wine.
Packet X (carbon) is a fine black powder that reminds me of laser printer toner — I have a fear that it will make a mess. For those unfamiliar with the details of laser printers, toner is not ink, it’s heat activated plastic. The worst things anyone can do with a toner spill is rub it or wash with hot water — that sets the plastic. Always blot with cold water.
This is a free service message from the Voice of Experience!
The first action is to put 1 gallon water in the primary, add the carbon, and stir well. As expected, the carbon produced some dust which swirled up and coated the inside of the fermenter. Unlike laser printer toner, this wipes off easily! However, I strongly recommend pouring gently and stirring gently at first. Once the carbon is dissolved in the wine, it’s no longer a problem.
Using the drill-mounted stirring rod, stirred for 1 minute. Then let the fermenter rest for 10 minutes, as per the instructions.
The concentrate spent 5 days in my small fridge, which is cold. It was still partially frozen when I took it downstairs. Not a problem, as the water will dissolve it. However, I’m going to do what I did with the Pinot Noir and stir intermittently during reconstitution, to help it dissolve better.
I emptied the concentrate carefully into the fermenter, to avoid splashing the carbon water too much.
The last bit had to be squeezed out, as it was very thick from being partially frozen. Rinsed the bag twice, adding the water to the fermenter. At this point the fermenter was about half full, so I stirred for 1 minute.
Next I filled the primary to 23 liters, stirring for 30 seconds half way through the process and at the end. Next I added Packet A — which clearly contains bentonite — and stirred for 30 seconds.
The instructions say to add the chips now, but I’m waiting until tomorrow after I re-check SG, which is 1.092.
Finally, I prepared the yeast starter by putting the yeast, the yeast starter nutrient pack B, and 1 cup water in a wine bottle. Shook to mix and put a towel over it to keep stuff out. Initial temperature is 95.8 F.
The carbon certainly makes the must look like a Goth Wine! While the picture isn’t 100% sharp, it clearly shows the must is black hole level black. This will be handled by the fining.
I checked the SG this morning — it rose to 1.096, which surprised me. With all the stirring I did last yesterday, I expected it to remain the same, or differ by at most 1 point.
Next I checked the must level and it was a bit low — when I filled last night there was foam, so I underfilled a bit to avoid diluting the concentrate too much. This is easy to fix, so I added more water to just under the line marked on the fermenter, and stirred.
Note: This is one of my older primaries, and came with no markings on it, like the ones from L D Carlson do. Years ago I filled the fermenter, quart by quart, and marked it by the gallon with a Sharpie. I admit this may not be as accurate as the ones that are pre-marked.
So I checked the SG again — 1.100. WHOOPS! Something is really weird here, the SG should not have gone up. This probably means it really wasn’t as well marked as I thought. However, this is the high end for the must, so it may be correct.
Another possibility is that the markings are off, and I’ve unintentionally shorted the water.
The must temperature is 67.3 F, which is fine. Having no better ideas, I added the starter, and will check the SG again this evening.
Update 5 PM: I checked the SG and got 1.098. I can smell fermentation but see no visible evidence, so I’m not sure what the correct reading is. As such, I’m leaving the official recording as 1.100.
I checked the SG yesterday morning and it was around 1.070, and around 1.050 last night. When I checked it this afternoon, it was roughly 1.030. I stirred Packet C into the wine.
The wine produced a lot of foam, enough to overflow the container. When I checked the SG this afternoon, there was enough stiff foam that I was unable to get an exact reading. Note that at this time, it makes no difference. I need an approximate reading — 1.030 — and I got what I needed. The fermentation is not yet at a point where it’s ready for the fermenter to be sealed.
Looking at the inside of the fermenter, it’s obvious that the wine foamed all the way to the top, and a bit overflowed down the outside at one point. This is a bit unusual — not the wine foaming, but the stiffness of the foam. It resembles sea foam in its stiffness and holding of its shape. But it’s not a problem.
This fermenter is one of 3 purpose-built fermenters that I have — this one is probably 25 years old, and it holds about 7 gallons. I have another that holds a bit over 6 gallons, plus I have a newer one (probably 15 years old) from L D Carlson that holds 7.9 US gallons.
When buying a primary, DO NOT buy one smaller than 7.9 gallons. Many wines foam a tiny bit, but a handful foam a lot. This one did the “lot” part. Bigger is better with regard to fermenters.
If fermenting grapes or 6 gallon fruit batches, use a much bigger fermenter. Smaller fermenters work fine, up until they don’t, and then you’ll wish you had a bigger one!
The bottom of the towel is crusted, a mixture of fruit solids and oak chips. I flaked it into the garbage — there’s nothing there I want back in the wine.
Please note there is no problem here — I’m simply pointing out a possibility that occurs during fermentation. As the old saying goes, expect the unexpected.
The SG dropped to roughly 1.010 — it was impossible to get an exact reading due to the foam, but this is not important. Any reading between 1.005 and 1.020 is good enough.
I stirred a final time, cleaned the fermenter above the wine, and sealed it. Weekend after next (14 days after starting) I’ll unseal the fermenter, rack the wine into a carboy, degas, add K-meta, kieselsol, & chitosan.
I had time after work today so I racked the Pinot Noir (5 days after adding K&C), and the Sauvignon Blanc. I’m not concerned about racking the Pinot Noir early, as the sediment dropped FAST and the line hasn’t budged since Tuesday. For the most part, K&C works very fast. For a brand new wine, it tastes very good. I expect that I’ll get a good, quick drinker from it, which is my purpose in making it.
It should be ready for consumption at the 8 month mark. I’ll probably bottle at 5 to 6 months, and let it bottle age at least 2 months. This was the plan when I ordered the kit.
The Sauvignon Blanc is black. We’re talking Goth black. I’m expecting calls from actual block holes, asking for fashion tips.
From my niece’s experience, and that of others on WMT, I’m not surprised. The carbon distributes well and sucks up the light.
The initial expectation from these kits is that the bentonite would precipitate the carbon, but that’s obviously not so. But it’s not a problem. The kieselsol and chitosan are doing the job.
As can be seen, the wine in the racking tube is grey. This makes sense as in bulk it’s solid black, but when viewed with less density, the carbon darkening the wine appears obvious. This is true of wine in general.
I can’t exactly see carbon particles, but the wine gives the impression of graininess. This isn’t bad, it’s just an observation. Based upon feedback from others, the carbon will settle out after the kieselsol and chitosan do their magic.
Make no mistake, the bottom of the fermenter looks seriously ugly.
I’m experimenting with stirring for degassing, and how the additives are added. I started the siphon into a 23 liter carboy, and once it was going I added 1/4 tsp K-meta and the kieselsol to the carboy. I let the siphon complete, then stirred for 30 seconds with a drill-mounted stirring rod.
Side note: the sediment in the carboy is very solid, well compacted. I did not get any drift when I tilted the carboy to get the last out. I assume this is a result of the carbon. I had to spray the bottom of the carboy 3 time to get all the gunk out. I’m ok with this, as I’d rather have compact lees where I have little worry about sucking up sludge.
After the siphon was done I let the wine rest a bit, probably 3 to 5 minutes (I didn’t time it). Then I switched directions on the drill and stirred again for 30 seconds. The wine didn’t foam much during stirring, but afterward it quickly developed nearly 2 inches of foam, which subsided within 10 minutes.
As can be seen in the photo, the wine is solidly black.
Starting today, I’m taking a picture each day, preferably in the morning, to show the progress of the wine clearing. This is 14 hours after adding the kieselsol & chitosan. The Goth look is already gone, and although it doesn’t show in the picture, there’s black sediment on the bottom.
I got delayed today, so this is 28 hours after the last photo. There’s a clear difference from yesterday.
I’m back on track — this photo taken at 9 AM. It doesn’t look a lot different from yesterday, but the top is noticeably clearer.
Update: Around 6 PM I decided to topup the carboy. While I’m comfortable with the idea that post-degassing the wine is fine with a larger headspace for a while, the headspace is more than I like.
I had purchased 3 bottles of a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc for topup, expecting to use 1.5 bottles. Last night I used all 3 bottles, minus half a glass for sampling, and I expect to add another half bottle after racking.
This is not an issue with the kit — it’s in initial measurements and trusting the markings on the fermenter. I need to investigate this further.
Last night I added nearly 3 full bottles of wine to top the carboy. This doesn’t bother me, since I will drink that wine regardless of whether it’s on its own, or as part of the larger batch. As part of the batch it saves me hassle as I can simply leave the wine in the 23 liter carboy and not mess with smaller containers. The effort savings is worth it!
OTOH, the addition of wine at this time may reset the clearing process as the new wine, regardless of how carefully poured, riles up the carboy contents. However, I don’t see this as a real issue as it matters not at all if the wine takes an extra week to clear.
But I do have a related problem with this — the amount of wine required for topup is excessive.
I’m a careful racker, so there was virtually no waste, and I filled the fermenter to the indicated line for 6 gallons. Yet I needed 3 bottles to top the carboy — typically the most necessary after the last racking (after fining) is 2 bottles.
This morning I noted this wording on my fermenter:
Going by the video Label Peelers and Finer Wine Kits produced, I filled the fermenter to just below the ridge.
Note: my problem is not due to LP or FWK — the error is mine. My fermenter is an old one (15+ years) and I didn’t read what is printed on the side of the fermenter.
It’s important to pay attention to our own equipment and additives, and not blindly follow online instructions.
The wine doesn’t look much different after topping up yesterday. It might be a bit lighter towards the top and darker at the bottom. Overall, the disturbance of topping doesn’t seem to have had a negative effect.
At this point I’ll post a photo every 3 days or so, as most of the carbon has dropped, and it’s a matter of the remainder settling over the next 2 to 4 weeks.
I’ve already decided I won’t rack in another week, it will be at least 2 weeks, may be 3. The plan is to let it clear fully and not disturb the wine until that is complete.
The wine is definitely lighter, but the shadow on the wall behind mask that in the photo.
I let the wine rest for a full three weeks before racking.
After the first week post-fining, the wine was very clear to the bottom of the carboy. We were going to be out of town most of the week, returning after a long drive on Sunday, so I made the decision to delay the racking one week — so the wine would have three weeks to clear.
I checked the wine before we left and it was clear, with a bit of haziness at the bottom. When we returned last Sunday I checked the wine and it looked clear, but after a 10 hour drive there was no way I was going to mess with it, so I arranged with my son to do a number of wine-related activities today.
We racked the Sauvignon Blanc, bottled his Riesling, bottled my Chardonnay, and topped up the Super Tuscan and Rhone barrels.
But I digress — back the the Sauvignon Blanc.
Today the wine is clear and looks a bit dark. However, there is a layer of carbon on the bottom of the carboy, and that will darken the perceived color. As noted in the Chardonnay in Detail blog, the color is also affected by the thickness of the wine the light is refracting through, the background, and the amount of light.
The racking went smoothly.
The charcoal layer is solid — it didn’t move a bit when I tilted the carboy to get the last of the wine. Thte next picture is looking into the carboy from the throat. The charcoal is a solid black that almost absorbs light. It really looks ugly.
It took a bit of effort with a sprayer to dislodge the carbon, and I rinsed the carboy three times to ensure all carbon was gone.
We added the normal 1/4 tsp K-meta to the wine, and racked it back to the 23 liter carboy.
Post-racking I topped the carboy with 3/4 bottle of a commercial Sauvignon Blanc.
There is a definite problem with container sizes. I had to add about 3-1/2 bottles of wine to top up the carboy, total. It’s supposed to be a 23 liter carboy, but unless my primary fermenter markings are way off, it’s not.
I’m wondering if this is a 6-1/2 gallon carboy. Once the Sauvignon Blanc is bottled, in 4 to 6 months, I’ll use a gallon distilled water jug to measure its capacity.
The pre-carbon Finer Wine Kits were all dark, so the color of this one has been in question. I’m pleased to note the carbon did its job — the wine is a very nice color!
Although it’s only five weeks old, the wine is already showing great promise. The nose is a very strong Sauvignon Blanc, very nice.
The flavor is also good, stronger than the 2021 Chardonnay I bottled today. It’s clearly Sauvignon Blanc yet has an almost floral character that is not typical.
Eric and I are both pleased with this one. I expect he’ll be begging a bottle or two along the way.