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By The very nature of it's design, the WinePod encompasses the four most important elements to producing a great wine. Consulting winemaker John Kelly weighs in on these four key elements.

1. The biggest thing is the grapes
Thanks to our cutting edge harvesting process, premier grapes are preserved in suspended animation and available for ferment year-round - meaning members can begin the winemaking process anytime, regardless of when the grape harvest occurs.

2. Oak
First, there is the choice of whether to use oak at all. Second, the choice of using barrels or some substitute like oak chips. And third, the choice of whether to use French, European or American oak. Each one of these choices strongly impacts how the wine will turn out, and poor choices here can result in very poor outcomes. My advice is to err on the side of caution - if a little is good then less is better, not more.

3. A complete fermentation
A stuck ferment - either alcoholic or malolactic - will degrade the quality of the wine regardless of the quality of the fruit or the wisdom of the oak choice. The keys here are for the end user to clean the equipment thoroughly to minimize the chance for microbial contamination, to feed the yeast properly, and to make sure the fermentation does not get too hot.

4. Specialty Additions? Tannin and specialty yeast extracts
Should you add these to your must before fermentation? I debated including this in the big thing category, and finally decided that it is an important choice. In my experience if one were to make, say, five Cabernets each from a different vineyard, the resulting wines would smell and taste more alike if tannins and specialty extracts were used than if they weren't. The wines made with these products are likely to be more uniformly palatable than the wines made without, however, whether or not to use them becomes a philosophical decision.

Want to make organic wine?
Some WinePod users are going to want to make "organic" wines without the use of SO2. While it is possible to do so, assuming a source of organic grapes, (Provina does not currently supply) I don't recommend it for a number of reasons. Foremost is the chance for spoilage organisms to ruin the wine, which SO2 use mitigates. But even absent spoilage it is my firmly held opinion, based on long consulting experience, that wines made without SO2 are simply not as palatable as wines made with. That said, I don't want to discourage potential users from experimenting. I do think that those who won't use SO2 should examine their reasons, and ask themselves if they might have other chemical sensitivities that could impact how they use the Pod.

What about natural yeasts?
There will be users who will choose to eschew the use of the selected yeasts, nutrients and bacteria included in the kit. This should be discouraged. While it is possible to produce a palatable wine by employing "native" yeast and bacteria in the microbially rich commercial winery setting, the uninoculated approach is far less likely to succeed outside this environment. The WinePod user has far fewer options than are available to the commercial winemaker for dealing with an incompletely fermented wine. An example is sterile filtration, common commercially but available to very few WinePod users.

Winemaking, the small things