Two of the keys to making a great batch of wine are testing and making adjustments based on those tests. There are two critical areas where you will need to perform tests and possibly make adjustments. Those are sugar and acid levels.
As you are already aware, the sugar level of your wine is incredibly important as it is the sugar that the yeast feeds off of in order to produce the alcohol. The amount of sugar that you start your batch with will ultimately determine the level of alcohol that is present in the final batch. In order to run these tests you will need to have a wine making hydrometer. This is not an area where you want to try and guess at how much alcohol and sugar is present.
The hydrometer gives you the ability to accurately test and measure the amount of sugar that is present in the juice and consequently the amount of alcohol that can be produced from the sugar. As a result, you will also be able to measure how much additional sugar you may need to add to the juice.
You can purchase a hydrometer online as well as in any winemaking store. It looks quite simple. It is comprised of a glass tube with a weight on one end that will float. Sugar levels are tested by reading how low or high it ultimately floats. Almost all hydrometers also have a scale on them. This is the Potential Alcohol scale. You can read this scale when you first start the fermentation process to determine whether you need to add additional sugar based on the amount of alcohol that you want to be present in the final wine.
If you determine that you need to adjust the sugar level in order to increase the alcohol level, you may wonder what type of sugar is the best type to use. There are many different types of options available. It is important to remember that each type of sugar will offer different characteristics. The different options include brown sugar, cane sugar, fructose, beet sugar, rice sugar, etc. Corn sugar and cane sugar are usually the cheapest and the most widely available; however, there is certainly nothing stopping you from experimenting with other sugar options if you have them available. Be sure to take notes so that you will know whether you want to use whichever type you decide upon again for future batches.
You will also need to test and possibly adjust the acid level of your wine. Remember that maintaining the right acid level in your wine will provide your wine with balance and character as well as assist in the fermentation process.
When testing acidity, it is important to keep in mind that it typically varies from one fruit to another. This is why it is so critical to test the acidity level and then make adjustments as necessary.
The best way to test the acidity level of your juice is to use a titration kit. You can find these at any winemaking store as well as online. This kit will help you to measure how acidic the wine will actually taste. For example, if there is too much acid in the wine then it will taste bitter or sour. If; however, it does not have enough acid then it will have a flat taste. Based on those readings, you will know whether or not you need to adjust the acidity level of your wine. If you find that you do need to make adjustments you can do so using one of three different fruit acids. They are citric, tartaric and malic fruit acids.
Once you are ready to bottle your wine, it is time to make any final adjustments that may be necessary. There are many ways in which you can adjust your wine in order to improve the flavor. Perhaps the easiest way to go about this is to simply experiment and find out what works well for you personally. By keeping notes, you will quickly discover what works and what you like and what should be avoided in the future.
Just a few ways you can adjust the flavor of the wine when bottling it includes blending it with other fruit based wines, adding spices or oak chips, body enhances or flavor enhances. You can even fortify your wine with something such as grain alcohol. The most critical rule that should be followed when making final flavor adjustments is to make sure that you adjust in small amounts. In other words, always experiment with small amounts rather than a full batch.