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Winemaking Questions, Page 2

Answered by Jack Keller,
author of The Winemaking Home Page




Fizzy Wine


I'm a 5th year winemaker, and last year my 60 gallons of red Zinfandel wine came out
with a fizz. Almost like Champagne, how can I get rid if it?
Joseph Russo

The problem you describe is one of gas (I prefer the European "gasse," which means gas trapped in liquid). The gas gets into the wine in two ways. The most common way is during normal fermentation. CO2 is naturally produced by yeast and most of it escapes through the airlock, but some of it is simply absorbed into the wine. This gasse is released through normal handling of the wine -- racking, fining, filtering, bottling. If the wine is handled too gently, the gasse thus trapped can remain. When the cork is driven home, positive pressure in the bottle is gradually released during the first 2-4 days while the bottle is standing upright. When the cork is removed sometime later, the pulling of the cork creates negative pressure in the bottle and this forces the gasse to begin escaping the wine.

However, if the wine is bottled with any amount of residual sugar AND a few viable yeast cells, fermentation will continue after the wine is bottled. The CO2 created during this fermentation is trapped inside the bottle by the cork, so the only place the gasse has to go is into the wine. The amount of gasse produced depends on the amount of residual sugar that was fermented inside the bottle. If the wine is very sparkling (like Champagne), then as much as 3% of the residual sugar could have been fermented.

This secondary fermentation occurs because the wine has been bottled without being completely stabilized. Dosing the wine with potassium metabisulfite or potassium sorbate prior to bottling will not stabilize a wine, as BOTH are required for stabilization. However, simply dosing the wine with both additives will not guarantee stability. The proportions need to be correct for the wine and the wine should essentially be dry when dosed. It can be sweetened back after being stabilized, but cannot be expected to be stabilized while natural residual sugar remains in the wine, for that tends to favor the presence of live yeast.

Potassium sorbate in the presence of potassium metabisulfite renders yeast infertile. They will no longer reproduce, but the living cells present could continue living for a considerable time -- long enough to gasse a wine. Thus, wine is stabilized by measured, progressive steps. It is allowed to ferment to dryness or a yeast is used that will die off from alcohol toxicity at a predictable point. In either case, most of the yeast will die and lay down a fine dusting of lees. The wine must then be dosed with potassium metabisulfite and potassium sorbate (to protect the wine and prevent the remaining yeast from reproducing) and fined (to remove dead yeast that have not settled, but some weak but still living cells will also be deposited by the fining). The wine should then be cold stabilized if possible while the fining agent is settling. If you can't cold stabilize, so be it. After a sufficient wait (I prefer two weeks if cold stabilized, 3 weeks if not), the wine is carefully racked and then sterile filtered to remove 95-98% of the remaining yeast. NOW the wine can be sweetened and bottled.

The steps listed above can be staggered more or switched around somewhat, and some steps can be left out if you haven't got the equipment necessary to carry them out (cold stabilization and sterile filtering are the two steps most home winemakers skip). But the bottom line is that the wine must be stabilized before sweetening and bottling.

But, we have all made unintentional sparkling wine when a still wine was intended. There are two courses of action. If there isn't much wine and you intend to consume it fairly quickly, you can decant it before serving and stir while decanting. This will release most of the gasse. The other choice is to pull the corks, degasse the wine in bulk and rebottle. No one wants to do this, but storing gassed wine in bottles not made for sparkling wine is dangerous. Either the corks or the bottles themselves can yield to the pressure with explosive consequences. The wine is degassed in a sanitized container by vigorous stirring with a glass rod, wooden dowel or large stainless steel slotted spoon. Some winemakers use an impeller blade on a long shaft attached to an electric drill, which is the fastest and surest way I know of. A sample of the wine should be tested for unbound sulfur (SO2) and redosed with potassium metabisulfite if need be to prevent oxidation and accidental contamination by spoilage bacteria.

Finally, I know a lot of winemakers who routinely stir their wine before bottling to release any gasse absorbed during normal fermentation. Again, the electric drill impeller blade is popular with them. You can find it at several on-line winemaking suppliers.




Boiling Corks?


I just corked 6 gallons of Chianti but most of the corks are
turning red. I read a book which said to boil the coarks before
using them, so I did. Since then I've read some other things that
recommned just soaking them in a sulfite solution for 12 hours....
Jolie Bowles

Wisdom changes with experience and research. When I started making wine, you boiled corks also. Later, that changed to cold soaking overnight in sulfite solution. Now, I simply submerge them in sulfite solution for about two minutes.

Boiling is actually bad for the corks and renders them brittle as they dry out. Prolonged cold soaking is simply a waste of time because the sulfite solution sanitizes the corks within two minutes.

Your corks are probably turning red because wine has gotten between the cork and the sides of the bottle neck. This happens because when you force a cork into a bottle, the air between the cork and the wine gets compressed. If you leave the bottle standing upright for 2-3 days, the pressure will work its way out around the cork. If, on the other hand, you lay the bottle down immediately, the pressure pushes the wine (instead of the compressed air) out around the cork.

Leave your bottles upright 2-3 days, then lay them on their sides and watch them for a few days thereafter. The bottles should not leak. If they do, pull the corks and put in new ones. Most wine bottles are sized for #9 corks. Make sure your corks are the correct size for a good fit.




Extracting Wine from Gross Lees


Many, many people have written asking how to extract all that
wine from their gross lees. Here are some thoughts.
Jack Keller

A number of fruit put out a lot of pulp that forms what are called "gross lees." Gross lees are loose and harbor a lot of liquid in them, whereas "fine lees" are like a silt and are composed mostly of dead yeast cells. Mango, papaya, pineapple, apples, and most stoned fruit (peaches, cherries, nectarines, apricots, chokecherries, etc.) lay down a thick layer of "gross lees." These contain many, many times the amount of liquid in them than do the "fine lees" of dead yeast one normally sees.

The preferred method is to rack the wine normally and when you get to the layer of gross lees, put a large plastic funnel on top of your clean secondary lined with a double layer of sanitized muslin cloth. Then siphon the gross lees into the funnel. You'll have to pinch the siphon hose to slow down the flow. When the funnel is full of pulpy lees, gather the muslin and squeeze the juice out. Dump the compacted pulp, wash out the muslin, and continue doing this until you get down to the fine lees. Doing this, you'll recover more than 80% of the liquid you lost by leaving the gross lees undisturbed.

When the lees are thick with semi-compacted pulp, not gross but not fine either, I rack and then transfer my gross lees into a tall, skinny, cylindrical jar made for storing spaghetti. I have a Tupperware top that fits it that I drilled to accept a #2 bung with airlock After 2-3 weeks in this jar, the lees compact well and I can rack the clear wine off the top. This procedure usually yields 300 to 500 ml of additional wine.

I have a friend who uses double layers of coffee filters in a funnel to extract wine from lees. He lets the lees sit in a large jar overnight and the wine separates somewhat. The then pours the wine into the funnel and lets gravity pull the wine through. Because the filters clog up quickly, it takes hours to do this and during that time the wine is exposed to the air and airborne bacteria, so I don't recommend it.

An acquaintance of mine has made a centrifuge from an old washing machine and relies on it to quickly separate the lees from the wine. It is a very clever contraption, but I have no idea how to make it. He designed it and made all the parts himself one winter.

So, you can see that there are several methods for extracting wine from lees. You have to use the methods best suited to your circumstances and abilities.




Cleaning the Hot Stuff from Jalapenos


I'm at the start of your Jalapeno recipe and am wondering if there
is a way to CLEAN the HOT STUFF off equipment (man that stuff
really singes the fingertips)?
Don Edl

Capsaicin (or capsicin) is the stuff in the jalapenos (and other members of the genus Capsicum) that provides the "heat" chile lovers are so fond of. It is an oil, so it does not shed easily when washed with water. To clean up after handling any kind of chile pepper (except bell peppers), put 2-3 drops of oil (olive, corn, canola, etc.) and 2-3 drops of liquid detergent in one hand and work it well between both hands while running the water warm-to-hot. After rinsing, repeat with just the detergent and rinse again. Clean equipment the same way.

Because capsaicin is not water soluable, drinking water after eating a few hot peppers will not get rid of the heat. Instead, drink some whole milk. The fat in whole milk will cut the capsaicin and relieve you of the irritation.

To keep from burning the fingertips, wear rubber gloves when working with hot chile peppers. Be sure to clean them well afterward.




Pectic Enzyme and Primary Fermentation Vessels


Why wait 12 hours to add pectic enzyme? I've seen other recipes
that added it with other ingredients. Do you have a preference
of vessel for fermenting 1 gal recipes?
Don Edl

The reason I add crushed Campden, wait 12 hours and add pectic enzyme, and wait another 12 hours before adding yeast is because both Campden and pectic enzyme release gases after being introduced. While the gases released by pectic enzyme are not really "harmful" to yeast, I once forgot to add pectic enzyme and added it to the fermenting must and watched my fermentation almost stop. It didn't really stop, but it came close. Ever since, I have chosen to err on the side of caution and let the pectic enzyme sit in the must 10-12 hours before adding the yeast culture.

This also works well for me because I usually add Campden in the evening, pectic enzyme the next morning, and yeast that evening, and the three-step process gives me "something to do" besides look at my checklist. Also, when I add the crushed Campden I also put my dried yeast in a starter solution (1 cup warm water, 1/2 tsp sugar, pinch of yeast nutrient, 2 drops of lemon juice) so it is activated when I add it the following evening.

I have a number of one-gallon primaries, each of which is between 5-6 quarts in size. My favorites are two goldfish bowls I picked up at yard sales for $2 each. I had to clean calcium deposit rings off their inner surfaces (vinegar is cheap and does this well, but clean out the vinegar well before using), but they are great primaries. My wife made elastic-rimmed tops for them out of heavy muslin to keep bad stuff out of the ferment.

I also use a couple of small fermentation crocks as primaries and a couple of liners for crock pots. These work very well, have their own covers and are easy to clean.

Finally, I have an assortment of plastic "ice tea" containers I use as primaries, several one-gallon pickle jars and some stainless steel mixing bowls. The jars are not the best primaries for fermenting crushed ingredients because they aren't big enough to hold a rising cap of pulp, but they work okay for juices.




Cleaning those Mustang Grapes


I didn't realize how filthy mustang grapes were until I picked some.
Is there a correct way to pick and clean them?
Anonymous

How do you get the grape off of the vine and rinse without loosing
some of the juice?
Eric Yendrey, Bryan, Texas

These are two similar questions, so I'll combine them.

All grapes are pretty filthy until washed, but wild grapes like Mustangs simply have more "wild things" living amongst them. Thus, picking them can be an experience. Pick the stems supporting the bunches to reduce premature juice loss. If you grab the stem between thumb and forefinger and push (or pull) in the direction of the main vine, the stem will break off rather easily. If you push (or pull) toward the growing end, the stem will resist release, ripe grapes may drop with the force required to break the stem, and the growing tip may break off.

When you wash your grapes, the real goal is to get the really coarse stuff (and the various spiders and bugs) off them, not get them pristine clean. The crushed Campden tablets (or, in the case of my recipe #4, the cooking) will take care of the wild yeast and bacteria, and racking will get rid of any small bits of gunk that might have escaped washing. Still, I have many friends who go through various rituals involving their grapes. A couple of them actually mix a 2-1/2% solution of metabisulphate and soak their grapes in it for a quarter-hour or so before rising and destemming. Several do the same thing with a Campden solution. And others do what you did -- destem and then wash, preferring to sacrifice some juice for the assurance that their grapes will be "very clean" before being crushed, fermented on the skins and pressed. I find these steps to be unnecessary and simply wash mine (destemming them after washing is an option), but you can do whatever makes you feel best about your grapes and the resulting wine.

Indeed, you might try doing several batches -- each a different way or using a different recipe -- to get a real feel for the variations and the grapes. Once the wine is made, no matter how much you make, you're going to be upset with yourself for not having made more.

I have a really good friend who has the biggest chest freezer I've ever seen outside a supermarket sitting in his garage, and it is about one-quarter full of mustang grapes. He picks the grapes, washes and destems them, and puts them in one-gallon Ziploc freezer bags. He than weighs each bag, labels it, and puts it in the freezer. He claims the freezing concentrates the sugar, breaks down the cell-walls in the pulp (for easier juice extraction), and results in better wines. He must be right, because his Mustang is a fairly consistent "Best of Show" in San Antonio and South Texas wine competitions. It also allows him to make wine when there are no grapes out there to pick.




Getting Wine Out of Lees


Whenever I rack my wines, it seems like a lot of good wine is lost
in the lees. Is there a way to filter or otherwise get the wine
out of the lees? I hate wasting all that wine and diluting what
I rack by having to top up with water.
Anonymous

Good question. There are several ways to answer it, but I'll keep my response short and sweet.

Lees will plug up any filter you might use faster than you can say, "My filter's plugged up!" But you can extract more wine from the lees than you're probably getting right now by doing the following. After racking, pour the lees into a tall, sterilized, narrow jar, such as an olive jar. You could also use the cylinder you hold samples in for hydrometer readings. The lees will settle fairly rapidly (a few hours) and the reduced diameter of the vessel will compress the wine into a thicker layer which can then be siphoned off. Depending on the size of the primary or secondary the lees came from, you might extract anywhere from a half-cup to a pint more wine from the lees this way. You'll probably still have to top up some, but certainly not as much as before.

There is a better way, I think. I simply try to make more wine initially than my secondary will hold. When I rack into the secondary the first time, the excess wine goes into a small wine bottle (750-ml, 375-ml, 250-ml, 187-ml, or 150-ml) just big enough to accommodate it and fitted with a Number 2 stopper (bung) and airlock. The Number 2 stopper will fit any wine bottle from 1.5-liters down. When I rack next time, I top up my secondary with the extra wine in the wine bottle and transfer any wine still remaining to an even smaller wine bottle. This is used to top up the next time I rack.




Pectic Enzyme Substitute


Is there a substitute for pectic enzyme? I am having trouble
getting it in this part of the country.
Jannie van der Westhuisen

The best substitute for pectic enzyme is papaya peel. The layer of green immediately under the skin of the papaya contains natural pectic enzyme. Use the peeling from half a papaya as a substitute for one teaspoon of pectic enzyme. You can freeze the other half in a ZipLoc bag for later use. Just put the peeling in the primary and ferment it along with the other ingredients. It would be best, however, to order some pectic enzyme from a winemaking supplier over the internet.




Wine from Commercial Grape Juice


Do you have any recipies using bottled grape juice of Austrian
origin. I am currently in a country that does not sell alcohol
or equipment to manufacture it.
Gareth Askew

Making wine from commercial grape juice is problematic. There are several reasons, but the two biggest are that grape juice is usually heavily sulfited so it won't ferment during storage and it is usually less concentrated (i.e. it is watered down) than desired for winemaking. Now, if you can find frozen grape concentrate that isn't too heavily sulfited, you can make wine. You still need some equipment and supplies though. For example, you'll need a hydrometer, a jar, bowl, crock, or pail (primary) large enough to hold the juice with some extra space, a jug (secondary) exactly large enough to hold the juice, an airlock, a 4-6 feet length of racking tubing, yeast nutrient, wine yeast, and some sodium or potassium metabisulfite for sterilizing you equipment. You'll also need a hand corker and bottle corks. You can order all of this through the mail or from one of the online suppliers on the internet.

In a primary, dilute the juice according to instructions, but withhold 1/2 measure if water. For example, if the instructions say to mix one can of concentrate with 5 cans of water, only use 4 1/2 cans of water. Use the hydrometer to measure the specific gravity of the diluted juice. You want a reading between 1.090 and 1.095. Stir in sugar (mixing well to dissolve it completely) until you reach the desired reading. The table on my hydrometer page may help you. When the reading is correct, stir in one teaspoon of yeast nutrient per gallon of juice, then sprinkle the yeast on top of the juice. Cover the primary with a sterile cloth and set it aside in a warm place. In two days, the juice should be fermenting nicely. Ferment it five days and then transfer it to the secondary and fit the airlock. Ferment 30 days and rack into a clean secondary. Top up with juice or water and refit the airlock. Ferment three months and rack again. Top up, refit the airlock and set aside for another 3-4 months. Rack into bottles and set aside to age. It will be drinkable right then, but will get better with aging.

If you have problems getting the juice to start fermenting (because of too much sulfites), aerate the juice by pouring it back and forth between two containers a half-dozen times and follow the procedure below in "Wine Won't Ferment."

If you want to understand some of my misgivings about making wine from concentrates, read the item below entitled "Grape Concentrate vs. Grape Juice" and my separate section on grape concentrates.




Wheat


When a recipe includes wheat, is this wheat malted, fresh (ready to
plant in the field), roasted, or what? I didn't think twice
about this until I looked at a recipe for beer that used
malted wheat.
Wayne Harrison

Winemaking recipes that call for wheat almost always mean whole wheat, cracked but not malted. Whole wheat kernels can be cracked by putting them in a nylon grain bag, tying it closed, and rolling a rolling pin over the wheat with a bit of force downward. It makes no difference if the wheat has the chaff intact or removed. Simple enough.




Dusty Wine


I am a winemaker, but I only make a few gallons per year. Lately
I've had a problem. After the wine has been bottled for about 3
weeks I seem to be getting a dusty deposit in the bottle. It does
not look like normal sediment but, as I said, a dark dust. I have
had it with kits and with a tea wine. Any ideas would be appreciated.
Tim Pace, UK

I have had this occur in my wheat wines, where tannin was added. I always assumed it was the tannin I added precipitating out, but more recently it occurred in a grape wine to which no tannin was added. I discussed it with a highly regarded winemaker friend and was told it could also be (1) metallic ions (from an aluminium funnel I sometimes use) precipitating out, or (2) suspended pigments from the grape skins settling, or (3) very small tartaric acid crystals. I dismissed the third option, as the particles were like a very fine dust. In truth, I don't know what exactly they are, but I do know how to get rid of them.

Uncork the bottles, filter the wine, and then rebottle and recork it. It can be done quickly with a vacuum pump filter, thus avoiding prolonged air exposure and the threat of oxidation. If you don't have the required filter, use a paper towel in a large plastic funnel and let gravity do the work. It will take considerably longer, but it will get rid of the suspended particles.

Another friend told me to ignore the dust. "It happens," he said, "and, although unsightly, it doesn't hurt the wine." I filtered anyway. I hope this helps.




Isabella Grapes


I have a site about Silas McDowell (1795-1879) (http://www.rabun.net/~phillips)
an apple and grape grower who introduced many new apple
varieties and, late in life, became interested in viticulture.
I have been able to find little about a grape variety he
worked with - Isabella. He apparently obtained cuttings from
the Cherokees and tried to improve them. Do you know anything
about this grape variety?
Duane Phillips

Isabella (Vitis Labrusca var. Isabella) has a long history and questionable origin. U.P. Hedrick, in his 1908 work The Grapes of New York, lists it as a probable cross between Labrusca and Vinifera. It was originally secured by William Prince of Flushing, Long Island from Mrs. Isabella Gibbs, the wife of George Gibbs, a merchant then living in Brooklyn. Prince named it after Mrs. Gibbs and states in his 1830 Treatise on the Vine that Mrs. Gibbs had reported it came originally from the vicinity of Dorchester, South Carolina.

Nicholas Herbemont, in Southern Agriculture (1829), expressed doubts as to Dorchester being its origin. He found that it was only known there as a cultivated vine with a tradition of having been introduced by a gentleman then dead. There were various accounts of it having originated in North Carolina, Virginia, Delaware and Europe, but none of these were given any credence.

In the early days of American viticulture, Isabella was the grape of choice in New England, while in the South Catawba was favored because it better fit the longer growing season there. Isabella has been almost totally replaced in the North by Concord and other hardier and more productive Vinifera varieties and can only be found now in collections of experimenters, amatures and breeders.

Isabella has large, well formed clusters and attractive, deep black berries with thick bloom. The flavor is good but the thick skin and muskiness in taste are objectionable for the table. It has a lustrous green, ample foliage which remains late in the season, and these characteristics and its vigor make it an attractive ornamental suitable for arbors, trellises and porch supports.

It was introduced into Europe before 1830 where it was extensively cultivated for the manufacture of a low-grade wine, and Hendrick considers it quite probable that the phylloxera, which later decimated the vineyards of Europe, was introduced on the roots of the Isabella.

Isabella is generally classed as a pure Labrusca, but the evidence for it being a cross between Labrusca and Vinifera is strong but circumstantial. Among these are the shape of the berries, certain characteristics of the seeds, and the susceptibility of the vine to mildew and the berries to black-rot. Hybrids of it with Vinifera are usually worthless, lacking in vigor and hardiness. The Isabella X Vinifera progeny are so much more substandard than those of other pure American grapes X Vinifera that this further suggests a Vinifera lineage in Isabella. Such hybrids (Isabella X Vinifera progeny) usually bear a stronger resemblance to Vinifera than do offspring of other pure-bred American and Vinifera parents.

The thick skin adheres considerably to the pulp and is astringent. The flesh is pale green, sometimes with a yellowish tinge, and is quite translucent. It is juicy, fine-grained, tender but meaty, somewhat stringy, and is inclined to foxiness but is sweet to agreeably tart at its center. The pulp is slightly astringent when not mature and separates from the seeds with some difficulty. In winemaking, the must ferments best at 60-79 degrees F.

Varieties and synonyms of Isabella include Alexander, Black Cape, Cape, Captraube, Champania, Christie's Improved Isabella, Conckling's Wilding, Constantia, Dorchester, Framboisier, Garber's Red-Fox, Gibb's Grape, Hanover, Hensell's Long Island, Isabella d'Amerique, Lespeyre, New Hanover, Paign's Isabella, Payne's Early, Raisin de Cassis, Raisin du Cap, Raisin Fraise, Raisin Fromboise, Sainte-Helene, Saluda, Uva Fragola, Vernet, and Woodward. Isabella is possibly the grape referred to as Cherokee, Sandbornton and Schuylkill. Two once-notable varities of Isabella are Isabella Seedling (originated by G.A. Ensenberger, Sr.) and Isaraella (originated by Dr. C.W. Grant).

Because Isabella is no longer a commercially important grape, you won't find many (if any) modern references to it. Most of the literature in which I have found it mentioned is old and increasingly difficult to find. I mentioned Hendrick's The Grapes of New York (1908), Prince's Treatise on the Vine (1930), and Herbemont in Southern Agriculture (1829), but you might also try Alden Spooner's The Cultivation of American Grape Vines (1849) and Traite' General de Viticulture (in French, 6 volumes, Paris, 1903).

I hope this is of some help to you.




Bottling Your Wine


I enjoyed a quick look at your web page and have bookmarked it to review in more detail later. I am looking for some tips on bottling and corking some wine, which we have begun from a grape kit. The instructions in the kit were pretty good until it came to the bottle/cork phase. Can you point me in the direction of some information? Also, do you sanitize with Campden tablets? I brew beer and use iodophor solutions. It seems like this would be easier to use. Any thoughts? Terry Draper

You raise an interesting question. I haven't posted much on the subject of bottling and corking because I've always taken it for granted that everyone knew about it, but the volume of mail I've received on the subject proves otherwise.

Since you are a beer brewer, you probably already know that a lot of beer makers who have invested many bucks in a huge supply of beer bottles and a bottle capper use beer bottles for their wine. There is nothing wrong with this practice, as one beer bottle of wine will adequately provide 2-3 people with a glass at mealtime. It just doesn't look right to some of us, so we use wine bottles.

Collect your wine bottles however you can. You can save bottles from commercial wines you and your frinds drink, buy bottles from any home brewing and winemaking supply shop, or have a restaurant save then for you. If you follow the latter route, be sure to collect the bottles every night until you have enough. Most restaurants don't have the space to save too many bottles, and if you cause a problem for them, they won't cooperate in the future. Most good Italian restaurants and steak houses sell a lot of wine with meals, so approach the owner or manager and explain your needs. I have found that most will cooperate on a trial basis, even boxing up the empties so you can remove them easily. You might stop by a liquor store and collect a few empty wine cases in the event they don't box them for you.

Wash the bottles at once and store them upside down in wine cases. This will keep them from being contaminated by dust and insects, but not germs. You'll still have to sterilize them before using. Personally, I like to soak the old labels off so I can apply my own labels. Many people don't bother and simply stick a pregummed label over the old one. When you come home with 16 cases of used bottles, each with a label, soaking them off can be an overwhelming chore. Do whatever you like.

Since I use used bottles, I find it easier to sort them first by color, shape, and other characteristics, wash them, and then store them already sorted. I pay particular attention to hole sizes and try to avoid storing bottles requiring a number 8 cork with bottles requiring a number 9. Always make sure you have an adequate number of corks in the required sizes long before the wine approaches finish. Order unusual sized corks early, as they aren't always available. I've found it more and more difficult, for example, to find number 7 corks.

When bottling day finally approaches, make sure of two things. First, make absolutely sure the wine has fermented to bone-dryness or has been stabilized appropriately at least 10 days beforehand. Second, make sure you have everything you need to complete the operation. Once you begin bottling a batch of wine, you can't stop to run to the nearest homebrew supplier for additional corks.

Check the bottles and count out the number of corks plus 20% of each size you'll need. In a glass or ceramic bowl, dissolve a crushed Campden tablet in 2 inches of very hot water. Float the corks on the water and then place a dish or platter upside down in the bowl so the corks are all captured in the concave of it and submerged under water. Tilt the platter to allow any air trapped under it to escape. The corks should be soaked at least 2 hours, but I like to soak mine overnight.

Just before bottling, wash the bottles again and sterilize each one. You can use any sterilizing solution used to sterilize beer bottles, or make up a solution by dissolving 4 crushed Campden tablets and 1/2 teaspoon citric acid in one quart of water or peruse my Glossary of Winemaking Terms for other formulas. Fill each wine bottle with the solution, let it sit two minutes, then pour the same solution into the next bottle through a funnel. Turn the bottles upside down on a clean paper towel to drain; do not rinse with fresh water after sterilizing. Once sterilized, use them quickly.

Fill each bottle to within 2 to 2-1/2 inches of the top, depending on the length of the cork you are using. You want to leave 1/2 inch of space between the wine and the inner surface of the cork.

You will need a corker. There are many types, ranging from a $6 hand-held plastic one with a hand-criven plunger in it to a floor-mounted, machined-metal, $100 model with an easily worked lever-driven plunger. In each case, the cork is inserted in a reduction chamber where it's diameter is compressed as it is driven into the bottle. Cork each bottle and set it aside standing upright. Leave it upright for 2-3 days. This will give it time to dry out enough for the cork to seat and seal the bottle completely. After that, the bottles should be stored on their sides or upside down. If stored upside down for more than a year, the cork will become saturated to a depth of 1/2 inch or so and will very likely break apart when being extracted. Also, any post-bottling precipitants will collect on the cork and drip down through the wine when the bottle is turned upright. Storing on the side is best for both reasons.

The bottles should be labeled as soon as is convenient. See my Wine Labels page for tips on designing your own wine labels.

After bottling, you may put a plastic or foil sleeve over the corked end of the bottle. This does nothing for the wine, but does help give the bottle a "finished" look. The plastic sleeves are shrunk to the bottle using a hair dryer or special sleeve heater.

All that remains after that is allowing time to age the wine and then consuming it. I'm sure you don't need any instructions for that.




Non-Alcoholic Wine


I'm very excited to have visited your address. However, I also have interests in making non-alcoholic wine. Is that possible to do in the home? (while still keeping a good body and not just by diluting alcoholic wine?) If there is any information you could give me about making non-alcoholic wine, I'd appreciate it very much. Loriann M. Gulik, University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign (return email address did not work)

Wine, by definition, is fermented fruit juice--usually grape. It tastes noticeably different than the juice from which it is made because nearly all of the sugar, most of the acid and a good deal of the nutrients in it have been extracted from the juice by the yeast as food and replaced with alcohol. I know of no way to extract those things from the juice--and thus approximate the taste of wine--without actually fermenting the juice and making wine. Thus, you'd have to make wine and then get rid of its alcohol in order to approximate its taste, and even this would be wrong because the alcohol itself contributes to part of the taste. But suppose you were willing to accept that. Then what?

The only thing I can think of is to gently heat the wine and drive off the alcohol through evaporation. If, during the process of evaporating the alcohol, you capture it (perhaps to add to another wine to make brandy), that is called distilliing and is illegal. So you'd have to heat the wine in an open pan or pot, and the only one that will work without imparting trace metals to the wine is a stainless steel one. This would work except for one small detail. After the alcohol level drops below 10%, the preservation effects of the alcohol cease and the juice will be subject to spoiling. Because you will be heating it at the time, spoiling will be much quicker than for unheated juice.

I think you could experiment a bit with evaporation to see what you get. I suggest you gently heat a cup or two of wine in a stainless steel sauce pan at 110-120 degrees for about 30 minutes, then cool it and taste it. Who knows? It might actually be good. Let me know how it turns out.



Grape Concentrate vs. Grape Juice


I've made wine with grape concentrates and found the wine to be uninspiring. I think the trouble with concentrates is the requirement for adding enough water to make 5 gallons, resulting in a low Brix that must then be supplemented with processed sugar. For the last batch I made, I only added water until I achieved a natural Brix of 21 degrees, but it only made a little over two gallons of wine. The wine was very good at bottling and should improve as it ages. Freshly pressed grape juice would have accomplished the same thing, but my winemaking supplier doesn't sell it or know of a source for it. Do you know where I can buy freshly pressed grape juice? Lawrence Dirkson

This question has been asked of me many times, just as the complaint of concentrates making weak or uninspiring wine has often been voiced. Until now, I've recommended locating a vineyard or winery that will sell freshly pressed juice. Some members of the San Antonio Regional Wine Guild do this annually, and transporting the juice is far less cumbersome than transporting bulk grapes or frozen crushed grape must. But there is another way.

Kamil Juices markets European vinifera grape musts from origin controled areas. These are not concentrates and neither water nor sugar are added during winemaking. The must is sold in 11-liter (2.87-gallon) containers. Two containers hold 5.74 gallons of must. The extra measure is used for topping up after racking and allows one to make 5 gallons of wine without adding any water. Numerous white and red varieties are available. Prices (as of this writing) vary from $58 to $70 per two-container lot, plus $29 shipping to anywhere in the 48 contiguous United States. This works out to $3.50 to $4 per bottle of finished wine.




Weak Wine


I made my first wine using concentrates. Even though I followed instructions, the wine lacked body. A wine salesperson said I could add 4 ounces of glycerine. Is this correct? Could I get a wine kit and use the wine I have stored in carboys in place of water to ferment a thicker wine? Unsigned, Dekalb College (return email address did not work)

Bummer!

The wine salesperson is correct. You can use glycerine to add body, usually at the rate of one fluid ounce per gallon of wine. You can obtain it at any winemaking supply store and some drug stores. Use only food grade glycerine.

You can also do as you suggested and use this particular wine in lieu of water to ferment a much heavier wine next time, but this is not as straightforward as it sounds.

Let's look at how you might do this. Suppose this wine, which we'll call First Wine, is 12% alcohol by volume. To make Second Wine, add the correct amount of First Wine to your new concentrate and compute the alcoholic content of the resulting liquor. Suppose you added four gallons of First Wine to one gallon of concentrate. The resultant liquor will be 9.6% alcohol by volume. A hydrometer measurement will indicate the potential alcohol in the liquor without adding any sugar. Suppose the S.G. reads 1.022. This represents a potential alcohol yield of 2.6% which, when added to the existing 9.6% alcohol, will result in 12.2% total potential alcohol. While this may be a sufficient yield, I would be leery of introducing most yeasts to a must already containing 9.6% alcohol and with so little residual sugar for it to feed on. For this reason, I would add sugar and go for a high alcohol content. Suppose you added 3 lb 2 oz sugar, boosting the S.G. to 1.042. This represents 5.4% potential alcohol which, when added to the 9.6% existing alcohol, will result in 15% total potential alcohol. Select a high alcohol tolerance yeast, such as Lalvin K1-V1116. Add 2 tsp yeast energizer and 3 tsp yeast nutrient to the 5 gallons of must, stir to dissolve, and then sprinkle the yeast on top of the must. Do not stir yeast into the liquor. It may take up to four days for the yeast to activate, but it almost certainly will do so. Ferment under an air lock to dryness, then rack every 30 days for four months, topping up with First Wine each time. Let stand two additional months. If no lees are deposited, rack again and bottle. If lees are deposited, rack, top up and wait additional two months, rack again and bottle. Finished yield should be 14.9%.



Bottling


I have seen various references say to stabilize the wine, sweeten it to taste, and bottle it, while I have seen instructions on your site to stabilize the wine, wait 10 days, then sweeten and bottle it. Why the difference in procedure? James Harvard, Ottawa, Canada

Good question. One stabilizes wine to stop fermentation so that remaining yeast do not ferment added or residual sugar after bottling and cause the bottles to explode. After stabilizing, suspended yeast die off and lay down a thin layer of lees. If the wine has been bottled, the lees are trapped and are not only unsightly, but can impart off flavors. My experience is that the dead yeast cells will precipitate out in 3-7 days. Allowing 10 days offers a 3-day margin for late precipitation. The wine is then racked off the lees, sweetened to taste and bottled.



Nylon Things


In some of your recipes, you call for...a nylon straining bag,.. a nylon jelly bag,..a nylon mesh bag. I take it these are all the same thing? We used the wife's [washed & bleached] pantyhose,.. same thing? What else would work? Where can I get the nylon things [bags]? John and Doretta Moore

As you guessed, they are all generally the same thing and I use whatever term pops into my head when writing.

Originally, they were sold as "jelly bags" and were used to contain fruit for draining and pressing when making jelly. In homebrew stores, they are often called "grain bags" because beer-makers use them to contain mash and fermenting grains. I have seen them sold in kitchen and kitchenware specialty stores as nylon straining bags and nylon mesh bags. But, I don't buy them anymore. My wife buys a netting-like material (at about $2 a yard) that looks like wedding veil material (except it's nylon) and, using her overlock sewing machine, makes up a slew of them at a time. They don't have hemmed-in draw-strings for tieing, but that doesn't matter a bit. Regular string works well. Always sterilize these (and the string) before using.

Pantyhose works well, but isn't as strong as the other bags (or material). Also, I'd be very careful about using bleach because if it isn't rinsed out VERY well the chlorine in it can spoil a wine--it kills yeast and imparts an off-taste. It is better to put the pantyhose (or nylon bags and string) in a quart jar, cover them with a 5% potassium (or 10% sodium) metabisulphite solution, and soak for 2 minutes. Make the solution (if you haven't done so already) by dissolving 2 oz. of potassium metabisulphite crystals (or 4 oz. sodium metabisulphite) in one gallon of water. You can store this solution in a sealed gallon jug for months and it will sterilize everything you use for winemaking.



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