Using Wine Cork vs Screw Cap: What’s The Difference?

Wine Cork And Screw CapHere’s a great question from one of our customers about using wine cork vs screw cap wine bottles. I thought this would be great to share!
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I live very close to a winery and use their used wine bottles for bottling my homemade wines. Sometimes they use cork wine bottles and screw cap wine bottles for the same wine. Do you know why this would be?

Name: William B.
State: Virginia
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Hello William,

Thank you for such a great wine making question. I’ll see what I can do to clear up why you would see a winery use both wine cork and screw cap, and more specifically, why a winery would use both on the same batch of wine!

Here’s the basic pros and cons of using one over the other.

Using screw cap wine bottles will extend the life of a wine. The screw caps make a perfect seal, not allowing any air to seep into the wine. This perfect seal extends the wine’s shelf-life. You could have a screw cap wine be fantastic for 7 or 8 years that otherwise would have only been at its best for 4 or 5 years under cork.

But this “perfect seal” also extends the amount of time the wine needs to mature into a drinkable or – in the case of a winery – salable wine. In fact, it could take up to twice as long for the wine’s maturation process to plateau. This means more inventory sitting in the racks that can’t be sold.

On the other hand, wine corks facilitate the aging process a little more freely. A natural cork allows minuscule amounts of air to pass by it. Over time, this trace amount of air will facilitate the wine’s ability to age and become more drinkable sooner. The downside is that the entire life of the wine will be shortened. So while it will be ready for market sooner it will not last as long on the shelf.

Shop Wine BottlesIt is possible that the winery corked some of their wine to sell earlier and used screw caps on some to sell later. In effect, this would time out the aging of the wine so that there would be more wine reaching peak maturity over a longer period of time. However, this is only speculation on my part.

There used to be great debates over the use of screw caps. Whenever someone saw a wine under a screw cap they automatically thought: cheap or low-grade wine. That’s absolutely not the case today. Whether a winery uses wine cork vs screw cap is a matter of wine treatment, a calculation of sorts that has nothing to do the the aesthetics and everything to do with maximizing the quality of the wine.

In general, you will discover that lighter-colored wines with less body, such as a Zinfandel Blush or a Chablis are more likely to be under screw cap. This is not because the wines are of low quality, but rather, because the wines are anticipated to fully maturate more quickly than most and do not need the air seepage the natural wine corks provide. They need the air-tight, screw cap wine bottles to slow the process down.

This principal of controlling how a wine ages can be incorporated into home winemaking as well.

Whenever you are ready to bottle a wine, first think about how long the wine could potentially be shelved before it is all consumed: 1 year, 3 years, 3 months! Think about the color of the wine. Is it a white wine that is at risk of oxidation? Are the grapes used to produce the wine known for producing complex, rich wines that can take advantage of abundant aging, or are the grapes known for being crisp, fresh and quickly aging?

Shop Wine CorksWhen you consider such factors you can start to come up with your own plan and know how to handle the question of wine cork vs screw cap. If your wine’s do not sit around long, go with the wine corks so they can get some aging in. If your batches of wines tend to sit around for years before being consumed go with screw cap and so on with other considerations.

William, I hope this answers the question you had about wine cork vs screw cap. As you can see, there is definitely a reason for using one over the other.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

How To Stop A Wine Fermentation

Fermentation That Has StoppedI have several 2 1/2 gallon jugs of wine going at this time started in February. The problem is – I am satisfied with the taste and the alcohol content however they won’t stop working. It seems like in the past, when I have allowed the wine to stop fermenting on its own, the taste changes? I have read that potassium sorbate does not completely kill off the yeast? What can I do to stop the ferment at this time and how much alcohol (brandy?) would I have to add to stop the ferment. Thanks.

Name: Skip K.
State: MN
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Hello Skip,

The first thing I’d like to point out is that stopping a wine fermentation is not normal. What is normal is letting the wine fermentation continue until all the sugars in the wine must have been consumed by the wine yeast. If you prefer your homemade wines sweet, you would add sugar to taste at bottling time, and then add potassium sorbate to eliminate a chance of re-fermentation in the wine bottle.

What also is not normal is having a wine fermentation continue on for months. A typical wine fermentation will last anywhere from 5 days to two weeks. The fact that yours has lasted for months tells me that there is something fundamentally wrong.

I would suggest taking a look at the Top 10 Reasons For Fermentation Failure that is listed on our website. It runs through the most common reasons for a wine fermentation to either fail to start or to drag out, such as the case with yours. See if any of the top 10 reasons ring true to your situation. Now on to your question…

 

What can I do to stop a wine fermentation?
Well, what you can’t do is use either sulfites such as Campden tablets or use stabilizers such as potassium sorbate. Neither of these will stop a wine fermentation with any dependable success. Here’s why:

 

  • Sulfites (Campden tablets, sodium metabisulfite, potassium metabisulfite):Shop Potassium Metabisulfite
    Wine yeast are bred in such a way as to be acclimated to sulfites. They can withstand the levels that are typically present after a dose has been added to a wine. It is true that if a wine fermentation is on the verge of stopping anyway – for whatever reason – that a dose of sulfite can hasten its ending, but not with any predictable consistency. If a dose of sulfite is added to a fully active wine fermentation, you may see it slow down, maybe even to a crawl, but it would then eventually recover and go on to completion, but usually at a annoyingly slower pace than before. What happens is the sulfite will kill a portion of the yeast cells, stunting the fermentation activity, but then the wine yeast would slowly begin to recolonize and continue on with the task at hand.
  • Potassium Sorbate:
    Shop Potassium SorbateAdding potassium sorbate to a wine fermentation will not hinder it in any way. What it will do is stop a wine yeast colony from regenerating itself. The potassium sorbate puts a coating on the yeast cells that make it incapable of reproducing itself. In other words, it makes the wine yeast sterile. This makes potassium sorbate an effective ingredient to add to a wine that is already clear but may have some trace amounts of wine yeast still in it. If you sweeten that wine before bottling, the potassium sorbate will eliminate any chance of these few yeast cells from growing into large enough numbers to create a fermentation within the wine bottles.

As you suggested, you could add alcohol to the wine to stop the wine fermentation. This is known as fortifying the wine. But you would need to get the alcohol level up to about 20% for this purpose. Brandy is typically used for this purpose. It should be noted that this will dramatically change the wine’s flavor. The wine will seem less fruity as the alcohol level rises.

 

If you absolutely, positively, without question, must stop a wine fermentation in midstream, here’s how a winery would do it:

 

  1. Chill Down The Fermenting Wine:
    The cooler the better, but 50°F. is sufficient. This will stop the wine fermentation, and the wine yeast will slowly begin to settle to the bottom. You may also want to add bentonite while chilling the wine to help the wine yeast clear out faster and more thoroughly.
  1. Rack The Wine Off The Sediment:
    Give the wine plenty of time to clear up before racking it. Technically, it is possible to rack the wine in as soon as 5 days, but it is much better to wait a couple of weeks. You could get extra solids precipitating out of the wine during this extra time such as acid crystals. That would be a good thing.
  1. Filter The Wine:Shop Mini Jet Wine Filter
    When I say filter the wine, I do not mean to drip it through some cheese cloth or a coffee filter or something along this line. You need to be able to put it through an actual wine filter that will filter fine enough to remove any leftover yeast cells. This means filtering down to .5 microns in size. A coffee filter only filters down to about 20 to 25 microns. A .5 micron filter pad will remove over 99.9% of the wine yeast in a wine and is considered sterile. Depending on how much tannin is in the wine, you may need to put the wine through a more coarse filter pad first. I always filter through a 1 micron filter pad before attempting to run the wine through a .5 micron filter pad. This eliminates the chance of the filter pad being clogging up with wine solids.

 

So there you have it: how to stop a wine fermentation. My personal opinion is that the effort is not worth it from an individual winemaker’s perspective. It is much less work to let the wine fermentation complete on its own, then deal with adjusting the sweetness to your liking.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Can You Add More Yeast To Wine?

Wanting To Add More Yeast To This WineAfter the wine is done fermenting and it sits for a few days can I add more yeast and sugar to increase the alcohol level?

Name: Dennis
State: Missouri
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Hello Dennis,

Once your wine has successfully fermented there is never any reason to add more yeast to the wine. The wine yeast you originally added at the beginning multiplies during the fermentation. If the fermentation went as it should, there should be about 100 to 150 times the amount of wine yeast you added, originally.

If the activity has stopped it does not mean that the yeast are dead. They have just gone dormant and are settling to the bottom. They ran out of sugar to consume, so they became inactive. When more sugar is added the yeast should pick up just fine on their own. There is absolutely no reason to add more yeast to the wine.

If you have racked the wine off the sediment this is still okay. There will still be plenty of wine yeast to get the fermentation up and running, again. Adding more yeast is not necessary.

Now that we have established that there is no reason to add more yeast to the wine, I would like to bring up a little twist that could put a wrench in the works.

There is a limit to how high of an alcohol level a wine yeast can produce. Most strains of wine yeast can make it up to 12% or 13% just fine. Some strains can even produce up to 16%, faithfully. But each strain of yeast does have its limits.

Shop Wine YeastThe point here being, is if you add more sugar than your wine yeast can handle, you could end up with a sweet wine – even one that is disgustingly sweet. It is important to understand this when making high alcohol wines.

So in summary, you can add more sugar to the wine to increase the alcohol level of the wine to a point, and to answer your specific question: Can you add more yeast to wine? There is absolutely no reason to do so, your wine will still have plenty of yeast in it.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

The Straight-Talk On Acid Testing Wine

acid testing wineThis will be my 3rd season of making wine. I have had some that were excellent and some that weren’t. I have not done anything with acid testing wine. I believe if I do I will have more consistency. Can u explain in more detail the timing and amounts of acid testing. I have purchased the pH test strips to start with. I have read previous blogs and that has not given me enough info.

Name: Jon
State: Wisconsin
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Hello Jon,

You will want to use the pH test strips to verify that the wine must is in the right range before starting the fermentation. When acid testing wine at this time you should expect a reading of 3.2. to 4.0 on the pH scale. If you are following a wine recipe this will normally be the case. A proper acid pH range is important for having a sound fermentation and to protect the wine from the growth of unwanted microbes.

If your wine is not in this pH range then you should make adjustments: either add water to lower the acidity or Acid Blend to raise the acidity. Remember: the pH scale work backwards – the lower the number the higher the acid. If your acid level is extremely high you may want to use more drastic measure such as adding Acid Reducing Crystals in the fermentation instead of dilution with water, but it would be unusual to have to go that far.

You should also acid testing the wine, again, before bottling. The acidity level will almost always change slightly during a fermentation, so expect a different pH reading than from before. From a taste perspective you would like the wine to be somewhere around 3.6, but the optimal reading can be different for each wine depending on the character of the wine.Shop pH Testing Strips

Before making any adjustments such as adding more Acid Blend, etc., taste the wine and make an evaluation yourself. Acidity has to do with the tartness of the wine as well as its stability. Is the wine too tart or too flat – regardless of what the pH strips say? The whole goal is to get it the way you like it.

You may also want to consider using a Acid Titration Kit at this stage for acid testing wine. It is easy to use and is quite helpful to take a titration reading at bottling time. A titration reads the actual strength of the acid in the wine, not the amount of acid like the pH test strips. The amount and strength of the acids do not directly correlated because some acids are stronger than others, and any wine has a mixture of acids varies from one wine to the next.

So, A titration reading relates to taste, whereas pH is more related to how many acid molecules there are in a sample of the wine. Different acids have different strengths or tartness, so you could have two wine’s with the same pH but with different perceived level of tartness. You can read more about the relation of these two readings in, In Plain English: The Difference Between pH And Titratable Acidity In Wine.Shop Acid Test Kit

I would also suggest taking a look at an article on our website titled, Getting A Handle On Wine Acidity. It goes into more detail on acid testing wine and how to actually control the acidity

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

The Virtues Of Adding More Fruit To A Wine Recipe

Bowl Of Wine Making FruitYour blueberry wine recipe on your website states you need 13lbs of blueberries for making 5 gals. Will adding more fruit to this wine recipe add more color and flavor to the finished wine?

Thank-you
Gary C.

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Yes, adding more fruit to any wine recipe is going to intensify the flavor and add more color. But, before you take this bit of information and go running with it, here are some considerations that you may want to think over first.

 

Do You Really Want More Flavor?

Almost all of the wine recipes on our website are shooting for a pleasant, medium-bodied wine. If you follow the amounts called for and follow the homemade wine instructions, you will end up with a wine that everyone can enjoy, wine drinkers and non-wine drinkers alike – a wine perfect for passing out as personal wine making gifts at parties, family gatherings, etc.

If you over-do the intensifying of the flavor by adding more fruit, it has been my experience that non-wine drinkers will not be as appreciative of what you’ve made. The flavors that will come forward will be very foreign and challenging for non-drinkers to like.

 

What About The Fruit Acid?

When you add more fruit to a wine recipe, you are obviously adding more fruit acid as well. A wine’s acidity needs to be in a certain range to have any chance of tasting right. By adding more fruit to a wine recipe, you are potentially taking the wine out of this range. This could lead to your wine tasting either too sharp or tart.

Fortunately, you can overcome this by reducing one of the other wine making products called for in the recipe, Acid Blend. This is a blend of the acids that are naturally found in fruit. In the case of the blueberry wine recipe, it calls for 2 tablespoons of Acid Blend. When adding more blueberries you would reduce this amount to compensate.Shop Acid Test Kit

Now comes the question, “By how much does the Acid Blend need to be reduced?” This can only be answered with the aid of an Acid Testing Kit. Once all other ingredients – besides the Acid Blend – have been added to the wine must, you would use the Acid Testing Kit to determine how much Acid Blend, if any, is actually needed for the wine to taste in balance – not too sharp, or not too flat. Our acid testing kit comes with directions that will tell you how to get the wine acidity into the right range.

 

The Alcohol Level Needs To Kept In Balance.

In general, the fuller the flavor of a wine, the higher the alcohol level must be to keep it in balance. Wines that do not have enough alcohol as compared to their flavor intensity, will taste harsher. The astringent characters of the wine will be highlighted in the wine’s final flavor profile.

To help put this into better perspective, lighter white wines tend to be around 10% alcohol, while the heaviest of reds tend to be around 14%. The particular blueberry wine recipe you are considering is shooting for around 11.5% to 12%, that is, if you follow the homemade wine instructions.

This alcohol level is based on both the amount of sugar and fruit called for in the wine recipe. Both of these ingredients are wine making materials that provide food for the wine yeast to turn into alcohol.

If you decide to add more fruit to your wine recipe, then you should probably shoot for more alcohol. Not necessarily 14%, but maybe somewhere around 12.5% or 13%. There is no exact amount that is correct. This is where art, finesse and experience come into play.

To control the finished alcohol level of a wine, you need to control the beginning sugar level. This is done with the “potential alcohol” scale on the wine hydrometer. Once the crushed fruit and water are mixed together, instead of adding 11 pounds of sugar as directed by the wine recipe on our website, just keep dissolving sugar into the wine must until the potential alcohol scale on the wine hydrometer reads 13%.Shop Hydrometers

 

More Flavor Means More Aging.

Another consideration that must be thought through before increasing the amount of fruit is the amount of aging that will be required before the wine is considered mature and ready for consumption.

Here again, the more fruit you add to a wine recipe, the more aging the wine will need before it comes into its own. With the original 13 pounds of blueberries, maximum aging would be around 6 to 9 months. With 20 pounds it may take as long as 12 to 18 months before the improvement brought by aging is fully realized.

This does not mean that you can not drink the wine before this; it just means that you can expect the wine to continue improving with even more time. Again, neither I nor wine making books can tell you when the wine has reached full maturation, this is for you to learn how to determine on your own as you sample the wine through out the aging process.

 

As You May Begin To See…

There are a lot of factors that go into putting together a solid wine recipe: picking out the various wine making products; determining their amounts, etc.

Shop Wine Making KitsAll the wine recipes we offer on our website have been bench tested and used many, many times. While you can alter them as you like, realize that any changes you make to any one ingredient, usually means that you will need to change another ingredient to keep things in line.

Happy Wine Making,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Adding Oak Chips During Fermentation Vs. After Fermentation

Oak Chip For Wine MakingThe wine kits I use often have a small packet of oak chips for adding during the fermentation. Your article on the use of toasted oak chips for wine making says to add them during the aging process, not during the primary fermentation. What is the difference?

Name: David F.
State: Illinois
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Hello David,

Thanks for the great question on adding oak chips during fermentation in the primary.

An important thing to know is that oak chips have an effect on the wine that is directly controlled by the amount of oak chips use and how long the chips are in the wine.

Wine kits that have been packaged with the pre-measured ingredients have been bench-tested. Trials of the wine has been made several times by the producer with variations of ingredients – such as the oak chips – to see which recipe combination produces the best wine. The goal is to produce a wine with the best overall balance and character. The producer of your wine kit knows how much oak chip to add to the fermentation to make an optimal wine because they bench-test.

By adding the oak chips during the fermentation, the wine is able to clear up more quickly and not have to go through the extra step of carefully bulk-aging with oak chips after the fermentation. This allows you to be able to bottle your wine in 4 to 6 weeks.Shop Toasted Oak Chips

The home winemaker who is making wine from fresh fruit does not have the luxury of knowing ahead of time the optimal amount of oak chips to put in the fermentation. The juice at hand is unique and has not been bench-tested.

Even for the home winemaker that makes the same wine from the same vines in their backyard every year, experiences variations in the profile of the juice from one year to the next. Adding oak chips during the fermentation in these situations would give the winemaker absolutely no control over the outcome. They could only take a wild guess as to home much oak to add to a primary fermentation.

For this reason, it is much better for the home winemaker to add the oak chips after the fermentation, while the wine is aging, instead during the fermentation. After the fermentation is done and has cleared, they can add in a reasonable amount of oak chips (we suggest 2 oz. to 4 oz. to 5 gallons); leave the oak chips in over time as the wine ages; sampling their effects along the way.

Being able to sample the wine over time is the key. Once the desired amount of oak character is achieved, the oak can be removed. Handling the oak chips in this way allows the winemaker to have exacting control over the amount of barrel-aged character the wine will have. Leave the oak chips in until it’s right; then take them out.Shop Oak Wood Extractive

I hope this information helps clear up the difference between adding oak chips during fermentation and after the fermentation. Unless you have a wine kit that includes oak chips, you will want to add the oak chips to the secondary fermentation not the primary.

Best Wishes,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Using A Blender To Crush Wine Making Fruit

Wine Making Fruit In BlenderJust started a blueberry wine. Ran the berries through a blender instead of crushing them (lazy I guess). I did not add Campden tablets to it in the beginning, not sure if this is a problem. There is a pulp crust forming on top right now, I stir this each day, should I remove it after 5 or 6 days before I transfer the wine to a carboy?

Name: Lee P.
State: TN
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Hello Lee,

The fact that you did not add Campden tablets before the fermentation is probably not going to be a problem in this case.

The big issue here is that fact that you are using a blender to crush your wine making fruit. What this typically does is cause the resulting wine to be bitter. The over chopping and destroy of the pulp and seeds releases too much tannin into the wine. In turn, the wine will have a lower pH from excessive tannic acid, giving it an unpleasant, bitter-dry, puckering taste.

For future reference, you only want to crush the fruit. Using a blender is way overkill. You only need to make sure that the outer structure of the fruit has been busted in some way. This is something that can quickly be done by hand when dealing with 10 lb. or 15 lb. of fruit such as blueberries. If you are dealing with more fruit than this, then you may want to invest in a fruit crusher, but never use a blender to crush any kind of wine making fruit.

Shop Wine PressWhen the fermentation starts the wine yeast will produce enzymes that will naturally break down the fruit in a more natural, gentler way. The pectic enzyme that is called for in most fruit wine recipes will also help in the regard. For this reason you do not need to do a lot; let the yeast do if for you.

With that being said, there are still some things you can do to counteract using a blender to crush wine making fruit:

 

  1. Shorten the amount of time you leave the fruit in the fermentation. The shorter the better. I would recommend 2, maybe 3 days at most. This will give less time for the bitterness to leach from the fruit.
  1. Treat the wine with bentonite after the fermentation has completed. This will help to drop out the excessive tannin and other proteins that where extracted from the fruit. You may even want to use the bentonite more than once.
  1. Age the wine longer than you normally would. Many of the flavor affects of having too much tannin in the wine can be resolved with additional aging. Instead of 3 to 6 months, think more along the lines of 9 to 15 months. Quite often this will be enough to bring the wine back into a flavorful balance.Shop Pectic Enzyme

 

I hope this helps you out, and I hope your wine turns out great, regardless. Just remember that using a blender to crush your wine making fruit is not the way to go.

Best Wishes,
Ed Kraus

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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Your Wine Could Be Cloudy Because Of A Pectin Haze

Wine With HazeI am having some trouble getting some of my fruit wine to clear. The berry wines clear right away (black raspberry, elderberry, blueberry, raspberry, current) but some of the other fruit wines stay cloudy (apple, peach, pear, dogwood). Is there something different I should be doing with these wines to make them clear better?

Name: Charlene
State: New York
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Hello Charlene,

It might be a pectin haze that’s making your wine cloudy. Some fruits have more pectin in them than others. Pectin is the gel that holds the fruit’s fiber together. If the pectin is not completely broken down during the fermentation you can end up with what known as a pectin haze in your wine. This sounds like what is giving you a cloudy wine.

During the fermentation the yeast will produce pectic enzymes to breakdown the pectin cells. You may have also added pectic enzyme directly to the batch per your wine recipe. With most fruits this is sufficient, but even then you can sometimes end up with a pectin haze with the particular fruit wines you mentioned.

Apple, peach and pear all have significant levels of pectin, more so than most other fruits. The dogwood I’m not sure about. If you did not add pectic enzyme to your wine recipe, then most certainly a pectin haze is the issue at hand. But, even if you did add pectic enzyme, this is still what I suspect is going on because of the specific wines that are cloudy. Pectic enzyme is that important.

As for what you can do now…Shop Pectic Enzyme
Whether or not you have added pectic enzyme to your wine must, you can add more now, however it may take some time for the wine to clear… sometimes months. Of course, this is assuming you have not bottled the wine already. If you have, then that ship has already sailed, so to speak. You could decant the wine; treat the wine; and then re-bottle, however I would not do it if it were my wine, simply for the fact that this type of cloudiness dose not affect the flavor at all only appearance. Live-and-learn, and move on.

Even at that, one thing you could do for future reference is to take a bottle of the suspect wine; add it to a quart Mason jar, or similar; and treat it with a teaspoon of pectic enzyme. This would be an extremely strong dose, so if a pectin haze is the issue at hand, you should see it respond to the addition of pectic enzyme by clearing in a matter of days if not hours. This will let you know if you have found the problem in the form of a pectin haze for future reference and give you a little piece of mind.

As a home winemaker, pectin haze issues should always be in the back of one’s mind. It’s something that doesn’t happen all that often, but when it does, it can be very aggravating. Shop Wine ClarifiersKeep a particularly close eye when fermenting fruits high in pectin and always use pectic enzyme when fermenting fresh fruits.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

Why Is My Homemade Wine Fizzy?

Homemade Wine That Is FizzyI bottled some blackberry a few months ago. When I opened a bottle today it fizzed over and kept bubbling for a while. What did I do wrong, I followed a wine recipe?

Name: Ed W.
State: FL
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Hello Ed,

Sorry to hear that your wine has gotten a little out of control. Let’s see if we can figure out what’s going on. There are basically two ways a homemade wine can end up fizzy or bubbly. I’ll go over them here:

 

1. Re-Fermentation:
This is the most common way to get a fizzy wine. When a fermentation stops it usually means that it has finished. That means all the sugars in the wine must have been fermented into alcohol. There are no more sugars to ferment.

But on occasion a fermentation will stop before the sugars are all gone. This is known as a stuck fermentation. This can happen for a number of reasons: wrong fermentation temperature, using distilled water, etc. (see The Top 10 Reasons For Fermentation Failure) For this reason it is important that you check the must with a wine hydrometer to confirm that all the sugars have been fermented before moving on to the next step.

If you continue on with the wine recipe and end up bottling the wine with sugars still in it, then a fermentation could start up within any or all the wine bottles at any time in the future, even months down the road. It is important to remember that even the slightest amount of fermentation can cause a lot of fizzy within the wine.

Shop Potassium SorbateThe only exception to the above is if you have added potassium sorbate to the wine, also known as wine stabilizer. If you have added this before bottling, then the chance have having a re-fermentation within the wine bottles is greatly diminished. The same holds true if you have sweetened the wine before bottling. You need to add potassium sorbate along with the sugar to eliminate a potential for a re-fermentation within the wine bottle.

 

2. Bacterial Infection:
This is not as common of a reason for a homemade wine being fizzy as a re-fermentation, but it happens. If the fermenters, stirring spoons, hoses, wine bottles, corks and anything else the wine comes into contact with has not been sufficiently sanitized, then you run the risk of infecting your wine with a bacteria.

There are many excellent sanitizers on the market. We recommend Basic A because it is very safe and simple to use. You should also add sulfites directly to the wine after the fermentation, and again, right before bottling the wine. If you miss killing some bacteria, then adding sulfites such as Campden tablet or sodium metabisulfite to the wine will go a long way towards protecting it.

 

One thing you have mentioned is that the wine is fizzy instead of bubbly. If the wine has re-fermented, most people would describe it as bubbly and not fizzy. The CO2 bubbles from a fermentation are pretty good size. Fizzy sounds like the bubbles are smaller than that. That is what you would expect to find with a bacterial infection.

Shop Basic AYou also said that it fizzed for a long time. This is fairly definitive. When you get a fizzing that bubbles evenly for a period of time, that is also an indicator of a bacterial infection. Carbonation from a re-fermentation is more explosive and short-lived. A bacterial infection is not explosive. Once you open the bottle, it take a few seconds for it to build up a head of steam and get going.

I’m not sure, because I am not there, but I would guess the reason your homemade wine is fizzy is because of a bacterial infection. That being the case, sanitation of equipment and use of sulfites needs to be the focus when making future batches.

Best Wishes,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

3 Reasons Freezing Wine Making Fruit Should Be On Your Radar

Frozen Wine Making FruitQuestion, is it better to make wine with fruit that has been frozen?

Thanks,
Gerald
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Hello Gerald,

Thanks for the great question and bringing up a great wine making subject. Freezing wine making fruit is a great tactic for the home winemaker. It’s one of the wine making tips I share with people quite often.

Just like you said, freezing the fruit breaks down the fiber that is holding it together. When it comes time to actually using the wine making fruit, just thaw it out and process as you normally would. You will find that the color and flavors will release from the fruit into the wine must more readily. This means you are getting more out of your wine making fruit.

Not only does freezing the wine making fruit have this subtle advantage, but there are a couple of more-obvious advantages as well. Freezing the fruit affords you the luxury of being able to make the wine when you are ready to make the wine. If the strawberries are ready, but your not… freeze ’em!

Another advantage is sometimes you don’t have enough fruit to make an entire batch of of a particular fruit wine recipe. Not all fruits come in evenly. The solution is to freeze the fruit as it comes in. Freezing the wine making fruit allows you to hoard until you do have enough to make a full batch of wine.

Shop Wine Making KitsThere’s really not much to know about freezing the fruit. Its okay to chop up your larger fruit. But for berries, you are better off leaving them whole. I strongly suggest sanitizing all wine making fruits in a bath of sodium metabisulfite and water solution before freezing. Drain the fruit thoroughly. Also, common sense would dictate that the “bad ones” be pick out and discarded.

If you plan on freezing the fruit for a longer period of time, say six months or more, you may want to consider packing the fruit in sugar syrup. This will help to eliminate any negative effects from freezer-burn. Just like it sounds, you use just enough sugar syrup to cover/submerge the fruit before freezing.

If you do decide to pack your fruits in sugar syrup you will want to add less sugar then your wine recipes calls for. This is to allow for the additional sugar that will be incorporated into the wine must along with the fruit.

A simple way of handling this adjustment is to rely on your wine hydrometer. Use the hydrometer to tell you how much sugar is needed in the recipe instead of adding the amount called for in the wine recipe. Just add sugar until the desired alcohol level is reached the the hydrometer’s potential alcohol scale.

Shop Wine PressFreezing wine making fruit is not a necessity to making wine. You can make incredible wines without freezing the fruit at all. Freezing fruit is just one more method you can use to help the fruit keep while waiting from more.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.