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Why Do I Have To Rack My Wine?

Hi,

I'm making a batch of your European Select Merlot using your wine making products. I have the wine brewing in a plastic fermenter and it should be reaching a specific gravity of 1.010 tomorrow according to my gravity hydrometer. It's still bubbling actively after 7 days. According to the directions that came with the kit I should be siphoning the wine into another fermenter at this point. Is it necessary to siphon into another container for the rest of the fermentation or can I just leave it fermenting for another 12 days in the same container....don't understand why the transfer is necessary at this point.

Thanks,
Tony F.


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Dear Tony,

This is a question we get from time to time, and your right, it doesn't seem to make sense, particularly when you are dealing with concentrated homemade wine kits. Why on earth would you want to disturb a perfectly good fermentation by transferring (racking) it to another fermenter?

When you make wine from fresh fruits, the juice is fermented with the skins and pulp for the first few days so that the juice can extract body, flavor and color. This is a process call maceration. Siphoning the wine after a few days seems logical in this situation. You need to get the skins and pulp out of the way; racking the juice to a clean container seems like a good way to do it.

But there's another reason for racking besides just getting skins and pulp out of the way, and it's why you need to rack the wine even though it's from concentrate with no skins or pulp involved. It's called sediment.

Whether or not there's skins or pulp, a heavy layer of sediment will develop in the bottom of your plastic fermenter. It's primarily made up of yeast cells that were produced during the fermentation Having excessive amounts of this sediment in contact with the wine over extended periods of time can cause off-flavors to become prevalent in the resulting wine. You need to get the wine off this sediment.

Just as the homemade wine instructions that came with your European Select wine kit implies, it's usually around the 7th day that almost all of the fermentation has completed, and the activity begins to slow down. This makes it an opportune time to get the bulk of the sediment out of the way. There will be more sediment to follow as the wine clears up, but not nearly to the extent that the fermentation will have at this point in the process.

Best Wishes
Customer Service
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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.

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Comments (4)

Name: Paul
Time: Monday, October 17, 2011

Question:
I have 108 litres of red wine/juice that has fermented for 10 days now and I have not introduced and metabisulphite to it yet other than the remains from washing my carboys. Should I put a campten tablet in/gallon when I rack it...assumming I should rack now?
If not, When?

Name: Customer Service
Time: Monday, October 17, 2011

It is ok to add sulfites to the wine after the first racking, but only if the fermentation has completely finished. This needs to be verified with a hydrometer reading. Visual inspection is not good enough. If the fermentation is complete you will expect a reading of .992 to .996. You will also want to add sulfites to the wine right before bottling as well. You may also want to add sulfite after rackings done between now and bottling. A Titretter and Titrets can be purchased on our site. They will allow you to test/track the sulfite level of you wine while in storage.

Name: Lola
Time: Saturday, February 25, 2012

Forgot about my crabapple wine and it has been in the First primary fermentation stage for 6 months...with crushed crabapples in a mesh bag . On top it has bubbly foamy stuff and it dosent smell bad, kinda smells good ...can this still be saved? Thanks, Lola

Name: Customer Service
Time: Monday, February 27, 2012

Lola, it is possible for the wine to be okay and not spoiled. The biggest concern is taste. When pulp is left in the wine for such a long period of time the usual result is a very bitter wine. My only advice to you is to remove the pulp; taste the wine and judge for yourself.

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