Day 22! Otherwise known in the wine making instructions as Stage 4: Stabilizing & Clarification. Throughout secondary fermentation, I had noticed the wine clearing up quite a bit as the yeast and yeast byproducts slowly sank down to the bottom of the carboy. I was definitely excited to see just how much more clear the stabilization process actually made the wine! Would it even work? One of the first things the instructions said was if the wine wasn’t completely degassed, then the fining agents would not be effective. How the heck do I know if all the gas is removed? Whenever I shake or stir the wine, I always see bubbles on the top. Is that due to bubbles coming out of solution still? Or just new bubbles from me agitating the beast? Of course, being the internet sleuth that I am, I looked it up and was assured that the wine will actually never stop bubbling when you stir/shake it, so get over it already and move on! If I followed the instructions and stirred the wine at least 8 times (which I did!), it should be just fine. I ended up stirring/shaking the wine a couple extra times anyway, just for good measure.
In the beginning of the stabilization process, I was instructed to add Potassium Sorbate to ½ cup of warm water. Well, I didn’t know if room temperature would be warm enough, as was the temperature that my bottled water was sitting at, so I washed and sterilized a glass measuring cup, poured in ½ a cup of bottled water into it, and popped it in the microwave for about 45 seconds to a minute. Then, I added the Potassium Sorbate and mixed it in the water with a sterilized spoon. Seemed to work perfectly, as the solid Potassium Sorbate almost immediately dissolved into the water at this temperature.
Next, I shook up and added the pouch of Kieselsol to my wine, which came in liquid form. Basically, it poured in a little thicker than water, and was really easy to work with. After a nice, solid stir, I closed the carboy back up and left it on a table where it will hopefully remain undisturbed for the next few days!
One other tiny piece of equipment I didn’t have that the instructions recommended was a solid bung to seal up the carboy during this waiting period. I have a bung, however, it is the kind with the hole in the middle for an airlock. Hmmmm, what to do about this….should I just go ahead and leave the airlock in? Or find some other way to close up that hole? It’s too late for me to buy another bung at this point, so I needed to come up with some solution quickly. I ended up not feeling totally comfortable leaving the airlock in place, for reasons unbeknownst to me, so what I ended up doing was securing a piece of tin foil over the top of the bung and locking it in place with a rubber band to insure an air-tight seal. Let’s hope it does the trick!
By the end of the night, I was starting to notice the wine clearing up quick a bit already. I wasn’t expecting it to work its magic this fast, but apparently it does! One thing I found really cool was that the Kieselsol interacting with the proteins in the wine formed a white precipitate, which then settled down to the bottom of the carboy. I knew the clarification step had to be working properly, as the wine was starting to get much clearer than it had been at any other stage, and the proteins that had been clouding up the joint were obviously now laying at the bottom of the carboy. I believe my exact words to my fiancé were: “Look, honey! It’s science! Tasty, tasty science!”. Both of us being scientists, with strong chemistry backgrounds, it was really fun talking to each other about the chemistry behind what we were witnessing in the carboy.
Now, I just let my wine sit for the next 6 days, and then…….BOTTLING DAY! I’m so excited, and a little nervous, about bottling day. It has come down to the final step. Best not screw up now!
My name is Leigh Erwin, and I am a brand-spankin’ new home winemaker! E. C. Kraus has asked me to share with you my journey from a first-time dabbler to an accomplished home winemaker. From time to time I’ll be checking in with this blog and reporting my experience with you: the good, bad — and the ugly.