My Homemade Wine Is Too Sweet!

Homemade Wine Is Too SweetI need some help. My homemade wine is too sweet. I made 2 batches of wine one of Blackberry/Raspberry and the other Blueberry/Raspberry/Cranberry. Although they have a great flavor they are way to sweet, can I add some more yeast to get them to ferment some more of the sugar out?

Karey C. – OR
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Hello Karey,

Both of your wines sound like great fruit combinations. So sorry to hear they are causing you a little problem.

 

There are 2 possible reasons why a homemade wine is too sweet:

  1. Too Much Sugar Was Added To The Wine Recipe
    There is a limit to how much alcohol a yeast can tolerate. Once a fermentation produces alcohol to this level, the yeast will simply slow to a stop. If you know that your fermentation has already produced 13-14% alcohol, but the wine is still too sweet, then you’ve added too much sugar to the wine must. You can determine the wine’s alcohol level by taking beginning and current alcohol readings with a wine hydrometer and comparing the two. If this is the reason your homemade wine is too sweet, there is not a whole lot you can do to reduce the sweetness, or make it more dry, other than blend it with a dry wine. Shop HydrometersFor example, you can make blackberry/raspberry wine next year that comes out dry, and then blend this years wine with that. This year’s wine will store just fine in bulk. Just remember to add sulfite to the wine and to eliminate any head-space that may be in with the wine. Hopefully, this will help make your sweet wine taste better.
  1. The Fermentation Did Not Complete
    It very well could be that you added an appropriate amount of sugar to produce a reasonable amount of alcohol. It’s just that the fermentation did not fully ferment the sugar into alcohol as it should have. This is known as a stuck fermentation. This could happen for a number of reason. The most common one is temperature. The fermentation got to cool. Yeast are very sensitive to temperature. There are many other reasons as to why your fermentation may have stopped short of its full potential – too many to go over here. I would suggest going through the Top 10 Reasons For Fermentation Failure. This will help you to ferret out the exact cause of such a predicament. Once you know the reason, you can take corrective action to get the fermentation active, again.

 

Again, the key to knowing why your homemade wine is too sweet is the wine hydrometer. If you did not take a beginning hydrometer reading, you will not be able to tell whether you have 7% alcohol and a fermentation that needs fixing, or if you have 15% alcohol and have simply added too much sugar to your wine.

Shop Grape ConcentrateAs to your suggestion of adding more wine yeast, this is rarely a solution to a problem. This is because there is still yeast in the wine. It’s just that it has gone dormant. It is more likely to be an issue of getting the wine yeast in a situation to where it will start fermenting again.

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.

17 thoughts on “My Homemade Wine Is Too Sweet!

  1. If the SG was too high (issue #1), it’s a good opportunity to use the batch for blending. Take another batch that has similar characteristics but is completely dry and use some bench trials to find the optimal mix. You might end up with wine that is the best you’ve ever made! Just remember to add the proper amount of Potassium Sorbate to prevent re-fermentation since you are introducing new sugar to the other wine.

  2. Under ” possible reason number 1″, how do you take “beginning and current alcohol readings and compare the two” to determine the alcohol level ? Isn’t the beginning alcohol level of any “must” equal to zero ?

    • Hello Michael, the hydrometer does not actually read the alcohol. It reads the amount of sugar in the must. Sugar is what’s fermented into alcohol. So by knowing how much sugar was fermented, you can know very accurately how much alcohol was made. When you take a beginning reading the alcohol scale might say 13%. What this means is that there is enough sugar currently in the must to make 13% alcohol — if it all ferments. At the end of the fermentation the alcohol scale normally says 0%. This means there in enough sugar in the must to make 0% more alcohol. The fermentation is complete and 13% alcohol was made (13 minus 0). If the fermentation stops and the hydrometer reading says 2%, for example, this means there is still enough sugar in the wine to make 2% more alcohol that did not ferment, and this is what’s making your wine too sweet.

    • Roger, the standard dose we recommend for this purpose is 1/16 teaspoon per gallon. This applies to both potassium metabisulfite and sodium metabisulfite. If you are using Campden tablets, then it is one tablet per gallon. The tablet should be crushed, and preferably dissolved, before adding to the batch.

  3. As always I enjoy reading all the blogs, Even the ones that do not pertain to me. They could prevent or help any future wine making. Thank you for the Blogs

  4. I have always been one of those people who has to try doing what most people tell me cannot be done. In this case, you cannot ferment wine beyond 13-14%. I made a wine called Fireball and proved my point. I forced 15 pounds of sugar into suspension is water. To this, I added 15 cinnamon sticks. All of my chemicals were those I would use for a normal fruit wine. It has been a few years since I have actively made wine so forgive me for not knowing the number but I used Lavalin’s champagne yeast. I stirred it daily and after the first week, racked it off of the old yeast and added 15 new sticks of cinnamon. At the end of fermentation, I removed the old cinnamon sticks and replaced them with 15 new ones. I had pushed the alcohol to 21%. After it cleared, I bottled it and let it age. In taste it was similar to Goldschlager and I was quite pleased. Additionally, I had proven you can push the norm.
    The point I’m making is that if you are patient, and use the right products, sometimes you can take things beyond normal.

    • Rhodeturtle I’m with you. I make what all my friends call shinewine and it will knock you on your butt. A couple can have a real good time on just two fifths. I’m always working on this, I like the taste and I like the kick and it keeps me locally famous for my wares… This experiment I tried on this last batch did not payoff, at least not yet. I’m gonna keep tinkerin with it and who knows what will come of it. It is very strong, warm goin down but way too sweet and the yeast react in my stomach when I drink it so I know it’s just dormant in the carboy. Anyway, keep bubblin!

    • You can get to around 20 % but generally it will require a high alcohol yeast and temperature control, adding the sugar progressively also helps, this is necessary if you have low fermentable fruits such that the specific gravity must be very high, to the point of killing much of the yeast that is pitched.

      I would suggest as a way to improve your product fermenting to 15 % or so and then fortifying with a cinnamon infused brandy; you could make this by distillation of your product then steeping in cinnamon or cassia and oak chips. A little black or cubeb pepper or cardomon could be nice too.

      If you want to get fancy you can control the free sugar by adding the brandy during fermentation to shock the yeast and stop fermentation, retaining any sugars unfermented; this is the process for port production.

  5. RhodeTurtle ,
    I consistently make high alcohol wine (17-19%). You ‘lucked out’ adding all the sugar at the beginning! Too much sugar initially makes it hard for the yeast to get started. Other times this method will often result in a stuck fermentation in the teen-thirties range that can’t be restarted. I get consistent results by starting around 1.102-1.107 and adding 2-2.5 lbs.of sugar per 5 gal. of wine every time it approaches 1.000 S.G. If the last addition sticks the slight residual sweetness is offset by the higher alcohol.
    I use Lalvin EC-1118 and D-47. There is a ‘turbo yeast’ that is suppose to produce in excess of 20% for distillers but I’ve never used it as I feel too much alcohol leaves a wine unbalanced.

  6. I need to keep better notes, but I’ve found that some types of yeast will turn out slightly sweeter than others. My rule of thumb is 2lb fruit & 2lb of sugar per gallon. I boil the fruit for the juice, dump it into my fermenter, add the sugar to boiling water, dump it into the fermenter, boil more water to top off my 5 or 6 gallon batch, then seal it up with the airlock. After it sets for about a day I pull the airlock, add a packet of yeast & replace the airlock. It usually starts bubbling in 24-48 hours. I let the fermentation go until it’s done (usually 6 months) then let it age another 3 months. My wine always turns out 20-21% using the D-47, Pasteur Red, or Montrachet. Is there a way to speed up the aging process or should I take a if it ain’t broke don’t fix it approach?

  7. I have wine which is too sweet. It is and has been in the barrel (60 gal.) 2 years “aging”. Can I restart fermentation to reduce the sweetness or am I stuck, notwithstanding adding a drier varietal to offset this sweetness and do a better job next time?
    Essentially, is it what it is , just move on and do somethings differently next time to avoid a similar outcome?
    Thanks.
    Patrick

  8. Hi Ed,

    I bought the first winekit in this year at Costco and I start like the instruction paper was I get with all the other stuff (corks e.t.c.) into this package.
    I’ve start all of it like the instruction and I didn’t ad extra sugar on it but right now my thinking about the wine it is to sweet. Right now the wine is still in one carboy but I’m not sure what I have to do to get more sugar out.
    It will be nice to get some hlepfull informations from you.
    Thank you so much,
    Andreas

    • Andreas, if the wine is still sweet then the fermentation is not complete. Either you just need to allow more time to complete or you have a stuck fermentation. I would recommend taking a look at the article on the most common causes of fermentation failure to see if any apply to your situation.

      Top Reasons For Fermentation Failure
      http://www.eckraus.com/wine-making-failure

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