My Wine Smells Like Vinegar!

Vinegar Smell In WineI took the stopper out of the carboy briefly to clean.  I noticed a vinegar smell!  Is the 6 gallons of wine junk?  Or should I sample to confirm?  Help!  Air lock may have gotten low !!!!!

Name: Danny V
State: WI

Hello Danny,

I guess my question to you is, does it really smell like actual “vinegar” or is it just an odd odor? I ask this because many times a person will smell something unusual in their newly fermented wine and immediately assume it to be vinegar.

In reality, a wine fermentation can put a lot of strange odors in a wine, but most of them are temporary and will leave during a siphoning (racking) of the wine or when sulfite is added to the wine. The SO2 gas from the sulfite will expel the odor.

With this knowledge at hand, if you still believe it to be vinegar, then sulfite such as sodium metabisulfite or Campden tablets, needs to be added to the wine, immediately. Vinegar is caused by a bacteria. The sulfite will kill the bacteria very easily. By doing this you can be assured that your wine will not become any worse.

As far as saving the wine or making it better, there’s really no hope. Vinegar is essentially a volatile acid with an Unagreeable taste and smell. The only way to remove it would require to heat the wine. This would allow the volatile acid to leave as a vapor, but would destroy the wine in the process.

In the future, not only is it essential that you keep the air lock from going dry, but it is also essential that the wine be treated with sodium metabisulfite to handily destroy the vinegar bacteria. A dose should be added 24 hour before the wine yeast and again, right after the fermentation has complete. A third dose should be added right before bottling the wine, as well. By doing these simple steps, you should never have to deal with vinegar again.

I would also suggest you take a look at the article, There’s Vinegar In My Wine!. This is an article on our website that goes into the subject matter in much greater detail. There you will learn more about what vinegar is, how to control it, and how to test for it in a wine.

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.

8 thoughts on “My Wine Smells Like Vinegar!

  1. Can you please explain to me in detail step by step how to add the sodium bisulfite before bottling and for how long do I have to leave it before bottling? Thanks.

  2. I have previously made a Port using your Kenridge kit(it was good) when I tried to reorder you were out so I ordered the Cellar Craft Speciality. The first thing I notice different is the drastic variation in time spans for the different phases. Are the differences due to using different compounds or just MFG disgression?

  3. Rosario, the first thing that needs to happen is the wine needs to be transferred off of any sediment into a clean vessel. After that, take a small amount of the wine, say a cup or pint and blend in the sodium bisulfite. Use 1/16 teaspoon for every gallon of wine. Stir into the sample until completely dissolved. Then blend the sample into the whole batch. Gently stir until you feel the sodium bisulfite has been evenly blended throughout the wine. Bottle immediately.

  4. Jerry, I don’t know that I have a good answer for you other than to say, as you go up in the size of the kit: 7 liter, 10 liter, the more time the directions give to make it. We have kits that are ready to bottle in 4 weeks and we have kits that take 8 weeks.

  5. yesterday I did my 3rd racking and was about to add some oak chips .and for some reason one of the carboy smelled bad like a vinegar and the color was very dull, kinda milky opaque .I called one of my friend who also make home wine ,and he suggested me to add some yeast, is it correct?

  6. Matty, adding more yeast is very rarely a solution to any wine making problem, certainly not in this case. You need to take a hydrometer reading, is what really needs to happen. This will tell you if your fermentation is complete, or if it just completed half way and stalled or stuck. If the wine has completed than I would urge you to add a sulfite, either Campden tablets or potassium metabisulfite, because from the description you gave it does sound possible that you have a vinegar infection. Adding sulfites will stop this from getting any worse.

  7. Just this morning I tasted my orange wine made since January 2013 having followed your instructions very carefully,Oh as bitter as quinine.
    What is wrong?

  8. William, it would be impossible to give you an answer without more information. How about you give us a call: 1-800-353-1906, and let’s see if we can’t figure it out.

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