Hi, I followed a recipe for blueberry wine that called for 15 pounds of sugar and 20 pounds of frozen blueberries for a 6 gallon batch. I just measured it with my wine hydrometer and got a reading of 1.148 ! I know this starting specific gravity is too high. Is there anything I can do other than hope for the best ? I am new to wine making and have no idea ?
Marshall S. – IA
Well, that’s an interesting wine recipe. The starting specific gravity reading you got on your hydrometer, does make since with that much fruit and sugar being added. The bad news is that the odds of a fermentation even starting at that high of a specific gravity reading is very low. When the concentration of sugar gets too high, it starts to act as a preservative, keeping the yeast from fermenting.
The good news is that I think we can fix it. Simply put, your wine’s starting specific gravity is too high, and we need to think about how we can lower it.
In reality, there are two concerns. The first one is the most obvious: too much sugar for the yeast to start fermenting. That’s what the specific gravity reading is telling – how much sugar. But there is also a concern that there may be too much blueberry – enough to make the wine overly tart and astringent. With that being said, here’s what you can do:
- Dilute the wine must with water until you get a reading of 1.100. If you like, you can use a Pearson square to calculate how much water to add to get from 1.148 to 1.100. (Water has a S.G. of 1.000) There will still be plenty of blueberry flavor to go around. Our blueberry wine recipe only calls for 13 lbs. to 5 gallons, so don’t worry about weakening the wine’s flavor too much. And besides, you really don’t have much choice when your wine’s starting specific gravity is too high. The yeast aren’t even beginning to think about fermenting with that much sugar.
- Take an acid reading with an acid test kit. This will tell you if the blueberries are still providing enough tartness to make the resulting wine taste right. The directions in the acid test kit will tell you what range you are shooting for. My guess if that you will need to add a little Acid Blend after diluting with water to bring the acidity up a bit. But, if the acid level is still too high, you will want to dilute the wine must with even more water. Just try to keep your wine’s starting specific gravity above 1.075.
- Once you have the sugar level and acidity in a decent range, it’s all smooth sailing. If you haven’t added add yeast nutrient at this point, I most certainly would, now. The same goes for pectic enzyme, and wine tannin. If you got the ingredients from us, you will find recommend dosages on the side of each container.
Once you’ve got the specific gravity and acidity level ironed out, you will continue on like you normally would with any winemaking process. Here’s an wine making infographic that lays out the basic steps for you.
Hope this information helps you out. I urge you to do the above steps. Don’t dump it out. Nothing you have done or will do in the above steps will compromised this wine in any way, so it will be well worth the effort. Believe me, you are not that only one that’s ran into this problem. Many home winemaker’s have gotten their wine’s starting specific gravity too high. Just take things a step at a time and your wine will be out of the woods.
I would like to welcome you to take a look at our wine recipes that are free for anyone to use. These a solid, time-tested wine recipes that will keep you out of trouble in your future wine making adventures.
Happy Wine Making,
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.