Is Older Wine Better?… Not Necessarily!

Is Older Wine Better?From the incredible prices being cried out at a Sotherby’s wine auction, to the fluffy articles that float around in today’s life-styles magazines, people are continuously being fed the notion that the older the wine is, the better it will be.

But is older wine better? Unfortunately, the answer is maybe – maybe not! The ol’ mantra: “the older the wine the better”, is just that – a mantra. It’s a generalization that is just as likely to be false as it is true. The reality with any wine is that there will always come a time when it would be best to drink up!

Wines don’t endlessly increase in quality like an investment fund or like a home increases in value. They have a life cycle, a beginning and an end, much like any living thing. At first, there is a steady rise in quality; then a flattening out, or plateauing; and eventually a slow decline.

The aging cycle of a today’s commercial wines are fairly well mapped and predictable. Some wines have very long life-cycles, involving many years, even decades. Then there’s other wines who’s aging potential is not so long. Based on the type of wine, how it was made, combined with an observation of its character at bottling, a timeline can be laid out by the winery that shows the optimum time to drink that particular wine. Once this theoretical point is reached, any additional aging is futile. In fact, too much aging beyond that point will result in a very slow decrease of the wine’s quality.

The very same holds true for homemade wines. There will come a point in each wine’s life when more aging will not be a good thing. Holding on to it will only provide you with less and less quality as time goes on – a direct mocking of the phrase, “the older the wine the better”.

Shop Wine Making KitsThe whole point of bringing this to light is that some home winemakers get into the game of saving their wines instead of drinking them, putting bottles away like heirlooms, thinking they’re going to become more exceptional as time goes by, saving them for their granddaughter’s wedding and all, but in reality this is little more than a waste of good wine.

By all means let the wine age. It my take 3 months. It might take 3 years. Every so often pull a bottle out and see how it is doing. Is it becoming more mellow? Is it developing any complexities or layers of flavors? If yes, then great, let the wine age a little longer. But when no improvement can be detected between samplings, then simply put, it’s time to start drinking.
—–
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.

The Relationship Between Oxygen And Wine Aging

Oxygen And Wine AgingYou can’t read very long on the subject of wine making without running across the warnings of excessive air exposure and how oxygen can turn a great wine into a brown, caramelized mess through a process of oxidation. Books, websites and even this blog have expressed these cautions.

The reality is without some oxygen being available, the progression of a wine’s aging process can be brought to a near standstill. Wine needs oxygen to age. Without it a wine will not fully reach its aging potential. There is a solid relationship between oxygen and wine aging, it’s just a matter of finely controlling how much dissolved oxygen is in the wine.

Once the wine is bottled, it begins a series of changes. Tannins become less harsh, aromas tend to develop a richness, etc., but all of this can not take place without a slow – very slow – infusion of oxygen. Oxygen is the catalyst for all these changes during the wine’s maturation process.

But this oxygen needs to be given slowly. If too much oxygen is made available to the wine too quickly, it will develop symptoms of bottle shock. This basically means the aging process is out of balance. More oxygen is being dissolved into the wine than it can process for aging. The wine will taste flabby and lifeless with little bouquet, and worse yet, it could start to show signs of oxidation such a browning. So, while the wine need oxygen to age, it needs it in very small doses of long periods of time. This is the most important thing to understand about oxygen and wine aging.Shop Wine Corks

A wine bottle and its cork can be considered a wine preservation system. It’s job is to preserve the wine and allow it to develop steadily and evenly as time passes. How well the cork seals or how well it allows air to permeate, controls the rate of aging.

While it may be your instinct to try to age the wine as quickly as the wine will bare, you don’t want the wine to age-out too fast. This is because the wine will begin to slowly start to degrade after doing so. A bottle of wine has a beginning and an end – an aging life-cycle. There is a peak in flavor along this life-cycle. You don’t want the wine to take too long because you’ll end up drinking your wine when it has not yet reached its best.

For example, our Superior Grade Straight Corks work well for wines that you intend to consume in about 3 years time. Our Extra-First Grade Straight Corks are for wines you intend to consume over a 4 or 6 year period. Extra-First Grade is denser than the Superior Grade so less air gets through, slowing the aging process.

Then there’s Synthetic Corks. These corks are designed to allow the optimal amount of air to pass over time. They are ideal for wines that you intend to age for for than 18 month. They also work well for early aging wines such as Zinfandel where little oxygen is needed for the wine to come into fruition.

Shop Wine BarrelsFor these reasons, when you buy corks their density should be taken into consideration. By selecting the right grade of cork you can control the wine’s rate of aging to one that is appropriate for the needs of that particular style and to the needs of your consumption.

Wine needs oxygen to age. Oxygen and wine aging go hand-in-hand, but it’s all about controlling how much. The key is to not let the wine get too much too fast. Keep it slow any steady.
—–
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.

Is It Possible To Re-Bottle Homemade Wine?

Wine That Needs Re BottlingI bottled some wine in 2014-2015 when I first started wine making. Back then I skipped too many step. Well the wine taste good but some of the batches have sediment. Though this does not bother me when you are sharing it bothers some. My question is can I filter and re-bottle homemade wine. I thought it might be that easy.  If so, I would have a short bottle of wine after filtering that I would get to drink. 🙂 The picture is some Pumpkin wine I made that still has Pumpkin fibers in it.

Name: Marty
State: IL
—–
Hello Marty,

Yes, you can re-bottle wine, even at this late date, but you will need to be concerned with keeping air exposure to a minimum. Excessive air can cause your wine to oxidize. Oxidation will cause the wine to become darker and more brown in color. It will also cause the wine to be less fruity or more lifeless in character.

With that said, here’s the direction on how to re-bottle wine.

Getting the wine out of the bottle is where most of the oxygen exposure will occur. This is due to the glugging of the wine as it is being poured. This is the step where you will want to take care, and keep the glugging of the wine to minimum.

Fortunately, there are a couple of things you can do to counter the potential effects of oxidation when re-bottling wine:

 

  • First is to treat the wine with sulfites after it has been put into a common container. This would either be Campden tablets, potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite. Any of these will work. This will drive out most of the oxygen that was saturated into the wine during decanting.Shop Ascorbic Acid
  • Secondly, you can add a dose of ascorbic acid to the wine. This will help to lower the pH of the wine without affecting its flavor. Lower pH means oxygen will have a harder time oxidizing the phenolic compounds in the wine.

 

A carboy would be the ideal container in which to clear the wine when it is being re-bottled. This will allow you to eliminate any excessive airspace in with the wine due to the shape of the carboy’s neck. Keeping the airspace down to a minimum is important because it will take the wine several days, if not a couple weeks, to clear.

Filtering the wine is not a good option in this situation. Judging from the picture you provided, the wine is clear; it just needs to taken away from the solids collecting in the wine.

To help speed up the process and get the wine re-bottled, I would recommend using a fining agent or wine clarifier on the wine. Because this is a pumpkin wine, which is light in color and may have an abundance of protein in it, I would suggest using Sparkolloid as the choice for a fining agent. Sparkolloid will easily drop out the protein, or fiber as you called it. It is also helpful in stripping some of the browning affects of oxidation from a wine. This is an added bonus. Just follow the directions on the jar to treat the wine.Shop Sparkolloid

Once the wine has been treated and cleared you can then re-bottle the wine. Re-bottling this time will be no different than any other time. You will want to add sulfites, again, just before doing so, as most of the sulfite added earlier will have dissipated from the wine.

Many home winemakers have ask, “can I re-bottle homemade wine”, for a number of different reasons: from making the wine sweeter to, “I don’t like the color of the wine bottle”. Hopefully, this information will clear up how to re-bottle wine in a safe way that will not jeopardize the wine so much.

Best Wishes,
Ed Kraus
—–
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.

What Causes A Nutty Flavor In Wine?

Nutty Flavor In WineMy red wine harvested this year is currently going through a malolactic fermentation, but it has a nutty flavor that has persisted for a month or so. I have never tasted this particular flavor in a wine undergoing malolactic fermentation before. What causes a nutty flavor in wine?

Jack W. – TX
—–
Hello Jack,

A malolactic fermentation can have a light, nutty influence on a wine, but it is typically not noticeable in reds. It is more likely to be a characteristic experienced in whites, more specifically, Chardonnay.

If the your homemade wine has a nutty flavor or taste that is more like hazelnut, I would not be concerned about it too much. It is most likely coming from the malolactic culture. But, if your homemade wine has more of a bitter nut flavor, giving almost a metallic impression, then it could be something called autolysis.

Autolysis is a process that can happen as a fermentation runs out of sugars. The active yeast cell – still looking for food – will begin to consume the dead and inactive yeast cells that lay at the bottom of the fermenter. In doing so, the yeast produce an enzyme that puts off a bitter-nut to metallic flavor. This is the more common reason for having a nutty flavor in wine – particularly, such a young wine.

Shop Potassium BisulfiteThe one sure way to keep autolysis from occurring in any wine is by not allowing it to sit on any dead yeast cells for extended periods of time. A few days, or even a couple of weeks is fine in some cases, but neglecting the wine further than this can result in the autolysis process occurring enough to put a nutty flavor in wine.

If you have been keeping up with your rackings, then I doubt autolysis is something that should have even brought up here. In this situation the nutty taste is most likely to be all caused by the malolactic fermentation, but if you still have the wine on the sediment from the primary fermentation, then autolysis is a very real possibility.

If after reading this you feel that the nutty flavor or taste in your homemade wine is coming from the MLF, you have a choice. You can allow the MLF to continue, or if you do not like the flavor, you can permanently stop the MLF by adding a dose of sulfite to the wine. A teaspoon of potassium metabisulfite for every 16 gallons will be sufficient. This will keep it from getting any more intense. If you feel the nutty flavor is coming from autolysis, then you will need to rack the wine into a clean vessel, away from the sediment.

Regardless of why there’s a nutty flavor in wine, it is irreversible. I have seen situations where the nuttiness has reduced or mellowed with aging, Shop Malolactic Culturebut I would not count on it happening. As a benefit, the nuttiness could end up working out to compliment other characters that develop as the wine ages. This would help by promoting the wine’s complexity.

Jack, I hope this clears up what’s happening to your wine for you. If it is a light hazelnut type flavor I would not consider it a defect at all. Consider embracing it. But if it’s a flavor you just can’t stand, hit the wine with sulfites and see what develops with a little aging.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
—–
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.

Bulk Aging vs Bottling Aging Wine. Which Is Best?

Bulk Aging vs Bottle AgingOne of the long, ongoing discussions in the world of home wine making is, “should I be bulk aging or bottling aging my wines?” While bottle aging wine has its merits, there are some good reasons to consider bulk aging. Here’s some food for thought when considering bulk aging vs bottling aging your wine.

 

What Is Bulk Aging Wine?

Bulk aging refers to storing the wine in something similar to a glass water bottle. Home wine makers refer to them as carboys. It’s important to have a container with a neck of some sort so that the head-space, or air gap, can be mitigated as the bottle becomes full. Aging wine is a bucket-style fermenter is not recommended. The carboy is usually sealed airtight with either a rubber stopper or cork stopper while the wine is aging.

Many home wine makers elect bulk age over bottling aging their newly made wines for months or even longer before moving the wine into bottles. The reasoning behind this could be anything from, “that’s how the wineries do it” to “I was waiting to get more empty wine bottles.”

 

Why Do Professional Wineries Bulk Age Their Wines?

In reality, the commercial wineries bulk age, or maturate, in bulk because it is a safer and more controllable than aging in wine bottles. It’s safer because air, light and heat can all be kept in check more evenly – these are the elements that can come together to produce oxidation in a wine. It’s more controlled because the maturation process is slowed down when oxygen contact is reduced. Wine in bottles have more air contact per gallon then wine in bulk.Shop Mini Jet Wine Filter

 

Why Slower Is Better

It’s common knowledge in the wine industry that slower aging produces a better tasting wine, one that is more in balance. Oxygen is what drives the rate of some maturation processes, but not all of these processes respond equally to oxygen. As a result, a wine can become out of balance, as some aging process outpace others when aged too fast.

In addition, some aging activities in a wine are triggered in sequence – sort of a domino effect. One cannot happen until the other one occurs. These falling dominos are set off by the oxygen, but again, if too much oxygen is given, some of the maturation processes fall behind in the chain, again, putting the wine’s qualities out of whack.

For these reasons many wineries age in bulk before bottling. “How long?”, depends on the wine at hand and how the flavor and bouquet of the wine are developing. These elements are monitored to determine when it is time to bottle the wine. It could be weeks; it could be a year.

 

Bulk Aging Homemade Wines In Carboys

Shop CarboysThe home winemaker can use either glass or food-grade plastic carboys to do the aging. While you can use an actual cork stopper to seal up the carboy, I prefer using a rubber stopper. I also recommend using baling wire or similar to hold the stopper in place, otherwise changes in temperature or barometric pressure can cause the stopper to pop loose.

The wine should also be treated with a dose of potasssium metabisulfite before sealing it up to be aged. This is to eliminate any chance of spoilage and to help keep the wine’s color stable.

When bulk aging a wine in a carboy, be sure to monitor the flavor of the wine as time goes on, just don’t monitor it too much. About once ever 2 or 3 month you can take 1 or 2 ounces out to see how things are progressing. A wine thief will help you in this regard to get the wine from the carboys or any other glass jugs with a narrow neck.

 

After Bulk Aging The Wine

Once it’s time to bottle, you can bottle the wine directly from the carboys just like you normal would have without aging the wine.

Shop Wine BarrelsOnce the wine has been bottled there is a typical period of bottle shock that the wine will most likely experience. This is a temporary condition of the wine that results in a flat, lifeless character. Let the wine sit to condition for about a month and the wine should come back to its former self.

Whether or not you bulk age your wine in a carboy or individually in wine bottles, your wines will age none the less. So don’t feel that bulk aging vs bottle aging is a make-or-break decision. Just remember that air exposure to the wine is a premier factor.
—–
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.

Tips For Removing Wine Bottle Labels

Removing Wine Bottle LabelsWhat’s the best way to go about removing wine bottle labels off store bought wine bottles.

Donald D. – OH
—–
Hello Donald,

By far the best way to handle removing wine bottle labels from your wine bottles is to find someone else to do it. There’s nothing fun about it, and there’s no magical tricks that makes it effortless for the home winemaker. There’s some work involved. Having said this, there are some things you can do to make removing wine bottle labels a little less dreadful.

The number one thing you can do to make the process easier is to be selective about what used wine bottles you save. Not all wine bottle labels are the same. Some wine bottle labels are easier to remove than others.

The ideal wine bottle label to take off is a paper label, one where the paper has not been sealed or coated. These types of wine bottle labels will allow water to soak directly through them and to the glue. If given a little time the labels almost fall off once the water as dissolved the glue. These labels can be identified as being rough to the touch and flat in appearance – not glossy and slick.

Wine bottle labels that are made of a sealed paper will be smooth to the touch and have a shiny appearance. The glue will usually dissolve just as easily. The problem is getting the water to the glue. It will not soak as readily through a wine bottle label made from a sealed paper.Shop Wine Bottles

If you do find that this is the kind of label you are dealing with, you can get around this problem with a little extra effort. By taking a razor blade and liberally scoring the label before soaking, you can give the water access points to the glue. Run a bunch of cuts across the label in all directions. The more the better. Let the wine bottle labels soak overnight. You will then need to use a utility scraper to take the labels off.

Once you are done removing wine bottle labels you will still need to deal with some residual glue that is left on the wine bottle. One product I have used for this purpose for years is Goo Gone. Apply it to the glue, and rub it down with a rag.

Donald, I hope this gives you some better insight as how to go about removing wine bottle labels. As you can see there is some time and effort involved. It’s enough work that it’s not something you want to do the same day you plan on bottling your wine. This go much more smoothly if you are removing wine bottle lables ahead of time. That way all you’ll need to do is sanitize the wine bottles before bottling your wine.

Shop Mini Jet Wine FilterAs a final note, it doesn’t have to be this way! We always have new wine bottles that will save you all this trouble. In fact, we have quite a variety now – both cork finish and screw cap finish – in different colors and in different sizes. These would eliminate the need of removing labels from the wine bottles all together.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
—–
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.

How Do You Make Brandy?

Still For Making BrandyMy name Charles, I live in NC, I have been making wine for about 7 years and have made all kinds, by the way you all got a great website, what I would like to know is how do you make brandy. I looked for a brandy recipe but can’t find one. Can you help me?

Thank you
Charles
_____

Hi Charles,

Making brandy is more of a process than following a recipe, and it is certainly more involved than wine making, but if you’d really like to know how to make brandy…

Brandy is essentially a wine that has gone through a distillation process. Distilling is when the alcohol and certain essences are steamed off the wine and collected into a separate container. Alcohol will steam off at a lower temperature than water so by controlling the temperature it is possible to leave water behind. What you end up with is a liquid that has a much higher alcohol concentration.

This is obviously an over-simplification, but essentially this is the answer to your question: how do you make brandy? It is an additional step beyond making the wine.

The term brandy is normally related to a distilled grape wine. Cognac, for example, is a distilled grape wine. But you can also distill other types of wines to make other types of brandys. Common examples of this would be apple wine being distilled into apple brandy or peach wine being distilled into peach brandy.

Answers, how do you make brandy.Most people are surprised to know that the brandy is a clear liquid at this point. It taste a little harsh and can give off somewhat of an oily impression in the mouth. To bring the brandy to a form that you and I would recognize as brandy, it needs to be aged to some degree.

Depending on the quality and style of the brandy being made, it will need to be aged anywhere from 1 to 50 years in barrels. The toasting of the inner wall of the barrel is where the brandy will get its familiar color.

So as you can see making brandy takes some serious dedication, maybe even more so than wine making. I personally leave it to the Hennessy’s and Martell’s to bring brandy to my world.

It is important to note here that – unlike making wine – distilling an alcohol is illegal in the United States unless you have registered with the ATF. This means bringing your operation up to their rigorous code. It also involves a tremendous cash bond that basically makes it impossible to impractical for any individual to set up a operation for personal use. If you choose not follow the laws of the land then you are considered to be a moonshiner making moonshine.

If you would like to read more about distilling, including distilling brandy, we do have a book on the subject. The “Lore Of Still Building” has a lot of information about distilling principals as well as how to build various styles of stills.

Charles, I hope this answers your questions. You’re not the only person to ask, “how do you make brandy?” So, I thought this would be a good time to post this to the blog, as well.

Best Wishes,
Ed Kraus
—–
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.

The Benefits Of Wine Kits vs Fresh Grapes

Wine Kits vs Fresh GrapesWhat is the going opinion of making wine with fresh grapes and crushing them, as opposed to using a wine kit? Is one better than the other by default, or would you say either method can produce excellent or horrible results?

Phil B. – TN
_____

Hello Phil,

Thanks for bringing up this great question about wine kits vs fresh grapes. It’s a question we get from time to time, so I’ll be more than happy to answer it here…

Whether you are making wine from grapes or making wine from kits the quality of the wine starts with the quality of the grapes. There is an adage in the wine making industry that says:

“You can never make a wine that is
better than the grapes used to make it.”

 

What this means is that you’ll never make great wine out of poor wine grapes. The quality of the wine always starts with the quality of the grapes.

When making wine from fresh grapes the individual winemaker usually has a limited selection of grapes to choose from. Quality can suffer when dealing in the take-it-or-leave-it type of market that often arises for the home winemaker.

The quality of grapes that you will find in wine kits varies from good to outstanding. It is not in the interest of these kit producers to spend their time preparing and packaging poor wine grapes. It doesn’t make economic sense, so great care is taken to locate and acquire grapes that are above average quality.Shop Wine Kits

This is one of the major advantages to using a wine kit vs fresh grapes. You are able to rely on the wine kit producer’s expertise in selecting quality grapes. So on the whole you’ll be starting with a better quality grape when using a wine kit than when obtaining grapes on your own. Of coarse, there are always exceptions. Living near a grape growing mecca such as Napa can turn this point on its head, but for most home winemakers, this is a consideration that should be given some weight.

We offer an array of different brands of wine kits. As you go up the ladder in price, the finer your selection of grape – starting with our California Connoisseur wine kits which produces fine, everyday drinking wines on up to our Cellar Craft Showcase wine kits which features specially selected grapes from specific wine regions around the world. Currently, there are over 150 grape juices, and they’re available all throughout the year.

How much you spend depends on the level of taste. Some people are completely happy with the California Connoisseur wine kits and could not tell a difference even if they did choose a more expensive kit. For others, the California Connoisseur simply would not do. How far up the ladder one goes is very much a personal choice.

Shop FermenterUnfortunately, quality grapes do not guarantee a stellar wine, it’s just the first requirement necessary to get there. Between the grapes and the wine bottle is a whole host of other factors such as: acidity, alcohol, sweetness, etc.

Making wine from a wine kit alleviates you from these variables. This is because all these factors have already been taken care of for you by the wine kit producers. They balance the acidity, sugar content and many other features such as clarification and oak treatment to match the typical character of the wine you are making. By eliminating as many variables as possible they are helping to insure that you will make a remarkable wine every time. This is a very valuable benefit of using wine kits vs fresh grapes – especially for the beginner.

Now having said this, I understand completely that we are talking about a hobby, and for some, part of the hobby is the passion that goes into the picking, the crushing, the pressing, and so forth. I get that. And if this is you, I completely support your efforts to make wine from the dirt to the wine bottle. I’m just trying to bring total objectivity to the consideration of using wine kits vs fresh grapes.

Shop Wine Making KitsSo while both wine kits and fresh grapes holds their own rewards, by starting with a wine you are virtually eliminating any chance of producing a bad wine. Add to that the incredible selection that is now available to the home winemaker and it starts to become apparent that a wine kit is the way to go for the beginner.

I hope this covers all your questions and curiosities about wine kits vs fresh grapes. Please realize that regardless of which path you decide to take, we will be more than happy to help you in any way you need.

Best Wishes,
Ed Kraus
—–
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.

If You Have Sediment In Your Wine Bottles, Don’t Cry!

Crying Over Sediment In Wine BottlesSediment has long been an inconvenient reality for the home winemaker – one that if not dealt with properly can lead to sediment at the bottom of your wine bottles. It’s enough to make a grown man cry. But if one takes the proper precautions they can guarantee that such a flaw does not happen to their precious wines. Here’s how to stop sediment in wine bottles.

Sediment is something that occurs during the fermentation, and it is something that can still accumulate even after the fermentation has completed. Most of the sediment is yeast cells that have given their life to the cause. A smaller percentage is fiber and other proteins from the fruit, whether the wine be made from grapes or grapefruit.

The savvy winemaker knows that the wine needs to be transferred off the sediment once the fermentation begins to slow down. Transferring the wine is a process called racking. The first racking is to get the majority of the sediment out of the way, but the winemaker also knows that more sediment will be on the way, and that additional rackings will be necessary. With each progressive racking the wine will slowly becomes clearer and clearer.

This is all well and good, but the big question here is, how does the winemaker know when the sediment formation is done? When will it be okay to bottle? Do they just wait until the wine looks clear enough?

For most, it is a simple matter of watching and observing. If the wine is racked off the sediment into a clean secondary fermenter, such as a carboy, and no new sediment is created at the bottom, then one can reasonably deduce that all the sediment that is going to occur has done so. The wine looks clear; no more sediment; time to bottle the wine!

Most of the time this approach will result in a spectacular wine – one that is brilliantly clear and one with no sediment at the bottom in the wine bottles. But from time to time there will be that particular batch that mysteriously comes up with even more sediment after the wine has been bottled.

The wine looks perfect, beautiful, worthy of being shared with family and friends. Then a month or two later you go to the wine rack to pull another bottle only to find that sediment has somehow formed.

What caused this? Can I get rid of it? Is my wine ruined? How do I stop sediment from occurring in my wine bottles? These are all valid questions and questions I will answer here:

 

Is My Wine Ruined?
First, your wine is not ruined. Having sediment at the bottom of your wine bottles is the result of something falling out of the wine. It has nothing to do with a spoilage. If it were a contamination issue you would typically see a growth at the top, near the air-pocket in the wine bottle. Molds, bacteria and other little nasties need oxygen to grow and tend to form near it.

 

What Caused The Sediment?
There are three main reasons for having sediment at the bottom of your wine bottles:

 

  • You bottled the wine too soon
    This is by far the most common reason for sediment in wine bottles. It is possible for a homemade wine to look reasonably clear and still have some sediment to give. The last stuff to fall out from the fermentation is the finest of particles – as fine as flour. The heavier particles fall out sooner. Each one of these individual particle cannot be seen with the naked eye, but in numbers they can add a murkiness to the wine. Sometimes the murkiness is so slight as to go unnoticed. The best way to make sure that all the particles from the fermentation have settled is to use a wine clarifier or fining agent. A wine clarifier will collect and drag out the particles in a quicker, more efficient manner. Another thing you can do is be more patient. When you rack the wine into a fresh carboy, give it plenty of time to show the presence of sediment: two weeks, even a month. Sometimes more time is all that is needed.
  • Potassium bitartrate crystals are forming  
    Shop Mini Jet Wine FilterPotassium bitartrate is essentially tartaric acid that is crystallizing and then falling out of the wine. This most commonly occurs with grape wines that are made from actual fresh grapes. And, it is more common in white wines than reds. Grapes are high in tartaric acid. It’s the most abundant acid found in a grape. Sometimes there is more tartaric acid in the wine than the wine can hold in solution. The result is the formation of bitartrate crystals, sometimes referred to as wine diamonds. These are very tiny crystals that resembles salt. They form out of thin air, so to speak. It is important to note that the cooler the wine is the less tartaric acid the wine can hold. So It is possible for a brilliantly clear wine to form these crystals months later as cooler weather comes about. To combat this from happening, many wineries will chill the newly made wine so as to cause the crystals to form before bottling, making the wine cold stable. As a home winemaker, if you are making wine from grapes it would not be a bad idea to chill the wine down for a week or two before bottling to allow the opportunity for any potassium bitartrate crystals to form that can. To help entice the process even further you can add Cream of Tartar to the wine. This is the stuff you can buy at the spice rack at the store. Only a tiny amount is need: 1/4 teaspoon to 5 gallons is plenty. This will potentially set off a chain reaction of crystal formation.
  • Protein is dropping out of the wine   
    Much like excessive tartaric acid can drop out of a wine as tiny crystals, excessive protein can drop out of a wine as a dust or powdery-looking substance. Most of the protein is in the form on tannins. These tannins can start to form deposits months after the wine has been cleared and bottled. It is when a bottle of wine becomes slightly warmer that you can sometimes see them start to form and settle. You can sometimes observe this even in commercially made wine. It shows up as a dark, dusty sediment deposit at the bottom of the wine bottle. This is the least common reason for having sediment at the bottom of your wine bottles. Most homemade wines will not have excessive protein, but it does happen. It is most common in red wines, whether it be from grape or fruit. It is often the result of the fruit being over processed or left in the fermentation too long. It can also be from storing the wine at too warm of a temperature.Bentonite Fining Agent For Clearing Wine. One way to help prevent this instability from arising is to treat the wine with bentonite. This is a clarifier that is very effective in removing significant amounts of protein from a wine. It is routinely used by wineries after the fermentation to drop out the yeast more quickly.

 

Can I Get Rid Of The Sediment?
There is no magical way to get rid of any sediment you may find a the the bottom of your wine bottles.

It is possible to re-bottle a wine. You can decant the bottles of wine back into a common vessel; allow the wine a few days to clear; and then re-bottle. But, this treatment has a downside by way of excessive air exposure. The wine can become oxidized if one is not extremely careful. It will be important to treat the wine with potassium metabisulfite upon decanting and again before re-bottling. This will help to drive out oxygen that has saturated into the wine during decanting. It will also help to keep the wine fresh and free of spoilage.

Potassium MetabisulfiteIn reality, the best path for this type of wine fault is one of prevention. Do things things that will help stop sediment from occurring in the wine bottles: give the wine plenty of time to clear; use bentonite routinely; if you can, chill your grape wines; don’t over macerate your fruit; and don’t leave it in the fermentation too long – 3 to 6 days is plenty. If you do these simple things, having sediment in your wine bottles should never be an issue.

If you do discover that you do have sediment at the bottom of your wine bottles, you will be happy to know that it does not affect the wine’s flavor or character in any negative way. In fact, the wine will usually improve after such an occurrence. It is primarily an issue of esthetics. Who wants to share a wine with sediment at the bottom?

That being said, if you keep the wine to yourself, no harm, no foul. Carefully pour the wine into your glass. When you get to the bottom of the bottle, dump the little last down the drain. Problem solved!

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
—–
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.

The Power of Blending Homemade Wines

Person Blending WinesI have been following your blog for some time and find it very helpful. I have a question about blending wines. I am an amateur winemaker starting with grapes and moving on to fruit wines. I recently made about 3 gallons of semi-dry red raspberry wine from frozen raspberries that came out very nice but intensely full of flavor. My wife describes it as “almost wanting to pick the seeds out of your teeth”. Although it has a very nice finished wine I am thinking of blending a portion with other wines. I have a young peach that I will experiment with in a small batch but not sure about peaches and raspberry. What I am wondering is if you have any suggestions in blending this with a commercial wine such as a Riesling or a chardonnay.

Name: Ray S.
State: Connecticut
—–
Hello Ray,

Blending homemade wines is a very subjective endeavor, but one that can improve a wine that is out of balance in some way. In a nutshell, you need to find a wine that is on the opposite end of the scale of the fault you are trying to fix, and then figure out how much of that wine you need to add to fix your wine’s fault. This is what blending wine at home is all about. It’s a technique for making 1 + 1 = 3.

In the case of your raspberry wine, it sounds like the flavor is too intense in some way. This usually means that the wine is too acidic. That would be my guess, but don’t let me tell you what is at issue. Think it through.

Citric acid is the primary acid in raspberries and would make the wine too sharp or tart tasting, particularly if the fruit used to make the wine happened to be too tart, or if too much raspberry was used.

Shop Grape ConcentrateIf the wine is too puckering or has a dry bitterness or astringency as opposed to sharp or tart flavor, this is usually from too much tannin in the wine. This can happen when the fruit is over processed or left in the fermentation too long. The tannin is in the fibers of the fruit. When the fruit is over macerated – like when using a blender – too much tannin releases causing the wine to be puckering or bitter.

When blending homemade wines it’s up to you to make the determination of what really is the fault, and then after doing so, choosing a wine to blend that has the opposite characteristics.

From what you have said, I would venture a guess that you should blend your wine with something along the lines of an apple or pear wine. These wines do not have a lot of flavor and are not all that tart or astringent. This is because the primary acid in these wines is malic as opposed to citric. This is a fruit acid that is not nearly as sharp on the tongue. These wine’s also tend to have lower levels of tannin than most. The resulting effect would be that the intensity of the raspberry flavor would be knocked down and and tartness or puckering taste would be marginally neutralized, as well. But having said this you could try any wine that has a light flavor profile.

Regardless of the wine you choose to try, when blending homemade wines the one Shop Fermenterthing I strongly urge you to do is to do test blends first. Don’t pour a whole bottle of wine into your 3 gallons of raspberry and see what you think, but rather, take a measured sample of the raspberry wine and added to it a measured sample of the wine you have chosen to blend. You can even go so far as to have a series of different blending ratios and have someone else do a blind tasting to determine which on is best.

The point here is to be methodical and not whimsical when blending homemade wine. By doing so you increase you chances considerably of ending up with a wine that you can’t wait to drink instead of a wine that you can just tolerate.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
—–
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.