Making Sulfite-Free Wine To Reduce Headaches

Making Sulfite Free WineThis is a subject I get about at least once a week. People are desperately interested in making sulfite free wine.  Usually it is because they are suffering from headaches that they are attributing to sulfite allergies. For this reason they want to make their homemade wine without sulfites.

The major foil to making sulfite free wine is that sulfites are a natural byproduct of fermentation. In winemaking we talk about sulfites in terms of ppm (parts per million). Wine fermentations will naturally produce sulfites somewhere on the order of 10 to 20 ppm.

This amount may seem small, but compare it against the fact that the average bottle of wine on the market only contains about 65 ppm or the fact that any wine in the U.S. that has more than 10 ppm must have on its label, “Contains Sulfites,” then it starts to become clear that the amount of sulfites made by a fermentation is, in fact, significant to the wine’s total content.Shop Campden Tablets

So the answer is, “no.” You can not make sulfite free wine. There will always be some sulfite in your homemade wine. Now lets move on to the next logical question…

 

Can I make wines without adding sulfites?

The answer is: certainly you can. But, you should also be asking the question: do you want too? Sulfites such as Campden tablets or potassium metabisulfite are added to a wine for a reason: to keep the color and flavor fresh over time, and to keep it from spoiling. If the level of sulfites are too low, then it is susceptible to being overcome with bacteria, mold and other detrimental spoilers. Making sulfite free wine does not come without its own risk.

Because wine has alcohol, and alcohol is a preservative, the amount of sulfites needed to keep it from spoiling is very small as compared to amounts we find in the foods we eat everyday. Fruit juices, for example, can have on the order of 200 to 300 ppm; dehydrated fruits, conservatively around 1,000 ppm; and salsa around 1,000 to 2,000 ppm. These are much higher amounts than the 45 to 85 ppm you will typically find in wine.

With this in mind, to me it doesn’t make sense to short your wine the minuscule amount of sulfites it needs to help protect it from spoilage. And, it doesn’t make sense to blame such small amounts of sulfites on headaches when so much of it is in the foods we consume everyday. That brings us to the next logical question…

 

So Why Do Some People Get Headaches From Wine?

There are a certain number of people who do get headaches from drinking wine – even as little as one glass – but as explained above, blaming this on sulfites is not reasonable.

Besides the fact that there is not that much sulfite in wine to begin with, there are a couple of other reasons why this doesn’t add up, as well:Shop Wine Filters

 

  • Sulfite allergies are much more rare than there are people having headaches from wine. According to medical industry reports, there are somewhere between 500 thousand to 1 million sulfite allergy sufferers in the U.S. This equals only about 1 in 300 to 600 people.
  • A headache is not the primary symptom of a sulfite allergy. Asthma or having trouble breathing is the very first problem to show up.

 

A great article on this subject is titled, Red Wine Headaches. It covers in fair detail other possible reasons why someone might get a headache from drinking wine, such as histamines.

 

So, What Should I do?

If you are still not convinced that sulfites are completely innocent of all charges, then you might want to consider taking better control of the sulfites. Don’t completely eliminate additions of sulfite to the wine, but lower the level of sulfites. Don’t worry about making sulfite free wine but maybe try adding less sulfites, instead.Shop Sulfite Tester

For example, right before bottling the wine, instead of targeting a sulfite level of 55 ppm for red and 70 ppm for whites, maybe shoot for 35 ppm in reds and 50 ppm for whites. Reduce the amount of sulfites in your homemade wines. Don’t necessarily eliminate additions to your wine.

You can take readings with a Titrettor Hand Tool and Titret Test Vials. By taking control of your sulfite levels in this way, you can be certain that no more sulfites are in the wine than absolutely necessary to keep it fresh.
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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.

Is Wine Yeast And Baking Yeast The Same?

Wine Yeast Not Baking YeastI need you to help me settle a bet with a friend who also makes wine.  He says that wine yeast is no different than what you can get in the store to make bread with.  His quote “yeast is yeast”.  I say that it is different, although I can’t explain how.  Please help settle this and let us know who has to pay up, plus if there is a difference between wine yeast and baking yeast can you explain it to me.

Thanks,
Jamie
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Hello Jamie,

I’m going to be brutally honest, here. I hope this doesn’t break-up a good friendship.

To say that yeast is yeast is like saying a dog is a dog. Over the centuries dogs have been bred for various, specific tasks: hunting, herding, personal protection, attacking, protecting herds, companionship, etc. The same can be said for yeast. They have been bred over the decades to perform specific tasks: rising bread, making alcohol, bio-degrading oils, pharmaceutical production, etc.

So to bring this analogy full circle, when you’re making wine with a baking yeast, you’re hunting grizzlies with a chihuahua. Sorry friend, but wine yeast and baking yeast are not the same. In fact, they are very different. I would never recommend making wine with bread or baking yeast.Shop Yeast Nutrient

Wine yeast in particular is bred to obtain higher alcohol levels than baking yeast. On average, bread yeast will get you 9 or 10%. Anything higher than that is possible, but the baking yeast will have to struggle considerably.

Wine yeast are bred to thrive very well with the set of nutrients fruits naturally provide. Baking yeast, on the other hand, prefers the balance of nutrients found in grains or bread doughs.

Wine yeast clears more quickly from the wine than baking yeast. Wine yeast is bred to clump together as the fermentation activity slows – a process known as flocculation. The clumping allows the wine yeast to drop out and settle to the bottom more quickly. Baking yeast does not clump or flocculate. Instead, it slowly settles to the bottle as a fine haze. This process can take weeks instead of days.

Wine yeast foams less than baking yeast. This is because wine yeast are bred to produce less surface tension in the liquid than baking yeast.Shop Wine Making Kits

Wine yeast is also more tolerant to sulfites than baking yeast. The wine yeast has actually been acclimated to coexist with some residual sulfites such as Campden tablets in the wine. This means that wine yeast can ferment just fine with some sulfites in the wine must. Baking yeast is not as fortunate. Even small amounts of sulfites can stop a wine fermentation dead in its tracks.

Another issue is that bread yeast is only packaged under food-grade conditions. This is certainly suitable for baking. The yeast is only being utilized for a few hours, not days, so the perpetuation of any contaminating organisms do not have enough time to do any damage.

On the other hand, with wine yeast we are talking days if not weeks that the yeast is in play. This is plenty of time for stray organisms riding on the yeast to potentially breed into a full-fledged infestation spoiling the wine. For this reason, wine yeast is package under sterile conditions. This is far more stringent than food-grade packaging.Shop Wine Yeast

To sum all this up, you can certainly make wine with a baking yeast, but you will be sacrificing flavor and potentially alcohol. You are also increasing the likelihood of having a stuck fermentation. This is because of issues with nutrients and the use of sodium metabisulfite.

So, as I think you can see, wine yeast and baking yeast are not the same. In fact, there are many differences between the two. That combined with the fact that wine yeast is not all that expensive to buy, why wouldn’t you use it in your winemaking?

Happy Wine Making
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.

 

Careful! Using Reverse Osmosis Water For Wine Making Can Be A Problem

Using Reverse Osmosis In Wine MakingYour newsletter states that using distilled water for making wine is not recommended but what about tap water filtered via reverse osmosis? Can I use reverse osmosis water for wine making?

Thank You
John
____
Hello John,

You are correct. We do not recommend using distilled water. Not only does the distilling process remove valuable, free oxygen from the water, but it also removes all the minerals. Both are much-needed commodities for the yeast during a fermentation. If either are missing, it can lead to a sluggish or stuck fermentation.

Likewise, we do not recommend using reverse osmosis water for wine making, either. While the free oxygen does remain in the water through osmosis filtering process, critical minerals are still being removed. Magnesium sulfate can be added back to the water in an attempt to restore it for fermentation, but this is more or less putting a band-aid on the issue.Shop Magnesium Sulfate

Your better option would be to purchase bottled drinking water. These bottled drinking water typically will either have the original, natural minerals in them, or the water has been completely purified and then had an optimal blend of minerals added back. Either way, this would be a better option than using distilled or reverse osmosis water in wine making.

It is also important to note that while free oxygen in the water is good for the fermentation, it is bad for the wine once the fermentation has completed. Having free oxygen in the wine after the fermentation can lead to oxidation or browning of the wine.

Fortunately, most all of the oxygen that is in the must before fermentation is either consumed by the yeast or quickly driven out by the CO2 gas from the fermentation. So, while we do recommend using water that isShop Aeration System saturated in oxygen before the fermentation, after the fermentation, we recommend using distilled water for making any necessary adjustments or for topping-up after the fermentation.

To sum it up, using reverse osmosis water for wine making is really not ideal, essentially because of that lack of trace minerals that are removed in the process. You would be better served in most cases by using tap water over reverse osmosis or maybe even bottle drinking water, if you are so inclined.

Happy Wine Making,
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.

Clearing A Cloudy Wine…

Winemaker Clear A Cloudy WineWhat can I use to remove the cloudiness in my wine. Can you help? I’ve strained the wine 2 times and it is still cloudy.

Thanks John
_____

Hello John,

What needs to be determined is, “why is the wine cloudy“? Is it from pectin cells in the fruit? Is it from suspended yeast cells? Is it from starches in the fruit? Or, is it because the wine simply needs more time to clear up?

In any case, the cause of the cloudiness needs to be determined before you can take any action. Anything less is just taking a stab at the issue. Determine why the wine is cloudy then take appropriate actions.

The first thing that should be done is a specific gravity reading should be taken with a wine hydrometer. This will tell you if the wine has completed its fermentation. If the specific gravity is .996 or less, this would indicate that the wine fermentation has finished. If the specific gravity is above .996 but not fermenting then you have a stuck fermentation and you need to determine why it is stuck.

Shop BentoniteIf the wine is still fermenting, even slightly, this would most likely be the cause of the cloudiness. In this case, just let the wine finish fermenting. Be a little patient and the wine will most likely clear in due time.

If the wine hydrometer has indicated that the wine has completed its fermentation, you will want to see if the top half of the batch is more clear than the bottom half. If so, this would indicate that the wine just needs a few more days to clear up. After a wine has completed fermenting it usually needs a week or two to clear up. Most homemade wine instructions will indicate this time period.

If you’re sure it’s been more than two weeks since the wine has completed fermenting, and it’s still cloudy, then it may be time to start using wine making products such as fining or clearing agents.

Treating the wine with bentonite would be the first step I would suggest. It’s an effective fining agent that most likely will solve your problem completely. But, if you see only marginal improvement, you should switch to Sparkolloid for a second treatment. In general, Sparkolloid will take out what bentonite doesn’t and vice versa.Shop Sparkolloid

If the bentonite clears the wine almost completely, but there’s still a slight murkiness, then you should switch to a polishing clarifier such as our Kitosol 40. You might want to check out the article, Using Finings To Improve Your Wine. It will give you more detail about fining agents and other wine making products you can use to clear your wine.

Happy Wine Making
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.

What Does Potassium Sorbate Do To Wine?

Wine With Potassium SorbateI have an issue with your description of potassium sorbate that uses the word “inhibit”. I have looked this word up in the Merrian-Webster dictionary. The first listing says that ‘inhibit’ means to stop. The second says that ‘inhibit’ means to hold in check. Holding in check in my mind is not a guarantee of much. Does anyone really know the story? What does potassium sorbate do to wine?

Tom
_____
Hi Tom,

Potassium sorbate is not used to stop a fermentation. In fact, it is not very effective at stopping a fermentation, if effective at all. Your second definition of inhibit is the most accurate, to hold in check, but let’s forget about the definitions for now and let me try to explain what potassium sorbate is actually doing to a wine.

When it becomes time to bottle your wine, no matter how may times the wine has been racked or how crystal clear the wine may look, there are still some yeast cells in the wine. It’s not the billions of cells that are associated with a full-fledged fermentation – almost all of the yeast cells are now gone through racking – but none the less, there are a few cells, just too few to see with the naked-eye.

Shop Potassium SorbateUsually, these wine yeast cells just lay dormant, but if there are sugars available in the wine, it is very possible that the yeast can start to become active and begin to reproduce themselves. Over time, they can rebuild the yeast colony to a size that can become problematic for a bottled wine. The wine will become sparkled and worse yet, the bottles could start popping corks or popping bottles from the pressure built up from a fermentation! But, this is all based on the premise that the yeast are able to grow in numbers and have sugar available to ferment.

This is where potassium sorbate comes into play. It stops the yeast cells from reproducing themselves so that a fermentation does not occur within the wine bottles. It does this by putting a coating the individual yeast cells. This coating interrupts the budding or reproduction process, keeping the yeast cell count at bay.

The only problem is that the yeast that are currently living in your wine will continue to do so until they decide to die of natural causes – old age. The colony will slowly die. How long it takes varies. It is dependent on the size of the remaining colony, the type of wine yeast, and the conditions they are in – temperature, etc. In most cases it takes days, but it can take weeks and sometimes months.Shop Potassium Bisulfite

It is not until the current generation dies that the chance of re-fermentation can be completely gone. This is why it is good to get your wine as clear as conveniently possible. Using fining agents such as bentonite is not a bad idea to help drop out the wine yeast. And most importantly use sulfites. This is one of the reasons sulfites are recommended at bottling time – to speed up the death of the wine yeast.

So what does potassium sorbate do to wine? It keeps the yeast from growing out of control. It keeps what little, insignificant yeast cell count at bay, and stops them from reproducing and growing into problematic numbers.

Happy Winemaking,
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.

Campden Tablets: What They Can And Can’t Do.

Campden Tablets In JarOne of the most commonly used ingredients in home wine making are Campden tablets. You will find them in almost any of the wine making recipes you will use; talked about in almost any of the wine making books you will read; and called into action by just about any of the homemade wine instructions you will follow.

 

What Do Campden Tablets Do?
The original reason Campden tablets were used in wine making was to keep the wine from spoiling after it had been bottled. By adding these tablets at bottling time, you could virtually eliminate any chance of your wine falling victim to mold,

bacteria and other foreign enemies.

 

Since their introduction into wine making, Campden tablets have also become routinely used for sterilizing the juice prior to fermentation. By adding Campden tablets a day before adding your wine yeast, you can start your fermentation with a clean slate, so to speak. All the unwanted micro organisms will be gone.

Some home winemakers also use Campden tablets with water to create a sanitizing solution. This solution will safely sanitize fermenters, air-lock, stirring spoons, hoses and all the other pieces of equipment that may come into contact with the wine must.Shop Wine Yeast

 

What Campden Tablets Don’t Do?
Many beginning winemakers believe that Campden tablets are a magic pill of sorts. One that can instantaneously stop a wine fermentation dead in its tracks. While it is true that Campden tablets can bring a fermentation to its knees for a period of time, it is also true that these fermentations will usually gather themselves back up and eventually overcome the effects of the tablets. The result is a continued fermentation – sometimes after the wine has been bottled.

Truth is, Campden tablets are not designed to stop a fermentation and never have been. Using them for that purpose can get you into all kinds of trouble. There is really no ingredient that can be safely used by itself to assuredly stop a fermentation.

 

What Are Campden Tablets?
Simply put, Campden tablets are metabisulfite. When you add a tablet to the wine you are adding sulfites to the wine. Most CampdenShop Winemaking For Dummies tablets consist of potassium metabisulfite, but some are made with sodium metabisulfite.

 

How Are Campden Tablets Used?
Their use is fairly straight-forward. You add one tablet to each gallon of wine must 24 hour prior to adding the wine yeast – before the fermentation. Then you add one table per gallon just before bottling.

The Campden tablets must first be crushed and dissolved in a small amount of the wine or water. This mix is then stirred thoroughly into the rest of the batch.

You can use the Campden tablets to create a sanitizing solution by crushing up 4 tablets into a quart of water. This can be used as a sanitizing rinse, or you can pour it into a fermentation container and allow the fumes to sanitize the entire insides.Shop Potassium Bisulfite

 

As An Alternative To The Campden Tablet…
You can use potassium metabisulfite or sodium metabisulfite in the form of a granulated powder. The advantages are: you don’t have to crush it up; and it is cheaper. The disadvantage is you have to measure out the dosage, which is 1/16 teaspoon per tablet.

 

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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.

My Wine Recipe Doesn’t Call For Yeast

Man Fermenting Wine Without YeastI have an old wine recipe that came from Germany, through the family, but the wine recipe doesn’t call for yeast of any kind… What does the yeast do and is it essential in home wine making?

Thanks Connee
_____

 

Hello Connee,

Simply put, yeast is where the rubber meets the road. Without wine yeast you’ll have no fermentation, and with no fermentation you’ll have no alcohol! That’s why it is imperative that the starting wine must has yeast of some kind, even if the wine recipe doesn’t call for yeast.

 

What’s Going On?…

What’s happening when you make wine is sugar is being turned into alcohol through a process called fermentation. Yeast is what performs the fermentation. Each yeast is a single-celled, living organism that literally eats the sugars that are in the wine must and turns it into alcohol and CO2 gas. This is what wine making is all about.

 

Where Does The Yeast Come From?

Shop Wine YeastSome older wine recipes – like the one you have – will have no yeast of any kind in the recipe. This is because the yeast are expected to be provided by the fruit, naturally. Fruit, whether it be grapes, peaches, or strawberries, already have wild yeast on them so there will be a fermentation of some kind; it will just be fermenting wine without yeast you’ve added.

Using the yeast that Mother Nature provided was an acceptable practice way-back-when because wine yeast was not readily available. And, if your wine recipe is really, really old, they may not have even known that yeast doing the job. The connection between yeast and fermentation was not put together until as recently as 1857. So as you can start to see, this may be why your wine recipe doesn’t call for yeast of any kind.

 

Is The Wild Yeast Good Enough?

Homemade wines made from wild yeasts are marginal at best. Typically, the yeast found out in the wild have trouble fermenting to an acceptable alcohol level. The flavor and aromas they put off can be objectionable. Wild yeast wines also have a harder time clearing up. This is primarily because the yeast do not collect and clump Shop Grape Concentratetogether like domesticated wine yeast do (flocculation). The clumping helps the yeast to drop out cleanly and quickly. Domesticated wine yeast are bred to do this.

The only exception to this are some Old World wineries that rely on feral yeast from the vineyard. Feral yeast is maintained but out in nature. Great care is taken to keep the yeast strain maintained in the fields. Spent pulp from the fermentation is put back into the soils along the fines so that the yeast within the pulp can cover next year’s crops.

 

Yeast Today

Today things are different. Wine making yeast are readily available from wine making shops like us. These are the same strains of wine yeast used by professional Shop Wine Presswineries. They are able to ferment to an acceptable alcohol level and produce a much cleaner flavored wine. And, their cost is not that much different than buying a pack of baker’s yeast.

There is an entire array of wine yeast strains from which to choose. Each one has slightly different flavor characteristics or different qualities that make it well suited for a certain style of wine. You can find an example of some of these characteristic in this wine profile chart.

 

Here’s My Recommendations

My advice to you – without seeing the wine recipe – is to go ahead and follow it, but I would also add a packet of wine making yeast for every 5 or 6 gallons of must. You may also want to take a look at the article, Why Should I Use Wine Yeast that Shop Wine Making Kitsis listed on our website. This will give you a little deeper explanation about yeast and its role in wine making.

You may want to give up on using the wine recipe all together. While using a wine recipe that doesn’t call for any yeast can be done. Why risk your time an effort when there are so many more modern wine recipe available.

Happy Wine Making,
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.

Having Fun Using Honey In Your Wine Making

Using Honey In Wine MakingI want to start using honey instead of sugar in my wine making so I have a few questions: do i put the honey in the must to start with, or, to sweeten after the wine is done fermenting? Also one pound of sugar equals how much honey?

Tom – NC
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Hello Tom,

Using honey in wine making is something you can have a lot of fun with. One of the favorite wines I made was a Raspberry Honey Zinfandel. Nobody could keep their hands off of it, and it was soon gone.

There are different ways honey can be used in wine making. You can add it to the wine must, before fermentation, and have its sugars ferment into alcohol, or you can add the honey after the fermentation and have its sugars contribute to the sweetness of the wine.

 

Using Honey Instead Of Sugar Before The Fermentation

When you add honey before a fermentation, what will be left when the fermentation is complete is the herbal character of the honey. No sweetness will remain. For example, if the honey was spun off of wild flowers then a wild flower character will be added to the wine during the wine making process. If the honey was spun off of strawberry blossoms then you will have a note of herbal-strawberry character in the wine, and so forth.Shop Hydrometers

What this means is you can alter any fruit wine making recipe you find by replacing some or all of the sugar called for with honey. Using honey in your wine making in this way will add a layer of depth to the wine’s over all character. You can compliment the wine’s character, such as adding raspberry-blossom honey to a raspberry wine recipe, or you can contrast the wine’s character, such as adding apple-blossom honey to a cherry wine recipe.

When using honey in wine making before the fermentation, you want to use it in-place-of or instead-of the sugar called for in the wine recipe you are using. As a general rule-of-thumb you can replace 1 pound of sugar with 1.2 to 1.3 pounds of honey. You can also use a wine hydrometer to determine how much honey to add. Keep adding the honey until you get to the appropriate reading on the wine hydrometer’s specific gravity scale – usually between 1.070 and 1.090.

 

Using Honey Instead Of Sugar After The Fermentation

If you add the honey at bottling time or anytime after the fermentation, you are contributing to the sweetness of the wine instead of the alcohol. Shop Potassium SorbateThe herbal characters of the honey are still being added but along with its sweetness. It is important to note that any time you add a sugar to a wine at bottling time – whether it be honey, cane sugar or grape concentrate – you must also add potassium sorbate (wine stabilizer) to eliminate any chance of re-fermentation later on in the wine bottle. The is in addition to the Campden tablets that we recommend at bottling time for any wine. Here’s more information on sweetening a wine with honey.

 

Should I Use Raw Or Pasteurized Honey?

I recommend using pasteurized, filtered honey – the kind you typically find on the grocery shelf. This type of honey has been cleared of wild microbes and various solids that you do not want in your wine. If you do plan on using raw honey in your wine recipe, you will need to heat it up to 170°F. for a full 30 minutes along with some water. During this time you will also want to skim off the top whatever rises.

 

More Information On Using Honey In Wine MakingShop Campden Tablets

You can find more information on our website in the article, Wine Making With Honey. It gives a basic run-down of how honey has been used in wine over the years along with some basic honey recipes.

Using honey instead of sugar in your wine making is a fun way to add more interest depth, not only to your wines, but your wine making. It’s one more way to be creative in the enjoyable and rewarding hobby.

Happy Winemaking,
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.

Oaking Wine With Oak Chips

Man Oaking Wine With Oak ChipsHow do you go about oaking wine with oak chips? What type of oak chip would you recommend using on muscadine wine? I’d like to do a little experimenting. My wine is a combination of red and white muscadine grapes yielding a blush/rose type wine. What type of oak chip, quantity per 6 gallon carboy and length of time to soak would you recommend? Thanks much!

Name: Ed P.
State: Illinois
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Hello Ed,

Nothing wrong with a little experimenting. For me that’s part of what makes wine making so enormously fun.

One thing about oaking wine with oak chips, not all wines will benefit from it. Normally, the wines you would like to add oak chips to are wines with a lot of body. The tannins in the oak will help any excessive proteins in these full-bodied wines to clear out. This will give your wine a little more brilliant color.

The oak chips will also add their own smoothing affect to the wine’s character. A rounding-off of the rough corners, so to speak. Heavier wines tend to be harsher than lighter wine. Oak chips will also add some wood flavors to the wine. Some regard this as giving the wine more complexity. These heavy wines are the ones that you should be thinking about considering what wines to oak.

Looking at this from an experimental standpoint, your best option would be to take off a gallon of the wine and strongly oak it. This could be done by adding about 4 to 8 ounces of oak chips to the gallon for a two or three months. Once this is done you can blend a little/some/or all back into the other 5 gallons based on taste.Shop Toasted Oak Chips

Using this method for oaking your wine with oak chips would give you the most control over the final outcome. The downfall is that you would not want to store 5 gallons of wine in a 6 gallon carboy, so you would need to move the 5 gallons of wine to a 5 gallon carboy during this time. The same holds true for the one gallon sample you will be oaking. Also, you are risking loosing whatever portion of the gallon you do not wish to add back to the wine.

The other method for oaking a wine with oak chips would be add it to the entire 6 gallons of wine, and then taste it along the way to see how it’s doing. Usually, once every 3 or 4 weeks. While this is an easier method, you do run a better risk of ending up with a wine you might not care too much for.

How much of the oak chips you would want to add to the wine can vary. I personally like to use 2 ounces to 5 gallons and let it age out for many months. But others like adding 4 or 6 ounces and age the wine for a shorter period of time.

Without question, I would recommend using toasted oak ships. Plain oak chips are rarely used but still have their place. Whether you use Toasted French oak chips or Toasted American oak chips would not make an incredible difference. Shop Oak PowderEither can produce great results. The main difference between the two is that American oak will add sort of a coconut smoothness to the wine, whereas French oak chips will add more of a vanilla richness. One is not better than the other, it’s more of a matter of which one will work best with the wine at hand. Without tasting your wine, I would suspect you would want to use the American oak chips–just a guess.

Ed, I hope this information about oaking wine with oak chips is what you were looking for. Just realize that oaking a homemade wine with oak chips is something that does not happen overnight, so you will have time to sample the wine and make careful judgments as to when enough is enough.

Happy Winemaking,
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.

There’s Too Much Tannin In My Homemade Wine!

Wine With Too Much TanninI have 3 five-gallon carboys of zinfandel with a low pH of 3.00, and what I identify as too much tannin. The wine has been “aging” for 18 mos. now and still unacceptable by my taste. Is it too late to doctor it to lower the tannin? It has been stored cool (I’m in N. California) and I can’t heat it. Too late for treating with egg whites or bentonite?

Name: Tony S.
State: CA
—–
Hello Tony,

I see your wine is still a beautiful, young color, even after 18 months. That is probably partially due to the fact that it has such a low pH. This can help to keep a color fresh looking as well as keep any potential spoilage in check. The bad part is as you have stated, it doesn’t taste good. That is the primary issue when you have to much tannin in any wine.

You said that you tested the pH of your wine and thought it was too low because of too much tannin being in the wine as opposed to the other typical reason, which is having too much tartaric acid in the wine. This could be easily verified by testing the wine with an acid test kit. This would tell you very precisely if there was too much tartaric acid in the wine or not.

If you do not want to do this you can go by taste and experience, but this can only tell you what direction to take in solving this problem, not necessarily how sever it is. If there is too much tannin in this wine you would expect it to taste bitter and dry-puckering. If it is a tartaric acid problem you would expect a tart and sharp flavor.Shop Bentonite

If you do have too much tannin in the wine, just as you implied, bringing the temperature up would most likely drop some of it out. I would not hesitate to use artificial means of heat on the wine to heat stabilize the wine. Bring the wine up to about 80°F. for about a 3 days. Because the wine’s pH is so low oxidation will not be an issue.

You can use something as simple as an electric blanket it to warm it up. We also have a heating belt that can warm five gallons by about 20°F. Just be sure to use a thermometer of some type to monitor just how hot the wine is getting.

Once the wine has reach 80°F. (this could take a day or two) treat is with bentonite and let the wine sit for the rest of the week.

If you are dealing with  too much tannin in your wine, you will notice a remarkable change in the wine after doing this. You may want to test the pH again. If you do not notice any change, then I doubt you are dealing with a tannin problem and urge you to test the wine again with an acid testing kit. More than likely you will need to use acid reducing crystals on the wine.Shop Acid Reducing Crystals

Beyond this, if you do see improvement in the pH, it is possible to treat the wine a second time with bentonite, if you deem it necessary, but I would not heat it a second time. Once the pH rises above 3.2, you do need to be a little more cautions about oxidation. You will typically receive marginal improvement from a second treatment in such a potentially severe case.

Hope this information helps you out.

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.