Any hope for an elderberry wine (attempt)?

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Howie_G

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Hello!

I recently posted in introductions but see this might be a more appropriate forum for this. Sorry for cross posting.
My wife and I have embarked on a journey to make elderberry wine. It has been going OK but it looks like we have come to an abrupt end unless anyone can suggest otherwise.

The wine has been sat in a carboy for a few months now. Life has got in the way. We were about to attempt a bottling and found that it has been infected with something. Looks like mold, particularly what looks like something filamentous near the neck of the carboy... but what do you think? Some 'interesting' happenings in the sediment layer too. Sorry about the shocking photos! We treated with campden etc. last time we racked and have kept an eye on the stopper to make sure it was filled. As it was treated, assumedly the source must be the airlock - is that correct? We do think we kept this topped up, but perhaps there's a way in somewhere?

Any suggestions/advice would be amazing. Even if it is to just chuck it. It's a shame (it was tasting amazing last time we checked on it) but we would pour it away knowing we'd sought advice. We haven't tried it this time btw. We thought we would seek advice first. Also curious to know what we could do to prevent this from happening again. Is this likely to happen if a wine is left still for an extended time? Even if treated? Perhaps the treatment wasn't enough for our wine (even though instructions were followed) or perhaps something is wrong with our setup? Should we have racked more regularly and treated each time afresh? Might just need a different airlock! If this was in a bottle we might not have seen it.
 

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Raptor99

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From the photos, it looks like your carboy is filled to near the top. Is that correct? If the white spots are below the surface of the wine, then it is not mold, because mold requires oxygen to grow.

What was your recipe? Do you know the OG? If the alcohol level is at normal wine level (11-12% ABV), then most micro-organisms won't grow in your wine.

With elderberry wine, I usually get some waxy substance ("green goo") in the primary. Is there a chance that the white spots near the top are more of that?

I have no idea about the white spots in the sediment.

What does it smell like? How does it taste? If the taste is good, rack it off the sediment and add a dose of Kmeta. If the smell and taste is okay, then it is probably fine. Elderberry wine needs to age at least 18 months before it starts to get really good.
 
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Howie_G

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From the photos, it looks like your carboy is filled to near the top. Is that correct? If the white spots are below the surface of the wine, then it is not mold, because mold requires oxygen to grow.

What was your recipe? Do you know the OG? If the alcohol level is at normal wine level (11-12% ABV), then most micro-organisms won't grow in your wine.

With elderberry wine, I usually get some waxy substance ("green goo") in the primary. Is there a chance that the white spots near the top are more of that?

I have no idea about the white spots in the sediment.

What does it smell like? How does it taste? If the taste is good, rack it off the sediment and add a dose of Kmeta. If the smell and taste is okay, then it is probably fine. Elderberry wine needs to age at least 18 months before it starts to get really good.
Ah, Many thanks for coming back on this! That gives me some hope! We followed a recipe online that looked good - I can share the link with you if you like? It was originally ~24 brix - which, with a quick conversion tool, suggests ~potential 14% ABV... perhaps should measure this again now to double check? We're quite far along, and a few racks in (frankly surprised at the amount of sediment still in there)... we last racked several months ago but we started the process over a year ago... which is why we were considering bottling now. So I don't think it could be primary goo, right? You're correct about the carboy being filled quite high up - not much air at the top at all. There is nothing at all floating on the top either - only a bit submerged near the neck in the photo and then growths on the glass and in the sediment (which all look to be the same thing to me - though a bit filamentous for my liking with the growth near the neck). When we last looked at the wine, months ago, it was pretty clear. It did smell sulphurous though, which is why we left it for a while before bottling (having treated it with campden etc.). Not an overwhelming smell having investigated a few days ago, but just a whiff of the top was probably not going to get to the bottom of it. Sounds like a taste and a rack is in order - which we will do and report back! I had assumed we were safe to leave this in the carboy to age, provided the airlock was fine and the campden was administered (and as you say, the ABV was high enough). We'll investigate further and let you know how we get on! Thanks again!
 

bernardsmith

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Sulfurous aromas arise because of stressed yeast. When stressed yeast belch out hydrogen sulfide. They generally produce sulfur but only in microscopic quantities unless they don't have the minerals and nitrogen they need to ensure their good health. That aside, if the wine has an oily taste , and those white spots are part of what looks like a ropey chain or string, then there could be a bacterial infection caused by pediococus. Those who brew sour beers often seek ped but wine makers tend to avoid that bacterium.
 
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Howie_G

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Sulfurous aromas arise because of stressed yeast. When stressed yeast belch out hydrogen sulfide. They generally produce sulfur but only in microscopic quantities unless they don't have the minerals and nitrogen they need to ensure their good health. That aside, if the wine has an oily taste , and those white spots are part of what looks like a ropey chain or string, then there could be a bacterial infection caused by pediococus. Those who brew sour beers often seek ped but wine makers tend to avoid that bacterium.
Amazing! Thank you! We still haven't tasted the wine but will do so asap! Could be pediococus, from what you describe ... the growth near the neck does look a little 'ropey'. Assuming it is ped, would you say the wine is spoiled? Or only if it tastes bad? If it tastes OK, would a round of campden and a rack likely clean the slate (remove the ped)? I don't fully see how this would stop another ped infection happening again over time, in the same way. Is this less likely to happen after bottling? Would you wait to see what happened in a month or so before you bottled? Will check the wine this weekend!! Thanks again!
 

bernardsmith

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No microbiologist and no expert, but K-meta (campden tabs are dosages of K-meta with filler material) will kill almost certainly kill the bacterium and the dead bacterium, if - if that is the cause - can't resuscitate after death. It's possible, they were on the fruit when you began the fermentation. And it's possible that you failed to kill them with K-meta before you pitched the yeast. Again, no expert, but I have no idea the shelf life of the tablets. But a goo "test" would be a taste test. If the wine feels more viscous than your experience suggests a wine should be.
If you have a good relationship with a local home brew store and they know a great deal about brewing beers - and brewing sour beers, you might see if you could fish out a string of the white "stuff". They may be able to identify this when they see it. It's hard (for me) to make good sense of the photos you posted. a macro lens on your camera with better lighting would be helpful, but as I say, if you can show those in the LHBS a sample of this "thing", they may be able to identify it immediately as no problem (say, just a cluster of yeast cells) or as early evidence of a ped infection.
 
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Howie_G

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No microbiologist and no expert, but K-meta (campden tabs are dosages of K-meta with filler material) will kill almost certainly kill the bacterium and the dead bacterium, if - if that is the cause - can't resuscitate after death. It's possible, they were on the fruit when you began the fermentation. And it's possible that you failed to kill them with K-meta before you pitched the yeast. Again, no expert, but I have no idea the shelf life of the tablets. But a goo "test" would be a taste test. If the wine feels more viscous than your experience suggests a wine should be.
If you have a good relationship with a local home brew store and they know a great deal about brewing beers - and brewing sour beers, you might see if you could fish out a string of the white "stuff". They may be able to identify this when they see it. It's hard (for me) to make good sense of the photos you posted. a macro lens on your camera with better lighting would be helpful, but as I say, if you can show those in the LHBS a sample of this "thing", they may be able to identify it immediately as no problem (say, just a cluster of yeast cells) or as early evidence of a ped infection.
Hi there! Thanks again for all your thoughts on this. I suspect your theory that we didn't manage to kill it off with the K-meta is the most likely. We racked and tasted the wine about a week ago and it tasted 'not bad'... so that's good. I'd maybe add it was a little sour (but not outside the parameters for a wine). However, there is still a slight/unappealing sulphurous smell/taste. This is WAY WAY less than it was a few months ago. Perhaps we just need to rack it + K-meta a few more times? We managed to fish out the colonies of what was growing and photograph it a little (best pic attached). Poor light, poor phone camera. Looks horrible out on a plate like that - but it doesn't look like mould. The carboy wasn't actually as sediment-heavy as it looked in the initial photos. Just had this stuff growing on the bottom (like a crust/film) and a bit near the top of the neck of the carboy (but crucially nothing on the surface at all). Currently the wine is sitting in a new/freshly cleaned carboy and unsure of what to do. I assume you wouldn't bottle it until/if it's palatable!
 

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