Wine noob question

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brianpablo

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Hi everyone - I'm a homebrewer just jumping into the world of wine, I've just done two one-gallon test batches that are frankly tasting pretty bad and I'm trying to sort through what went wrong.

My guess is that they've oxidized. I'm using a Little Big Mouth Bubbler which has a 1.4 gallon capacity. I did primary in that, racked to secondary, then racked back to the primary to degas. After degassing I added the clearing agents and left them in the Big Mouth Bubbler to clear. I'm guessing this is the source of the problem. Once I've chased off the CO2 there wouldn't really be anything to protect the wine from oxygen, and hence the sharp and rather unpleasant flavor (I'd also note that it tastes quite strongly of grape juice, I'm not sure if that's par for the course or the result of some other error that I'm not aware of).

I'm planning to move up to six gallon batches in the next few weeks, so I want to make sure I straighten out this oxidation issue. My instinct tells me that I should rack to a a six-gallon carboy and top up as needed with a similar wine to make sure there's no exposure to air. I'm planning to get a wine whip, but I'm not sure I'll be able to use it in secondary as it splashes a fair amount, so my thought would be to rack back to primary to degas, then rack into the secondary carboy once again to avoid any potential oxidation while the wine clears.

Would appreciate a steer to make sure I'm on the right track here.

Thanks!
 

bernardsmith

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Hi Brianpablo, Not really enough information. What were you fermenting? What yeast? What was the temperature of the room? What was the OG when you pitched the yeast? What is the gravity today? How long was the wine in the primary? In the secondary? Do you know the TA of the wine?
My sense is that oxidation is unlikely to be the issue here although you really do not want to keep a wine in a carboy with more than a cubic inch or so of headroom... My sense is the larger problem may be that you have fermented your wine bone dry (beer does not ferment to the point where there is not a grain of sugar left in the liquor, but wine does) and so there is nothing to balance the acids that are in the fruit. Not exactly sure what you mean by a "sharp" flavor but if that is not an indication of acidity (the TA would be higher than typical) it could be an indication that you fermented the wine at too high an ambient temperature, and while the specs for the yeast may suggest that the yeast can tolerate a higher temperature you really want to ferment wine towards the lowest temperatures that the yeast can tolerate - not the highest. Last point: if the wine is very green - that is you pitched the yeast a month or so ago, then you can expect harsh flavors. Typically, if it takes about 6 weeks before you can crack open a bottle of beer you have brewed it can take 4 -6 months (or longer) before you can open a bottle of wine you've made.
 

z-bob

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You never mentioned adding sulfites. They help protect the wine from oxidation, although I'm not sure that's your real problem.

What kind of grapes or grape juice did you use? What yeast?
 
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brianpablo

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OK, fair enough. I was expecting the oxidation issue to be a dead giveaway so I didn't bother filling in the rest of the details. And yes, I'm perfectly content to hear the "relax dude, your wine's still green" response if that's warranted.

The kit in question in this Shiraz by Master Vintner http://www.northernbrewer.com/shiraz-small-batch-wine-recipe-kit I can’t remember which yeast, I’m pretty sure it was Lalvin something but the kit doesn’t say and I didn’t keep the package.

I fermented it for 8 days from 1.098 to 1.001, most of the time in the 76 degree range or bit below that. I then racked to secondary and let it ferment for another 12 days down to 0.995 (I tried to keep it in the same temperature range during that period but it probably warmed up closer to 78 for part of that). I degassed it in a Big Mouth Bubbler Carboy, stirring vigorously as instructed with a stainless steel spoon. I then added potassium sorbate and something that the kit identifies as “Liquigel”, as per the instructions. I may have dropped the ball by degassing three times in one day and then leaving it for another few days before finishing the degasing (I had to leave town).I don’t know if that had any effect. I’m now waiting for it to finish clearing to bottle it. We’re talking one gallon sitting in a 1.4 gallon carboy without a lot of CO2 to protect it, so oxidation seems like a potential problem. My experience with these things is that “Leave it alone” is generally the best advice. It needs another week or so to clear, and then I’ll bottle.

I’m not sure if “sharp” is the right way to describe the flavor. Being a noob, I’d probably be more honest if I just said it tasted kinda ****ty. Again, this may be the result of me not knowing how to distinguish a wine that’s green from one that’s been wrecked by oxygen.

Overall I’m more interesting in making sure I’ve got the procedures correct for the next batches.

Thanks, Brian
 

helibrewer

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I would skip the sorbate, it really isn't needed and breaks down into off flavors over time. The "Liquigel" is a clarifying agent and is also optional, wine will naturally clear with time.

Don't worry too much about degassing, you can expose the wine to higher temps for a few days to help, but it is easier to just leave it and degass the bottle before drinking it, or pour it through an aerator.

Sounds a bit tannic but these kits are usually designed for fast turnaround and don't require a lot of aging. With fresh grapes I age a minimum of 1 year before bottling (requires sulfite monitoring).
 

z-bob

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johns455

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I can second the glass marble thing, I've had been making wine for over 4 yrs before finding this site, and learned that trick here, saves a lot of stress on my part lol
 

eigua

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I can second the glass marble thing, I've had been making wine for over 4 yrs before finding this site, and learned that trick here, saves a lot of stress on my part lol
Gosh I love this idea even more now that I realized you could use them to remove headspace from expensive liquor or port when you keep an open bottle around a while. Except I'm a little concerned about the marbles chipping when they're dropped in...
 
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