When making fruit wine there is the possibility of encountering a few mishaps however this is very rare and most are recoverable. Here is a guide to some common problems when making wine.
There are a few reasons for this:
- Pectin which is found in most fruits and can be cleared using Pectolase. Dissolve 1 level teaspoon per gallon in 1/2 cup of lukewarm water, add to must and shake/stir well. If used with heated or boiled fruits, add 2 teaspoonfuls per gallon (when cooled).
- Wine is still fermenting move to a cool place and add Potassium Sorbate to stabilise. Also prevents fermentation after bottling which is essential.
Overly Sweet Wine
This could be due to adding too much sugar, there is a limit to how much sugar a yeast can tolerate and if that level is too high the resulting alcohol will kill the yeast. If you have reached the desired alcohol level of your recipe then you will have to mix your sweet wine with a similar dry wine to solve the problem . The most common cause of sweet wine is a stuck fermentation (For more info see ‘Stuck Fermentation and what to do about it’ on this blog) and there are a number things to try to solve this:
- Temperature: If this is too cool then the yeast will slow down or stop completely. Bring the temperature back up to around 20 degrees and this will help to make the yeast active again.
- Give the must a stir to add oxygen which will help kick start fermentation again.
- Add nutrient to get the yeast going again especially vitamin B1, you can also add extra yeast to help this process along, then keep the must at room temperature to encourage fermentation.
- Add a vigorously fermenting must. C.J.J. Berry author of First Steps in Winemaking recommends adding a cup full.
Lack of Body
Can be as a result of not using enough fruit adding grape concentrate often solves this, however it does also add sweetness. Body can also develop in the bottle over time so this is something to take into consideration.
Wine Tastes Flat
This is due to a lack of tannin so add 1 level teaspoonful per gallon to remedy. It can be bought in tubs or you can use up to 1 tablespoon of strong tea per gallon of wine. Tannin also helps to preserve your wine.
Wine Lacks Bouquet
When left in the bottles this often improves over time, you can also use malic and citric acid to improve the bouquet. Something to note is that this can also be caused by a fermentation that is too rapid, it is best to have a steady fermentation where possible as the end result with wine or beer is a better quality brew. During winter heating pads and belts are ideal for this.
Oxidisation – Will discolour the wine giving it a brown tinge and may give it off flavours.
This effects white wine more than red wine as the colour pigments in the red wine act as an anti-oxidant, however it is important to prevent exposure in both types. Oxidisation is caused by exposure to O2 after fermentation. It isn’t a problem during fermentation and immediately after because of the amount of CO2 that is given off which fills the gap between the top of the fermenting bucket and the lid therefore preventing any O2 from coming into contact with the must. It also helps to force out any O2 already present in the must.
- Adding an oxidised wine to a vigorously fermenting one of a harmonious type solves the issue. In First Steps in Winemaking C.J.J. Berry states that ‘the excess acetaldehyde is caught up in the fermentation process and reduced to alcohol with the aldehyde of the fermenting must’
- Oxidisation can also occur if there is excessive splashing when transferring the brew from vessel to vessel or to the bottles so ensuring this is kept to a minimum also helps to prevent it.
- It can also occur when bulk aging a wine, if you plan to do this it is best to transfer your wine to a smaller container so that there is no exposure to the air. It should also be stored in a cool dark place as temperature and light play a role in oxidisation.
- Adding Campden Tablets just before bottling or bulk aging also helps to prevent oxidisation.
Wine Smells Weird
Generally this is just the smell of the wine during and immediately after fermentation however there some smells to look out for which are not good news for your brew:
- Smells like eggs: This is due to Hydrogen Sulphide which is caused by the fermentation process and occurs in all fermenting wines. This is not something to worry about and will dissipate after racking to a secondary vessel or transferring to bottles. However if a smell persists then Campden tablets or Potassium Metabisulphate will get rid of this and one or the other are usually required in most fruit wine recipes.
- Mousey smell: This is not good and means that the brew has been ruined by bacterial infection, the best thing to do is to throw it away and start again after thoroughly sterilising all the equipment you use.
- Vinegar Smell: If spotted early on you can prevent your wine from turning to vinegar by using campden tablets or Sodium Metabisulphate. These kill the bacteria which cause the vinegary taste and smell and ensure that they don’t get any worse. The best way to prevent this entirely is to make sure your airlock doesn’t go dry, limit exposure to the air and add 1 crushed Campden tablet to each gallon of wine at the end of fermentation to prevent oxidation and bacterial contamination during bottling and syphoning, it also aids stability.
These are some of the most common issues you may encounter during wine making however as long as you sterilise your equipment, use the right yeast and ingredients and brew at the correct temperature you’ll be rewarded with a stress free fun experience which will result in some of the best wine you have ever tasted! Happy brewing!