The Home Winemakers’ Frequently Asked Questions
A basic guide to leading the home winemaker in the right direction.
Q: What is a good room or area in the house to make wine?
A: Ideally, a neutral place in the home, somewhere neither too hot nor too cold, is best. The ability to control temperature in the room is a plus (Brew Belts sold here if climate control isn’t an option). Also, somewhere that doesn’t have strong odors, aromas, or flavor in the air is recommended, as these scents can be transferred into the flavor and aroma of the wine. We do not recommend making wine in a laundry room or anywhere else that chemicals and cleaners are stored or used frequently, these things can pose hazards to making wine.
Q: What is the ideal temperature for fermentation?
A: 76℉ is the temperature at which most yeasts ferment the best.
Q: What is the ideal temperature for holding and storing wine?
A: 55℉ is the ideal temperature for wine storage. If storage at this temperature is not possible (it may be difficult in a home setting), a temperature maintained in the low 60’s is acceptable in the home.
Q: What should be used to clean carboys, equipment, bottles, and other supplies?
A: NEVER USE BLEACH OR OTHER HOUSEHOLD CLEANERS TO CLEAN EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES! EVER! These cleaners and chemicals are hazardous to both the wine making process and individual health and should be avoided when processing any food or beverage.
We recommend using a One-Step™ cleaning solution to clean equipment and supplies. A Potassium Metabisulphite solution can be used to sterilize equipment and supplies if desired. (Both One-Step™ and potassium metabisulphite are both sold here.) Be sure to rinse thoroughly after cleaning and sterilizing equipment and supplies. Potassium Metabisulphite inhibits yeast function and reproduction, be sure not to use it during fermentation as it can stall or stop a fermentation.
Q: Why is the juice not fermenting?
A: There are many different factors that are involved in a healthy fermentation. Ask, “What is the Specific Gravity of the juice, currently?” This may help to troubleshoot the fermentation issue.
- If Specific Gravity is still very high (roughly between 1.08 and 1.09) be sure the yeast has been properly added to the juice. If it has and no fermentation has occurred, prepare another yeast culture and add it into the juice.
- If Specific Gravity is still very high and a healthy yeast culture has been added, or fermentation had begun and stopped (resulting in a specific gravity below 1.08 but above 1.00), check the following:
- Is the juice and area at a proper temperature for fermentation (roughly 76℉)?
- Is there enough oxygen present for fermentation?
- Is an airlock being used during fermentation?
- Oxygen is used by yeast as an energy source to ferment sugars to alcohol. If the temperature of the juice/yeast mixture and the area is in a good range for fermentation, try to agitate the mixture by stirring briefly to introduce oxygen into the liquid. If an airlock is being used it is possible that the airlock is choking off the oxygen necessary for a healthy fermentation.
- If none of these common causes appear to be the issue, consult with the winemaker on other potential complications.
Q: Why is the wine still sweet (not finished)?
A: Make sure there is enough oxygen present to finish. Agitate the mixture to ensure proper oxygen levels. It is possible that the yeast may need a little help to finish, adding a yeast nutrient may be a helpful step (Yeast nutrient are sold here). This will give the yeast the energy it needs to finish the fermentation process.
NOTE: The final Specific Gravity of L’uva Bella Juice Company’s juice will primarily fall into the 0.998 and 1.00 range when fermentation has completed. Depending on circumstances, yeast used, and sugars available, the final Specific Gravity may end below the standard .998 to 1.00 though it is uncommon.
Q: What does it mean to make stable or to stabilize a wine?
A: Stable means that all yeast an bacteria activity in a wine has been stopped. This is done by clarifying and racking wine as well as killing any bacteria and excess yeast.
Q: What should be done after fermentation? And how is wine stabilized?
A: When fermentation is finished, the wine should be racked off the sediment into a clean carboy or container. A stabilizing agent should then be added to the resulting liquid (sold here as L’uva Bella Stabilizing Packet). Adding the stabilizing agent will help stop any unwanted bacteria or yeast from living in the wine and prevent fermentation from restarting. Once the wine has been racked and stabilized, Store it in a cool dry place.
Q: How many times should the wine be racked?
A: The finished wine should be racked three (3) times. Traditionally, there should be a month to a month and a half between each racking. Each time the wine is racked, Potassium Metabisulphite should be added to keep the wine stable. ¼ teaspoon of Potassium Metabisulphite is generally enough to treat six (6) gallons of wine. This process is done to ensure all sediment is gone and the wine remains stable.
Q: When can the finished wine be bottled?
A: Immediately after the third racking or as soon as the wine clarifies.
Q: What about malolactic fermentation?
A: Malolactic fermentation is a process in which tart malic acid is converted into softer lactic acid. A bacterium called Oenococcus oeni, causes this reaction to occur and the process can occur naturally. However, O. oeni can be introduced into the wine to force this conversion to begin.
Q: How can I make sweet wine?
A: In order to make your wine sweeter, we recommend back sweetening (adding sugar after fermentation is finished) to taste and re-stabilizing your wine when you have finished.
Q: How can I make my wine have more alcohol percentage?
A: To get a wine with a higher alcohol content you can try using a yeast with a higher alcohol tolerance, or increase the amount of sugar in the juice at the beginning of the process to allow for more alcohol to be made.
Q: What region is the juice from?
A: The juice is from the Colchagua Valley region in Chile.
Q: My wine does not fill up to the neck of the carboy, what should I do?
A: Continue to fill the carboy with wine. Do not use water to fill the space, as this will water down the product. You can add another wine to fill this space, or similarly use spirits. Note that using spirits will result in a hotter wine with higher alcohol content.
Q: What is the best yeast to use and how do I add it?
A: The best yeast to use is EC-1118. It is a strong fermenting yeast that has a high alcohol tolerance. The best way to add the yeast is to take a small sample of the juice and ad the yeast into the sample. After letting the yeast hydrate in the sample for about 20 to 30 minutes, add the sample, with the yeast, back into the rest of the juice.
Q: Why is my juice fermenting and you told me there is not any yeast in here?
A: All juice products have a minimal amount of natural yeast. If the conditions are right, this natural yeast may begin to ferment your juice.
Q: I never had to add yeast before?
A: Previously, our juice was prepared with a liquid yeast blend already added to the product and then kept at extremely cool temperatures to avoid fermentation. Now, however, our product is free of any unnatural yeasts to give the winemaker more room to experiment and experience more of the winemaking process.
Q: Can I leave sulfite out of my wine?
A: Yes, you can leave sulfites out of your wine. It is suggested that should you chooseto avoid sulfites, a fining agent should be used to clarify the wine and the wine should then be subjected to very cold temperatures.
Q: My juice has an odor, what should I do?
A: First what is the smell. If it is a barnyard or hay like smell, this can be an indicator of Brettanomyces, or Brett for short. Brett is a yeast strain that is primarily know as a spoiler. Its effects can often lead to wine turning into vinegar. It is very important to keep all utensils and equipment clean before, during, and after use as well as possible to avoid the growth off Brett strain yeasts.
Q: There is mold floating on top of my juice…what is that?
A: If you are seeing a white build up on the top of your juice, this is not mold. It is a deposit of yeast cells no longer processing sugars. However, these should still be removed quickly by skimming, as they can lead to mold growth overtime.
Q: The color of my White Zinfandel is really dark, is this White Zinfandel?
A: It is White Zinfandel. Each new harvest of grapes is subjected to similar processes to become wine. For wines of lighter color, the juice is removed from the grape skins quicker than darker wines. The time frame is sometimes a little longer or a little shorter, depending on circumstances in the wine making process. This could create the difference in color found between two different White Zinfandels.
Typically, if all the procedures have been followed properly, one can go from bucket of juice to bottling wine in about six months’ time.