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The Winemaker’s Think Tank: Vol 18 – Tips for Racking Your Wine

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What’s the Winemaker’s Think Tank?

Every Thursday we will post about a few frequently asked questions that our winemaker has answered. If you have a winemaking question you would like to have answered, please email us at support@juicegrape.com and we will try to get into next week’s post. Cheers! :)

The Joys of Racking Wine….

Racking your wine is a necessary evil. We know it can be tedious, but it the end it is so worth it.

Things to keep in mind when racking:

Cleanliness: We cannot express this enough. The cleaner your cellar, the less risk you have of spoilage, the better your wine will be. Aka SANITIZE EVERYTHING!! (however if doing MLF rinse with hot water as not to kill the ML bacteria) Use a solution of potassium metabisulfite dissolved in warm water. Add 2 tbsp to a 5 gallon bucket of water. Make sure that everything that will touch your wine (siphon, hosing, carboys, stirring rods) are all rinsed with this solution. Do not rinse it off with water, just shake off any excess droplets.

Primary Racking: Rack after your primary alcoholic fermentation is complete. This protects your wine from any initial microbial fermentation issues. Getting the new wine off of the dead yeast cells in important for the health of your wine to prevent off aromas.

Secondary Racking: Rack after the Malo-Lactic fermentation has finished. At the second racking you will want to rack your wine into an aging vessel. Whether that is a stainless steel tank or an oak barrel. Don’t forget to sulfite, unless you are doing MLF.

Third and/or Fourth Racking is used more for clarification purposes. Solids and fining agents (if used) will fall out of suspension and form a layer on the bottom of your aging vessel. Racking every 2-3 months, will consistently clarify your wine.

Using a pump makes life so much easier. You can pretty much sit back and relax with a glass of wine while your juice is being transferred. If you don’t have a pump the best way to rack is by using a siphon and the gravity method. Put the primary vessel up some place high (a table) and rack into your new vessel on a lower surface (floor).

We hope this information helps with your winemaking. If you have any follow up questions or winemaking questions in general, please email us at support@juicegrape.com.

2 Responses to The Winemaker’s Think Tank: Vol 18 – Tips for Racking Your Wine

  • John D'Addario says:

    i have question. does racking stop the MLF. i just racked my wine during the MLF and wondering if i damaged the wine by stopping the MLF

    • cmusto says:

      This is a common concern amongst winemakers when first attempting MLF on their wines. Racking will not stop the MLF from occurring. The MLF bacteria are incredibly small and will transfer with the wine into the new vessel. They will continue their process in the new vessel, provided that sulfites are not added, that the vessel is kept above 68F, and the pH is greater than 3.4. It is very helpful to remove the wine off of the gross lees that are left over from primary fermentation to avoid developing any hydrogen disulfide and to remove the dead yeast cells and fermentation debris. The introduction of oxygen via the movement of racking will also help the bacteria continue healthy reproduction and metabolize the malic acid within the wine. So rack away! This will clean up the wine beautifully and help your wine finish up MLF faster.

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