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

Wine expert testing wine silhouette image

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.

The Winemaker’s Think Tank: Vol 5 – Is Malocatic necessary in White Wines if it has not been inoculated?

Wine expert testing wine silhouette image

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! :)

Is Malocatic necessary in White Wines if it has not been inoculated?

When considering the stability of a white wine in preparation for bottling, sugar and microbial stability are of great importance. After fermentation, if MLF is not purposefully inoculated by the winemaker, the addition of Lysozyme may be considered as to retard any naturally present MLF bacteria from beginning to ferment. If the level of SO2 is kept up to is suggested level (contingent upon pH), the Lysozyme may not be needed as the SO2 will prevent the bacteria from fermenting. If the winemaker is trying to use a low amount of sulfites in their wine, I would suggest the use of Lysozyme to inhibit any bacterial growth.

Equally as important, is the use of sterile filtration. If the wine is processed through a sterile filter (.45µ), bacterial and yeast cells should be eliminated. This will physically prevent the bacterial spoilage of the wine. If the winemaker chooses to back sweeten the wine, this filtration will also help prevent any refermentation within the bottle. When it comes to back sweetening, I also always recommend chemical as well as physical sterilization of the wine to prevent fermentation and off aromas to develop within the bottle. Potassium sorbate may be used on any wine that has not gone through malolactic fermentation. If it is used on a wine that has undergone MLF, remaining MLF bacteria can begin to metabolize the sorbate, resulting in a strong geranium odor. In my experience, I typically add sorbate and sterile filter the wine, then bottle, without the addition of Lysozyme. I am meticulous about the level of SO2 remaining above the suggested amount , and I typically add an additional 10ppm before bottling to ensure prolonged sterility within the bottle.

While you certainly can conduct a chromatography test upon the wines to detect the presence of acid, both malic and lactic exist naturally within the grape, so the chromatography test will not be especially helpful when looking at a wine that has not gone through MLF. As long as you keep a vigilant watch upon your sulfur dioxide levels and pH, and use sorbate when sweetening, you should be fine.

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.