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wine nutrients

Don’t make these mistakes this harvest season!

Avoid these all too common mistakes this harvest!

With all the planning, excitement, energy, and potential money you’ve put into preparing for harvest time, the last thing you want to do is make a silly mistake that may put the quality of your wine in jeopardy. The following is a list of pitfalls to be aware of. Heed these words to the wise and save yourself a headache in the future.

1) Inadequate space for your volume

Overflowing, bubbling, fermenting wines can make an absolute mess. You want to fill any vessel no more than 3/4 full pre-fermentation unless you’re both physically and emotionally prepared for the cleanup. You will also needlessly lose volume, yeast, and nutrient, in addition to your mind. Multiple tanks or carboys of various sizes will be your saving grace here.

2) Not cleaning properly

Clean, sanitize, repeat.

The importance of proper cleanliness and sanitation practices from the get go cannot be stressed enough. B-brite, One Step, soda ash, and Proxycarb are all cleaning agents. Potassium metabisulfite + citric acid is a sanitizing solution.

You want to clean and then sanitize, not sanitize and then clean. Don’t let anything with residue of fruit, juice, or must sit out for longer than necessary. That means that before you finish up for the day, your work space should be nice and clean and ready for the next day. Otherwise you will attract fruit flies, which can lead to VA issues in the wine. (Not to mention they’re a pain and difficult to get rid of anyway.)

Cleaning the inside of a carboy

3) Underestimating the need for nutrients

Adding yeast nutrients may seem like an optional add on, but why wouldn’t you want to ensure that your yeast have all of the nutrients that they need to be happy and healthy and get your juice to become the wine of your dreams? Some yeast strains almost require the addition of them to work well. There’s no harm in using them, but there can definitely be harm in choosing not to.

Lack of nutrients can lead to stressed yeast which can produce off odors (H2S, the smell of rotten eggs or cabbage) that are very difficult to get rid of.

4) Skipping steps/guesstimating

Eyeballing an SO2 add, rounding up on Brix levels, or having a “eh, it’s more or less correct” attitude when making wine can really complicate your life down the road. Sure, some people see winemaking as only art and some see it as only science; but the wise see it as the perfect blend of both.

We all know the feeling…

Bear in mind that measurements are used for a reason; the order of operations for certain nutrient adds are not arbitrary, as adding one with DAP before the right point can actually hurt the yeast; too little SO2 and the wine will suffer, too much and it will also suffer. The list goes on, but be sure you:

  • do not generalize
  • do not come to conclusions without taking all variables into account
  • do not guestimate unless you know for a fact that a “more or less” mindset is applicable in a given circumstance

Don’t guesstimate on your math – it may cause problems down the road

5) Forgetting that there’s a difference between US and metric system

Freshen up on your middle school math conversions so you can quickly maneuver between gallons and liters and ounces and grams. Some labels include g/L and lb/gallon. Double (or triple) check your math to be sure you’re consistent and working with the same unit of measurement. These early stage additions very much set the tone for the wine throughout its whole life so you want to get it started on the right foot. Online calculators like WineMaker Mag’s sulfite calculator and winebusiness.com’s conversions caulculator can be really useful because you can toggle back and forth between these systems depending on what you are most accustomed to.