Frequently Asked Winemaking Questions

Here is a list of our most frequently asked questions about winemaking. These are the questions that we are asked every day. Got questions about bottling? Is your fermentation stuck? What kind of corks should you be using? You will find all the answers here and more. This section is up-dated on a regular basis so check back often.

Bottling Questions

What type of bottles should I use to bottle my wine?
Wine has been traditionally stored in corked bottles. The necks of these bottles are molded so they can be sealed tightly with corks. In reality you can use just about any bottle to store wine as long as you can seal it tightly. It can be argued that screw cap bottles are better for storing wine because you can get an air-tight seal and there is no chance of picking up off-flavours from the corks. If you do use screw cap bottles make sure you use the proper caps. Don't use corks in screw top bottles. They where not designed to take corks and make leak or crack under the pressure exerted by the cork.

Can I use plastic PET bottles to store my wine?
Plastic PET (soft drink) bottles can be used to store wine for the short term - 12 months or less. These bottles are sometimes used to bottle sparkling wines because of their ability to withstand the pressures of carbonation. Oxygen will gradually pass through the plastic and enter your wine which will alter the flavour. Some people also complain of a different flavour on wines that have been bottled in plastic.

What type of corks should I use?
There are several types of corks on the market which can make it very confusing for the wine maker. You have to decide what you want your cork to do. If you intend to drink your wine soon after bottling and are not fussy about the quality of the cork than an economical agglomerate cork will fit the bill. If you are more concerned about the the presentation and longevity of your wine you may want to go with a high quality natural cork. If you would like a detailed description and the recommended uses for the corks available at Brewery Lane you can click here

Can I use plastic wine stoppers?
Plastic wine stoppers are quite acceptable. They can be re-used over and over and are environmentally friendly. Plastic stoppers are best used for short term storage of six months or less because they do not seal as tightly as cork.

Problem Solving

My white wine is all finished and ready to bottle but it looks the colour of apple juice in the carboy. What gives? I thought it would look clear like water.
All white wines have a tint. Some are more deeply tinted than others. This is magnified when you look at it through a carboy because of the larger volume. Your wine will look lighter in colour when in a wine glass.

I filtered my wine and everything looked fine, but now I have a residue in my wine bottles that looks and feel like sugar crystals. Where did they come from?
The residue that you have described is commonly called "wine diamonds" by wine makers. It is caused by the crystallization of tartaric acid which was originally in solution and could not be removed by filtration. The formation of wine diamonds is welcomed by some wine makers because it usually only occurs in well made, high quality wines. The diamonds precipitate as the wines are being aged. Cold temperatures accelerate the formation of wine diamonds. If you want to minimize the amount of crystals that will form in your bottles, you can store your wine at just below freezing about two weeks before bottling. This will cause the crystals to form in the carboy allowing you to rack the cold treated wine off the residue.

Fermentation Questions

I added yeast to my wine 24 hours ago and there is no sign of fermentation. What should I do?
First make sure that your fermentation has not started. If you are using a plastic bucket with a sealed lid and are looking for signs of bubbling in the air lock you could be mislead. The gas may be escaping out through the rim of the bucket.
This is a very common occurrence and shouldn't be overlooked. Remove the cover and make a visual check to see if the fermentation has begun. If it hasn't begun check the temperature and make sure that it is in the recommended range of 20 to 25 degrees Celsius. If it is too cold the fermentation may be slow starting. Move the bucket to a warmer spot and check in another 24 hours. If there is still no fermentation add another packet of wine yeast.

I transferred my wine to my carboy on day 7 and there is no activity in the air lock. Is my wine all right?
Most high quality modern wine kits have the optimum amount of additives and nutrients to produce a quick and healthy fermentation. If your wine seemed to ferment well initially then there is no cause for concern. You can also take a hydrometer reading. If the reading is between 1.000 to .990, your wine has finished fermenting and will give off little if any gas.

My wine has finished fermenting after 7 days. Do I still have to wait until day 21 before clearing it?
Yes. You should still follow the time frame set out in your instructions. This allows for your wine to completely ferment and lets some of the CO2 gas to dissipate naturally. Your wine will clear faster and taste better. Four weeks is about the minimum time required to make a decent wine. Most good wine makers let their wine stand a lot longer than 4 weeks before bottling.

Sanitizing and Cleaning Questions

What is the best sanitizer to use?
For many years sodium or potassium metabisulphite was the preferred sanitizing agent for winemakers. These sanitizers work by generating a sulphur dioxide gas. This somewhat obnoxious gas acts as a bacteria inhibitor and a mild anti-bacterial agent. Modern day wine makers depend on more powerful and easier-to-use sanitizers like Diversol (pink chlorinated cleaner) or iodine based products. These are far more effective, rinse easily and are highly recommended by us.

How long do I have to keep my bottles and equipment in contact with the sanitizer?
It depends on the type of sanitizer you are using. Chlorine (pink stuff) & Idophor based sanitizers should not be rinsed for 15 minutes. Metabisulphites don't really have to be rinsed at all if you drain your equipment well.

Filtering Questions

Does filtering wine remove flavouring components?
This seems to be a very common belief by home winemakers. It is important to note that practically all commercial wineries filter their wines. Filtered wines are more stable and will age better and keep longer. The filters used by commercial wineries are much finer than filters commonly available to and used by home winemakers. You will not strip any flavour from your wine using these filters. Filtering will help to rid your wine of excess gasses and will also remove yeast and other impurities.

I started to filter my wine and the wine is leaking all over the place. What's wrong?
If you have the filter pads and plates installed properly and all hoses and connections properly fitted, the most likely cause is clogged filter pads. This the most common reason for excessive leaking and spraying. You will have to either add more finings to your wine or get some coarse filter pads to pre-filter your wine. You will then have to re-filter your wine with finer pads. You should be aware that fine filter pads are used to polish a clear wine. Your wine may look clear to the eye but still clog up fine filter pads very fast.