With our high altitude here are a few tips to assist you when making great wine. I have outlined a few additional ideas for each winemaking step.
1. Primary fermentation – when you add your juice to the primary along with your water and bentonite it is important to stir well. We suggest 5 minutes 3 or 4 times over an hour. If the juices don’t dissolve with the water you may get layered fermentation resulting in a wine that tastes more like weak juice. If your specific gravity is not between the recommended reading in the instructions then you need to stir some more. If your primary is not graded or a grade 1 then upgrade to our 5 grade.
2. To move onto the secondary fermentation stage do not go by the number of days. At our altitude each step will take longer. After 5 days check the specific gravity (SG) if it hasn’t reach 1.010 or less, do not rack. Check the SG over the next few days and rack at 1.010 or less. To assist in reading your hydrometer we recommend the use of our wine thief. When you do rack again we only recommend our Italian glass carboys. Chinese and Mexican carboys can break for no reason. No the plastic carboys on the market are also a grade 1 do not use them for fermenting.
3. Stabilizing – In Calgary after 10 days your SG will not have reached .996 or less. If you go by days and add #2, #3 and #4 at this point you will kill your yeast before you have reached the correct alcohol level. Once again you will have nice juice but not wine. In the fermentation process yeast ferments the natural sugars in the wine producing alcohol and CO2 (thus the release of CO2 through the air lock). Even when you have reached .996 or less if there is still surface activity – small bubbles of CO2 – alcohol is still being produced. This may take another 2 or 3 weeks but do not stabilize until there is absolutely no surface activity. After you have completed step 3 (stabilizing) and have vigorously stirred the wine – suggest 2 minutes three or four times over an hour, move onto getting rid of the CO2.
4. Do not proceed to step 4 until you have gotten rid of the CO2 with the use of a Vacuvin pump. At our altitude the CO2 remains locked in wine. If you bottle before the CO2 is released you will have fizzy poor tasting wine. During this process leave the vacuvin stopper in the carboy under vacuum – this will allow you to pump the wine a few times each day. The correct usage of the Vacuvin is this – pump the Vacuvin creating a vacuum until you hear a clicking sound, once clicking do another 20 pumps. An indication that you are finished removing the CO2 is when you have created a vacuum and no bubbles are produced. Vacuvin’s require occasional lubrication with PAM or a little bit of Vaseline.
This process may take time, if you still have CO2 at 3 weeks, proceed to step 4 and rack the wine off the sediment. Continue using the Vacuvin on a daily basis until no bubbles are produced.
Another option: Getting rid of CO2 by heating and the refining of wine: The heating of wine assists in the elimination of the carbonic gas and helps to refine and mellow out the wine. It also increases the aging and makes the wine smoother.
For red and white wine: use a heat belt, only on an Italian carboy warming the wine up to 30 – 40 degrees C (to achieve this cover the carboy with a blanket). One heat belt will raise the temperature to 30 degrees C, two heat belts will raise the temperature to 35 degrees C. Once the optimum temperature is reached maintain it for 24 hours. Then allow the wine to return to room temperature. Over a 2 week period do this cycle of warming the wine and then allowing it to return to normal temperatures up to 3 times.
During this entire process leave the vacuvin stopper in the carboy under vacuum – this will allow you to pump the wine a few times each day. This process may take time, if you still have CO2 at 3 weeks, proceed to step 4 and rack the wine off the sediment. Continue using the Vacuvin on a daily basis until no bubbles are produced.
Final check is to use a Home Vintner CO2 tester. Ask for your free tester the next time you buy a wine kit. Fill this bottle 3/4 full with the wine to be tested. Put your thumb over the end and shake twice. Place the test bottle by your ear and release your thumb. If there is a strong PSSSSSS sound then you still have CO2 gas. If there is no sound then you are ready to bottle.
5. When you use our closures we guarantee your wine 100%. Please phone us with your questions at any step of the wine making process.
Author: Ron Goodhew