Adding Campden with Bentonite - Necessary or not ?

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May 25, 2009
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Hi all,

I am relatively new to the home-made wine hobby (5 months) and am enjoying it immensely (2 gallons apricot, 2 gallons pineapple +/-orange, 2 gallons strawberry +/- sultanas and 2.5 gallons blood plums +/- banana) all in 1-gallon glass secondary's at present.

I do have a query about bentonite for my first batch of apricot wine. The apricot wine is not clearing like my later batches of pineapple and strawberry wines, which are crystal clear in a much shorter period of time. I suspect either pectin haze (though I did use pectinase at the outset) otherwise a protein haze.

I should probably wait for 6-7 months to see if it will clear on its own. However, because I have 2 separate 1-gallon demijohns and am curious, I am going to experiment and run bentonite in one and leave the other to clear on its own without bentonite. This will allow me to assess the time factor for clearing as well as the effect of bentonite on taste.

My query is, since I will be adding bentonite (a potentially non-sterile medium) to the wine, should I automatically/always sulphite the wine with a Campden tablet when adding bentonite ?? Some wine makers suggest adding Na-metabisulphite (Campden tablets) only on every 2nd racking, so as not to over-dose the wine with sulphite. If I was to miss sulphiting the wine on this occasion, can I assume the alcohol (currently 12.9% based on both vinometer and hydrometer readings) will kill any nasties that might come with the bentonite. Alternatively boiling the water-bentonite pre-mix should adequately sterilize the fining sludge ?

My routine for this batch has been:

Primary fermentation 5.54 days.
Rack Pri-to-Sec (2 x 1-gallon) 11 Jan (SG 0.995) - No Campden added.
Rack Sec-to-Sec: 1 Feb (SG 0.993) - 1 Camden tablet added
Rack Sec-to-Sec: 28 Mar (SG 0.991) - 0.5 Camden tablet added
Rack Sec-to-Sec: 26 May (SG 0.990) - Tomorrow add bentonite
(+ Campden ??).

I am actually leaning towards sulphiting again when I add the bentonite as the stirring required may degas any remaining sulphite in solution and may oxygenate the wine slightly, and given that I only added half a Camden tablet last racking, I should be OK adding another Campden tablet this time when I add the bentonite ?

Welcome aboard, you should be fine. Your sulfite levels should not be very high. It has been a couple months or so since the half tab addition. Do you know the sulfite dose per tab? There are different doses. If you could tell us that the folks here that use the tabs can give you some tips. I never use them. I make a solution and add it
Thanks for that Smurfe!

How do you make your sulphite solution ? i.e. how many teaspoons/volume and then at what rate do you sulphite your wine per gallon for example ?

On the 27th May I added bentonite to one of my two 1 gallon demijohns of apricot wines (stirred bentonite 5-6 times in the first 2 days then left to settle on bentonite for another 19 days - 21 days in total before racking off the bentonite). Meantime my second demijohn of apricot wine I decided to leave to clarify on its own without bentonite, to see the time difference for clearing (with and without bentonite) and ultimately to see if I could detect any difference in taste between the bentonite treated wine and the untreated wine.

The gallon treated with bentonite is very clear now after 2 months post-bentonite (little more to go but really quite clear). The gallon left untreated is now starting to clear significantly (maybe the lower winter temperature is helping) and another couple months should be completely clear, though it is slower than the gallon treated with bentonite. It has an orange hue whilst the gallon treated with bentonite is now clear yellow.

A taste test revealed a slight but noticable difference too, though I am not sure which I prefer !! they are both delicious IMHO (unbiased of course).

As far as a sanitizing solution goes its 3 tablespoons per gallon of water. As far as uso=ing it for a batch of wine its 1/4 tsp per 6 gallon batch and repeated at 3-4 month intervals of bulk aging to protect your wine from ozidation. You really cant do a taste test on two batches unless they are at the same stage as one is clear and one isnt so with one you are tasting a clear wine and the other has sediment in it still which will give it a different profile.

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