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Another Sparkling Disaster

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Pavel314

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Last year, I made three batches of fruit wine with the intention of producing sparkling wine from them. All three batches were made within a few months of each other, went through the primary fermentation, then were put into Champagne bottles and capped for the secondary fermentation. Having had leakage problems before, I made sure that all the bottles had the same diameter on top and wiped the tops of the bottles clean before capping. All three batches had fermented to dryness in the primary ferment and all got the same amount of sugar per bottle in the secondary ferment stage.

The caps were drawn at random from a bag of 100 which I had recently purchased. These caps have a double ring of plastic on the inside to make a good seal against the top of the bottle. I used the same capper and procedure on all three batches. The bottles were set on their sides in the same area of the cellar for about six months or so to let the secondary fermentation proceed. There were 12 to 15 bottles in each batch.

All of the bottles in the pear batch leaked, half the bottles in the strawberry batch leaked, and none of the bottles in the apple batch leaked during secondary fermentation. If half of the caps were defective, it is highly unlikely that one batch would get all good caps, one all bad caps, and the third half good and half bad caps, given the random draw. And given that all three batches were done at roughly the same time, it seems unlikely that the caps would have gone bad with age.

Very perplexing. Any ideas on what might have gone wrong?
 

Johnd

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Last year, I made three batches of fruit wine with the intention of producing sparkling wine from them. All three batches were made within a few months of each other, went through the primary fermentation, then were put into Champagne bottles and capped for the secondary fermentation. Having had leakage problems before, I made sure that all the bottles had the same diameter on top and wiped the tops of the bottles clean before capping. All three batches had fermented to dryness in the primary ferment and all got the same amount of sugar per bottle in the secondary ferment stage.

The caps were drawn at random from a bag of 100 which I had recently purchased. These caps have a double ring of plastic on the inside to make a good seal against the top of the bottle. I used the same capper and procedure on all three batches. The bottles were set on their sides in the same area of the cellar for about six months or so to let the secondary fermentation proceed. There were 12 to 15 bottles in each batch.

All of the bottles in the pear batch leaked, half the bottles in the strawberry batch leaked, and none of the bottles in the apple batch leaked during secondary fermentation. If half of the caps were defective, it is highly unlikely that one batch would get all good caps, one all bad caps, and the third half good and half bad caps, given the random draw. And given that all three batches were done at roughly the same time, it seems unlikely that the caps would have gone bad with age.

Very perplexing. Any ideas on what might have gone wrong?
My guess? Too much sugar in the batches that leaked, caused pressures too high that overcame the seals on the caps. Whether there was residual sugar, or too much was added for carbonation, there’s no way to know, don’t know how much sugar you used, or how it was measured, or what residual sugar was left behind when AF finished.
 

Venatorscribe

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Either the above or the capping device or your clamping technique is not putting enough grip on the edges
 

jgmillr1

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When I cap sparkling wine, I first use a table mounted capper to set the cap but I found I have to follow it with a hand capper to be sure the crown is fully crimped around the edge of the bottle lip. This was the tip given to me by my LHBS and it solved my leaking champagne bottles. I've done about 1000 bottles since and not had trouble.
 

Venatorscribe

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Goodness. That is a lot of bottles. I'll probably do about 60 bottles in August. I only have a hand capper. Slow work but I am retired. I neurotically swivel the capper around the outside to double / triple clamp the edges. I have played played around with hard plastic corks and rubber mallets but now prefer using crown caps. FYI my sparking cuvee is made from Bartlett Pears off my trees out back.
 

Pavel314

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Goodness. That is a lot of bottles. I'll probably do about 60 bottles in August. I only have a hand capper. Slow work but I am retired. I neurotically swivel the capper around the outside to double / triple clamp the edges. I have played played around with hard plastic corks and rubber mallets but now prefer using crown caps. FYI my sparking cuvee is made from Bartlett Pears off my trees out back.
I do the double clamp as well. I only use a hand clamper. If the clamping were the problem, you'd expect the leakage to occur evenly among the three batches.
 

Pavel314

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My guess? Too much sugar in the batches that leaked, caused pressures too high that overcame the seals on the caps. Whether there was residual sugar, or too much was added for carbonation, there’s no way to know, don’t know how much sugar you used, or how it was measured, or what residual sugar was left behind when AF finished.
The three batches were almost identical, other than the different fruits used. Maybe pears have more sugar content than apples? Here are the recipes I used:

9#3oz Apples, 3 gallons water, 6#5oz sugar. Primary ferment SG went from 1.076 to 0.996, calculated alcohol 10.9%

9#0oz Strawberries, 3 gallons water, 6#8oz sugar. Primary ferment SG went from 1.074 to 0.992, calculated alcohol 11.14%

9#0oz Pears, 3 gallons water, 6#0oz sugar. Primary ferment SG went from 1.075 to 0.990, calculated alcohol 11.5%
 

Venatorscribe

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Interesting. ie the Apple. A few years back I did a sparkling German style apfelwein and had similar SG readings when it came to bottling. Apfelwine needs at least 18 to 24 months of bottle conditioning. After twelve months I started opening the trial bottles and found absolutely no carbonation. I had used the rigid plastic champagne corks and wire cages for stoppering the bottle. And had placed two dextrose carbonation drops into each bottle. Where I had co-mingled the Apfelwine with other fruits ie quince or pear I also found there was no fizz. But by themselves the quince and pear carbonated ok. So i concluded that all free yeast in the apple wine may have died off during the winter following my primary fermentation - As I hold wines in bulk for six months following primary before bottling. Where I had pear only there was carbonation. But all was not lost with the Apfelwine as I found it made a delightful still wine. So I can definitely say there was no leakage or air exchange.
 

Pavel314

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Interesting. ie the Apple. A few years back I did a sparkling German style apfelwein and had similar SG readings when it came to bottling. Apfelwine needs at least 18 to 24 months of bottle conditioning. After twelve months I started opening the trial bottles and found absolutely no carbonation. I had used the rigid plastic champagne corks and wire cages for stoppering the bottle. And had placed two dextrose carbonation drops into each bottle. Where I had co-mingled the Apfelwine with other fruits ie quince or pear I also found there was no fizz. But by themselves the quince and pear carbonated ok. So i concluded that all free yeast in the apple wine may have died off during the winter following my primary fermentation - As I hold wines in bulk for six months following primary before bottling. Where I had pear only there was carbonation. But all was not lost with the Apfelwine as I found it made a delightful still wine. So I can definitely say there was no leakage or air exchange.
I put 13 grams of sugar into each bottle for the secondary fermentation and use the plastic caps and wires. I generally get good carbonation after six months.
 

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