RJ Spagnols Chilean Merlot appears to have gone bad...

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Wicks

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Hi All!
First post, first attempt at wine making.

I purchased an En Primeur Chilean Merlot kit and dove in last month.
Its been 45 days and it appears to have gone bad.
The wine has an off smell that I can only liken to the sodium meta bisulfite that I used for sanitation. Its strong and somewhat sulfery...
The taste is sour and if the wine sample sits out for 15mins it really tastes more like vinegar...

I tried to be extremely careful with sanitation on each set but maybe I missed something. The wine was coming along nicely all the way through degassing. I started noticing the smell a few weeks after as it was aging.

I'll include an overview of my steps. I'd really appreciate any feedback on where I may have messed up so the next batch is better.

I'm assuming that this batch is gone and there's nothing that can be done....?

Day1:
Gallon of tap water, swirled and added the bentonite.
Added juice, topped up with water.
Added oak powder.
Added grape skins to the mesh bag. I forgot to sanitize the bag. Is this crucial? I'll definitely do it next time.
Added bag.
SG 1.105.
Hydrated yeast with 105F water.
Added yeast.
Covered and let sit for 3-4 days. Afterwards I opened it up to punch down the skins twice a day.
Monitored temp at 72F.

Day 8: SG 1.012
Day 13: SG 0.992. Was busy with my newborn so I let the primary fermentation go a bit longer then a week.
Racked to carboy. Added pectinase.

Day 16: SG 0.991
Rack to big mouth bubbler and degassed to the instructions >10mins.
At proper intervals:
Added sulphite.
Added Potassium sorbate.
Added Kieselsol.
Added Chitosan.

Day 17: Rack to carboy
Moved to basement where temp was 58F.
I did not top up the wine to an inch below the bung. It was a good few inches lower.

Day 45: Measured pH at 3.2. Bad smell and taste.

Sorry for the long post but I wanted details in case there were questions.

A pH of 3.2 also seems a bit low for a merlot....?

I'd appreciate any feedback on what I screwed up and if there's hope to save it...?

TIA
 

brewbush

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From day 17 to day 45, that is I month of wine that was not topped up. How much is a good few inches? It may be oxidized, but hard to tell. Everything else seems fine to me.
 

BarBarrique

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I am surprised that this kit oxidized so quickly, however, once fermentation is complete; it is important to rack the wine to a topped up carboy, and, add the S02. I tend to leave my reds in the primary fermenter for 14 days before racking, but, afterwords it is in a topped up carboy with S02 added
There was an incident where I had some Cellar Craft showcase SA Shiraz in the primary fermenter, and, due to a "family emergency", I could not rack it for 4 weeks. I expected it to be a total loss, but, when I checked it in the primary it smelled, and, tasted fine. This wine turned out to be good, though, I did give it a double dose of S02, after racking.
Sorry to hear about the loss of your wine kit.
 

Tnuscan

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Day 1 you say you added a gallon of tap water, so I assume the rest was also tap water. This could be the culprit if the water had high levels of chlorine.

Several inches of headspace shouldn't ruin the wine in 28 days at that pH, I wouldn't think. Maybe try splash racking and add a little more K-Meta. If you haven't done so already.

Top up and wait a bit and see if it changes.
 
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Wicks

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Here's a pic of the carboy.
I've extracted out a glass or so for testing so it was slightly higher but this is close.

Thx for the feedback so far!

...and my iPhone of course rotated the pic...sorry.

IMG_5252.jpg
 

Wicks

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@Wicks describe the smell and taste.

Smell is similar to the sodium meta bisulfate but sweeter, not quite as strong. Maybe sweet and sulfer-like. Hard to describe as I haven't really smelled anything like it but is definitely off-putting.
Taste is sour, kind of vinegary. Gets worse as the wine sits in the glass for 10-15mins.
 

Tnuscan

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Vinegar is not good, I'm hoping this is from the 3.2 pH and the CO2 in the wine.I noticed you didn't stir/punch the cap down for 2 or 3 days, this may have stressed the yeast.

You also say you added pectinase, was this in your instructions? This is usually done before fermentation. The clairfying agents will clear your wine. Pectinase is for breaking down the fruit.
 

Wicks

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Vinegar is not good, I'm hoping this is from the 3.2 pH and the CO2 in the wine.I noticed you didn't stir/punch the cap down for 2 or 3 days, this may have stressed the yeast.

You also say you added pectinase, was this in your instructions? This is usually done before fermentation. The clairfying agents will clear your wine. Pectinase is for breaking down the fruit.

So the instructions say nothing about punching down the cap.
I saw in some YouTube videos that everybody was doing it so I started but yeah, it was a few days into fermentation.
Strange the instructions don't mention it...

I think the kit came with pectinase but I can't remember exactly.
It's in the instructions so I mentioned it:
If your kit contains a Pectinase Package, add the contents into the Carboy and stir gently with a clean, sanitized spoon. Pectinase will assist in clearing your wine and improving filtration.
This step is in secondary fermentation.

So you think it's stressed yeast?
Would that give off odors and bad taste right away?

My issue seemed to take 30days or so to show itself.
 

stickman

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I would guess excess co2 combined with a young wine recently sulfited is the main issue exaggerating the acid sour taste and aroma. If it is stored at 58F, when your sample in the glass starts to warm up to room temperature it will release co2, which increases the perception of the above mentioned issues. I would top up and continue to age according to schedule, if you are in a hurry you can warm up to 75 and degas again, but certainly don't toss the wine.
 

AZMDTed

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Everything you've done sounds normal and shouldn't have resulted in what you're seeing. The only item I don't have experience with is the is Sodium meta bisulfate that you used. I only use Potassium meta bisulfate so I can't comment on that. I recommend you give the company a call or an email and talk to one of their technical reps. I've never called RJS before, but I expect that they will be responsive and in a better position to tell you what happened. They might even offer a replacement if it seems like it's something in the batch itself.
 

Tnuscan

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So the instructions say nothing about punching down the cap.
I saw in some YouTube videos that everybody was doing it so I started but yeah, it was a few days into fermentation.
Strange the instructions don't mention it...

I think the kit came with pectinase but I can't remember exactly.
It's in the instructions so I mentioned it:
If your kit contains a Pectinase Package, add the contents into the Carboy and stir gently with a clean, sanitized spoon. Pectinase will assist in clearing your wine and improving filtration.
This step is in secondary fermentation.

So you think it's stressed yeast?
Would that give off odors and bad taste right away?

My issue seemed to take 30days or so to show itself.

No I was really just pointing out possibilities. Usually you will know when the yeast are stressed, smells and stuck or sluggish fermentations. I notice a sourish smell/taste with kits, being this young it's easy to get sulfer smells and sour tastes that will make you feel or think of trouble.

I too think (if??) something is wrong, it was probably in the kit itself. As AZMDTed stated I'd call in just to let them know, early on. This way if something is wrong ( which I'm hoping isn't the case ) they will want to correct. These kits are pretty bullet proof if instructions are followed.
 

Grabo

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One thing that I noticed and hasn't been mentioned yet is that you added potassium sorbate to a dry wine. While the directions do say to add it, and it's good that you followed the direction on your first attempt, this could also be a source of your off flavor. You may be sensitive to the off flavors the potassium sorbate imparts.

My first 2 kits were a Cab and a Merlot, and I added potassium sorbate to them. While they are drinkable, they have a pretty prominent flavor that I describe as "a little sour punch to the nose, and oddly artificial sweet taste." It is a little off-putting for a dry red, and I was worried that I didn't like any dry red kit wines. I've done about 5 more dry red kits since then, including a repeat of the first Cab, and none have had the same off flavor since I started skipping the sorbate.
 

Wicks

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Day 1 you say you added a gallon of tap water, so I assume the rest was also tap water. This could be the culprit if the water had high levels of chlorine.

Several inches of headspace shouldn't ruin the wine in 28 days at that pH, I wouldn't think. Maybe try splash racking and add a little more K-Meta. If you haven't done so already.

Top up and wait a bit and see if it changes.
Indeed. I used all tap water. Who knows whats all in it... Next time I'll invest in some spring water to be sure.


I would guess excess co2 combined with a young wine recently sulfited is the main issue exaggerating the acid sour taste and aroma. If it is stored at 58F, when your sample in the glass starts to warm up to room temperature it will release co2, which increases the perception of the above mentioned issues. I would top up and continue to age according to schedule, if you are in a hurry you can warm up to 75 and degas again, but certainly don't toss the wine.
Interesting. Ok, I can warm it back up and try another degas to see if that helps.
 

Wicks

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Everything you've done sounds normal and shouldn't have resulted in what you're seeing. The only item I don't have experience with is the is Sodium meta bisulfate that you used. I only use Potassium meta bisulfate so I can't comment on that. I recommend you give the company a call or an email and talk to one of their technical reps. I've never called RJS before, but I expect that they will be responsive and in a better position to tell you what happened. They might even offer a replacement if it seems like it's something in the batch itself.
Yeah I may try some K-meta instead to see if that helps. I emailed the company (RJS) as well to see if they had any ideas.

One thing that I noticed and hasn't been mentioned yet is that you added potassium sorbate to a dry wine. While the directions do say to add it, and it's good that you followed the direction on your first attempt, this could also be a source of your off flavor. You may be sensitive to the off flavors the potassium sorbate imparts.

My first 2 kits were a Cab and a Merlot, and I added potassium sorbate to them. While they are drinkable, they have a pretty prominent flavor that I describe as "a little sour punch to the nose, and oddly artificial sweet taste." It is a little off-putting for a dry red, and I was worried that I didn't like any dry red kit wines. I've done about 5 more dry red kits since then, including a repeat of the first Cab, and none have had the same off flavor since I started skipping the sorbate.
I am a novice so yeah I just followed the directions and added the sorbate. I could try and leave it out next time. Would that affect long term aging?

It's very young, May be to early to taste, KT and all.
It is young but these kits are supposed to be ready to go after 6-8 weeks arent they? Of course more aging is better but I would have expected a wine that was a bit more drinkable then what I ended up with...


Thanks for all the feedback everybody, much appreciated! Lots to think about.
 

Tnuscan

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I use spring water now too, my tap water smells of very high levels of clorine. At times it's so strong I can't drink it.
 

Tnuscan

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Oh, I forgot to say that the wine needs to be degassed so the pH meter reads accurately, you may already know this.
 

BarBarrique

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In this wine; there are two possibilities (IMO),
1. it is oxidized: this was what I originally assumed, however, the sulfur smell indicates yeast stress. I am familiar with the smell of oxidized wine, but, describing it is a bit subjective so here is Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wine_fault
2. Yeast Stress: Detecting yeast stress is possible during fermentation, but, until you have experienced it (possibly more than once) it can be tricky. The fermenting wine will give off sulfurous odors that may be subtle. If you do suspect it; you can, and, should add some yeast nutrient. The taste of a wine that has been subjected to yeast stress is tricky as well, it definitely doesn't taste right, but I am at a loss to describe it. It is apparently possible to diagnose a yeast stressed wine by placing some copper into the wine, but, I cannot find a link (it will discolor), and, there are treatments for yeast stress wine that use copper, or, copper compounds.
The picture showing the level of wine in the carboy shouldn't have caused oxidation in a short period of time, so this tends to argue for yeast stress which should not happen in a kit, and, should be a reason for RJS to provide a new kit under warranty.
 
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StBlGT

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To answer some above questions.

1. Leaving out sorbate will not affect your aging times. Since you are making a dry wine, there is absolutely no reason for it......assuming your sanitizing is good. All the sorbate does is prevent the yeast from multiplying; so IF you were backsweetening, another fermentation will not happen.

2. A 6-8 week old wine kit will never taste good (unless doing those island mist type kits). I have found that it takes a good 10 months for even a 12l kit to come around for my taste. Patience is everything......so while one ages, make another one or two kits to get that inventory up!!!!
 
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