Do I need to add sulfites?

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WVRoger

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I'll introduce my self here although I'm aware there is a separate thread for that. I have been making beer for a while - only one or two gallons at a time and have accumulated enough apparati to to take a whack at simple wine making. I have lurked here for a month or so and have learned quite a bit. I made a one gallon batch of cranberry wine using Ocean Spray juice. I achieved a complete fermentation. I added a crushed Campden tablet at the first racking. Cold crashed it after two weeks then racked again and added about 300ml of a store wine to top off the one gallon carboy. I have it bulk aging at about 56 degrees F with an air lock still on the carboy. I may want to back sweeten this either now or before bottling - at least three months from now. My question is: Will the sulfites in the 300ml of store wine be enough to keep any residual yeast from re-activating? The wine cleared nicely and there is no residue in the bottom of the carboy after two weeks. I am probably overly cautious with keeping things sterile but otherwise I want to keep it as simple as I can. Thanks!
 
Welcome to WMT! Potassium metabisulfite (aka Kmeta) should be added at your next racking. Kmeta is not a one time addition, it does its protective job and helps drop sediment. Once it does these things it needs to be replenished. 3 months is the approximate time to do that. Some people bulk age for way longer than 3 months, but pull off the airlock and add Kmeta at 3 months, no racking.

Kmeta does not kill yeast, so if you bottle at less than 9 months you may want to add Kmeta along with potassium sorbate. These two things together prevent renewed fermentation.
 
Thanks for that information. It will be hard for me to bulk age this first batch beyond three months - I'm ready to drink it now. So, other than topping off the carboy and maybe imparting some of it's own characteristics to the wine, are there any benefits from the stabilizers in the store wine? Also, does the need for these additives - Kmeta and potassium sorbate go away if I bottle beyond 9 months?
 
Welcome to WMT!

If you don't intend to backsweeten, you don't need potassium sorbate.

As Bob says, the kmeta (powder form or campden tablets) isn't a one time addition - it gets used up over time, including whatever was added to the store bought wine when it was fermented and then bottled.

Some members report that they have successfully backsweetened after 9 months of aging and have had no issues without using potassium sorbate. Others have reported renewed fermentation even after bulk aging more than a year before back sweetening. The yeastie beasties *should* all be dead after 9 months or so, but sometimes a few are resilient enough to survive that long or longer, and then backsweetening adds enough fuel for them to start reproducing and restart the fermentation. So the addition of potassium sorbate, which acts as birth control for the yeast, before backsweetening is the less risky path.

Whether I am backsweetening or not, I always add a dose of kmeta about every 3 months during aging and also at bottling time. So far I have always used potassium sorbate when backsweetening, with the exception of one batch which I bulk aged more than a year before backsweetening and bottling, and have had no issues with renewed fermentation.
 
Thanks for that information. It will be hard for me to bulk age this first batch beyond three months - I'm ready to drink it now. So, other than topping off the carboy and maybe imparting some of it's own characteristics to the wine, are there any benefits from the stabilizers in the store wine? Also, does the need for these additives - Kmeta and potassium sorbate go away if I bottle beyond 9 months?
I doubt that the amount of stabilizer in the 300ml, compared to the gallon of wine, is of any consequence. I think you might be surprised at how much sediment you continue to get from a clear wine. There’s no rush in bottling.

It is your wine, if you think it’s ready to bottle, then it’s ready to bottle.
 
Thanks to everyone for the input. I think I will stay with the Campden for this batch as that is what I have. I will add potassium sorbate prior to bottling.
 
I think I will stay with the Campden for this batch as that is what I have.
Just a small word of caution - the term Campden tablet is used for both sodium metabisulfite and potassium metabisulfite. Make sure your is the potassium version; sodium can leave an unpleasant salty note...

And a belated welcome to WMT!
 
Thanks for the welcome and the information about the Campden tablets. I have both. But, I used the sodium for first racking. Can I switch to potassium for next and subsequent racking/bottling with this same batch?
 
Thanks for the welcome and the information about the Campden tablets. I have both. But, I used the sodium for first racking. Can I switch to potassium for next and subsequent racking/bottling with this same batch?
You should switch to potassium metabisulfite for anything that goes in the wine. You can use the sodium metabisulfite for sanitizing.
 
Kmeta (potassium metabisulfite) does two things; it inhibits microbes from infecting your wine, and it also helps prevent oxidation. The amount in a bottle of commercial wine is either at the level it should be FOR THAT BOTTLE, or has diminished due to aging. Either way, if you further dilute it in more wine it will not be effective. It does not affect yeast (wine making yeast has been bred to be very tolerant of it in proper doses). Both potassium metabisulfite and sodium metabisulfite work the same way, but sodium metabisulfite is less effective so requires about 1/3 more (I have never heard of it causing any flavor changes when properly used). Going forward it will be easier to use the powdered version rather than tablets, for better accuracy.

Potassium Sorbate prevents yeast from multiplying, so it doesn't kill them and it will not stop a fermentation, it prevents the colony from reproducing so it will eventually die off as the yeast cells grow old and die. You always have to use kmeta with sorbate to prevent infections. All my fermentations I go to dry, then if I want residual sugar I back sweeten to taste.
 
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I will add my take here
Sulfites can be a controversial subject. I have always added campden tablets from my very first batch of wine. I use it to stunt the natural yeast on all fruit so I can add the yeast I use.
OK, After that I have followed several roads of thought over the years. The anti sulfite crowd has points, as does the sulfite crowd. then one day I started doing taste test, and doing experiments. the road from beginner to intermediate to well versed wine make involves those steps.
What I found out is that sulfites and other additives work. and if used in the correct ratio do as claimed. Also if used correctly do not have an adverse taste to a wine.
Do I want them all the time, NO, I develop recipes that use or do not use them.
SO, yes you should use them and other additives and clarifiers, and figure out how it affects that recipe, and decide if the are good for that recipe.

I do a lot of fruit wines so killing the fermentation to have sweetness left means use of sulfites. And as fruit wines normally have clarity issues, using fining agents is needed.

that is my 5 cents. (2 cents before Biden)
 
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