Elderberry changes in pH and TA

Winemaking Talk - Winemaking Forum

Help Support Winemaking Talk - Winemaking Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.

BarrelMonkey

Supporting Members
Supporting Member
Joined
Feb 21, 2021
Messages
585
Reaction score
953
Location
Northern California
I've been making elderberry wine for 3 years now (2021, 2022, 2023) using fruit from my own bushes. The 2021 is already bottled; it was my first attempt and came out a bit more tart than I'd hoped, but I think not bad for a first attempt. I'm also aware that folks say elderberry takes many years to mature into a nice wine...

I'm perplexed by the dramatic changes I've seen in TA for each of my wines as they have matured. I measure TA by titrating with 0.1N NaOH to pH 8.2 (~100mL distilled water adjusted to approximately the same pH value, then wine sample added). Measurements for other (non-elderberry) wines seem in line with expectations, so I believe my methodology is sound.

Winemaking was similar in each case though I did an initial cold soak for the 2022 and 2023 wines. In each case I pressed out before the wine was dry in order to limit exposure to skins and seeds.

Here are my measurements (times refer to approximate time after primary fermentation):

2021:
Starting fruit: pH 4.23, TA 3.4g/L
Adjusted with tartaric acid: pH 3.38, TA 6.15
After ~4 months: pH 3.31, TA 8.8g/L
After ~13 months: pH 3.32, TA 7.65 (Bottled)

2022:
Starting fruit: pH 4.27, TA not measured
Adjusted with tartaric acid: pH 3.4, TA 5.5g/L
After ~5 months: pH 3.53, TA 8.33
After ~16 months: pH 3.53, TA 7.3

2023:
Starting fruit: pH 4.21, TA 3.8
Adjusted with tartaric acid: pH 3.49, TA 6.2g/L
After ~3.5 months: pH 3.63, TA 9.15

There is an expected slight increase in pH following fermentation, but TA goes up by a huge amount, particularly with the most recent (2023) wine. Then (at least for the 2021 and 2022 wines) TA decreases after a year of bulk aging whereas pH remains constant.

Any thoughts as to what's going on, and has anyone seen something similar? All I can think of is that there is some enormous buffer capacity which means I need to add huge amounts of NaOH in order to shift pH.
 
* I would expect the pH to go up/ TA to decrease over year long jumps, not in a few months. There is a chemistry in all wines where one alcohol combines with one acid to make an esther.
* pH acts as a preservative, I like the 2021 wines with 3.2 pH. TA is a flavor balance concern, if you like the balance against sweet flavor I would ignore TA.
* You mention buffering; a guess is your must has low TA so any chemistry pulling acid out shows a big change.
* I did a thread on pH drift up this month. My guess is that with high pH must a wild lactic acid bacteria infection may be happening. From memory elderberry is citric acid which can be metabolized. Anyway running the pH to 3.2 or 3.3 is more resistant to wild lactic bacteria.
* Elderberry has bitter (hard) tannins. Tannins form complexes and over years the level of bitter will decrease. Smooth tannins are more astringent and act to magnify the TA flavor. One option for acid balance is to add a smooth tannin and ignore the TA.
* my favorite elderberry is to add it to a low tannin grape like concord or Frontenac (northern hybrid red). This balances a more aromatic acidic fruit with a low acid but tannic fruit. ,,, I substitute grape juice for tap water.
 
my favorite elderberry is to add it to a low tannin grape like concord or Frontenac
In fact my 2021 wine was made from a blend of elderberries and black monukka grape (which I grow as a table grape), about 80% elderberry, 20% grape. That year I only had ~3lb elderberry per gallon; 2022 was similar (but without the grapes) and in 2023 I increased to 5lb elderberries per gal.
 
* I would expect the pH to go up/ TA to decrease over year long jumps, not in a few months. There is a chemistry in all wines where one alcohol combines with one acid to make an esther.
* pH acts as a preservative, I like the 2021 wines with 3.2 pH. TA is a flavor balance concern, if you like the balance against sweet flavor I would ignore TA.
* You mention buffering; a guess is your must has low TA so any chemistry pulling acid out shows a big change.
* I did a thread on pH drift up this month. My guess is that with high pH must a wild lactic acid bacteria infection may be happening. From memory elderberry is citric acid which can be metabolized. Anyway running the pH to 3.2 or 3.3 is more resistant to wild lactic bacteria.
* Elderberry has bitter (hard) tannins. Tannins form complexes and over years the level of bitter will decrease. Smooth tannins are more astringent and act to magnify the TA flavor. One option for acid balance is to add a smooth tannin and ignore the TA.
* my favorite elderberry is to add it to a low tannin grape like concord or Frontenac (northern hybrid red). This balances a more aromatic acidic fruit with a low acid but tannic fruit. ,,, I substitute grape juice for tap water.
blackberry/elderberry, cuts aging in half, taste great to boot
Dawg
 

Latest posts

Back
Top