First time; two batches, one fermenting, the other not

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Oct 12, 2018
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Hi! This is my first time trying wine making so I'm not quite sure if I'm doing things right at all or not so I apologize for the lengthy post. I have white grapes that grow at our place and we picked a large amount, destemmed and crushed them, and then rented a press from a local shop. The only shop locally that sells wine making stuff is geared towards beer, and so the people there admitted they'd never made wine from grapes and weren't sure how to help me.

Anyway, we ended up making more pressed juice (must?) than planned so we have 2 food grade buckets each with identical must (one has about 1.5 gallons more than the other). We then added crushed camden tablets first along with the yeast nutrient, and waited a little over 48 hours (had it covered with an airlock; was this the right move?). Then added pectic enzyme, waited another 12 hrs. Checked the SG and it was a little low so added some sugar, with each bucket coming to about 1.092 or a brix of 22 in the end. We then sprinkled full identical packets of yeast to each bucket. We left the airlock on but had the lid just placed over it and not snapped on (and were opening it to air to check on it daily). And then waited, and waited and waited. About 2.5 days later, I noticed the fuller bucket was beginning to ferment. However, the second bucket has not done anything. Should we have been stirring daily? Or should we have just covered it loosely with a towel? I wasn't sure if that would be "sterile" enough. Anyway, the one bucket never actually appears to be bubbling, but it definitely has a thick dense foamy layer on the top. The second one though has no bubbles or foam whatsoever; looks just like when we started. In thinking about why, I realized the temperature of our house was about 65-68 degrees (and we sprinkled the yeast instead of hydrating it) which is why I figured the one bucket took so long to start. We've now increased the temperature of the house to about 73 degrees. But why did one start and not the other? My questions are:

- What could it be about the second bucket with the same juice causing it to not ferment?
- Should I try and stir that one more (if so, how often?), or remove the lid all together and just cover it with a sheet or towel? And is stirring daily even needed? My understanding was once primary fermentation started, being exposed to air was ok because the gas would prevent bacteria from really getting in... but since fermentation hasn't started, isn't contamination a risk?
- Can I take some of the foamy thick layer of the one that has started and put it into the one that won't start? Is this a crazy idea?
- Should I just add a new packet of yeast again, but this time like a kickstarter or hydrating the yeast first?
- I don't hear any bubbling in the one that is foamy; its very quiet.. is this normal? I feel like everything I've ready talks about lots of bubbling. And when do I need to put the lid on firmly and leave the airlock in place (for secondary fermentation) and no longer allow that one to have exposure to air? Should I be checking the SG regularly to know when?

Sorry for all of the questions and if my lingo/words are wrong or don't make sense. Thanks for any and all advice, help, and thoughts! Regardless of how these turn out, its been such a fun experience anyway and I'm so exciting to learn more and see how things go :)

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I cannot hazard a guess for all of your observations. If it were my wine, I would mix those two buckets up. Either pour some back and forth between the two, or pour half of one to a 3rd bucket and combine the remaining two.
what is the specific gravity of either batch. just visual indication does not prove or disprove fermentation. a lose cloth over each bucket is sufficient until fermentation is complete then transfer to carboy with airlock. stir both buckets twice a day. @sour-grapes recommendation to transfer some from fermenting bucket to supposedly non fermenting bucket is sound advice. keep using hydrometer to check progress.
Some thoughts -
Any chance you have two different varieties? I'm thinking maybe one variety wasn't quite ready, maybe had a lower pH and less favorable environment for yeast, and more of that variety went into one bucket.
Any chance you misdosed the sulfite or the nutrient?
It would be helpful to know the SG readings and pH readings if you have any way to do that.
I cannot hazard a guess for all of your observations. If it were my wine, I would mix those two buckets up. Either pour some back and forth between the two, or pour half of one to a 3rd bucket and combine the remaining two.
I m with @sour_grapes i had exact experience with apple this year. And i use a starter. I think it had more to do with temperatures than anything else, as cool weather fell at the same time, and both buckets started slow. I brought them in the house and put a heater set up in one. I put the smaller bucket in a slightly warmer area and it started first.
They are exactly as can be measured the same , so i used a juice pitcher to mix them back and forth.
12 hrs later i was instructed to put them back out side. Both had a nice foam cap, and are near ready for carboys now and will be allowed back in the house soon.
I think ill pitch on warmer musts then move to cooler areas next time
Thanks to everyone for such quick replies! Remeasured SG today, and got some acid testing strips (which I realize aren't the most accurate). And the fermenting one now is starting to really bubble a ton, which is exciting!

Here's more specific info:
The one fermenting starting SG: 1.092; SG today is 1.080 (pH by the way is 3.3ish)
The one we didn't think was fermenting has the same SG today confirming this; 1.095 on starting day and today. Measured pH is about 3.6

They are the same type of grape, but some were more "golden" than others, and the more "golden" ones were in the bucket that is fermenting. We went ahead and poured some from the fermenting one into the non fermenting one as suggested, so fingers crossed it works! And I was thinking it was too cold, but as I've read more, it seems like people allow white grapes to ferment in cooler temperatures? What's my goal temperature ideally? Does it matter if it's in primary vs secondary fermentation?
I don't do wine from grapes, so take this for what it's worth. I'd mix the two pails by pouring back and forth until you have a fairly homogeneous mixture in both. I'd also consider sprinkling in another yeast packet. There's always the possibility that you had some bad yeast in the bucket that's not fermenting.
Based on your numbers, no reason it shouldn't take off. Mixing them is probably the ticket, and if that doesn't work try another packet of yeast.

I ferment my whites under 60F but generally I let them start off warmer than that just to get them going.

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