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Front sweeten or back sweeten?

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Dan Nauman

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Just a quick poll for those who make sweeter wine: do you prefer to load up the sugar at the beginning, or sweeten on the back end? I've only back sweetened so far, but I'm curious about doing it on the front end.

Also, if you do it at the front end, do you still have to add potassium sorbate before bottling?

Thanks in advance!
 

Scooter68

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I never try to 'front sweeten' a wine. I work from the premise that ALL sugar present in the wine at the beginning will ferment out. Doing otherwise runs the risk of ending up with a high ABV wine that can't be fixed without a lot of effort. I don't know of anyone who's been on this board for a long time that does 'front-sweetening' - the payoff is not certain and the risks too high.

Now if a wine stops short of fermenting all the way dry as I planned... then I look at how sweet it is at that point. In one case I WAS aiming to produce a dessert wine with a high ABV (17%) and I was then going to back-sweeten it to get to the desired sweetness. In reality the fermentation stopped at an SG of 1.005 and would not move from there. I still had a high ABV (15.5 % I believe) and I just treated it with K-meta and started aging it. In the end it turned out great. BUT THAT WAS NOTHING SHORT OF LUCK.

ANY wine with residual sugar should be treated with K-Sorbate to prevent possible popping corks or restart of fermentation in the bottle. In the worst case you could have bottle bombs destroy other bottles as well as making a mess.

It's just safer and cleaner to do a ferment to dry and then back-sweeten later.

Finally - K-Sorbate in a wine for a long time can produce 'off-flavors' that some folks detect quite readily. Most of my wines are consumed within 2-3 years of bottling so that's not been a problem, but; I don't want to keep an 'old favorite' wine for 4-5 years only to find it turned on me due to sorbate aging out. I never add sorbate until just before I back-sweeten and that's normally just one week before bottling day.
 

Dan Nauman

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I never try to 'front sweeten' a wine. I work from the premise that ALL sugar present in the wine at the beginning will ferment out. Doing otherwise runs the risk of ending up with a high ABV wine that can't be fixed without a lot of effort. I don't know of anyone who's been on this board for a long time that does 'front-sweetening' - the payoff is not certain and the risks too high.

Now if a wine stops short of fermenting all the way dry as I planned... then I look at how sweet it is at that point. In one case I WAS aiming to produce a dessert wine with a high ABV (17%) and I was then going to back-sweeten it to get to the desired sweetness. In reality the fermentation stopped at an SG of 1.005 and would not move from there. I still had a high ABV (15.5 % I believe) and I just treated it with K-meta and started aging it. In the end it turned out great. BUT THAT WAS NOTHING SHORT OF LUCK.

ANY wine with residual sugar should be treated with K-Sorbate to prevent possible popping corks or restart of fermentation in the bottle. In the worst case you could have bottle bombs destroy other bottles as well as making a mess.

It's just safer and cleaner to do a ferment to dry and then back-sweeten later.

Finally - K-Sorbate in a wine for a long time can produce 'off-flavors' that some folks detect quite readily. Most of my wines are consumed within 2-3 years of bottling so that's not been a problem, but; I don't want to keep an 'old favorite' wine for 4-5 years only to find it turned on me due to sorbate aging out. I never add sorbate until just before I back-sweeten and that's normally just one week before bottling day.
Thanks scooter, that's very helpful.

I've read about front sweetening (I don't know what else to call it), with people saying that the fermentation will only go so far and peter out. But you're probably right, it might not be worth it.
 

meadmaker1

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To front load sugar you need a low low threshold yeast, and still can't be certain where it will stop.
I prefer the control of back sweetening
 

pillswoj

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The only time I have 'front sweetened' is in a port style dessert which I step fed sugar until max alcohol level was reached. Even then it got final sweetening adjustment after.
 

meadmaker1

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My only front loaded batch was " joes ancient orange "
Also the only recipe i ever followed as written.
It made me laugh and i have the honey.
I didn't like it.
Didn't think i would when i started it. Folks that like orange zest in stuff drink it up and ask for it often.
I've made it twice now and keep some for mixing.
Or flavor adjustments while back sweetening, something i will like.
A little in cranberry wine works very well but i still add kmeta and ksorbate first.
 

NorCal

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I was making a port and wanted all the alcohol that the yeast had to give and just kept feeding it until it just couldn’t give me any more CH3−CH2−OH. It left me with a sweet wine that I then added brandy to for flavor and further assurance that fermentation wouldn’t start up.

For regular wine, going dry, sorbate, SO2 and backsweeten.
 

Scooter68

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I was making a port and wanted all the alcohol that the yeast had to give and just kept feeding it until it just couldn’t give me any more CH3−CH2−OH. It left me with a sweet wine that I then added brandy to for flavor and further assurance that fermentation wouldn’t start up.

For regular wine, going dry, sorbate, SO2 and backsweeten.
Smart planning there. With the ABV well above any yeast's tolerance I doubt that you have much to worry in terms of an unexpected fermentation restart.
 

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