Newbie needs help diagnosing

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May 9, 2010
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Hello folks,

I'm new to the forums and I (was) just about to bottle my first try at making wine "from scratch" after doing a bunch of kits.

Well, my pumpkin wine doesn't taste quite right, although in March when I racked it the last time it tasted fine. It's been sitting in the basement at about 60 F since then.

Is there any way, either by chemical test or taste, to determine where I went wrong? I'm not very good at describing tastes, but if I were to guess I would say "acidic" or "vinegary". My first thought would be that it was exposed to air, but each time I rack it, I usually spray CO2 into the carboy before attaching the airlock. However, in my notes - I don't have it written down that I did that after racking this last time, but I can't imagine not having done it.

So...I guess I'm wondering:

1) What went wrong?

2) Can I do anything to fix it?

Thanks for any help you can give. This is relatively demoralizing given this was my first try after "taking off the training wheels" and doing my research and due diligence.
my first 'from scratch' apple wine tasted horribly bitter and sour when it was young. I almost dumped it out. But it matured and turned out very good! At transfer to secondary, it had a little off taste but otherwise pretty good. When it finished fermenting it was also pretty good but 'young' tasting, little bitter and not too flavorful. Then it became *really* bitter by the next racking. I kept it anyway - stabilized and sweetened a bit and then put it off to the side. Few months later it was much much better. Bottled it and it was consumed before it could even properly age. Each batch is similar but a little different each time I do it. I'm not fermenting in a lab, so temp and etc vary but I trust that time will give me a fairly decent wine and it works out in the end.

I couldn't gather from your post how old this wine is, if its done fermenting, if you plan to stabilize etc. Give it some time and see what develops. I've never tried pumpkin wine, I'm leery but curious. Hopefully someone who had made that can chime in.

want to share your recipe? That may help us out.
You may want to post your recipe on here so we can see what you added. I've heard stories about bad pumpkin wine, but also heard that some wines taste bad in the beginning and after a year taste just fine.

Post your recipe and some senior members can help.
Post your recipe and everything you did up to this point
After reading your posts, I spirits have buoyed a bit.

Here's what I did:

cut pumpkin in 1/4's, scooped out seeds
heated at 350F for 30 min
peeled off skin, put in nylon straining bag
kettled in refrigerator

in primary fermentor:
started with about 2 gallons of water
added 7# brown sugar
added 4# pure cane sugar
added 7.5 tsp acid blend
added 1.25 tsp tannin
added 5 tsp yeast nutrient
added 5 crushed Campden tablets
added 10 tsp ground nutmeg
added 2 10" cinnamon sticks
added 5.5" fresh ginger root (scored)
stirred, then added nylon bag with pumpkin meat
mechanically mashed with hands
let sit at room temp (where it remained until 2/2)

mashed pumpkins again
dunked bag a few times

(as 12/7)

must temp - 17 C
removed pumpkin bag
filled to 20 L with water
added yeast K1V-1116 (hydrated first)
S.G. = 1.084
closed primary, attached airlock

S.G. = 1.054
bubbling vigorously still

S.G. = 1.030
racked into secondary (glass carboy)

S.G. = .994
racked into clean secondary
tiny bubbles seen in must prior to racking

racked into clean secondary again
no CO2 activity noticed, so sprayed headspace with CO2

racked in clean secondary again
sprayed with CO2
S.G. = .994

added 5 crushed Campden tablets
added 5.25 tsp potassium sorbate
stirred vigorously with drill-driven Fizz-X stirrer
sprayed with CO2
moved to basement; temp about 55-60 F constant

racked from 6.5 gallon carboy to 5 gallon
very clear, minimal sediment noted during racking
(this is the step where I didn't note that I sprayed headspace with CO2, so I'm not sure)

Okay...that's it so far. It's still in the basement and awaiting some diagnosis. ;)
Well you racked alot in a short time.
5+Tsp of sorbate is more than TWICE needed (1/2tsp per gal). This could be your taste.
How much pumpkin U use?
How much head space were in all those carboys? Adding CO2 will not stop oxidation.
Well you racked alot in a short time.

There was very heavy sediment from the pumpkin meat, so I thought I was doing the right thing.

5+Tsp of sorbate is more than TWICE needed (1/2tsp per gal). This could be your taste.

That's what the guy at the local brewing supply store told me to add. Is there a way to adjust the taste back? (Stupid question, but I ask...)

How much pumpkin U use?

I thnk we used 20 lbs. (4 lbs. per gallon)

How much head space were in all those carboys? Adding CO2 will not stop oxidation.

I'd guess from the bottom of the bung to the bottom of the taper, if you can visualize...I'll guess 4 inches? It varied a bit as we used slightly different size carboys during the racking and we were losing volume due to the lees.

Thanks for your continued help!
4" of headspace is dble the amount of space you should have and the thing with using inert gases to dispace 02 for headspace is its very hard to know if youve used enough and even there there is a test to somewhat check this, doing this test can depleat this anyway. Either your Supply store screwed up or you heard them wrong and didnt catch the first part as like Tom said it should have been 2.5 tsp per 5 gallon batch. If it tasted good not too long ago then this has gotten oxidized OR it can be just going through changes as lots of wines do until they mature with age and this is a young wine so just keep it topped up properly and sulfited and see what comes from this after some good aging.
I made a pumpkin that I started in October. I used about 25 pounds for a 5 gallon batch and I am now down to a 3 gallon carboy. the wine will not taste good until after at least a year. I would keep going, if it has spoiled you will know soon enough.
I agree, keep it aging and see if it comes around. Also get rid of that 4" of headspace by adding a bit of some kind of wine or sweeten it up or you can even use marbls to displace that missing volume.
Also Luc, ( one of our most experienced fruit and veg winemakers here)

He made pumpkin and cellared it for over 2 years ( by recollection) and still ended up giving it away.. he just didn't like the taste. It could be, that your taste buds just don't like it..

That is always a possibilty also but try bottling a few and see if any of your friends like it first. Tell them what you think as sometimes its just you and others would be thrilled to have some.
Okay here is the update...

First of all, I misread my notes and the amount of sorbate I added was (5) 1/4 tsps, so 1 and 1/4 tsps, so that's okay.

Secondly, I added 12# of marbles to the carboy to get rid of the much of the headspace; the level of liquid is now above the maximum circumference area of the container (i.e. nearing the neck). My concern with that is that it seemed to aerate the wine quite a bit as I dumped them in.

We tasted the wine again and here is what we came up with:
-slight pumpkin taste
-not sweet; a little dry
-acidic? not done? "sharp" flavor
-smells good (a little acidic) but sweeter than it tastes

So, we'll leave it another 3 months in bulk storage at about 55-60F and see what happens. I sprayed some more CO2 in the carboy before replacing the airlock.

Any comments are always welcome!
To pull more flavor out make some simple syrup and add a little at a time and mix with your degasser. This will sweeten and bring more Pumpkin flavor out.
Degasser? Pardon the ignorance...

There is gass in the wine from fermentation. Degassing will remove it. There is a tool called "degasser" Wher you buy your supplies should have one.

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