No secondary fermenter needed?

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DarylD

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Hello Everyone! This is my first post here so I hope I am doing everything correctly. If not I apologize!

So a friend of mine introduced me to a technique of wine making that seems contrary to the fundamentals I have been practicing. His technique involves leaving the wine in the primary fermenter for at least 60 days, then basically bottling without the use of a secondary fermenter. His reasons for this include actually exposing the wine to less air since there are no transfers involved.

What do you guys this of this??
 

Manimal

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You can definitely start and complete alcoholic fermentation in one vessel, however, I would not leave it on the gross lees for 60 days as you run the risk of reduction and the formation of H2S. Also, racking the wine into a secondary fermenter before fermentation is complete will not expose the wine to much oxygen since it is saturated with CO2 at that point.
 

cpfan

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In wine making, there are many different opinions and methods. On one of the other forums, somebody sain something like "if you ask a question to 6 winemakers you'll get 10 different opinions."

However, I do not agree with your friend. Manimal has a couple of good points.

If you're making a wine from a kit (and actually following the instructions at least somewhat), you'll be stirrring up the sediment a couple of times.

If you're making wine from grapes or decent juice, 60 days is no where near long enough (IMHO).

On the positive side, you probably won't have much trouble with gassy wine.

Steve
 

Luc

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Manimal has indeed some good points.
Mostly the wine is taken off the lees in a far more
earlier stage during winemaking.

There is another issue to consider.
Most tannins (which cause harshness in the wine) are in the
pulp. The longer the pulp will be in the wine the more tannins
will leak out. Tannins mostly dissolve in alcohol so the longer
the pulp is in the wine the more alcohol will form and more tannins
will get into the wine.

At a certain point the harshness will be too much for our palate and then the wine has to age much longer before becoming drinkable.

So the timeframe used for transferring from primary to secondary also depends on the kind of fruit.

Luc
 
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Skyhawk

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Some oxidation of a still vigorously fermenting must will pose little danger to the wine, since yeast themselves will compete for the free oxygen and go through a quick second aerobic stage before going anaerobic again. And when fermenting on skins, some oxygenation is actually welcome when pressing or otherwise separating the wine from the fruit, since the yeast population was suddenly reduced. (Yeast actively multiply when in aerobic mode and when alcohol levels aren't too high.)

So the first racking has to be done at the right time, when the alcohol level isn't too high and the existing yeast are still very happy. I find SG 1.020 to be the absolute minimum if starting with SG 1.090 or so. Earlier is better. After getting things from the primary into the carboy, fermentation will appear to have stopped or slowed drastically, but the yeast are actually multiplying again and activity should restart within hours. I've never had a wine get over-oxidized by this process.

I use a different approach for low tannin whites and light juices without any pulp. I aerate the lightly sulphited must very well, add the yeast starter and pour into a large carboy so that I have some head-space for fermentation. Then I don't bother to rack until fermentation is complete - usually within 2 or 3 weeks at most. The trick is to have enough initial oxygen in your must to allow a large colony of yeast to take you through to the end of fermentation without additional oxygen. Once it's done, I sulphite the wine and stir up the lees, then once settled in a day or two do the first racking.

I would add that for big reds especially, some oxygenation during careful racking of finished wine is beneficial for those of us who don't use barrel aging since some oxygen is needed for the (eventually beneficial) later redox reactions that occur in maturing wine.
 

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