Problem with sulfite harshness

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Oct 26, 2008
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Last fall was only my second season making wine, and my first using any sulfites. I made a red and a white. So far, I have only bottled the white.

To my white wine, I added crushed cambden tablets at bottling (after I racked off the sediment and before racking into the bottles), and now when I drink the wine, it irritates the back of my throat and my nasal passage, kind of like when you stick your nose into the container of cambden tablets.

I realized after the fact that I should have added the sulfites about 24 hours prior to racking and bottling (correct?), but its too late to do anything about that now, at least for this white wine. (I still have a red wine I am cold conditioning in the carboy and waiting to bottle until I know how to do this right.)

So my questions are two-fold:

What is the correct way to use the cambden tablets in the future, when bottling and/or re-racking?

How do I get rid of this excessive sulfite when I open a bottle of the white wine?
Details please. How many campden tablets per gallon did you use?

Getting rid of it? Splash racking to a decanter would get rid of some. Waiting patiently before drinking the decanted wine would get rid of more.

Details please. How many campden tablets per gallon did you use?

Getting rid of it? Splash racking to a decanter would get rid of some. Waiting patiently before drinking the decanted wine would get rid of more.


Let me look at my notes...

OK, here's the full details. I live in southern Wisconsin. I'm primarily a beer brewer, but I like to make wine and cider every fall.

The varietal name is Deleware, its a relative of the concord, but is smaller and pink-colored.

The grapes were harvested on Sept. 14, 2008. No sulfites were added, but I used a white wine yeast and pectic enzyme. They were allowed to ferment on the skins for 4 days, then drained/pressed, and moved to glass carboys. However, prior to yeasting the original must on Sept. 14th, I canned some juice in mason jars using a boiling water bath. This was to be used to re-sweeten the wine later on.

On Oct. 15th, the wine was re-racked, and I added one campden tablet per gallon. (6 gallons = 6 campden tablets.) I do not know what the pH was at that point. I do know that the ABV was around 12.5-13%

On January 2nd, 2009, I added 8 campden tablets + 1 tablespoon Potassium Sorbate to the 6 gallon carboy.

On January 4th I racked off the top half of the 6 gallons to bottle. Before bottling, I added a half gallon of unfermented grape juice that I had just treated with 2 campden tablets and a 1/4 teaspoon Potassium Sorbate.

The remaining 3 gallons I racked off into a 3 gallon carboy, for bottling later. (My intention was to turn this into a sparkling wine, but I wasn't able to get re-fermentation in the bottle because I over-sulfited)

Feb. 12th, (in the afternoon) I opened the other half gallon of unfermented juice I had saved prior to yeasting the must. The juice tested at a specific gravity of 1.080 and a pH of 3.5.

Because I only had enough champagne bottles to make part of the wine sparkling, I split the juice. 2 cups were saved in a steralized pint jar, with 1 campden tablet added.

The other 6 cups I added 1/4 teaspoon Pottasium sorbate plus a packet of champagne yeast.

To the wine itself (in the 3 gallon carboy) I added 3 campden tablets + 1/4 teaspoon Potassium sorbate.

The evening of February 12th, I bottled the wine. Prior to bottling I tested the ABV at 12.5%, and the pH at 3.9


1.25 gallons + 2 cups of juice + 1 campden tablet were bottled as the "still" wine

1.75 gallons + 6 cups yeasted juice + 1 campden tablet + 1/4 teaspoon Potassium Sorbate were bottled in champagne bottles with crowns.

My intention was to cold-crash the sparkling wine (in a temp-controlled fridge) down to 31 degrees F midway through re-fermentation, to prevent bottle bombs and preserve some of the sugar for flavor. Of course, this never happened because of the sulfites, even though I re-opened the bottles and tried adding more yeast two weeks later.

Oh well.

As I said, this is my first time using sulfites. Please help.
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Wow...great record keeping. I don't make wine from grapes but thta did seem like a lot of campden.

BTW, it's the sorbate (in conjunction with campden) that prevents the fermentation in the bottle.

You really overdid it on the sulphites !!!!

1 campden per gallon at the start (even not when you want MLF to occur) and 1 when bottling should be enough.

The wine should age loooooong before the sulphite smell and taste
will be gone.....

I also think you went way overboard on sulfites and it seems that you both used sorbate and sulfites on the wine you intend to sparkle, thats not going to happen, you would have wanted to not add either of these as both will hinder a fermentation at this point!!!!!!
You are probably right that I overdid the sulfites.

Regarding the sparkling wine: My understanding was that Pottassium Sorbate only inhibits yeast reproduction, not actual fermentation. My intention was to pitch a sufficient quantity yeast at bottling (thus why I created the starter) to ferment out some of the sugars in a controlled manner. Then I would halt them mid-fermentation by cold-crashing the bottles.

I guess I should have not used sulfites for that bottling. I was just trying to protect against other (bacterial) contaminants.

At this point, what is the best way to get rid of the sulfites?

If I open the bottles and let them sit open for a day or two (covered, of course, to keep out insects and dust), will they breath off most of these excess sulfites?

This wine does NOT have a sulfury taste (aka rotten eggs) at all.

It just has this quality that is almost imperceptible to smell or taste, but causes your throat to itch and irritates your nasal passage. Its like sticking your nose into a bottle of campden tablets, only not quite that strong.

Obviously, I went overboard on the sulfites, like I said this is my first time... what is the best way to get rid of excess SO2?
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The only way I know of to get rid of excess SO2 in wine is to expose it to air so that it's "fixed" though oxidation and also dissipates. For white wine, this means decanting it. Letting the decanted wine sit open both in the fridge and then on the table to warm up a little seems to work best for me. I often find many commercial wines have too much SO2 for my liking.

In your case, yes opening the bottle may help. I'd probably just pour it all back into a carboy if there's a lot of SO2 (I mean pour), and only bottle it when/if I'm satisfied it's going to be ok.
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