school boy error - will it matter?

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Sheephead

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Hi. I am new to wine making and even newer to the website. I've read with great interest some of the posts in the forum, although none seem to reflect my situation (or stupidity).

I am in the process of making my first ever batch of wine. I'd been saying about it for years but never made the time. I noticed how many elderberries were out this year and thought what a waste it was that they would not be used. (I did the same with blackberries but they all went into pies, crumbles and jams:h) I found what seemed like a simple recipe on the www and followed the method. The recipe is below (starting at point 6 because before that is just preparing the juice):

6.When the mixture is cool, transfer it to a pail and add the pectin destroying enzyme; cover the pail.
7.After 24 hours, add the yeast and nutrient.
8.Stand the pail in a warm place for three weeks, stirring daily.
9.At the end of this period, strain the juice into a fermentation vessel and fit an airlock.
10.When fermentation is complete, rack into a clean container with one crushed Campden tablet, and close the container with a bung or safety lock.
11.Rack every two months until clear before bottling.
12.Enjoy your elderberry wine at your leisure!

I got it all sorted until point 9. I fitted the airlock and this is where the error and confusion took over. Firstly I didn't realise a liquid was needed to put into the airlock to make it effective (pretty dumb hu?) and secondly I thought I needed to leave it like this for 2 months before racking.

What I'm asking is 1. By not correctly fitting the airlock is my 'wine' going to be any good? Have I left it too long exposed to oxygen? And is there anything I need to do (or can do) to make up for this school boy of errors?

Many thanks
 

Malkore

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welcome to the site and hobby.

Here's my response, which is actually a question, and in all honestly its a sure fire way to know if things are ok or not.

How does it taste and smell?

Nearly all problems with a wine, mead or beer are going to be easily detected either by looking at it, smelling it, and then tasting it. There's no pathogens that can live in wine, mead or beer, so any unwanted infections are just going to taste bad and won't hurt you.

Infections are usally sour tasting, might have visible mold or scum or snot-like 'noodle' floating around. Some infections will convert the wine to vinegar...an obvious aroma.

Not having a good airlock isn't a guaranteed problem...some people actually do open fermentations. If everything was sanitary to start with I could see this being just fine.
 

Green Mountains

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First off, Malkore....you had me at snot-like 'noodle'


Sheephead. If Malkore's tests prove that your must is ok.....I'd plan on racking it and getting an airlock on it right away. I've done open fermentations before with no problems but not for two months....good luck and let us know how it goes from here out.
 

Sheephead

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Hi Malkore, thank you for your response.

I took the lid off the demijohn and had a good look inside. No snot floating around or any other signs of damage. If nothing else I've made a wine with a beautiful, deep colour. I took a sample and it smelled ok, nothing unpleasant here either. The taste was a bit sharp to start with but then a sweet taste came through. Could be it is still ok then. I think I'll carry on as the instructions say, rack it and see how it is in a couple of months time. There's nothing to lose now is there?
 

Sheephead

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Thanks Green Mountains, that's what I'll do, and keep my fingers well and truly crossed. Will keep you posted...
 

vvolf34

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I am a newbie, but from your taste test, it seems like all is well. I would gander that sharp taste is the wine being young.
 

Sheephead

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I was hoping that was all it was vvolf. It seems I have underestimated the importance of sterilization too. This forum has really given me a lot to think about. I'm saving racking the wine until tomorrow now after I have purchased some sterilizing stuff and a pump. I've got a length of tube and was planning on just sucking the wine through but after reading some of the other threads I reckon a syphoning kit and proper sterilizer would be a wise investment. I seem to have been lucky so far with my mistakes and don't wish to tempt fate any more!!!
 

cbw

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What kind of air lock did you use?

A three-piece (cylinder shaped with smaller inverted cylinder and a cap) or a "S" shaped bubbler (one piece, looks like an inverted S) ... if you used an "S" bubbler, since C02 is heavier than 02, when the wine was young, you might have created an air lock).

Next time fill your airlock with vodka. If your wine and all else fails, you toss the wine and drink the bubbler.
 

vvolf34

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cbw I use vodka in my airlock as well. Heard bacteria will not be able to grow in there. I have noticed in pictures people leave the caps on, I have the S shaped airlocks and leave the little red cap off. I figured it couldn't breath with the cap, or do you cap it after fermentation is complete and just bulk aging, which would make sense to have that extra barrier.

Sheephead:
I just have clear vinyl tubing. Even though my equipment kit came with an auto siphon you can sanitize your tube, fill it with sanitizer solution, cap one end with a thumb place it inside your wine, have the other end in a different container and when the wine starts to flow out cap it, then place it in your new carboy and let gravity do it's thing. You don't need to have a ton of fancy stuff. My basic equipment kit just came with some things that makes life easier!
 

Sheephead

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From your description it sounds like I used an S bubbler (although with no liquid there wasn't much bubbling going on lol). I've got it in the bung now with water in it to create a seal. Then first thing tomorrow I'll get the other things I need.

Use vodka cos the alcohol kills any bacteria?
 

cbw

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vvolf ... if you look closely at the little red cap, you'll realize that the cap rests on little stand-offs ... allowing air to get up and under the cap. Don't know if I'm doing a good job, but the red cap isn't airtight ... and therefore can be put on immediately after installing the airlock and the vodka, even during active fermentation. (By the by, this is not a dumb question ... I wondered the same thing ... because I expected to see little holes in the top of the red cap ... until someone explained it to me.)

Sheephead ... use vodka because occasionally inverted pressure causes some of the bubbler contents to flow back into your wine. Some folks uses plain water, others k-met solution ... I've always used vodka because the only harm to the wine should some of the vodka flow back into the wine is that you have "fortified" your wine's alcohol content.
 

Green Mountains

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I have heard though that you shouldn't use vodka in the hot months as it may bring fruit flies....I guess they carry something that can destroy a wine batch....or perhaps the little buggers just want to get drunk....

...not that there's anything wrong with that.
 

Becks the Elder

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Hi Sheephead,

I read your thread with interest and a couple of points occurred to me.

Firstly, leaving your elderberries in the primary for three weeks will probably leave you with a very high tannin level. Secondly, Given that you said you tasted the wine and it tasted 'sweet' probably indicates that you've used an old style recipe and will end up with a wine which may be too sweet.

What was the recipe you used?


Here is the recipe I use.

http://www.winemakingtalk.com/forum/showthread.php?t=4376


I know it's for dried berries but just multiply the dry weight by 4 to find out how many fresh berries to use instead (http://www.winesathome.co.uk/forum/showthread.php?t=2613).

Good luck with your batch,

Cheers.
 

Sheephead

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Firstly I'd just like to thank everyone for your input and wisdom, it really has been a huge help. It's also increased my interest in the whole subject quite substantially, I never realised there was so much too it. I went to the local homebrew store yesterday and explained what was happening & the advice from the forum. The lady was very friendly and helped me with what I needed & a lil extra advice (told me I should rack it then store it somewhere cold for a couple of months).

Becks - the recipe I got was one off the web that seemed quite straightforward, despite the fact I still cocked it up!! Here is a link to the website http://www.brew-magic.co.uk/Wine_recipes/Elderberry_Wine.aspx
Feel free to have a look and see what you think.

Thanks again all
 

Green Mountains

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The lady was very friendly and helped me with what I needed & a lil extra advice (told me I should rack it then store it somewhere cold for a couple of months).
Very important step. Each time you rack you are shedding the wine of all of the yeast and solids that have fallen to the bottom of the prior container. These are things that can give your wine 'off' flavors and effect the overall appearance of your wine.
 

Becks the Elder

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Hi Sheephead,

I took a look at the recipe you used and as far as I can see there doesn't seem to be any glaring errors. It seems a bit heavy on the berries but I know a lot of people use a lot more than I do so maybe I go a bit light?!?

In my experience elderberry wine changes taste greatly as it matures. When I make a batch it takes 8 months from the start to reach a drinkable state. Occasionally I've tasted it midway through and felt the batch was going to taste awful because the alcohol or sugar taste was too invasive. In the end every batch I've had my doubts over turned out fine. If a batch is over sweet the surplus sugar is reduced each time you rack (as I understand it the gravity of sugar in the wine will result in the sugar sinking and the alcohol rising). Providing your carboy or demijohn is not disturbed racking will reduce the surplus sugar. Personally I don't like my elderberry wine to be sweet. Others love a nice heavy, sweet elderberry wine.

I guess all I can say is it seems like you are still in with a good chance of turning out a fine elderberry wine. Rack it several times and give it plenty of time to develop.

If you don't have one I would advise getting a hydrometer as it is probably the most valuable piece of kit you can buy. They are pretty cheap and widely available.

Good luck with the batch,

Becks.
 
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