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brianpablo

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I've now got my third batch of wine in secondary fermentation and it's got the same "off" smell as my first two batches. I at first identified this as the result of an infection, but I changed all my equipment and am getting the same smell, so I wonder if this is just fermenting too hot.

This is an RJS malbec kit that fermented in primary at about 75 degrees using EC-1118. The smell reminds of hydrogen sulfide, and the flavor to me gives off a bit of "fake fruit" sensation. People around here are happy to drink it but I personally feel like the off flavors are overwhelming.

I live at about 3,000 feet altitude and have an ambient temperature in my house of 75 to 80 degrees at any given time. The combination of these two things has generally left me with very aggressive fermentation, which means that my major fermentation problems when brewing (which I'm more experienced at) have been related to overheating that kicks of nasty fusel alcohols and undesirable flavors.

I'm wondering if perhaps I've got the same problem in this case. I see a lot of people talking about using EC-1118 at 75 degrees or so, but I was wondering if it would be worth attempting to cool it down.

The other thought I had is that these kits may be suffering heat exposure before fermentation. I haul them to Venezuela from Miami via a courier service on boats, which means they probably get hotter than I'd like them to on their way across the Caribbean. Is that potentially the source of this problem? If it is I'll probably have to kick the hobby as I don't have any other way of getting wine here.

Thoughts?
 

montanaWineGuy

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I too ferment at near 3000 feet and similar temps. My first batch 2 years ago got funky, and I never found out why. No problems since, and again I don't know why.
 

drainsurgeon

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A couple of questions. Are you sure that you are not smelling c02 gas coming off the must? Something like 60% of the sugar converts to alcohol and 40% turns into co2 gas...and the smell can be nasty at times. Are you making sure that your carboy's are topped off (and airlocked) while aging so you don't oxidize the wine? Are you sure that you are de-gassing sufficiently (either by whipping or aging)? And last, how long are you aging your wine before consuming. Most wines take at least several months to a year or longer to "smooth" out.
 

Noontime

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Drainsurgeon brings up a great point... we've tried for years to figure out why our wines are gassy even after vacuum, bulk aging, and bottling under vacuum (we now think it's the high pressure of tropical sea-level in Florida, but still not sure). But this is only after we realized our wines ARE gassy... that took a couple of years of drinking wine with an off-taste before we realized. It doesn't necessarily need to be effervescent to have trapped CO2 that causes off flavor. Open one of your bottles, pour a little out to create some space, then put your palm over the opening and shake the bejeezus out of it. :h If there's a big "poof" when you release your hand then it's got trapped gas in there.
 

Noontime

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Our house is also 80 all year long. We cool our fermentations (mostly whites) using a big plastic storage tub filled with water. We put the fermentation bucket in there, and freeze bottles of water to put in as ice cubes a few times a day. We just keep the thermometer in the must and check it periodically and adjust if needed (with more bottles).
 

brianpablo

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Hi - Thanks for the responses! I'm not entirely sure what I'm smelling, but whatever it is seems to linger from the first moment of primary fermentation to wine that's been in the bottle for six months. The overheating thing is really just my hunch because it reminds me of similar off flavors from overheating home brew - those flavors just never age out. Somehow it seems to me this stuff is fermenting hot and fast, which in other circumstances is a recipe for off flavors.

To respond to the rest of those points - yes, I do degass quite extensively with a wine whip, I think for almost half an hour last time. On my first batch I did not top up and as a result found a film yeast on top of it in secondary. I did not make that mistake on my second batch and the off flavors seemed pretty similar. This is now my third batch and I've got it flush against the neck of the carboy.

So my thought was to just try cooling it down and seeing what happens. I see the manufacturer's recommendations for EC-1118 is that it ferment between 55 and 60. Everybody else seems to talk about fermenting between 70 and 75 with the same yeast, which is causing some of my confusion. I suppose the manufacturer's recommendations can't be too off base.

Only my third batch, obviously takes a while to work out the kinks!
 

lilvixen

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My first wine kit, 13 months old now, has a funky smell, so I'm curious: does the smell you smell in yours remind you of salami? I think the kit I did first was improperly stored before I bought it and old to boot, and from the day I opened the juice bladder to the last few remaining bottles that my husband is willing to drink, it still smells like salami to me, and I can't get over it.
 

brianpablo

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That's actually quite funny, but no, I've never gotten salami out of it. The overall smell for me is one of fake fruit, a Kool-aid type aroma and flavor. And maybe just lousy table wine. I remember when it was in primary it sort of smelled like dust and weeds. Salami probably makes a better food pairing than weeds.
 

lilvixen

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It was worth asking. To your original post, I'm at 4500', and my wines ferment above 75*, and only that first one had the off smell and taste.

And you would think it would be pair-able, but I tried pairing it with salami, and it just doesn't work. I don't know how hubby drinks the stuff; liquid salami is just wrong.
 

Stressbaby

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That's actually quite funny, but no, I've never gotten salami out of it. The overall smell for me is one of fake fruit, a Kool-aid type aroma and flavor. And maybe just lousy table wine. I remember when it was in primary it sort of smelled like dust and weeds. Salami probably makes a better food pairing than weeds.
I'm thinking maybe it is "kit taste" (KT) but you are getting it in the nose instead of the palate. Do some reading on KT and see if that could be it. Either way, I'd try wine from grapes or juice pails (if you can get them) before you give up on the hobby.
 
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Noontime

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Also, what kits have you made? Are they reds? Maybe it's location or technique, but our white and fruit wines are much better than our reds. We've made some pretty good reds, but I think white wines (especially white kits in hot weather location) are much easier to make great wines.
 

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