Understanding oxidation

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Dec 9, 2009
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I would like to understand oxidation a bit better. This weekend, I was in the degassing phase of my WE World Vineyard Riesling. The wine whip fell out of my drill and into the carboy. This being my first kit, sent me into a panic. Uncertain of how I could fish the thing out of there, I ended up racking into a primary, cleaning and resanitizing the carboy, then racking back into the carboy. First of all, was this the right thing to do? Not sure what else I could’ve done. Directions say that once it is clear (in about 14 days) you can bottle. I plan on bulk aging for 2-3 months instead of bottling immediately. I will have to rack to get off the lees when bulk aging starts. My question is regarding the exposure to oxygen at this point. I plan on racking to primary and back to carboy again. Oxidation seems like such an important concern during this time, as I need to make sure the carboy is topped up with an airlock. Is it fine to be racking to a primary for the 30 mins or so until I can rack back to the carboy? I’m just trying to understand the level of care that needs to be taken during this phase.
I am doing a WE Ice Wine kit and it has enough K-meta and Sobate for a racking. It says to add 1/4 tsp of k-meta if I plan on aging it for more than 6 months though. Most people around here suggest 1/4 tsp k-meta every other racking. Books I have read have you add some every 2 to 3 months.
if you can rack to a second carboy that is preferred, but many rack back and forth between a single carboy and primary with good results. you should be careful to minimize splashing at this stage, especially into carboy.... put the outflow of the racking tube into the bottom of the carboy so it fills from the bottom up with no splashing.
if you sanitize the carboy with k-meta prior to racking back into it, that residual liquid and the gas it makes will offer some protection against oxidation during the process as well.

i am not sure there are huge benefits to bulk aging a riesling tho. if it is clear and finished you might consider getting it into bottles for protection and to age. the benefits of bulk aging are usually applied to reds or whites that are using the extra time for oaking or whatever. your commercial rieslings are often stainless fermented and then bottled after an appropriate settling time.

if you do decide to bulk age for a couple months, the kit addition of kmeta during the stabilization phase should be suitable for short term aging. more than a few months and addtl so2 may be required. the standard addition is 1/8-1/4 tsp per 6 gal, every racking/3 month interval. whites generally take the higher end of that dose. you might desire to obtain a sulfite titration kit if you plan on experimenting alot with times and deviating from the instructions as it can ease your mind to have even a rough idea where your SO2 levels are.
I have 11 year old meads that I made with zero sulfites or sorbates. Both taste amazing.

IMO oxidation is a risk, not a guarantee.
mead is a little different i think as don't you use heat in making the must to begin with? this may serve to perform some sanitation duties - in addition, i think honey itself is naturally a bit anti-bacterial. as to oxidation specifically, i am not sure mead is as susceptible to degradation from O2 exposure the way many wines are, especially white wine.

i would not want to give the false impression that k-meta is unnecessary in home winemaking, esp grape winemaking.
IMO oxidation is a risk, not a guarantee.

Oxidation is guaranteed if oxygen exposure is excessive or SO2 levels are inadequate. Especially with light, fruity whites... slight oxidation might not be enough to create an off-aroma or browning but it can cause the loss of aromatics which can make the difference between a decent wine and a good one.

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