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Winemaking 101 Pt. 4 - 2nd Racking

FeralLiberal's picture

When we last visited the Red Raspberry wine three weeks ago, it had just gone from the primary into the secondary fermenter. Fermentation has slowed and a layer of lees has formed on the bottom of the jugs, so it's time for the second racking. A hydrometer check shows a reading of 1.009, so there are still some sugars to ferment. Compare this picture to the previous hydrometer pic and you can see the wine is starting to clear.

For information on equipment and terms and Winemaking 101 pts. 1-3, see these previous posts

The second and subsequent rackings are glass-to-glass which is why you always need one more carboy (or other container) than you have wine in progress. After rinsing a clean carboy, my siphoning hoses and racking cane with sulfite solution to sterilize them, I'm ready to start racking.

The full carboy is carefully moved from the spare room to a stool in the kitchen. Get help if you need to, those things are heavy, and you want to jostle it as little as possible so as not to stir up the lees.

Topping up jug with lees

I tilt the jug slightly, fit a tip on the racking cane (see pic here) to keep the intake above the lees layer, and position the cane so the tip is in the deepest part of the wine, taping the siphon hose to the jug to keep the cane from moving. A good suction application starts the flow, and the outlet is positioned close to the bottom of the clean carboy to minimize splashing and aeration. Draw off a sample of wine to check the flavor and color developement. I also check the pH again at this point to see if the acid levels need any adjustment.

pH is a little below optimal but within acceptable range

Watch as the level drops in the original carboy and be prepared to stop the flow when the lees start to move toward the intake. The rest of the wine will be discarded. Move the siphon to your topping up jug and transfer enough wine to fill the new carboy to halfway between the shoulder and neck of the jug.

Transfer the remaining wine in your topping up jug to a smaller container so it too is nearly full, and attach airlocks to the jugs. I thoroughly clean, rinse and dry my jugs after racking and put a sandwich bag secured with a rubber band over the neck so all they need is a quick sanitizing rinse when I need them next time.

At this point I move wine into my basement as the next racking usually won't take place for 3-4 months, unless it throws a lot of additional sediment which calls for an earlier racking. Now the long wait for the wine to stabilize and clarify.

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Ruth's picture
Submitted by Ruth on

This isn't something I'm going to do, but it's like watching just a wee bit of the cooking shows and thinking, oh I'll add a few oyster mushrooms next time it's salad. And your instruction remind me of "Horton Hatches An Egg" (dr seuss), "Carefully, tenderly, getly he crept, up the tree to the nest where the little egg slept." Mmmm.


bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

The raspberry wine looks lovely. Can you tell us what taste and aroma are like at this point?

You note that 3.08 pH is a low but acceptable acidity at this stage. What is the desired range and what would you do about variance, high or low?

Same question for your Brix of 1.009. If it were higher or lower, would you do anything differently at this point?

While you’re here, a couple of other things I should have asked over in your discussion posting but didn’t….

What do you do, if anything, about controlling temperature during the various fermentation stages?

What, if anything, do you do about light? You mention that the next phase will take place in your basement where it is presumably fairly dark. Is that a consideration and would you recommend that others without basements use some sort of cover to prevent photo-oxidation and color loss?

You’re very dedicated about racking off the lees. In contrast, I found that with fruity grapes like Petite Sirah (Durif) a slow fermentation sur lees with regular battonage was a big plus, greatly improved varietal character and overall complexity, and final clarity was substantially better – with the added bonus of less work. Left on lees the wine was a bit yeasty, suited my taste, and letting it breath a little took much of that away. Could you please discuss why you remove the lees with this wine?

Thanks, very much enjoying this.

Submitted by lambert on

I put sulfite solution into my locks as well. Overkill, do you think?

We. Are. Going. To. Die. We must restore hope in the world. We must bring forth a new way of living that can sustain the world. Or else it is not just us who will die but everyone. What have we got to lose? Go forth and Fight!—Xan

FeralLiberal's picture
Submitted by FeralLiberal on

bringiton -

Taste and aroma: unmistakeable red raspberry on the nose. Light fruit, moderate hit of yeast, acids pronounced but not too sharp. Finishes clean for a baby. Alcohol is 10% at this point, it will rise to about 11.5 when finished.

I would prefer pH to be closer to 3.2, some of the fruit may not have been as ripe as I would like it which increases the acid. My pH meter needed a replacement electrode when I started the wine so I didn't have an accurate reading at the beginning. If the starting pH was low I would add less acid blend powder but now I'll just compensate for the slightly higher acid. When the wine is clear and stable I'll draw off samples and sweeten them to various levels, doing a comparison tasting to determine a balance between sweetness and acid. I'll take a hydrometer reading of the sample I like best, then sweeten the whole batch to that level before bottling.

Brix at this point is not really crucial. For a fresh, fruity berry wine, it's more important to lessen the lees contact so that's more your determining point on when to rack. I think grape wines are more amenable to lees contact, berry wines to my experience don't benefit from that.

I keep the wine upstairs for the primary and the first part of secondary fermentation which keeps the yeast warm enough for a vigorous start. The size of the batches isn't big enough for the heat generated by fermentation to be an issue. I keep the shades drawn in the room, but as the wine is only in there for a month at best I don't believe the light exposure affects the color to any measureable degree. For the longer portion of the secondary fermentation I move it to the basement. I think the cooler, darker environment is preferable at this point, not to mention the spousal harmony enhancement gained by not filling the entire upstairs room with wine.

Lambert -

I also use sulfite solution in my airlocks. Why take a chance that mold or bacteria could grow in the airlock when it takes so little solution to ensure it won't?