Nobody is perfect. Not even me with my BA in film history… I mean BA in vintology… BA(Hons) in vintology… vinology… wine making…
As I was saying no one is perfect and even being a professional amateur wine maker things can go wrong. I have two batches of elderflower wine on the go and one has succumbed to infection. Flowers of Wine I imagine but as I am neither a microbiologist (I skipped that part of film school) or usually sloppy in my sanitizing I cannot confirm. Why its called Flowers of Wine I have no idea, personally I think it makes it sound beneficial maybe even nice. Its not. It will make your wine smell like a Soho street corner on a Sunday morning and taste even worse.
As you can see it is a rather nasty floating haze and if left unchecked would start to smell bad, spoil the wine and potentially cause other infections, oxidize or remove alcohol and general ruin the party. Often I have a haze in my wine but this is down to the particular brand of Thames water I have. This was a stronger looking haze that floated and reformed easily if shook and also had a slight gelatinous look. It is certainly not starch or pectin coalescing as I have none as the flowers are low in these.
Generally I hate using chemicals unnecessarily – often American recipes have massive amounts of metabisulfate recommended in them – before fermentation, at each rack and at stabilization just before bottling. It’s like when Aunt Barbara got addicted to the pills that helped her sleep… It is not that I will not use chemicals like this but I do want to keep the levels down to a minimum and use when necessary rather than as a default ingredient. Water standards are generally a justification and British water seems to have higher standard and together with good sanitizing of equipment keeps infection to a minimum. This is the first wine I have potentially lost for instance. That’s a lie. I did loose some quince last year but I’m not letting you know about that.
So I need some Campden and some luck to sort this… and some elbow grease but not in the wine. Camden is a terrible place in London where Amy Winehouse used to hang out. Campden is a sulfite based sanitizer. 1 to 1.5 of these little tablets per gallon should I hope clear up any infection. They dissolve and give off sulfur dioxide, strong enough to kill infections and most wild yeasts from fruit but not enough to clobber the stronger wine making yeasts.
First I have to clean a new demijohn making sure general dirt and grease has been removed via a traditional wash with detergent and hot water. Then I use a chemical sanitizer to kill any bacteria. My personal favorite is Chemipro Oxy as it is fast, drip dry and user friendly. Beware – sanitizing does not mean sterilization. It strongly limits bacterial infection but it cannot guarantee all are killed – it does use safer chemicals though – no bleach that can alter taste or poison people fatally to death. That’s bad.
After the autosiphon, demijohn and air locks are clean and dripped dry I can start to rack the wine from the infected demi to the nice sparkling clean demi. If the siphon is kept still the infection that floats on the surface should stick to the sides of the demijohn as the liquid transfers steadily from one container to the other. After transfer there is still air space left, but the campden crushed and added with a top up of boiled and cooled sterile water will fill the void. It needs to be topped up to the neck so that little air can touch the wine. This stops oxidation and also allows no air to feed the oxygen loving Flowers of Wine. As the yeast further respires the resulting carbon dioxide will push out any remaining oxygen.
As the campden starts to work bubbles of sulfur dioxide rise. It will take 24 hours for it to dissipate so get ready for a few farty smells – this is natural and a sign that the acid in the wine is breaking down the tablet andf releasing the happy gas. Over the natural aging of the wine most of the remaining trace gas will escape through natural degassing just as carbon dioxide does.
And yours please!