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What You Should Know About Sweetening A Wine...

Posted on April 30, 2012 by Ed Kraus There have been 9 comment(s)

Homemade Peach WineDear Kraus,

I have a batch of peach wine and a batch of pear wine in 5 gallon glass jugs ready to bottle.  Both need to be sweetened at bottling time to bring out more of the fruit flavor.  Please explain to this rookie exactly how you sweeten the wine as you bottle it.  Do you add the sugar/water solutions to each bottle or do you add to the 5 gallon glass jugs, stir, and then bottle??  Same question on how to add the chemicals to prevent re-fermentation and oxidation.  And, is plain sugar OK to sweeten with?

Thanks, ready to bottle in Missouri...
Hello Missouri,

The first thing that needs to happen before you do anything to your homemade wine is to make sure that it has completed its fermentation. This takes more than just a visual inspections. This needs to be verified with a gravity hydrometer. The specific gravity reading on the hydrometer should be .998 or lower. If it is not, then your wine is not yet ready to be sweetened.

Essentially, the sugar needs to be added to your wine while it is in bulk. Adding the sugar per wine bottle is not practical nor is it necessary. It is also important to note that you will also want to have the wine siphoned out of the glass jugs and off the sediment before adding the sugar--a process called racking--otherwise unwanted sediment could be stirred up into your wine.

Almost everyone that sweetens their wine uses cane sugar, but what you choose to use is open for experimentation. Honey, grape concentrate, corn sugar can all be experimented with. Just remember that once it's in the wine it won't be coming back out. For this reason you may want to do a test batch before adding the sweetener to the rest of the wine. Maybe take a gallon of the wine off and sweeten that first.

Anytime you add a sugar to sweeten a homemade wine you will also want to add potassium sorbate to help eliminate the chance of the wine brewing again. And, anytime you bottle a wine you will want to add sodium metabisulfite to help keep the wine from turning color and/or spoiling.

The best way to add these wine making ingredients is to pre-dissolve them in a small amount of the wine first. Then blend that solution into the rest of the wine. You will want to bottle the wine right after blending the ingredients thoroughly.

The article, Making Sweet Wines, may be of some interest to you. It goes through all of this in more detail, so you might be worth taking a look.

Happy Wine Making,
Customer Service
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

This post was posted in Wine Making Blog

9 thoughts on “What You Should Know About Sweetening A Wine...”

  • Leah York

    If I use your Wine Conditioner to sweeten a wine at bottling time, how much additional potassiuam sorbate and sodium metabisulfite are needed?

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service May 10, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    As long as you use 1/3 of the bottle (6 ounces) or more of Wine Conditioner to 5 or 6 gallons of wine, you do not need to add Potassium Sorbate to the batch. If you are using less than this amount, then you will need to add a normal dose of Potassium Sorbate along with it. You should always add a standard dose of Sodium Metabisulfite to the wine, regardless if you are adding Wine Conditioner or not.

  • David

    I made a 5 gallon batch of plum wine, it has a very strong alcohol flavor and absolutely no plum flavor. Do I need to add sugar to bring the fruit flavor back? Or should I use more juice and a smaller amount of water next time?

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service May 18, 2012 at 6:15 am

    David, with the current batch you are dealing with you may want to sweeten it a little to help bring out the fruity impression. But the real issue sounds like your wine is out of balance. In this case, too much alcohol and not enough fruit. The more alcohol you have in a wine the more it numbs your senses, cutting of the flavors of the wine. You might want to take a look at the post on this blog titled, "Keeping Fruit Wines In Fruity Balance", for more information.

  • wayne strand

    I made a six gallon batch of valinat grape wine. When you drink a glass it makes your teeth turn purple. Is this something thats normal? It tastes great chilled. I don't want my guests walking around with purple teeth! What did I do wrong?

  • Customer Service
    Customer Service May 18, 2012 at 12:47 pm

    Wayne, all red wines will stain your teeth to some degree. With most it's not an issue. The stain will wear off quickly or be so faint as not to matter. But with wines that are too acidic from excessive tannins, the staining can become troublsome and longer lasting. This is because the acid will actually etch into the enamel of your teeth. In the future it may be beneficial for you to track your wine pH level in the future. Take readings both before and after fermentation and then take any necessary actions to bring the pH into a normal range (3.4 to 3.6).

  • bob Wentworth
    bob Wentworth July 5, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    For Missouri, I would put each batch back into the 5 gal bucket then add the sweetener and other stuff, its easier to stir and then get a shot glass after sweetening and taste it. add sweetener in very small doses after the first 2 cups then slowly add small amts of sweetener, when you hit the right sweet spot it will jump out at you and be your favorite wine. gud luck

  • Michelle bullock

    I am having trouble the last 2 wine seasons with thin wine. To add body, I have been giving advise to add Tannin or Glycerin. Is Glycerin also considered a sweetner? And if so, would I make sure to add potassium sorbate? Do you have rationale for me as to why I am not getting the body?

  • Customer Service

    Michelle, you do not need to add potassium sorbate because of any glycerin you are adding. Glycerin does have a slight sweetness to it, but it is very subtle and will not ferment. As to your body issue, the number one reason for lack of body is lack of time on the pulp during fermentation. I am assuming that we are talking about a red wine. You should have the skin and pulp in the fermentation for 3 to 7 days, depending on the wine. If you are already doing this, then be sure to use a pectic enzyme as well.

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