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What You Should Know About Sweetening A Wine...

Posted on October 20, 2015 by Ed Kraus There have been 16 comment(s)

Sugar Syrup For Back Sweetening Homemade WineI 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 back sweeten a homemade 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??  And, is plain sugar OK to sweeten with?

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

The first thing that needs to happen before sweetening 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 wine hydrometer. The specific gravity reading on the hydrometer should read .998 or less. If it is not, then your wine is not yet ready to be back sweetened.

Essentially, the sugar needs to be added to your wine while it is still 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 fermenter and off the sediment before adding the sugar – a process called racking – otherwise unwanted sediment could be stirred up into your homemade wine.

Almost everyone uses plain-ole cane sugar when back sweetening their homemade wine, but what you choose to use is open for experimentation: honey, grape concentrate, corn sugar can all be experimented with to add different subtle flavors to their fruit wines. Just remember that once the sugar is in the wine it won't be coming back out. The sweetening process is not very forgiving in this respect. 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 back sweeten that first.

shop_potassium_sorbateAnytime 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.

When adding sugar to a homemade wine you will want to pre-dissolve the sugar first. This can easily be done by mixing half and half with water and heat it on the stove until it becomes completely clear. Be sure to stir continuously when heating so that the sugar does not burn on the bottom of the pan. Allow the sugar mixture to cool before adding to the wine.

The article, Making Sweet Wines, may be of some interest to you. It goes through all of in's and out's of sweetening homemade wine in more detail, so you might be worth taking a look.

Happy Wine Making,
Ed Kraus
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

16 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 October 20, 2015 at 1:14 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 October 21, 2015 at 1:15 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 October 21, 2015 at 4:47 am

    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

    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
    Michelle bullock October 21, 2015 at 6:40 am

    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
    Customer Service October 21, 2015 at 11:35 am

    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.

  • teri Applegate

    I also need help with enhancing the fruit flavor of my wines. I have always followed your recipes very carefully, and end up with wines that are good but need to be better. Please help.

    • Ed Kraus

      Teri, back-sweetening the wine is one way to help bring out the fruity flavors. Additional ways to enhance the flavor are to add our liqueur flavorings to the wine or you can also add frozen concentrate to the wine for more flavor. Just remember if you add anything that contains sugar, you need to treat the wine with potassium sorbate to prevent re-fermentation of the newly added sugar. Below I have provided the links to some articles that will discuss this in more detail.

      Increasing The Fruit Flavor

  • Thomas

    I have question about adding fruit flavor to a wine. My batch is a royal zinfandel, I'm deciding if I want to add a strawberry hint to it or not. Does anyone have any suggestions? I'm not apposed to other flavors. I just want the wife, who's not a huge wine fan to enjoy more

    • Ed Kraus

      Thomas, adding fruit flavor to your wine is certainly an option. We even offer a strawberry white zinfandel wine kit. Many of our customers have used our Top Shelf Liqueur Flavorings to add additional flavor to there homemade wines. What I would suggest is trying a sample before adding it to the entire batch to make sure that you like the results.

      Using Liqueur Flavorings In Your Wine

  • Pete Bray

    When making peach wine when finished fermenting should the wine have a peach color or is it
    because of pectic haze.
    Pete Brau

    • Ed Kraus

      Pete, the color of a Peach Wine could vary a little. It is a white wine but the color can vary a little depending on the color of the skins. A pectin haze will leave the wine cloudy and will not clear. Below I have posted the link to an article that will discuss pectin haze to help you determine if this is what is happening to your wine. Below I have provided the links to a couple of articles that will discuss pectin haze in more detail.

      Pectin haze

  • Geneva

    Thanks for the sugar tip you just offered to sweeten wine before bottling it. I have always used your conditioner to sweeten my wines but I think I may try the sugar next time as it seems less expensive not to mention giving my wines a more fruity taste.

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