Frequently Questions

How should I sanitize my wine making equipment at home?

Lapses in sanitation are responsible for 90% of all home brewing failures. If you keep your equipment looking, smelling and feeling clean, even when not in use, you’ll have fewer problems keeping everything sanitized.
Store your clean primary fermenters and carboys closed with a little chlorine solution inside (one capful unscented household bleach per litre cold water). This measure will ensure that nothing will grow in them which makes sanitizing will be a snap.
It is important to first note that cleansers and sanitizers are not the same: cleansers leave your equipment bright and clean; sanitizers keep bacteria and other spoilage organisms under control. Before you sanitize, everything must be clean. Rinse bottles, primary fermenters and carboys as soon as they are empty to avoid scraping dried, caked-on residue off them later. Below are a few common cleansers and sanitizers available to the home wine-maker.

Trisodium Phosphate (Saniton)

Trisodium Phosphate (Saniton) is an unscented detergent.It helps take a lot of the work out of removing stains and stubborn grime from equipment.

Cleaning: Dissolve 2 g per litre of warm water (2 tsp. per gal). Soak equipment for 20 minutes; scrub any stubborn stains. Rinse well with hot water. Sanitizing: TSP does not sanitize. You must use it in conjunction with a proper sanitizer. Cautions: Avoid contact with strong acids and pro- longed contact with aluminum, tin, lead, and zinc since this will produce hydrogen gas.

Diversol (Sani-Brew)

As well as being a sanitizer, Diversol has the added benefit of being an extremely effective cleaner. Available under a variety of trade names, you’ll recognize Diversol because it is a chlorinated pink powder. Cleaning: Dissolve 3.5 g per litre of cold water (5 tsp. per gal). Soak stained equipment up to 48 hours. Rinse thoroughly with hot water. Sanitizing: Fill primary fermenter with Diversol solution (3.5 g per litre of cold water [5 tsp. per gal.]). Fully immerse all equipment: hoses, spoons, bungs, hydrometers, thermometers, airlocks, and primary lid. Soak equipment for at least 20 min. Remove lid, rinse thoroughly with hot water and turn it upside-down on the counter. Rinse equipment, placing items inside sanitized lid.
To sanitize a carboy: With bung in carboy, slosh 9 litres (2 gal.) Diversol solution all around inside. Repeat twice, with 5 minutes between repetitions. Rinse after 20 min.

Cautions: Corrodes stainless steel. Can bleach clothing. Do not mix with acids, amines, or ammonia. Such a mixture produces dangerous gases.

Bleach (Sodium Hypochlorite)

Unscented household bleach can be used as a sanitizer and cleaner. For Sanitizing, it is just as effective as Diversol. For Cleaning, however, either Diversol or TSP would be preferable. Cleaning: Mix 2.5 ml per litre of cold water (1 tbsp. per gal.) and follow the Cleaning instructions for Diversol (above). When rinsing, remove all traces of chlorine smell. Sanitizing: Using a solution of 5 ml per litre of cold water (1 tbsp. per gal.) follow the Cleaning instructions for Diversol (above.) Cautions: See above. Don’t use scented bleach. Those ‘spring fresh’ and ‘lemony’ perfumes will sink into equipment permanently. All subsequent batches will smell and taste like perfume.

Potassium Metabisulphite/Sodium Metabisulphite

Sulphites have been used in winemaking for hundreds of years. They are available as potassium metabisulphite and sodium metabisulphite. Not only are they effective sanitizers, they also prevent oxidation in wine. Cleaning: Sulphites will not clean your equipment. Use a cleanser such as TSP. Sanitizing: Dissolve 50 grams per 4 litres cold water (8 tsp.per gal.). Use a spray bottle to coat equipment with solution. Spray into hoses and racking tubes. Allow equipment to drip dry for 10 minutes. Do not rinse. You can store your prepared solution in a tightly sealed container and reuse it for up to 1 month. Cautions: Dust and vapour from solution is irritating to lungs. Avoid inhaling. Do not mix with alkaline solutions such as Diversol or bleach. Will not clean dirty or stained equipment.

Iodophor

If you keep your equipment clean between brews, Iodophor is a great sanitizer. (Your equipment will not be clean if you simply rinse after use. You must use a cleaner, such as TSP.) Iodophor is excellent for stainless steel – which Diversol will corrode. Mixed properly and used in a spray bottle, Iodophor is almost magical in its convenience: there’s no waiting and no rinsing. Cleaning: Iodophor does not clean. Use a cleanser such as TSP before Sanitizing with Iodophor. Sanitizing: Mix 1 ml per litre of cold water. You must use a syringe for accurate measurement. Use a spray bottle to coat equipment with solution. Shake off excess or allow equipment to drain. Do not rinse. Use the equipment. It’s that easy!

Cautions: When in solution, Iodophor rapidly breaks down. Every time you use it, you must make a fresh solution. Not effective unless mixed accurately. Use a syringe. Will not clean dirty or stained equipment. Hazardous for those with iodine allergies. Concentrated solution stains skin and fabric.

Sulphites and Wine Longevity

Potassium Metabisulphite is a stable source of sulfur dioxide in winemaking. The use of sulfur compounds is not a recent innovation. The great Dutch shipping empire popularized the use of sulfur in the 16th century by refusing to ship any wines not treated. They insisted on sulphites because sulphite treated wines were the only ones that survived a long sea voyage without turning into vinegar. Sulphites work by releasing free sulfur dioxide, which inhibits yeast, mold and bacteria. It does this in two ways: one, it kills some of the organisms outright, and two, it blocks the surviving organisms ability to reproduce. If your winemaking equipment is physically clean and you’ve rinsed it with a sulphite solution, nothing will grow on it. Sulphites are also added directly to wine after fermentation, to help prevent oxidation. Oxidation in wine follows the same pattern that you see in the cut edge of an apple—the wine turns brown and takes on a flat ‘cardboard’ taste. Sulfur binds with the oxygen in the wine and prevents this damage. Many people worry that they may be allergic to sulphites. True sulphite allergies are very rare. It’s more likely that they have a histamine reaction to red wine, or that they have been over exposed to sulphites in the past. In the 1970’s restaurants would douse their salad bars with 2000 PPM (p art s per million) sulphite solutions in order to keep the produce fresh. Mixing with food acids, such as dressings or vinegar, would cause the salad to release clouds of sulphite gas, provoking unpleasant reactions. Some facts that might clear up any misunderstanding about sulphites.

Sulphites are a recognized food additive. Their use is controlled by the federal government.

All commercially available wines in the province of British Columbia contain sulphites, even those labeled ‘Kosher’ or ‘Organic. The legally allowable amount is 70 PPM.

Nearly all dried fruits and meats contain sulphites. Raisins, for instance, have up to 250 PPM. The amount of sulphite provided with kits will result in a level of between 35 and 50 PPM in a finished wine.

Sulphites are produced by all grape based wines naturally during fermentation, up to a level of about 10 PPM. Even with no addition of outside sulphites, wines will still contain them.

This is not to say that sulphites are totally benign. People with asthma or emphysema should avoid inhaling sulphite powder or the gas that comes off the prepared solution. It can act as a bronchial constrictor, aggravating any breathing problems. Also, adding extra sulphites to wine is of no benefit and can spoil the flavour. It’s important to follow directions for sulphite additions.
The upshot of sulphite use is this: without sulphites you’d have to be very careful to keep all of your equipment sanitary and you’d still have to drink your wine quickly, before it spoiled, probably within one or two months.

Wine and Your Health.

The health benefits of wine translate into good news for wine lovers. Although there is a fine line between healthy drinking and risky drinking, more and more studies are linking cardiovascular health with moderate wine consumption .What is it about wine, p art icularly red wine that makes it beneficial to your health? Wine is rich in polyphenols and antioxidants, which combat cholesterol and other harmful fats. Polyphenols reside in grape skins, seeds and stems and act to protect the fruit from fungi and parasites. Since the skin is left on during the fermentation process in making red wine, but often removed in most white wine, the phenol content tends to be higher in red.

So, you might ask, why not just drink grape juice? Research indicates that phenols dissipate over time but are stabilized with alcohol. This also suggests that it is better when small quantities are consumed on a frequent basis, rather than in large amounts or only occasionally.

The health benefits of moderate wine consumption are numerous:

Wine increases amounts of god cholesterol (HDL) and prevents oxidization of bad cholesterol.

Wine significantly reduces the rate of blood clotting/coagulation.

Wine significantly reduces stress (a major culprit in he art disease).

Wine is not only a flavourful enhancer. It can improve digestion by increasing the flow of stomach acids, which help to extract more nutrients from the food you eat.

Cellaring Tips from the Pros?

If you intend to age your wine, whether it’s a dozen bottles or a hundred bottles, proper storage is of key importance. To cellar wines doesn’t mean that you necessarily have a great room filled with tons of wine bottles. It simply means you have decided to care for your wines long term and you need a place to put them.

It is essential to note that some wines are not meant to be aged. That is, they are meant to be enjoyed while young. If you aren’t sure whether you should cellar or open a bottle of wine, see what we have to say on our wine list, or email info@sheppardwineworks.ca. Despite any advice you may receive, the key here is enjoyment. If you take pleasure in the bouquet and flavour of a glass a wine, then timing is well-suited to you, the wine drinker.

Location is Key
Having decided that you are cellaring wine then you need to allocate a suitable location. The following elements are critical to proper wine storage.

Choose a cool, dark place. Do you have a side of the house that gets less sun? Choose it – bright lights can oxidize wine.

Temperature should remain relatively constant. 18 to 23°C is favourable. While a dark corner is the basement is ideal, even a closet, if not too warm, will suffice.

Keep your bottles in a still environment as vibrations can alter a wine’s chemistry. Be patient! It is alright to visit your bottles, but picking them up and handling them is ill-advised. Let them rest until you are ready to pop the cork.

Avoid storing your wines next to strong odours such as paints and solvents. Strong smells can permeate a cork over time.

Last but not least, store bottles on their side long-term. It is essential that the cork remain moist to ensure a maximum seal.

If you have limited space or lack the place that is constantly cool and dark, you may want to conside purchasing a wine storage units. These portable cellars come in various sizes and colours to suit all types of accommodations and can often prove to be more economical than ruining several bottles of wine and wasting valuable time due to improper storage.

Enjoy your wine! You’ve made and cellared your wine and when the time comes to enjoy it with friends and family take pride in the fruits of your labour and have confidence that cellaring your wine has allowed the tannins, fruit, oak, and other complexities to blend harmoniously. Each glass is an expression for your love for wine!