If you don’t take action in time, the bitter flavor can spoil the whole batch of homemade wine. Usually beginner winemakers and those who intentionally or unintentionally violated the preparation technology have to face this problem. I’ll tell you how to save the wine and not to repeat the same mistakes in the future.
Warning! You can’t get rid of strong bitterness. The proposed techniques work only on early stages when it just appears.
The reasons behind bitterness, preventive measures and techniques of dealing with a bitter taste:
1. Getting juice the wrong way. The most common situation which causes the problem in 50-65% of cases is typical for grape, cherry, apple wines, but it can also appear for other kinds. Excessive crushing of fruits (berries) with further squeezing through a press damages the seeds which contain a lot of hardening agents and tannins. As the result these substances get into juice. And after the fermentation homemade wine becomes bitter.
Preventative measures: if possible crush the materials without seeds and (or) with less harsh methods which don’t damage the seeds.
Eliminating the effects: “bonding” of hardening agents with egg whites. You need to break eggs, separate whites from yolks, whip the whites with a whisk and after that add them to wine in an amount of 0.1 qt / 100 milligrams per 0.25 gal / 1 liter of beverage. Carefully stir it and leave for 2-3 weeks until the full setting of sediment. Then pour the wine from the sediment through a siphon (a narrow tube) into another container.
2. Putrid materials and overexposure of the must with pulp. If even a few tainted fruits get into processing and the juice is separated from the pulp untimely, then the whole pulp will become rotten.
Preventative measures: use only fresh berries and fruits, strictly follow the recipes, and remove the pulp in time.
Eliminating the effects: clarification of wine with bentonite in an amount of 0.1 oz / 3 grams of white clay per 0.25 gal / 1 liter of wine. Pour bentonite with a tenfold amount of cold water, stir it and leave for 10-12 hours. The clay will calcify. Add water to dilute the mixture. Pour a thin stream of diluted bentonite into the wine, leave it for 5-7 days and after that remove the beverage from the sediment.
3. Long lasting maturing on sediment. Not filtering the wine in time during maturing is also a common reason for bitterness. During decomposition waste products of yeasts worsen the taste.
Preventative measures: remove the sediment in time.
Eliminating the effects: fining with egg albumen or bentonite (you can use both methods alternatively) following the techniques described in previous steps.
4. Wine Contamination. Pathogens causing acetic souring, mold and some other wine diseases show themselves by light bitterness in the early stages.
Preventative measures: sterile environment and strict following of preparation technology.
Eliminating the effects: pasteurization of bitter wine. Microbes will die during thermal processing. You should hermetically seal the bottles with beverage, put them into a pot, cover with water up to the bottlenecks, heat up to 140F° / 60°C. Hold this temperature for 5 minutes then turn off the heat. Extract the bottles when water cools down to a room temperature. After 5-6 days pour the wine from the sediment.
5. Overexposure in barrels. If you age wine in barrels (from oak or wood chips), it will oversaturate with hardening agents which are very hard to get rid of.
Preventative measures: during aging in barrels taste the wine once every 5-7 days in order to detect bitterness in time.
Eliminating the effects: in the early stages bentonite clarification helps. In the worst cases the taste is stabilized by adding sugar and alcohol (up to 10-15% of its volume) to the wine.
If none of these methods help, there is only one option – distill the bitter wine down to homebrew. You’ll end up with fruit brandy.