Ask Wine Wizard

“Fruit Floaties” — Strawberry Wine


Tiffany Blickhan — La Grange, Missouri asks,

Looking at the photo of my strawberry wine (see image) I currently am fermenting, I am wondering what is this brain-looking thing floating at the top of my wine? It’s still bubbling like crazy, is this OK and normal? It’s made from fresh fruit, not a kit. It is clearing well and the smell is good. Please help, I’m new at this and it’s my first fresh fruit wine batch.


I just saw your picture and wow, that does indeed look like a floating brain — or two! Luckily, that is a great shot of what I would call typical “fruit floaties” combined with some of the fruit’s natural pectin, and I don’t think it’s anything to worry about. You see, when you make wine with fresh fruit, even if you use a press and maybe a cheesecloth strainer, little particles of the fruit will still get through into your fermenter and will usually float to the top during active fermentation. I actually made a fresh strawberry puree the other day and passed it through a strainer into my saucepan. As the juice heated up, I saw lots of little air bubbles and tiny white particles from the fruit pulp float up to the surface of my pot. I think you’re seeing the same thing happening in your carboy.

Strawberries are also naturally high in pectin, and when doing strawberry wine I always recommend using a pectic enzyme to help break those pectins down (follow instructions on the package since products can be different). The pectic enzyme can be added in the fruit stage to help release more juice before pressing, and it can also be used in finished wine to help clear it. You can purchase powdered or liquid pectic enzyme from most home winemaking and brewing supply stores. It’s important to follow the package directions to the letter and measure carefully, because too little won’t be effective at clearing the wine and you don’t want residual enzyme in your wine that you don’t need.

When it comes time to physically rack, if you still have floaty bits you’d rather avoid, a little trick I use is what I call “subsurface” racking, where you put your thumb over the end of the racking wand or siphon hose as you push the hose through the surface of your floating layer, to make sure none of the floating bits get into your racking hose. Once the end of the hose or tube is in the clear, get your siphon going and rack away, being careful to stop once solids are reached either on the top or the bottom. If you still have a lot of sedi-ment that has trapped much of your wine, you can always carefully pour these through multiple layers of cheesecloth in an effort to strain out what liquid you can.

Since you report the wine smells good, is clearing well and is fermenting away, I wouldn’t worry about your floating science experiment. Strawberries make lovely wine and in spite of their natural pectin content, tend to be a fairly forgiving fruit for your first time around. The color certainly looks nice and as long as things keep fermenting along fine, you should be on your way to making some beautiful strawberry wine.

Response by Alison Crowe.