Ask Wine Wizard

Softened Water In Wine?

TroubleShooting

Jim Hartje — Otto, North Carolina asks,
Q

As a soon-to-be first-time winemaker, I need to know something about a topic no one talks much about before I start . . . water. I have a well and the water from it is great. But, it goes through a water softener, which adds sodium to the final product at the faucet. Is this OK, or should I be using water from a different source?

A
That is a wonderful question! It’s estimated that it takes anywhere from 2–10 gallons (8–38 L) of water to make a gallon (4 L) of wine. Most of that estimate is for sanitation but there’s no doubt a little bit gets mixed up in the wine when we rehydrate our yeast or dissolve tartaric acid. Sometimes we need to add a lot more to account for high sugar levels; depending on the yeast you use, it’s harder to ferment something to dryness over 25 °Brix. Does the water you use in winemaking matter? I say yes indeed, especially for two important applications: Yeast rehydration and kit concentrate dilution. In the case of the former, you really need to make sure the water has absolutely no chlorine in it (which can inhibit sensitive yeast) and it does need to contain some trace minerals like magnesium, which helps support healthy yeast growth. In the case of the latter, you will be adding a large volume of said water to dilute the grape concentrate that comes in the kit so if you have
Response by Alison Crowe.