Ask Wine Wizard

My cherry wine has a bitter/tart taste. Is there any way to remove this?


Peter Daellenbach • Roscommon, Mich. asks,

I have made 2.5-gallon batches of pin cherry wine. Without a recipe to go by, I used my old standby: chockcherry recipe of 20 plus years. It makes excellent wine with a little almond flavor. The recipe calls for crushing/grinding the berries using a three-point grinder. The wine has a bitter/tart taste. Is there any way to remove this, short of pouring it down the drain?


Stop right there! Don’t pour your wine down the drain. Your problem is both curable, and most important for future batches, preventable. It seems you’ve got an overload of tannins in your wine, the bitter and astringent compounds found in the skins and seeds of all fruits and vegetables. Usually these compounds add a nice “bite” of astringency to wine, but too much can be a bad thing, as you’ve obviously found out.

Your problem can be prevented by pressing your fruit more gently, either with a basket press (available in most home winemaking stores) or by hand with a large sieve and a stirring spoon, depending upon the volume that you’re dealing with. The key operating concept here is “gentle.” By cranking the seeds and skins of your wine through a grinder, you’re extracting way too much of the bitter seed and skin tannins from the fruit into the wine.

With your current batch, you’ll be able to get rid of some of those tannins by taking your wine through a process called “fining,” which involves adding a “fining agent” that attracts tannins to them and will pull them out of solution and settle them to the bottom of your container. Two fining agents I suggest you try (one or the other) are egg whites (albumen) and PVPP (stands for Polyvinyl Polypyrrolidone).

Albumen is one of the oldest and most widely used fining agents in both home and commercial winemaking. It’s typically added to red wines (or very tannic fruit wines like yours) in concentrations of 30 to 240 milligrams per liter, a very wide range, to be sure. Lightly beat the egg whites with a whisk, add to your container of wine (barrel, carboy, etc.), stir gently, and let settle for a few weeks or until you can see that the mixture has flocculated to the bottom. Once this has happened, rack the wine into another clean container and proceed with your aging or bottling program.

PVPP is a synthetic polymer powder available at your local home winemaking store. It is typically added to wine in concentrations between 124 to 480 milligrams per liter and is then left to settle as per fining with egg whites. Some winemakers choose to filter PVPP out of their wines while some just let it settle out and then rack off the treated wine into another container. Either way, as the above numbers are just general guidelines, it is always best, if you can, to test small amounts of wine first to find which concentrations work best for your particular wine.

Response by Alison Crowe.