Ask Wine Wizard

Topping My Wines Off


Anthony Ambrose — Lancaster, New York asks,

I’ve been reading a number of articles about preventing oxidation of the wine I’m making. The articles suggest “topping off” the carboy. What do I use to top off the carboy?

I’m making a Sauvignon Blanc and it looks golden in the carboy. Just wondering if I needed to do something while in secondary fermentation?

As I explain in my book, The Winemaker’s Answer Book, oxygen can be a friend of wine (especially during active primary fermentation) but is more often its enemy. One of the biggest jobs of being a winemaker entails minimizing oxygen (air) contact in our aging wines by keeping our containers 100% full, or “topped up.” The term “topping” or “keeping wines topped up” refers to either a) storing your wine in a completely full vessel or b) adding some wine to a partial vessel to render it full. This, along with proper sanitation, pH management, and adequate levels of sulfur dioxide (all topics amply discussed in my book and in WineMaker magazine) will keep your wine from getting browned (oxidized), something that is very important, especially for delicate white wines like your Sauvignon Blanc. Speaking of delicate Sauvignon Blancs, it’s pretty uncommon for folks to take their Sauvignon Blancs through the secondary, or malolactic fermentation (MLF). This is because most producers of the variety like its crisp refreshment, good acidity, and floral and grassy aromatics, with winemaking choices to keep
Response by Alison Crowe.