Ask Wine Wizard

Adding Some Sparkle To Your Wines

TroubleShooting

Tom Egelhoff — Boca Raton, Florida asks,
Q

I am having trouble making my wines into sparkling wines. Recently I fermented a cranberry wine from a juice that had an 11% ABV at the end of fermentation. I racked and added a campden tablet and let it clear. Once clear, I transferred to Champagne bottles with yeast and sugar. After a week I opened the bottle and it was totally flat! I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong here. Any help would be appreciated.

A
Fermentation by itself is tricky but secondary fermentations for sparkling wines are especially so because your new yeast must fight against existing alcohol (which is toxic to yeast), depleted nutrition, and potentially toxic (to the yeast) compounds left behind as the primary yeast died out. To maximize your chances of a successful in-the-bottle fermentation you need to prepare a starter culture, let that ferment to 0 °Brix and then immediately distribute that amongst your chaptalized base wine. The “active but acclimated” yeast will then hopefully ferment the residual sugar in your closed-up bottles, creating the fizz you’re looking for. From what you write it seems like you were directly adding yeast to finished, sweetened wine. Since that would be shocking the new yeast quite a bit, it might serve you better next time to get a dry (but still active) starter culture first, then inoculate. Even if you follow those steps, there are still many things that can delay, slow down, or even prevent a secondary fermentation from happening where and when you want it to. To help you troubleshoot
Response by Alison Crowe.