Bottling is the final step in the wine production process. If your wine going to look good in the glass it needs to look good when it goes into the bottle. Once it’s in the bottle it’s hard to clear up any issues.

Recently Tom wrote in the with following situation:

We bottled 2 days ago and the wine is cloudy, you can see by holding the bottle up near a light bulb. My question is can I still clear the wine? I mean can I put the wine back into a carboy and use another clearing agent or something like that or am I stuck with the wine as it is?
This is an unfortunate situation I and many others have found themselves in. In my case I bottled a wine before it was fully degassed. Bottling cloudy wine presents quite the dilemma. Do you clear it again or decant it?The reality is whatever gets bottled stays there until it gets served. So if your wine has sediment, protein haze, or carbon dioxide in it, it’ll still be there when you open it up again. Also, if your wine goes in with a pH or acidity problem time will not fix it. Trapped carbon dioxide may slowly escape if you use a natural cork closure and give your wine several years to age. But this largely depends on just how much carbon dioxide is in there. Sediment though isn’t going anywhere no matter how long you wait. Time can help tame harsh tannins and allow subtle flavors and aromas to fully develop, however, it can’t remove sediment or fix chemistry issues. Back to Tom’s question.

Can I Still Clear the Wine?

In truth the wine will clear on its own in the bottle given enough time. The problem is that whatever settles out of your wine will also be in the bottle and prone to getting stirred up when the wine is served. With careful pouring and by decanting you may be able to keep that sediment from going into someone’s glass. This, understandably, isn’t a perfect solution as it complicates how you serve the wine but may be your best bet. Certainly you could pour it back into a carboy and do another round with a clarifier, however, it will come at a cost. Emptying all those bottles, mixing in a clarifier, and re-bottling your wine will expose it to a lot of oxygen. While your wine may still taste okay when it’s re-bottled its shelf life will likely be greatly reduced. I would venture to guess that even a red wine would show signs of oxidation within six months to a year. A white wine would be more susceptible to this double handling and show signs of oxidation much sooner.

What’s the Answer?

That depends on what matters most to you. While a cloudy wine may not look great in the glass the haze usually doesn’t affect the actual flavor of the wine. Given that the wine can clear in the bottle if given the time a bit of decanting may be the easiest and least harmful solution. On the other hand if you want to give this wine away and needs it to look its best you may consider going through another clarification. You could even use inert gasses (Private Preserve for example) in the carboy to reduce oxygen exposure. This won’t eliminate oxygen exposure but will at least reduce it. Personally, I would probably keep this wine in the family and either drink it cloudy or decant any sediment that settles out. The wine can still mature over time will serve as a great learning experience.

Avoid Bottling Too Soon

The best solution of course if to avoid bottling a wine before it’s ready. This sure doesn’t help Tom at this point, however, it’s worth noting for the next wine. Time is on your side when making wine. Most wines clear and degas themselves without any intervention from the wine maker if given enough time. Kit wines can be ready to bottle six months or so after fermentation finishes even without clarifiers. This is a long time to wait when it’s your first wine though, I know. Even if you use a clarifiying agent and degas your wine properly consider giving your wine one or two more months in the carboy. This should be long enough to make sure that nothing else funny is going to happen. If something does happen, like more sediment dropping out, at least it’ll still be in the carboy where you can access it and take action to fix it. Follow your kit directions or recipe very closely and be sure to thoroughly degas your wine. Clarifiers tend to work more quickly in cooler temperatures so if you’re sure you’re done degassing you could move your wine to a cooler spot to help it clear faster and more completely. Photograph by: Rebecca Searle

  • Kandi

    I bottled my wine without a second campden tab what do I do

    • Hi Kandi,

      This is a common problem that wine makers (even experienced ones) run into. I addressed this very topic on Episode 1 of the podcast if you’re interested in listening: http://winemakersacademy.com/red-white-wines-easier-wma001/

      In short you really only have two options. First you could uncork all the wine and pour it into a fermentation bucket where you then add your campden tablet. Alternatively you could enjoy a reduced sulfite wine.

      If you go for the first option the life of your wine may be shortened due to oxygen exposure. The second option reduces the life of the wine because it is less stable against the aging affects of oxygen it’s already been exposed to.

      Either way I think you would need to drink this wine within six months to a year. Personally I would not bother adding it if both courses of action lead to the same outcome.

      I hope this helps Kandi!

      -Matt

  • osfans

    How do I not lose 1/2 bottle – 1 bottle on the bottom of the carboy w the sediment as I syphon it out? This is the first time I’ve made wine – it was a white wine from a kit. As I bottled it the last few bottles were cloudy due to the sediment on the bottom.

    • This is tricky. As you siphon wine to try and get the last bit of clear wine inevitably the sediment gets stirred up due to the suction. I’ve tied a few different things to get as much liquid as I can but there will always be some left in the bottom.

      One tactic is to tilt the carboy slightly as it is clearing so that the sediment collects on one side. I’ve propped the carboy on a small book or you can use a wedge as others have done to keep the carboy tilted. Of course you need to be careful as the carboy will be less stable, especially when bottling.

      For me, I just look at the lost wine as the price to pay to get clearer wine in the other bottles. Beyond that you could filter the wine. They’re a bit pricey compared to the cost of wine kits and most filters do leak some so I’m not sure you’d save the wine this way either.

      One thing I just thought of is siphoning the cloudy wine into another bottle or 1/2 gallon jug with an airlock. Let it settle out again and try to get one last bottle that way.

      I wish I had a better method for you and I’ll keep thinking on it but to date I haven’t come up with a good solution. This makes 1 gallon fruit wine batches somewhat of a hassle because you lose about 20% of your wine to the sediment in the jug. In larger volumes these losses are much less noticeable.

      I hope this help! -Matt