Racking

left: The dean jar Into which the wine is racked must be at a lower level, Start the siphon by sucking the end of the rubber tube.

Right: A mare sophisticated syphon. The rubber tube is attached to the top of the glass tube, which an be pushed to any depth, Start by blowing on small tube. Tfiis syphon will not disturb sediment.

left: The dean jar Into which the wine is racked must be at a lower level, Start the siphon by sucking the end of the rubber tube.

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Right: A mare sophisticated syphon. The rubber tube is attached to the top of the glass tube, which an be pushed to any depth, Start by blowing on small tube. Tfiis syphon will not disturb sediment.

ONE of the most important factors in producing clear, stable wine is racking, i.e. siphoning the wine off the lees of yeast and deposited solids; more wines have been ruined by neglect of racking than from any other cause. During the first fermentation a wine will be milky or soupy—and often downright repulsive!—in appearance, and no-one would imagine that one day it will be brilliantly clear, and perhaps even sparkling. But do not dismay. Properly made, and properly managed subsequently, almost all wines will clear of their own accord. Some wines, parsnip and plum among them, are notorious for their slowness to clear; and it should be noted that it is usually where the ingredients have been boiled that this occurs, for boiling releases pectin to cause hazes in the wine. These hazes, however, should not be confused with the thick cloudiness of the early stages of fermentation.

A wine is likely to remain really cloudy for three or four months after the fermentation is started because of the yeast in suspension; then, slowly, it will commence to clear, from the top down, as the yeast and solids in it sink to the bottom, forming a thick layer at the bottom of the fermenting jar. When the wine is visibly clearing in this way—rack.

Place a clean jar below the level of the one containing the wine, and remove the bung and fermentation lock. Take a yard or so of rubber tubing (about half an inch diameter) and in one end of it fit a foot of glass or polythene tubing. Insert the tubing carefully into the wine (carefully so as not to disturb the sediment) to about half the depth of the jar, and hold it in place by clipping a wooden clothes peg around it, or by using a rubber band.

Take the lower end of the tube down to below the level of the bottom of the fermentation jar, put it into your mouth, and suck steadily (most pleasant this!). When the wine is flowing freely direct it into the new jar. As the level in the fermentation jar drops push the glass tube down further and further until you have racked off all the wine and only the yeasty sediment is left. Be careful not to siphon that into the new jar.

Before fitting the fermentation lock to your new jar of semi-clear wine, make sure that the jar is filled to the bottom of the neck, so that the minimum of air is allowed access to the wine.

Do this by "topping up" if necessary (and it usually is) with syrup, made to the same strength as your original liquor. Thus, if your original liquor had 3 lbs. of sugar to the gallon (48 ozs.) use 3 ozs. of sugar in half a pint of water.

Then insert your air lock and allow the fermentation to proceed again. At first it will probably be much slower than previously, but do not worry about this; it is because the quantity of yeast present has been greatly reduced. As the yeast gradually multiplies again so the ferment will get going once more, and a slow, steady ferment, rather than a fast one, is what you want.

The wine will also continue to clear, and the yeast will throw a second deposit. When the wine is completely clear, and the sediment is firm, comes the time for your second racking. (The yeast left behind on this occasion will be an excellent medium for starting off other brews.)

You may care to bottle on this occasion, but it is preferable to give the wine yet a third racking after another two months before doing so. Normally about three months elapse between first and second rackings but it is impossible to give a firm schedule since the time to rack depends upon the progress of the individual wine. A good rule of thumb is: "When in doubt whether to rack or not . . . rack!"

Racking rarely harms a wine, and generally improves it; racking helps to stabilise the wine, thus reducing the risk of after-bottling fermentation and consequent burst bottles; racking also prevents the wine acquiring off flavours from the dead yeast upon which it would otherwise be standing.

Always make sure that your fermentation is completely finished before bottling, or you may have burst bottles, which is both messy and dangerous. Most beginners fall into the error of trying to bottle too soon, and pay dearly for their mistake.

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