Bottling the Riesling Kit; Learning to Use Titrets

It’s blue

Bottling Day Arrives

This was the weekend.

A week ago, there was still too much gas still escaping from the Riesling kit I had started this spring. When I was checking again throughout this week, the bubbles accumulating on the edge were dissipating at a healthy rate. I figured with the two more rackings I had planned (which ended up being three) the degassing would be enough.

To SO2 or Not to SO2

I also bought a Titrets kit to test the free SO2. After all my handwringing about whether to add SO2 or to take the full no-additive route (I hadn’t added any of the kit-provided powders and solutions up until this point), I decided that I would only add SO2 at bottling and only to the level that it would still be accepted on the shelves of purists like The Punchdown over in Oakland (great place btw). That meant 20 parts per million (ppm).

That also meant that I needed to get a way to test the SO2. I bought a Titrets kit that measures the free SO2 in a sample. I had read about this and apparently there are far more accurate tests out there and this isn’t ideal for red wines (as I’d discover why later). But, it was the least expensive and promised to be easy to use, so I got it.

It’s clear

First Addition

The plan was to rack into a new carboy, grab a sample, test the sample, add the SO2, wait a day, test/add again, and bottle. So, my first step was to test the free SO2 before adding anything and get a racking in there. I grabbed one of my free carboys and after sanitizing it and the other equipment, racked the 5 gallons into the new carboy. While it was flowing, I diverted 2 cups into a cup measure for the Titrets testing.

Now, Titrets’s instructions are a little unclear until you’re doing it for the first time. There’s a lot of inserting, snapping, rocking, and color changing. Basically, though, what’s going on is that you’ve got an enclosed glass vial, that narrows to a thin enclosed extension on one end and the main body of this tube contains an SO2 sensitive solution. You slip a plastic tube over the thin extension and snap the end to open the tube. The you suck up small amounts of the sample (the wine) through the plastic tube and it mixes with the solution.

The solution immediately turns a dark blue when the first part of the sample is added. Then, as you slowly add more, it becomes clear (or, the color of the sample) and when it does, the level it is at indicates the amount of free SO2.

In my case, the wine started at 16ppm SO2. With 20ppm as my goal, I did some intense interneting for a bit to figure out how many teaspoons of SO2 I needed to add to 5 gallons to achieve an additional 4ppm. Turns out it’s approximately 1/16 of a teaspoon. So, I eyeballed half of my 1/8 teaspoon measure, mixed it into my sample, and stirred it into the new carboy.

A 16ppm again today

More racking, then waiting

It was at this time that I realized I had racked it into a 6 gallon carboy. So, it got an extra racking back into my sanitized 5 gallon. Surely, it would be degassed. Done for the day.

I came back this morning and sanitized my bottles. I was lucky enough to have a neighbor who was giving away a bottle-washing tree last year. I’m not sure how I had the patience to do it manually in a bath tub for my first batch.

Once that was done and they’d had a chance to dry a bit, I racked the wine into a bucket, grabbing a sample on the way once more. After testing with the Titrets kit, it came to 16ppm once again. Everything I added yesterday must have been consumed by oxygen/etc. in the wine. So I stirred in another 1/16 teaspoon.

[Tasting the twice-dosed wine now and comparing it to the no-dose glass I had last night, I can maybe see the effect of the SO2. Last night’s had that distinctive “young wine” character to it, where this one feels a bit more . . . muted.]

From there, I bottled and corked. My corkwork was pretty poor this time, but only two major fails.

I’m bad at corking

So, now I’ve got 24 bottles of Riesling. What could be my last kit wine. With So2 levels to not offend The Punchdown. It’s pretty good. I’ll probably throw some more formal notes up here when I’m back from my trip (which is seriously poorly timed for harvest!).

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