My Homemade Wine Has A Sour-Bitter Taste

Wine Is Sour BitterI have made two batches of wine from wild grapes here in WI. The first one was harsh at first but aged about a year and it turned out very good and smooth. The second batch has been bottled now for about a year and is still sour, bitter and hard to drink. Wondering what I could do with it besides just sweetening it – don’t care much for sweet wine. I am about ready to pick some for the next vintage and am trying to figure out what I can do ahead of time to get it to turn out better. I read some in the blogs about adding acid blend before you bottle if it is too blah but what can be done if I sample before I bottle and it is way too harsh?

Name: Mike S.
State: Wisconsin
Hello Mike,

There are two major reasons a homemade wine will have a sour or bitter taste:

  • There is too much acid in the wine Shop Potassium Bisulfite
    If your homemade wine has a sour taste it could simply be from the fact that the fruit used to make the wine was too tart. In other words, the wine has too much fruit acid from the fruit, itself. Also, a homemade wine can have a sour taste if too much fruit acid was added to the wine must by way of acid blend. Regardless, if your wine has a sour taste for this reason there are corrective steps you can take to make sure that this does not happen with the batch of wine your are getting ready to make.  I would suggest taking a look at the article on our website, Getting A Handle On Wine Acidity. This will fill you in on what to do. As for your current batch of wine, there are some things your can do to lower the acidity level.
  • The wine is turning to vinegar
    If your homemade wine has a sour taste it could also be caused by vinegar bacteria (acetobacter). The bacteria infects the wine an slowly begins to turn it to vinegar. There are two ways to distinguish vinegar sour from just plain too tart. The first being, the wine will become more sour as time goes buy. Shop Acid Reducing CrystalsThe second way is by smell. Having a homemade wine with a sour taste from fruit acid will have no smell from this, but a wine with a bacterial infection will also have a sour smell. The number one reason for a wine to be infected with acetobacter is sanitation. If you are not using sanitizers to clean your wine making equipment and wine bottles, then this could definitely be the cause. If you are not using sulfites such as either: sodium metabisulfite, potassium metabisulfite or Campden tablets directly in the wine, then this could be the cause. An article on our web site that will put you on the right track is The Many Uses Of Sodium Bisulfite.

Bitter is caused by having too much tannin in the wine. Tannin is the dry, woody tasting stuff that can be experience when chewing on a grape skin. If the grapes are over processed or chopped, such as using a blender, etc., too much tannin may be coming out of the grapes and into the wine must. This will give your homemade wine a bitter taste. It is important that you only crush the grapes. All you are looking to do is burst the grape skins. Anything more than this is overkill.

It is possible to reduce the bitterness of a wine. Treating the wineShop Bentonite with bentonite will help to drop out some of the tannin as a sediment.

How long you keep the skins in the fermentation can make a difference in bitterness, also. A reasonable amount of time would be 3 to 5 days. If you left the skins in the fermentation longer than this, than you may want to adjust what you do this season.

Mike, I hope this info helps you out for this year.

Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

24 thoughts on “My Homemade Wine Has A Sour-Bitter Taste

  1. Read the above email, but I didn’t see what to do to the current batch of wine if it is "tart". My first try falls into that category. Can it be fixed before I bottle it? Thanks

  2. What is the best kind of yeast to use out of the grocery store when making homemade wine with 100% grape juice??? And another question how do you get the bitter taste out of your homemade wine and make it taste like the juice u started out with???

    • Greg, actually we do not recommend using any type of baking yeast that you can purchase at the grocery store to make wine. Baking yeast is made to work hours not days or weeks needed to complete the fermentation process. Using bread yeast could also result in off flavors in the wine. Below is an article that will discuss this topic in more detail.

      Wine Yeast Or Baking Yeast

  3. Good Day Folks, I live in Texas, and I have never made Texas mustang grape wine before, and I have access to lots of Mustang Grapes. When I pick them/3- 5 gallon buckets full of grapes, I do not wash them, I then pick them from the stem and place them into a 5 gallon plastic bucket, I then add them into a 20 gallon plastic cooler/I then take a 6″ round piece of oak limb and crush them in a 5 gallon plastic bucket/then I strain the must into another 20 gallon plastic container/then I add 2 ounces of baking yeast, 4 pounds of sugar, I then let it ferment for 4 days, stirring once a day, then add 5 gallons of clean sanitized water to the must. I then let it sit for 2 days before I stir it again. The color of the must is a heavy pink color and the consistency is “heavy” when I stir it. Should I add more water to the strained must at this time? Please advise. Your Brother, Don

    • Don, Is it thick just because the grape pulp is in the fermenter or is the liquid itself thick. I would say that you should test the specific gravity and the acid level to determine if you need to add additional water. The article posted below will provide more information about how to make wine with grapes.

      Making Wine With Grapes

  4. I having 5 gal of Muska dine pure juice shipped frozen to me from a out of state vineyard in Mississippi.
    Do I have to add water?

    • Greg, because we do not know a anything about the juice you purchased, we would recommend contacting whoever you purchased it from for more information. We can tell you that with most Muscadine recipes do call for the addition of water. below we have included the link to an article that will discuss this in more detail.

      Making Muscadine And Scuppernong Wine

  5. I grow my own grapes and pick them to erley, i put them all in the mush added the sugar and left them for two days, i have transferred the mush to my fermenting jugs now i had a tased after about 3 weeks when fermenting had stopped it seem to be sweet, i don’t know what its going to be like but its drinkable, i don’t understand the grapes were bitter but it tasted ok it a first time for me maybe next year will be ok. Perth Western Australia it could be the heat its been 44 degrees this week.

  6. I’m making concord grape wine and left my first racking too sit for almost six months now( just got pulled in a different direction for a while) .
    Has it sat too long
    Can I rack again and then bottle
    Very dry and maybe viniger or something else not really sure (don’t know much about wine flavor lingo )

    • Brian, leaving the wine sitting on sediment too long can cause off flavors. Having excessive amounts of sediment in contact with the wine over extended periods of time can cause off-flavors to become noticeable in the resulting wine. Most of the off-flavors stem from the fact that some of the active yeast cells will try to consume the dead yeast cells the lie at the bottom as the sugar starts to run out. This is a process known as autolysis. For more information I would take a look at the article posted below for more information.

      When To Rack Into Secondary Fermenter

  7. I just completed primary fermentation on a batch of black cherry wine. 20 lbs of cherries in 5 gallons of water, sugar to sg 1.097. 71B yeast. The final sg was .996. I sampled it while racking into the secondary, and it’s very sour. Like, lemon sour. All the sugar is gone, so there’s just sour cherry flavor. Will back-sweetening once it’s cleared correct this? I’m concerned I’ll end with a wine that’s akin to lemonade. A sour flavor, yet sugary.

    • Michael, it could be that the wine is high in acid and that is why it tastes sour. I would recommend testing the acid of the wine. If the acid is within the appropriate range then it may just be that it is a dry and back-sweetening can help.

  8. My wine doesn’t taste balanced it seems to be acidic but the ph is perfect for a red, tannins and oak are noted just the acid needs to be softened.

    • It is possible for a wine in a normal pH range to be too tart/sharp tasting. This is because pH does not directly correlate to acidic taste. Some acid that affect the pH don’t affect the flavor all that much. I would suggest treating the wine with potassium bicarbonate to lower the acidic flavor. Here’s more information on this:

      In Plain English: The Difference Between pH and Titratable Acidity In Wine

  9. I have an abundance of paw paw fruit growing on my property and decided to try making it into wine. I followed a recipe for peaches since I couldn’t find one for paw paws. Fermentation went well. Took about 4 weeks. I strained the fruit from the liquid and took a hydrometer reading and got a reading of .0997 and an alcohol reading of 6. I just used bread yeast since I wasn’t sure how paw paws would do with wine. The liquid is very cloudy and really has no taste. It’s rather dry and tart but not vinegary. Smells good but I’m not sure where I go from here. Comments and suggestions……

    • Jerry, when the fermentation is complete it is normal for the wine to be dry and could be why it does not have much flavor at this point. Back-sweetening the wine will help bring back the fruity flavors. Regarding the wine being cloudy, there are a few reasons this can occur as listed in the article posted below. If the wine is tart, it may be too high in acid and you need to reduce the acidity. We have posted an article below on how to adjust the acid.

      Cloudy Wine

      Getting A Handle On Wine Acidity

  10. I started a batch of watermelon from pressed watermelon juice. Started aggressive and in 4 days is 14% and kept temp at 66′. Has a slight sourness to it. Do you think it’s bad or just needs time to age?

    • Ryan, it is normal for the wine to not taste it’s best at this point in the process and aging will help. However, if it tastes sour, i would check the acid to see if it is too high.

  11. My first batch of wine. My dad says it tastes sharp. How do I fix it ? The color looks good and clearing very well.

  12. This is day 10 fermenting 1 gallon of rice wine, I got the recipe on YouTube from a Mongolian I think it was.
    N E way, it has just about quit fermenting, it tastes very dry, and a little about. But it doesn’t smell like vinegar, I used alpha enzyme and no sugar, I think I should bottle it now but I’m not sure. One things for sure if it doesn’t taste better I’ll be the only one drinking it.

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