I really enjoy your website with all of the winemaking information. You’re truly educating the winemaking public. My question is, I’m storing my carboys and wine bottles in the basement. Its a damp basement that gets water in it when it rains. Who knows what organisms are living down there when its damp. I always clean my carboys with b-brite and a good dose of sulfite before using. I rinse my bottles with a bottle washer (stream of warm water) and rinse well with sulfite. I have to work in the basement now, because I’m getting to the point of not being able to carry the carboys up and down the stairs anymore. Even though I’ve never had a problem, should I be storing the carboys and bottles another way.
Name: Nino P.
State: New York
I understand why you would be concerned. Without being there to inspect what you are dealing with, I would say that you can get away with it just fine, but you have to take some precautions. It is important to remember that mold and bacteria can be airborne. For this reason you need to keep in mind that it’s not just a matter of what touches the wine, but also a matter of air exposure is given to the wine.
With that being said, here are 4 things you can do to help keep your wine protected, regardless of the environment:
- Keep Air-Locks Filled: When an air-lock has water in it, it is cutting off this questionable environment from the wine. If the air-lock goes dry then there is no protections at all. For this reason it is important to keep air-locks full. A little trick that can keep the water form evaporating on you is to not use water. Instead, use glycerin. It does not evaporate, and it does not facilitate the growth of microbes
- Keep Your Fermentations Healthy: The better your wine ferments, the more it is protected from contaminants. When the wine yeast is fermenting hard, foreign microbes don’t have a chance to grow. Think of it as having a good stand of grass in your yard. When the grass is thick and full, the weeds do not have an opportunity to grow and spread.
- Use Sulfites After Rackings: Once the fermentation has completed and the wine is still, do not hesitate to add a dose of sulfite in the form of either Campden tablets or potassium metabisulfite. Either of these will easily destroy any cells or spores that may have made their way onto the wine. You might want to take a look at Racking Your Wine: The When’s, Why’s & How’s for further direction on when to rack your wine and when to sulfite it.
- Spray The Area With Bleach: This is something that should be periodically done to the immediate winemaking area. Using a weed sprayer works great for this. Just make sure it is a new one. Use a 1/4 cup of bleach to each gallon of water. Lightly spray over surfaces, starting with any exposed floor joists and then work your way down from there.
I think you can kind of get the picture by now. Making wine in these not-so-perfect conditions is very possible. It’s just a matter of keeping aware and being vigilant.
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.