Our Wine Tastes A Little Bitter. What Should I Do?

Homemade Wine BitterHello Adventures in Homebrewing:
We have 17 gal of 2009 Syrah, it tastes a little bitter to us. Should we add conditioner before bottling?
Thank you
Hello Bobbi,
Wine Conditioner is not designed to cover up bitterness. It is a wine sweetener for people that do not like their wines dry. A better avenue would be to try to figure out why the wine is bitter. Then see if it can be remedied, not masked.
There are two primary faults that can cause bitterness in a wine:

  1. Excessive Tannin
    Tannin is a bitter acid that is found in the seeds, stems and skins of the grapes. If the grapes are over crushed, or over pressed, or left in the fermentation too long, too much tannin can be extracted into the must.
  2. Over Oxidation
    This is essentially over exposure to air. If the finished wine sits in a partially-full wine carboy or plastic fermenter along with air, the wine can begin to take on the effects of oxidation. It can be noticed as a slight cough syrup flavor. You may also notice a subtle change in the wine’s color. It the case of a Syrah, a shift to a orange hue.

Where to Start
There are a couple of wine making products that may be of help. If the Syrah has never been treated with bentonite, I would start there. Bentonite is a fining agent that can cause excessive tannins to fall out of a wine. Bentonite will also help to reduce the effects of oxidation, indirectly, by dropping out oxidized color pigmentation.
If you feel that oxidation is the problem, I would also follow the bentonite finings with gelatin finings on the next day. I would also suggest adding a dose of sodium metabisulfite during the last stir of the wine. This is to help drive any oxygen and to help preserve the wine.
Allow 1 to 2 weeks for the deposits to settle out from the finings and then rack the wine into another wine carboy.
Happy Wine Making
Customer Service
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.

0 thoughts on “Our Wine Tastes A Little Bitter. What Should I Do?

  1. I made 3 gallons of orange wine from the fresh squeezed juide of a sour orange fruit. I have a beautiful color but I guess i used too much zeast of the orange peeling. Would you recommend the use of Benonite to pull out some of the bitterness or would you recommend another approach?

  2. John, treating your orange wine with bentonite would be a good first step. I would also be concerned with the level of fruit acid, such as citric acid in this case. For this I would recommend getting an acid testing kit to see if you need to correct this as well.

    Acid Testing Kit

  3. we crushed our grapes and distemmed them fermented it 6 days went to [press it and it tastes sweet and bitter what can we do?

  4. Lena, you should continue on as if everything is fine. It is normal for a wine to taste sweet and bitter at this stage. The "sweet" indicates that there is still fermenting to be done which is not unusual at pressing. This "bitter" is mostly from tannins that have not yet had the opportunity to drop out of suspension. Some if the "bitter" is from the yeast. All this will change as the wine clears and has time to age.

    • Mary, don’t underestimate the power of aging. Give the wine time and you will notice remarkable improvement in the first 30/60 days and marginally so in the following months. The bitterness should subside significantly. I would suggest that you bulk-age the wine for a while before bottling it. After the wine has been bottled it will need another month in the bottle to regain it’s composure, so to speak, because of something called “bottle shock”. If you are looking to make a “sweet”, you can do so by adding sugar before bottling, but it is extremely important that you add a wine stabilizer along with the sugar to prevent a re-fermentation within the bottle. Here are some articles you may want to take a look at that cover all these topics:
      Should I Age My Wine In A Carboy Or Age In Bottles?
      What On Earth Is Bottle Shock?
      Making Sweet Wine

  5. I have back sweetened and bottled some cranberry wine, that prior to back sweetening was not good on the pallet at all…after sweetening I feel as though I have made a pretty decent kool aid opposed to a wine..is this to be expected initially? I don’t seem to have the “wine” flavor that I am seeking. Will that come with time as well?