A Quick Tip For Racking Wine

Girl Racking WineFirst off, many of you may be wondering, “what does racking wine mean”? So let’s get that out of the way first. In terms of making wine, the definition of racking wine is the process of transferring a wine or must from one fermenter to the next so as to leave the sediment behind.

Racking wine is necessary because you do not want the wine to sit on excessive amounts of sediment over extended periods of time. Doing so, can cause your wine to develop off-flavors.

Many beginning winemakers will often lose too much wine during the racking process. This happens because they try to eliminate all the sediment with each racking at the expense of losing some wine. In other words, they leave behind too much wine because they feel it has too much sediment with it.

Shop Auto SiphonLosses can total up to 3 or 4 bottles in a 5 or 6 gallon batch when using this type of methodology. Losing wine is something I’m not particularly to fond of, and I doubt you are either.

Here’s the tip for racking wine: to minimize losses when racking wine, always try to get as much liquid as possible each time you rack, even if some sediment comes with it. It’s not about leaving all the sediment behind. It’s about leaving the bulk of the sediment behind. Get as much wine as you can. It’s not until you get to your very last racking – usually the racking right before bottling – that you will want to eliminate all of the sediment at the expense of a little wine.

By the time you get to this point in the wine making process, there is usually only a little dusting of sediment to deal with, anyway. So your wine loss will be very minimal – usually it will be less than half a bottle of wine.
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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.

31 thoughts on “A Quick Tip For Racking Wine

  1. With a greater distance between the source vessel and the receiving vessel the greater the suction, the more likely you will be sucking more Leeds than desired. Lessen this distance and lessen the “vacuum” effect. Yes it will be slower……..with less Leeds.

  2. tie a piece of wire on the end of your hose to keep the hose off the seidment you only need to hold it off about 1/8th of an inch

    • I don’t think 1/8″ is enough. When racking, I will draw the wine down to about 3″ from the bottom. Then I will tip the “upper” carboy and put the end of the siphon hose at the deep end. Most of the lees will slowly flow down and by then you should be done.

  3. Hi,

    I need your professional help please. Here is the deal:
    white wine had its fermentation, racked it, added finning agent came with the kit and stabilizer. Racked it again, didn’t quite get fully cleared. Tasted amazing though.
    Added recommended dosage of Bentonite, got better, racked it, yet not 100%clear
    Added a little more Bentonite slurry, got bad and very hazy, waited a week, nothing happened, added Sparkoloid mix, as recommended, nothing much happened. Added a little Benotinie (few teaspoon), nothing helped. Now smells not so good, and tastes not so great.
    Tested with Alcholol, no sign of protein… I guess (i.e.Pectic)

    Anyways, is that batch ruined? Can I save it? Should I get and add Pectic Enzyme? Someone said use Hydrolise Gelatine!

    Your help will be much appreciated

    • I am somewhat at a loss as you are. It never hurts to add pectic enzyme to a wine. There are no downsides to doing so, but I doubt if that’s what’s going on here. It could be tartaric acid precipitating out of the wine. This can happen as cooler weather approaches.

      Regardless, I would add a double-dose of pectic enzyme. They come in all different strengths, so just double the dose as stated on the container it came in. Then if you can afford the container space, wait and do nothing. Come back to it in late May. Make sure to eliminate any excessive head-space during this time.

      • Thanks, Ed. I have added pectic enzyme, doubled the dose, it’s been a few days, nothing has changed.
        The enzyme I used says add the powder before fermentation though. Should I buy something else?
        I have the room and can keep it, but would there be anything I Should do? It’s a waste if I throw them all out

    • Yes, I tilt the carboy a day or two before I rack. If I’m racking from a barrel I will attach the tube about an inch or more up from the end of a stick or dowel to keep it off the bottom. You can always rack the bottoms into a separate jug, and when they clear, rack them.

  4. the picture of the girl racking the wine has her emptying the wine without the hose submerged in the wine thus exposing the wine to air. I always have it submerged in the wine. Is her way ok? If it is I would run the wine through a paint filter reducing more sediment.

    • Marty, that is a very good catch. You do not want to splash the wine during transfer. To avoid adding too much oxygen into the wine, you always want to siphon from the bottom up.

    • Depends. Usually you want the least amount of air exposure during racking. However, if you are doing a “splash rack” to blow off hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg smell) that can be produced during fermentation, then allowing the wine to splash or run down the sides of the receiving vessel is desired. Personally, I typically splash rack the first and sometimes the second racking after primary fermentation of red grapes. With fresh lees still present in the wine and CO2 still being produced, the wine is somewhat protected from oxidation. On later rackings I purge the receiving vessel with CO2 and avoid splashing as much as possible.

  5. The girl should rack from the bottom to the bottom. I use the black plastic cap on the bottom of my siphon. Towards the end of the rack I tilt the carboy to get as much wine as I can, leaving as much lees behind as I can. Also she should have an extra carboy to rack into. This eliminates most contact with air and the need to rack back again into the old carboy.

  6. I always have a smaller vessel like a half gallon sanitized jug available and siphon the last remaining wine into that. I place an airlock onto the jug and put it into my refrigerator. It will soon settle out and I use it to top up. Voila! No wine loss!

    • Excellent comment. I nhave been making homemade wine for 60 years and know most of the tricks including that one. You can also use the lees as an excellent source of vitamin B. Leave it to dry out in the fridge.

  7. Kevin try using a tall thin bottle like an ice wine bottle for last ounces.. Once this settles it’s real easy to siphon off the top of this bottle leaving very little behind..

  8. I have been doing just about the same as Kevin above does. I also use a shorter height difference between the two vessels,works for me,does requires a bit more time,but just about no lost wine. yeah,just as I prefere. see ya FV

  9. By the look of the picture was little confused, usually I transfer from primary (bucket) to a carboy. what she doing is exposing the wine to lot of air. Isn’t so?

  10. I use a clean wine bottle to hold all the liquid left after siphoning off the clear liquid must together with some of the lees. The bottle contains most of the lees and a some of the wine must, l let it settle and then decant rhe upper liqiuid leaving very little wine must and most of the lees to discard.

  11. Sir
    I lose no wine during racvking. Alll the dregs fron each racking and sediment in each bottle go into a demijon . After several rackings and several bottles it is racked and filtered; The sediment is super in the compost heap, and with patience and time, the resul;ting blend of wine will taste wonderful. Unfortuinatyely the same taste can never be repeated.

    My Vin Dreg has gained a great reputation with family and friends

  12. I use a stainless steel rod with a screw like attachment at the very bottom. I tilt the vessel rack it all the way the screw like attachment allows to get all the juice leaving behind most of the sediment. I always rack at least 3 times, no matter how many times I rack, if is see a sediment amount that is not acceptable to me I’ll leave it in the vessel another 3 weeks then rack & filter.

    When it comes to topping up, I do not like using water. I will use an inexpensive store bought similar wine to top up. I’ve never had to use much, but it is still better than water. I get many offers to purchase my wine. After 22 years I must be doing something right.

    • It’s been 3 weeks and I have already moved my wine from a sterilized plastic 5 gallon water jug to a sterilized glass carboy, should I rack again before I transferred to wine bottles and how can I clear my wine up and after 3 weeks is my wine done?!

  13. Although I support having spare carboys to rack into, and generally use submerged tubing to lessen oxidative risks, I believe the technique the young lady is displaying is splash racking or waterfall racking, which aid in degassing. I do this in a spare carboy, but before we had many, we used to rack into the bucket, wash the carboy, and rack back into the carboy. Not ideal for so many reasons, but that is why winemaking can be done at so many levels of cost and complexity. Great thread.

  14. hi all, I often rack into a plastic fermenter/pail and then back to the cleaned out carboy but as someone posted earlier I don’t let the wine splash down the side of the pail like in that picture I rack from bottom to bottom. As the fermenter gets full without splashing around I will use a long spoon to degas the wine without disturbing the surface too much and add my sulfites and anything else going in ( wine stabilizer, oak chips in carboy, finings,) and immediately rack back into the carboy. I have never had a problem but I am always careful not to splash the wine around or let it run down the side of the pail like in the picture as her method is actually aerating the wine.

  15. one easy way is look at the bottom of you 5-7 gal. bottle and see how high is the sediment,then take a stick like long mixing or deagasing stick and tie the hose to the stick about 3/8”above the sediment level .the stick can tuch the bottom of your fermenter just do it carefully so the sediment don’t move/disturbed .and at the end of transfering the wine you can just pickup the fermenter and pur the rest of the wine slowly so the leftover says on the bottom.if can’t manege it just transfer the leftover wine with a littel sediment to a clear wine bottle and use a wine saver pump and let it stay for a while till the wine get clear then slowly pure it into the big fermenter for nex rocking.

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