First Racking

If you fermented and pressed in Sept/Oct it is likely time for the First Racking.  Most home winemakers  say that you should rack at least every 3 months, and probably the first racking should be sooner (yes there will be a variety of opinions on frequency and schedule).  Some winemakers like to rack after just a of week to 10 days to get the gross lees out (large amount, as all lees are gross unless you are making champagne) and some wait for two or more months for the first racking.

For large volumes you will need to pump your wine, but if you just have a couple of carboys then gravity can be your pump as in the photo on the right.

racking-p  wine-making-techniques-racking

Notice the lees in the bottom of the carboy in the right picture.  Lees are the dead yeast cells, grape seeds, pulp, stems, skins, and tartrates that settle to the bottom of the vessel as the wine rests.  These are what you want to leave behind when you have finished.  For just a few of carboys you can use a simple hose and start a siphon, like draining a gas tank when you were young and poor, or you can buy a siphon kit or siphon pump.  Any online or retail wine making supplier should have them (see our resources page).

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Simply siphon the wine off of the lees into a sterilized container, trying to reduce air contact as much as possible.  Some people will use inert gas, such as  argon or nitrogen to fill the receiving container prior to the siphoning, and some will go as far as using it to force the wine out of the giving container (this is likely a little over the top for the beginner or novice).  Be sure to top the receiving container all the way to the neck and reinstall a clean airlock.  If the containers are the same size you will need additional wine to fill the new vessel to the neck (last years wine or a like wine from the wine store).  An alternative is to fill with inert gas (heavier than air) or to use a vessel with variable  volume.  At the time of racking you may want to add SO2 to prevent spoilage.  WineMarker has a good article on SO2 to prevent spoilage.  The beginner may want to use a rule of thump until they are able to calculate the needed SO2. Jack Keller (Winemaking Home Page) says, “the normal dose is one crushed and dissolved Campden tablet to each gallon of must, or 1/4 teaspoon of potassium metabisulfite to each 5 gallons of must. Do not add more than this, as too much is in some cases worse than not enough.”  I personally think that this is too much at racking, and use half the amount, but I don’t keep my wine for more than a few years.

Some Additional Articles:

Whys and Hows

Understanding The Wine Racking Process

Sedimentation and Racking

2 Responses

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  2. Dave P. says:

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