I’ve noticed more questions regarding problems with Wildflower Wines are coming in via Google search terms.
Since I’ve had some challenges with my own batch of 2013 dandelion wine, it seems appropriate to address them here and share their solutions in case it is of help to anyone who feels stuck with the same problems.
My first piece of advice to everyone attempting to make a wildflower wine is “Don’t Panic“. And while I could be accused of using that approach far too often in life, I consistently find that a few deep grounding breaths do wonders for putting things back in perspective. There usually are solutions that are hidden by our perspective and panic.
Though we have tried to keep things sterile and control the environment as best we can to avoid obvious mistakes and “wine gone wrong” scenarios, I have found that wild wine making is a robust and forgiving process which allows for much improvisation and room for flexibility. If your intent is not to create a commercial masterpiece for sale to the public, something you can duplicate precisely year to year, but to explore the ancient art of wine making, for your own satisfaction, share a cool homemade wine with friends and family, and to enjoy the process, then you have come to the right place.
Any creative endeavor we pursue, is as much about our own process and working with ourselves as it is about the materials we are working with and the product we are creating. Our own transformative and Alchemical process.
Looking back I note how I have been affected by all the materials and processes I engaged over the years as an artist, craftsman and Apothecary, I have evolved and grown as an individual through all my creative pursuits, challenged and manipulated, coloured and shaped by them all, and in a way, they have all become parts of me. I have grown particularly through the challenges. Just as our Dandelion flowers are transformed into Dandelion Wine through processes of fermentation, clarification and patience at our hand. From a simple flower into something complex and sublimated, so too are we engaged and affected by the process, touched & transformed through the challenges of our creativity and our willingness to expand and explore outside ourselves. The real Alchemy and transmutation is what goes on within us.
If you don’t mind creating a slightly different version of wine each season, and perhaps a better one as well, if you are not trying to produce a commercial “fine wine” and treat it as an exact science, then it is important to remember to simply do your best with the resources you have, enjoy yourself. Embrace the process and challenges, let them change you for the better. Learn, grow and enjoy. Most importantly, enjoy.
It’s been close to two weeks since I added extra distilled water and decided to extend my batch of dandelion wine to make 20 liters from the 14 liter recipe, See “How to “Save” a Wildflower Wine) Since putting it back in the plastic bucket for primary fermentation it didn’t seem to be doing too much. I assumed that yesterday, after 2 weeks it must have finished its primary fermentation, so I racked it into the 20 liter glass carboy for secondary fermentation. (I nailed the quantity pretty much perfectly!)
Lo and behold, it started vigorously working!! Hissing, fizzing, bubbling away, working like there was no tomorrow. It had not gone through primary fermentation at all since I returned it to the bucket with the extra distilled water!
I can only assume that because of the cold snap we had for a week or so, (down to 2-4 degrees Celsius some nights!!), and because it was on the floor where it is always cooler, it did not have enough heat for the primary fermentation process to kick in properly. It must have sat close to 2 weeks not really doing much of anything. Funny as it may seem, I just assumed my hearing was at fault after fifty odd years, and that I was the only one that was not hearing the hissing of the process. It must have been the power of suggestion that compelled everyone who checked it for me to state that they definitely heard fizzing. There is a moral there somewhere.
I am going to say I was lucky no other organism got the jump on fermenting the must while the wine yeast was contemplating navels, (or the juice of the Navel oranges I added), as could have happened.
Racking it into the carboy on the second day of a heatwave really got it going! Perhaps the agitation of racking helped stir it to action, so I’m going to leave it loosely covered and wait till it stops hissing and bubbling and then rack it again and put the CO2 lock on it for a real secondary fermentation.
Gauging by some of the questions I’ve seen on the search stats I believe that others have experienced a similar problem so if you’ve had your wine not doing much of anything in primary fermentation, staying sweet, and wondered what you were doing wrong, this may have been the reason, and may provide you with a happy ending. Proper temperature is definitely necessary for primary fermentation. As far as I know, once the primary fermentation has kicked in, it creates its own heat which will keep the must warm and working till the sugar content has been completely consumed. Wikipedia has some of the basic information, and always is a great starting place for questions. This is also a good time to mention that besides sugar, wine yeasts need other nutrients to thrive. Adding some “Yeast nutrient” to your not fermenting wine is also something that should be tried if you are stuck, before you give up.
Before this last most recent racking, the wine was still tasting rather sweet though it was tolerable. Considering that the secondary fermentation would reduce the sugar a little further, it still would’ve made a nice wine with adequate alcohol. If after this current primary fermentation or during second fermentation, I find that it is too dry for my taste, I can add sugar or glucose to sweeten it without initiating the primary fermentation again. I will cross that bridge and share it here, if and when I get to it.
I will keep you posted.
Till then, remember to keep legible notes. Your future self will thank you.