I keep my wine at 72-75 when fermenting. Do I need to keep it at those temps when clearing?
Great question! What is the best temperature for clearing wine?
Keeping your wine must at 70°F to 75°F is perfect for maintaining a vigorous fermentation. The wine yeast is very comfortable at this temperature range. However, once the fermentation has completed there is no reason to maintain this particular temperature range. The only reason for doing so is to keep the yeast happy so that they can do their job.
In fact, right after the fermentation the ideal temperature would be just above freezing. A range of 32°F to 35°F would be most beneficial to the wine for a number of reason:
- It would allow proteins such as yeast, tannin, etc. to drop out of the wine efficiently and thoroughly, leaving behind a crispy clear wine.
- It would cold stabilize the wine, meaning that any excess tartaric acid that may be in the wine would precipitate out of the wine as little flaky crystals. By enticing the wine to do this now, you won't have to worry about these flakes forming later, after the wine has been bottled.
- It would also keep the potential for any spoilage of the wine down to an bare minimum. Various little nasties like mold and bacteria will not thrive at such an inhospitable temperature.
While just above freezing my be the best temperature for clearing wine, there are two major downfalls with this Utopian temperature:
It's not very practical. This would usually mean dedicating an entire refrigerator to age the wine, and for winemakers producing 10, 20, 50 gallons, it would be almost impossible.
The wine won't age. Such a cool temperature would not allow the wine to age properly. Actually, it would suspend any aging activity to a undetectable minimum. Basically, your wine would never mature at this temperature. Most wine professionals agree that the optimal temperature for aging is 55°F.
So to answer your question, you do not need to keep your wine at 70°F to 75°F after the fermentation, but you do want to keep it cooler, not warmer. How cool is another question. The optimal thing would be to bring it down to above freezing for a few days, to cold stabilize it. Then bring the temperature up to 55°F for aging and wine bottle storage.
It's completely understandable if you – as a home winemaker – are not able to do such a feat. Some things are just not practical. To that I say, do the best you can. Don't store your wine in the hot closet. Think of a cooler place to keep it, like in a basement floor, etc. Just keep the wine out of the heat.
I hope this information helps you out. Now that you know the best temperature for clearing wine, realize that if all you can do is keep the wine in the 70°'s all the time, it wouldn't ruin the wine or anything like that. I'm just giving you the optimal situation, so you can know what to strive for within the constraints of your situation.
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.