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I am attempting to make a blackberry wine from blackberries picked in my yard. I followed a recipe found online, adding sugar disolved in water to a bunch of mashed up berries in a mesh bag, etc.

I already added campden tablets, yeast nutrient, pectic enzyme and acid blend according to recipe and then waited 24 hours to pitch red wine yeast.

I got worried because I didn't see fermentation starting, so I took a reading and was surpised by the very high gravity (1.13). I assume the sugar content is too high for fermatation to happen correctly.

The question is, what do I do now?

I was thinking that perhaps I should split the must into two buckets and add water to each and then re-pitch? Would that even work? Will the wine taste really weird because there isn't enough fruit juice in each? Could I add more fruit and basically start the process over adding adjusted amounts of pectice enzyme / acid blend / yeast nutrient?

  • Another thing I might try which I have read could help is to make a yeast starter, I suppose that way I could at least see if a small amount will start fermenting. I am concerned that this will fail, but is worth checking. – re5et Aug 28 '17 at 19:57
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Adding water will dilute the flavor and depending on the quantity, it could be too much dilution. Another option is to blend with another wine, if you have more than one batch going. And finally, you can add some fruit juice to it, but make sure there isn't too much sugar in the juice, otherwise the problem will remain. Juice would be a better option than water. Look at ingredients of the juice, avoid Potassium sorbate because it can stop/slow the fermentation.

So, yes, you can split the batch in two and add your juice, wine or water (as you like, could be a combination). You might not even need to pitch more yeast, there should be enough already.

I find that adding fruit / pectice enzyme / acid blend / yeast nutrient would be more work, but it could work as well.

  • Could adding more yeast to be sure cause problems? Or would it more likely just be a waste of yeast? – re5et Aug 28 '17 at 21:05
  • Since your starting gravity is very high, if you do not see any fermentation activity, a yeast starter could help. But you could try to bring down the gravity before pitching. – Philippe Aug 29 '17 at 13:53
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Split the batch of high SG wine into two. A larger batch and a smaller batch - eg. 1/4 and 3/4. Water down the smaller batch until it gets to (say) S.G. 1.090 or 1.10. Check with hydrometer and don't dlute too much. Make up a fresh batch of yeast in water add a little sugar and check the yeast is fermenting after (say) 1 hour. if it isn't frothing or bubbling then the yeast is inactive or weakly active and you need to get some more fresh yeast. Once you have an active yeast culture add it to the watered down batch and let it ferment. After a few days add more solution from the original wine batch. Repeat this every few days until all the original wine is added. When all is in one fermenting vessel - continue as normal.

The idea in this is that the yeast may be inactive or may be stymied from fully fermenting by the strong sugar solution - or the yeast is inactive. So make a weaker solution that the yeast can ferment in and then top it up with some more sugar/juice solution when the that sugar has been fermented. With luck it should all ferment to completion.

I find it difficult to understand the modern idea of adding campden tablets to everything wild. Neither campden tablets, nor pectin enzyme nor yeast nutrient are really needed to make wines from natural fruits. Fruit wine was made just fine long before any of these adulterants were invented. If campden tablets are used then I advise using them after fermentation has finished to stabilise the wine. IMHO using them before just makes fermenting more difficult.

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