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I am trying to make red wine for the first time, using grapes from my garden.

I rinsed the grapes, crushed them and poured them into a 15 l bucket, ending up with about 6 l of mash. I placed a lid with an airlock on it and left it at room temperature. Every day I would open the lid and mix the solids under again. Nothing other than crushed grapes was added – no yeasts, no other additives.

After a day of fermentation I started to notice a yeast-like smell – so far, so good.

Now, after a week of fermentation, I notice the mash has a strong smell of solvent (the kind used in some kinds of universal glue).

Is this normal? Or is it a sign that the yeast cultures are producing the wrong kinds of alcohol and my batch is ruined?

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  • Any reason you didn't pitch a wine yeast? IIRC you may get better results and the yeast may be able to tolerate higher alcohol than whatever wild yeast you catch. When you use a wine yeast, I'd also avoid opening the fermenter and stirring, so that you don't get anything else in. Shaking the fermenter should be enough, if that's needed at all.
    – Robert
    Sep 27, 2023 at 22:55
  • Did you add water or only grape juice? With only juice this could get really strong and hence develop alcoholic tastes. Either way, I'd wait and see what it does. You could take daily hydrometer readings so that you know when fermentation is done (when the reading doesn't change anymore) and you can bottle it. If it still tastes chemical / solventy, I'd probably dump it, as I don't think that settles out.
    – Robert
    Sep 27, 2023 at 22:56
  • I didn’t add anything except for crushed grapes. It’s my first attempt making wine, and I’d like to keep it as natural as possible. Seems some folks out there work with wild yeast, whereas, on the other end of the scale, there are folks who even use store-bought grape juice. So, when in doubt, I decided to go for the more natural approach. Not 100% sure I’ll stick with wild yeast, we’ll see how this turns out.
    – user149408
    Sep 29, 2023 at 16:09

1 Answer 1

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I make beer so don't have the wine experience, but we both suffer yeast issues at times and the results can be similar. May be either fusel alcohols have developled due to stressed out yeast ( How can I minimize methanol/fusel alcohols in wine?) or maybe fermentation temp was just too warm for the yeast (https://blog.homebrewing.org/wine-smells-like-acetone/). Hope the links offer some insight.

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  • Thanks for the insight. Fermentation was at room temperature, which is roughly in tie 21–23 °C range. So I take it from the articles that I should just give it some time, as the methanol may break down?
    – user149408
    Sep 23, 2023 at 9:10
  • 23C/73F is a little warm for beer yeast, not sure about wine. I have made beer where the temp was up to 74F and it was Ok. Warmer temps will affect various strains of yeast differently. Kviek for instance loves 95F+ and doesn't produce fusels or other off flavors at those temps, most other strains tap out at mid 70s from what I've heard. Yep, I would let it go and see what happens.
    – HomeBrew
    Sep 23, 2023 at 10:09
  • I added the same amount of mash the day I posted my question. Temperature has dropped slightly, and I started pushing the solids under twice a day, rather than just once. After another week of fermentation, the smell is a lot less intense than it was. Looks like stressed out yeast was the issue, and once the yeasts from the old mash had multiplied, and been given fresh mash to feed on (and maybe a little bit more oxygen), things stabilized.
    – user149408
    Sep 29, 2023 at 15:37
  • Glad you worked it out. Oxygen in pre-ferment stage is necessary for yeast health. Once fermentation is finished however, it can oxidize the solution and create off-flavors so it's essential at one phase, and a detriment at others. Damn science.
    – HomeBrew
    Oct 1, 2023 at 2:55

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