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I started my first batch of wine a year ago, and got up to racking into secondary fermentation, but never bottled it, and then forgot about it. Is it a lost batch? Is it even safe to try?

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I think secondary "fermentation" is kind of a misnomer, since fermentation is largely complete by this point. It's more of a secondary "clarification" stage where yeast and other stuff falls out to the vessel bottom.

Given this, I think it would certainly be safe to try. All of the alcohol is already in there, acting as a natural preservative. If anything else has been growing in there, it will just look/taste awful, but won't be dangerous.

Actually, a year of aging is the basic minimum for wine. It doesn't really matter whether it ages in a carboy or a bottle--the important thing is that it is sealed against oxygen. If it wasn't (i.e. your airlock ran dry after a month or two) then the wine is likely somewhat oxidized. Again, not dangerous, but it might not taste as good as it could have.

Whatever you do, don't chuck it without tasting it! So many great batches are lost this way, when people assume that it must be bad. Beer/wine is very resilient. You could have a nice wine waiting to be bottled!

  • Some oxidized wines are good, like Madeira or tawny port. Definitely agree, don't toss it! – bk0 Sep 6 '12 at 1:58

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