Oxidation is one of
the major faults in homemade wine, and much of the oxidation comes from
excessive head space in wine storage containers. Consequently, keeping the
head space as small as possible is most important. Winemakers use the term
"topping up" to describe the process of keeping wine storage
containers full. Although topping up is very important to wine quality,
beginning winemakers sometimes have trouble devising satisfactory methods.
Here are a few suggestions.
- Five or more percent is lost when a
new wine is racked off the gross lees. Additional wine is lost each time
the wine is racked, so making 10 to 15 percent of extra wine is a
standard winemaking procedure. The extra wine can be stored in 5-gallon,
1-gallon or 1.5-liter containers. Of course, these containers must also
be kept full.
- Top up with any similar wine
available. Most red wines are not significantly changed by small
additions. Even small quantities of white or blush wines can often be
used. Of course, red wine cannot be used to top up white wine. Cabernet
in the Chardonnay is seldom appreciated.
- Top up with a commercial wine of the
same type. The major disadvantage with this method is the cost of the
commercial wine and a slight dilution of the primary wine.
- Use inert gases such as nitrogen or
argon to fill the head space. Carbon dioxide gas must be used with care
because it is quickly absorbed into the wine. The disadvantage of this
method is the cost of the gas, the gas storage container and the
- Add enough water to fill the
headspace. The disadvantage here is the added water produces a small
change in wine acidity and some flavor dilution. Many home winemakers
shy away for water addition, but small additions of water are not
noticeable in some wines.
- Add clean, sanitized marbles to the
storage container to bring up the wine level. The disadvantage with this
method is that sediment becomes trapped under the marbles, and the
sediment makes racking more difficult. In addition, the marbles role
around when the container is moved, and the movement stirs up the
Most home winemakers
prefer to use the first method, so they make extra wine specifically for
topping up. Winemakers also acquire an assortment of different size carboys,
jugs and bottles, so they can always find just the right size wine storage