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Techniques in Home Winemaking

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TA and/or pH is too low or too high

Unusually low or high total acidity (TA) and/or pH can be the result of the vintage (sunshine, rain, cold, etc.), grape variety, soil conditions or vinification techniques.

Possible Causes

Corrective Actions, if any

Poor vintage, grape variety, soil conditions or vinification techniques

  • Check expiry date of NaOH solution; redo test with fresh solution if required
  • For high TA/low pH or low TA/high pH, adjust TA and/or pH
  • For high TA/high pH, treat with phosphoric acid, or blend wine
  • For low TA/low pH, blend wine

The specific conditions of low TA/high pH and high TA/low pH can be corrected by adjusting TA and pH.

The more complex problems of either high TA/high pH or low TA/low pH pose a much greater challenge to home winemakers. Commercial wineries make use of special chemicals and processes not readily available to home winemakers. Acidification and deacidification cannot be used, as these will correct one parameter at the expense of the other. You can however use phosphoric acid to reduce the pH in a high pH/high TA wine although it will affect both the taste and texture of the wine.

The best solution is to blend wines that improve both TA and pH levels. For example, a high TA/high pH wine can be corrected by blending it with a wine of normal TA and pH or low TA/low pH. The drawback of this method is that it requires stocking TA- and pH-unbalanced wines. Such wines cannot be stored for an extended time as they are prone to bacterial infection or other spoilage problems.

Before blending, first determine the root cause of the problem with the high TA/high pH or low TA/low pH wine. If the root cause points to a serious wine fault, do not blend the problem wine with a healthy wine; this could spoil a perfectly good batch of wine. If the root cause points to a chemical imbalance from grape components, for example, you can safely blend the wine.

A word of caution! A common reason for a seemingly low TA is the use of old sodium hydroxide (NaOH) titrate solution that has lost its strength, i.e., its Normality is no longer 0.1N or 0.2N, when measuring TA. There may be nothing wrong with the actual TA except for a false measurement that must be compensated for the weaker titrate solution. You can use a solution of potassium acid phthalate and titration to determine the actual strength of NaOH solution to then compensate the TA measurement.

If TA and pH numbers are as desired but the wine is lacking mouthfeel, try adding gum arabic to improve mouthfeel and overall taste balance.

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