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How (And Why) To Rack Your Wine

One step in the process of making your own wine that a lot of amateur vintners don’t give a lot of thought to is racking. If you’ve just unpacked your first wine making kit, you’re probably eager to get started and that’s perfectly understandable. However, this is one of those things you do need to know about before you bottle your first batch of homemade wine. While you can get started making wine without learning about racking, you do need to learn at some point; and there’s no time like the present. Keep reading to learn a little more about how to rack wine and why it’s important to do so.

What Is Wine Racking?

Racking is the process of separating the wine in your fermentation vessel from the sediment which naturally accumulates as solids precipitate out of the must during the fermentation process. While there is obviously a lot more sediment present in wine which is made from fresh grapes or other types of fresh fruit than there is in a wine made from a packaged juice or juice concentrate (which is almost certainly the case if you’re reading this as you prepare to start your first batch of homemade wine), you’ll still improve the quality of your wine by taking the time to rack it before you bottle.

The sediment (also known as lees) in your fermentation vessel can be separated from the wine itself with relative ease. All you really need is a siphon and a food-grade, clean and sterile container of sufficient size to hold the wine you’ll be siphoning off from your fermentation vessel. The easiest way to do this is if your fermentation vessel is elevated (for instance, sitting on a table) with your other container below – this way, you’ll have gravity on your side.

Place one end of the siphon into your fermentation vessel and begin suction, then place the other end into your new container. Continue until your container is full or until your siphon starts pulling in sediment from the fermentation vessel – at that point, stop the flow of wine by pinching or clamping the siphon. That’s all there is to it!

Racking is a pretty simple thing to do, but just like making sure that all of your wine making supplies are clean and sterile before you start making wine, it’s an important step which can ensure the quality of your finished wine. Racking your wine is a good habit to get into; even if you’re starting off as a wine maker by using a concentrate, you may want to try your hand at using fresh grapes at some point down the road – and then, you’ll be glad you took the time to learn about racking.