Selecting a Primary Fermenter for Wine

Updated: Jun 16, 2020

Without primary fermentation, we would not have wine. Primary fermentation generally refers to the stage of winemaking when the yeast is converting the sugars to alcohol and CO2. This stage can last from about one to three weeks. What happens at primary fermentation doesn’t stay at primary fermentation though. The decisions made during this period can have a major impact on the final characteristics of the wine.

For traditional red winemaking, the grape skins remain in contact with the juice during primary fermentation. For white winemaking, the juice is pressed off the skins as soon as possible after harvesting and the juice fermented without skin or seed contact. It is more important to limit oxygen contact to a white wine during primary fermentation due to it’s lower tannin content and delicate flavors. Many home winemakers will make red wine from flash extracted juice or concentrate, so the process can have more parallels to white wine than traditional red wine. These process differences lead to different requirements in the actual primary fermenter.