I purchased an ice wine ingredients kit. I began primary fermentation on Saturday, October 27. The instructions said to leave the wine in the primary fermentation bucket for 5-7 days. During this period, the water in the airlock was bubbling quite nicely. After 7 days, on Saturday, November 3, I took a hydrometer reading, which was satisfactory. (The actual SG reading was 1.07; the required level was <1.08.) I then transferred the wine to a 3-gallon glass carboy as per the instructions. The instructions say to leave the wine in the carboy for secondary fermentation for 10 days.
Today is Friday, November 9, so the wine has been in secondary fermentation now for 6 days, and the water in the airlock has not stopped bubbling. The instructions say there is no need for concern if the fermentation stops. But what if the fermentation hasn’t stopped? Is it normal for fermentation to continue throughout the entire secondary fermentation cycle? Should I continue to wait the full 10 days before I continue to the next step?
Airlock activity does not mean fermentation activity.
The only way to check if fermentation has completed is to take gravity readings, maybe a day apart or so. If the gravity is not moving, the yeast have stopped eating.
Your activity could be something as simple as CO2 or other gases coming out of the solution. Long story short though, your wine won’t see any negative effects from leaving it on the yeast a little longer to be sure (and to clean up other intermediate compounds). I would leave yours in the secondary for 15-20 days if you are nervous about it.
By the way, my wife and I went to Niagara on the Lake for our one year anniversary. Ice wine country. Really amazing stuff. I like a late harvest wine in lieu of dessert, but man, the icewine was an awesome beverage. Our sommelier/volunteer at Inniskillin upgraded us to the vertical tasting pour, and man does that beverage age well. Had a few 5-10 year old vintages, and it takes on a great subtle sherry/caramel/plum/port deliciousness. We bought one bottle to have now and one to have for our 10 year anniversary. Bury some of that stuff in the basement once its done!
Thanks for the detailed reply, Pietro! I’m new at this, and this is my very first go at making wine. I am a lover of sweet wine, but in no way would I classify myself as anything near a connoisseur, or even moderately knowledgeable. For example, I have no idea what “vertical pour” refers to. But like you, I enjoy ice wine very much. I have gotten many bottles of it at the wineries in the Lake Erie region in Pennsylvania and New York State.
A few weeks ago, one of my coworkers was telling me how he had just taken his first stab at making a Pino wine, with a kit and ingredients he bought from Northern. I browsed their site, and when I saw they offered an ingredients kit for ice wine, I wasted no time in ordering everything I needed. I can’t wait to taste it!
EDITED: I have researched what “vertical tasting pour” is.