High VA (Acetic acid) wash? How to deal with it?

I have lots of winemakers with high VA (Acetic Acid) wines that want to give me the wine to distill into Vodka or brandy. Conventional wisdom says don't go there and pass on this. However, higher VA wines also drive aromatics and I am wondering if high VA distillates can be blended into infusions or macerations to drive up the aromatic character. On their own, some of these distillates are too much, but can you blend 5 to 20% into neutral and make something drinkable or interesting?


  • I think you have a good plan. It's similar to how the high ester rum makers do it: make some inconsistent crazy stuff and then blend it on with something mild so you can make a consistent product.

    A draw back I see is that you're going to have to a lot of product sitting around for blending.

  • Distillation is a concentration process. I believe the high vinegar / ethyl acetate compounds will also get concentrated in your distillate. Neither of these are desireable, especially in vodka.

    It can be reduced from the wine before distillation by blending with a wine with low VA or performing reverse osmosis. I understand refermenting it with fresh quality grape juice and ensuring good fermentation practices may also be used to reduce the levels

    Don't forget the sulphur content in the wine. It's another tough one to deal with.

  • edited March 2023

    Always wondered if you could force ester formation using a catalyst like Dow Amberlyst, which might make it easier to cut away in distillation.

  • edited March 2023

    @grim said: Always wondered if you could force ester formation using a catalyst like Dow Amberlyst, which might make it easier to cut away in distillation.

    After reading the description and application on the data sheet, that sounds like exactly what it could be used for.

    So how would that go down? Put the beads in some kind of tank and steep or recirculate the low wines through the Amberlyst media? Does that media dissolve?

    The data sheet as its written, sounds like Dow is happy to answer questions.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • Put the beads in the bottom tray of a column.

  • edited March 2023

    Or every tray of a column. Here's a very nerdy paper that feels incredibly relevant to a mad scientist interested in rum:

    Isoamyl propionate production by reactive distillation @ Sci-Hub

  • Rolling the implications around in my head with respect to fusel accumulation on the lower plates of a continuous still.

    Cant seem to open that link on my phone. Have to get to a real computer.

    StillDragon North America - Your StillDragon® Distributor for North America

  • They stacked the middle plates of a continuous column with catalyst - and fed specific streams of alcohol and acid into the column. The specific design not relevant, it's about being able to make pure ester as the product. What's more interesting is reactive distillation approach, and using catalyst within the column to facilitate esterification.

    In a batch column, you'd want to place the catalyst where it has the greatest potential of acid + alcohol coming together in contact with the catalyst, in the presence of the least water possible.

    That's the basis for my theory of bottom plate, but realistically, I could imagine a perf column with a stack of catalyst reactants.

    On another note, there are some crazy Chinese dudes experimenting with electrochemical esterification of Baiju that I could see being used directly on end-product, or in low-wines prior to final distillation.

  • edited March 2023

    But you are right - the deeper fusels are the more interesting alcohols - isoamyl alcohol for example.

    The isoamyl alcohol esters are far more fun than the ethyl alcohol esters. Every spirit that's a banana bomb - that's isoamyl acetate. Isoamyl propionate is pineapple. The whole isoamyl range is far more tropical vs. the sickly sweet, solvent-forward ethyl esters. Apricot, Melon, etc etc.

  • I dont know a lot about VA but inhave had a few winemakers ask me to do a brandy for them but the problem is they almost always add in sulphur based preservatives. I know that reacts with the copper but the amounts used in wine are a LOT higher than you ever get from a barley ferment so the final result is rotten egg brandy. I tried it once and had to stop about 10 minutes into the stripping run it smelt and tasted so badly. The only wine that would work is artesenal wine. Just a comment.

Sign In or Register to comment.