Feeling Fruity: A Guide to Fruit Wine

Why Make Fruit Wine?

First and foremost fruit wine is a fun extension to your fermentation profile. A huge advantage of fruit wines is their ability to be produced through the year. While fresh wine grapes only have 2 main harvests (One in Fall for Italy and California, and another in Spring for South America), fruits ripen at different times throughout the year, allowing the vintner to ferment many times during the year. Additionally, with all of the varieties of fruit available, you can produce a plethora of different wines; each with unique flavors and characteristics. One of the most common misconceptions that turns people off from making fruit wines is the belief that  fruit wine has to be sweet. While some fruits improve with the addition of a bit of sweetness, others are best as dry wine. For example, dry blueberry wine can present itself  wonderfully, giving off dark fruit flavors which resemble a hearty Burgundy or powerful Cabernet.

What’s in the Fruit?

Almost every fruit can be converted to a wine, but not all fruits are created equal. Some fruit, such as strawberries, have a very delicate profile and make wines that are best when served fresh. These wines often have a very quick turn around and can be fermented and bottled relatively quickly. Others, like black currant, are like a hearty Brunello and only get better with time. These bolder wines will take more time to ferment and bottle, often benefiting from extended aging on their skins. When your planning your fruit wine, take these factors into consideration. For an excellent article on different capacities of fruit can be found HERE.

Getting the Most Out of Your Fruit

Every fruit requires special considerations in order to present themselves with maximum flavor. One of the best examples of this is strawberry wine. Unlike the making of many other wines, strawberry wine requires a very unique process to break down the fruit for the best extraction of flavor and quality. The strawberries must be macerated in a sugar to create a liquor before the fruit can be fermented. Another fruit which can change depending on its preparation is the blueberry. Extended contact with the fruit’s skin can lead to a much darker wine. If you take it off of the skins almost immediately, you will get a blush wine, but longer time on the skins will create a darker and more tannic wine.

Boosting Your Booze

While most wine grapes can be fermented without any sugar additions, most fruit wines require an additional boost of sugar in order to get them to an ideal percent alcohol. The general rule of thumb that I use is 1 lb of of corn sugar will raise 1 gallon of wine by 5% abv. I use this basic ratio whenever I’m making a fruit wine since I can scale it to whatever size batch I’m fermenting. While corn sugar is a staple used by wine makers due to its high fermentability and almost undetectable taste, it is not the only sugar that you could use. Its possible to use any sugar to boost your alcohol potential but each one comes with distinctive flavor contributions and different levels of fermentability. Possible sugars include brown sugar, table sugar, honey, and agave nectar.

Picking Your Yeast

Fruit Wine Yeast GuideWhen deciding which yeast to use, you need to decide what you want your wine to become. The first decision you need to make is the hue of wine you are planning on making: white, blush, or red wine. As a general rule of thumb, I prefer to use red wine yeast for darker fruits (blackberries, blueberries, black currants, and cherries) and white wine yeast for lighter fruits (strawberry, peaches, and apples). Additionally, red wine yeast work well with fruits which are fermented on their skins (such as the blueberry wine). Next, decide if you want your wine to be sweet or dry. You can either use a yeast with a low alcohol tolerance and boost your sugar content of the must, or you can ferment to complete dryness and then back-sweeten. Finally determine what yeast will work best for the temperatures you will ferment at. If its the middle of the summer and you have trouble controlling temperature, pick a yeast with a high heat tolerance. Alternatively if its winter and you can’t easily heat up your carboy, pick a yeast with a good threshold for cold. I’ve outlined a few yeasts and my suggestions about which fruits they would work well with. Much of this information is from second hand sources so please use it with a grain of salt and use your own intuition.


Recipe: Blueberry Wine

  • 15 Lb Blueberries
  • 10 Lb Corn Sugar
  • Approximately 4.25 Gallons Water
  • 5 Campden Tablets
  • 2 Tablespoons Acid Blend (Or Amount Determined by Titration)
  • 3/4 Teaspoon Pectic Enzyme
  • Yeast: Montrachet
  • Potassium Metabisulfite
  • Potassium Sorbate

Instructions

1. Crush your Blueberries: To do this you are going to place your washed blueberries into a large brewing bag. Place the bag in a large bucket (Not your fermenter) and crush. You can crush with either your hands, a mallet, or whatever instrument you concoct. Don’t be tempted to use a blender or food processor since this can break the seeds and pulverize the skins, which can lead to unwanted off flavors.

Crush Blueberries     Total Pulp Collected

2. Extract the Juice: When you have thuroughley pulverized your blueberries, its time to extract the juice. While you could just add the pulverized blueberries to water in the fermentation bucket at this point, we decided to try and extract as much juice as possible before combining. The reason for this is two fold. First, we wanted to get a even better crush on the berries. Doing the squeeze first allow for further destruciton of the berries. Secondly, we wanted to determine the correct amount of water to add in order to get a full 5 gallons. By squeezign the juice before hand we were able to get a good idea of the “dry volume” of our skins and pulp. Once you have extracted a good amount of juice and thoroughly crushed the berries, you will pour your juice into the fermenting bucket, leaving the pulp behind in the crush bucket.

Squeezing The Pulp Bag     Extracted Juice One     Extracted Juice Two

3. Add Water and Sugar: You will add both clean water and sugar into the fermentation bucket, bringing the level up to 5 gallons. We found it helpful to heat up 1.5 gallons of water and add the sugar to this mix, allowing us to be sure our sugar was fully disolved. We then poured the sugar water into the fermenting bucket. Once you must has been thoroughly mixed, you will add your pulp in a bag back to the fermentation bucket and give it a good mix.

Add water to must     Must and Skins

4. Adding Nutrients, Additives, and Metabisulfite: Add 5 crushed campden tablets and mix. Next add acid blend, pectic enzyme and yeast nutrient, stirring everything to mix well.

Additives to Fruit Wine

5. Take a Hydrometer Reading: Obtain a Sample of your fruit wine must and take a hydrometer reading. Your goal is between 1.08 and 1.095, giving you an ABV of between 11% and 13%. If necessary, add sugar to bring you up to your desired level (1 lb corn sugar brings up 5 gallons by 1% ABV)

Blueberry Wine Juice for Testing

6. Off Gassing: Cover and let sit for one to two days. It is important to let the must release the sulfite gas produced by the metabisulfite. Use a very thin towel or cloth to cover the container, don’t be tempted to use a lid with air lock. this could trap the sulfite gas leading to poor yeast health

Allow the Wine to Degas

5. Pitch Yeast: Add ample yeast to make sure your fermentation kicks off to a good start. Your goal is to maintain a temperature of 70–75 °F. Too high of temperatures will lead to off flavors in your wine.

Pitch Yeast

7. Punching the Cap: During fermentation, you will need to punch down your cap (pulp) around twice a day, this ensures that your cap will not dry out (leading to mold) and will thoroughly mix the wine. Remember to sanitize all equipment before touching the wine.

8. Fermentation and Additions: Fermentation will finish in about 1 to 2 weeks. During this time you will also be doing several nutrient additions. On fermentation days 2, 4, and 6 you will be adding 4.5 g of Fermaid K and 2 g of DAP.

9: Final Gravity Reading: To determine if fermentation is complete, take a hydrometer reading 2 days in a row. If the gravity remains stable, your wine has finished fermenting and is ready to be racked.

10. Racking to Secondary: first remove the bag of pulp and allow to drain. Put on a pair of gloves, sanitize your hands (with gloves on) and squeeze the bag, trying to extract as much juice as possible. Once the bag has been drained trash the pulp and skins, then rack your wine to a 5 gallon glass carboy.

Blueberry Bag Squeeze                   Blueberry Wine 1st Rack (2)

11. Stabilizing and Degassing: Once the wine has had time to settle, you can degas and stabilize. Add metabisulfite and sorbate. Optionally you can add a clarifying agent such as Super-Kleer, Gelatin, or sparkoloid powder. Degas as you would for any wine. For instructions on how to degas click here: Degassing and Stabilizing Wine.

Wine Clarifying Agents

12. Racking to Tertiary: Rack the wine to the tertiary container, adding a campden tablet to ensure stability. Allow the wine to age an additional month. Longer aging will not hurt your wine as long as the air lock is maintained.

13. Bottling: After a month has passed, feel free to bottle your wine.

Bottle & Glass of Blueberry WineBlueberry wine is best served fresh. Crack a bottle every few weeks to see when it hits a sweet spot, then enjoy our share.


Sources


This Post was sponsored by Keg and Barrel Home Brew Supplies

2015 Cider Extraviganza

As I pulled up to the farmer’s market, the rain began to fall on my windshield. The patter of rain combined with the rich smell of coffee from my thermos created a soothing environment; one which I was not willing to give up for the frigid rain and biting wind that waited for me outside of my vehicle. It was one of the first truly cold days of fall and with my winter clothes still in storage, I was poorly equipped for the weather in my cargo shorts and a t-shirt. With a grunt, and a final sip of my coffee, I got out of the car to make my cider purchase.

Mood's FarmMood’s Farm is located in South NJ, located far enough away from the major commerce areas to be considered rural, but not so far away that it’s a challenge to get to. The farm market where they sell their produce is a bit run down, but it’s age certainly gives the building character. If you are in the area, I certainly recommend checking out this local hub.

Among the home brew community, Mood’s is known  for one thing in particular… Cider. After pressing, they run their juice under a UV light, thus “cold pasteurizing” their cider. It allows for a preservation of taste but more importantly, it allows for fermentation without the interference of chemical preservatives. The juice that they create is primarily sweet, but it does have enough tannin and acidity to make it worth fermenting and acceptable as a hard cider without the need for chemical adjustments (although adding acidity brings this cider to a whole new level).

Cider from MoodsThis year I made a grand purchase of 20 gallons of Cider. 6 Gallons of that cider went to a class I taught at Keg and Barrel Home Brew Supplies, the remaining 14 gallons was mine to play with. I divided the cider up into 4 different projects: One Apple Wine, Once Hard Cider, and Two Apple Meads (Cysers). I’ve compiled my list of fermentations from this years cider, I will be updating them as the year goes on and the ciders reach completion.

The Cider Projects:

Mood’s Farm Applewine (2015)

This is one of the four fermentations that came from this years haul of cider from moods farm. My goal was to create a dry to off-dry wine that was high in fruity character. As I normally do with fruit wines, I threw in pectic enzyme to create a clear wine later down the road. I may bottle three gallons dry, back sweeten one gallon, and age one on bourbon soaked oak.

  • 5 Gallons Moods Farm Cider
  • 5 Lb Corn Sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp Pectic Enzyme
  • 5 tsp Yeast Nutrient
  • 5 Campden Tablets
  • 6 1/2 tsp Wine Acid Blend
  • Yeast: Red Star Cote des Blanc (3 Packs)

Process: After sanitizing all equipment, I poured the cider and corn sugar into the fermenting carboy and mixed thoroughly. I then added my Pectic enzyme, Yeast Nutrient, and Campden Tablets. I then took an acid reading, finding that my acid level was between 0.3 to 0.4 titratable acid. In order to bring it up to roughly 0.6 titratable acid I added 6 1/2 tsp of acid blend to the mix. I then left the mixture covered with a paper towel and rubber bands. The next day I pitched 3 packs of Cote des Blanc yeast. I found that the wine started fermenting within an hour. (TO BE CONTINUED)

Argentinian Chardonnay

This is my first attempt at a wine from fresh juice. Ive previously made batches from concentrate with various levels of success, but Ive been anxious to try my hand at more of a “grass roots” type fermentation. While there are a lot of similarities between kit wine and fresh juice, there are a number of differences which add a depth of complexity to the fresh juice.

Firstly, when purchasing fresh juice you are getting the raw product from the grapes without much alteration of the must. In a kit, you have a number of the complicated procedures done for you. For instance, the acid is adjusted to the perfect level for that wine must. Additionally kits are packed with nutrients in order to make fermentation as rapid as possible. Finally, the kits are completely sanitary, taking out the need for sanitizing the must.

These various difficulties make fermenting unprocessed juice a real pain in the butt! In my opinion there are only a few reasons to use juice. Firstly, if there is a grape varietal you can not find in a wine kit, juice gives you an opportunity to ferment a grape you love. Secondly if you are able to snag some juice from a region you love or a vineyard you like, fresh juice gives you a great opportunity. Finally fermenting fresh juice gives you a trainingwheels type training if you are ever interested in fermenting from your own or purchased fresh grapes. If none of these apply to you, go with the Kit! You will have great wine, with less headache, and in less time.

Anyway, as is true with most brewers, I love a challenge! So if your like me and want to test your skills and learn from my inevitable mistakes, read on!

Step 1: Add 6 Campden Tablets to the Must and let sit 24 Hours

Step 2: First try at an acid titration. My results came up as 3% Acid, much lower than the ideal. Adding 70g of Acid Blend I brought the acid up to approximately 6.5% acid, admittedly on the low end of the white wine spectrum but still reasonable considering I’m going for a more “New World” Style of Chardonnay. Additionally I added 3g of Fermaid K and 2g of Diammonium Phosphate. Finally I pitched a packet of Wyeast Dry/Sparkling.

Acid Titration

Step 3: 27 days later. Ive missed my chances to do more nutrient additions but I’m hoping that the wine will turn out well on its own. Ive racked the wine from the primary bucket. I should have done this sooner but time got away from me. My hydrometer reading showed quite full conversion of sugars with the final gravity reading 0.994. On tasting it, the wine was quite yeasty but still shows a lot of promise. At this point I’m tempted to do a split fermentation in tertiary, with half being on oak and the other half clean.

Step 4: Rack the chardonnay into the tertiary. Racked on top of oak cubes.

Racking Chardonnay     Chardonnay on Oak

Step 4: Racked to Quaternary off of the oak. I used a crushed campden tabled yo prevent oxygenation. At this point, tasting the wine I found the flavors to be overall pleasant. There is a slightly plastic type undertone which I am hoping is just a slight off flavor from taking a yeasty sample.

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