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Bottling and Corking Muscadine-Blueberry Wine

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First bottle of blueberry-muscadine wine. (I adjusted it a little more after photo to be flush with top of bottle.)

I have 5 gallons of blueberry-muscadine wine that I started in late August of this year (2015). You can read through the previous posts for the process. My previous wine attempt was a straight muscadine wine that was about 2 gallons and just bottled it in beer bottles. So this is my second wine, but, since I had 5 gallons, I decided to go ahead and put it in actual wine bottles with corks!

5 gallon carboy of blueberry-muscadine wine.

5 gallon carboy of blueberry-muscadine wine.

First, since my brief trend is to make wine once a year, I really didn’t want to invest in a corker. Unfortunately, I do not know anyone that has one I could borrow, either. I do, however, have a friend that had the valuable knowledge that a local home brew shop rents a floor model corker for $5/day! I stopped by today and bought 2 cases of green wine bottles (total of 24 bottles), and a 30 count bag of corks.

Floor model wine bottle corker. Easy to use and adjust.

Floor model wine bottle corker. Easy to use and adjust.

I bought #9 corks, because they are for wines expected to be around something like 5 to 7 years. The #7 and #8 corks were for shorter term storage. The blueberry-muscadine wine is fairly light body and about medium on the dry scale…maybe a little more towards dry. I don’t expect it to last for many years, but there’s a chance a few bottles may wind up getting stashed and discovered sometime in the future…so, better to have a little excess time.

I pulled a sample of the wine for the hydrometer test. Checked the temperature. I got an FG (final gravity) of 0.993. The OG (original gravity) of 1.111 means that we have a wine with 15.49% ABV. Really? It’s hidden pretty well! Pretty color, too, by the way.

Hydrometer sample.

Hydrometer sample.

I went ahead and rinsed and sanitized the bottles and my tubing and bottling wand. I researched cork preparation a little and the consensus seems to be that the type of cork I’m using does not need any soaking, boiling, sanitizing, etc. I filled a test bottle and tried the corker. Very easy. And there is a little threaded washer that can fine-tune the depth that the cork is pushed. It was simple to adjust and get the cork flush. I got a yield of exactly 24 bottles,

First of two cases.

First of two cases.

with just a little extra for enjoying tonight.

Nice color...and little sample for the winemaker.

Nice color…and little sample for the winemaker.

I have to say, it’s very satisfying to see my wine in real deal, bona fide wine bottles! Now…how long before I start giving them away? Just a couple weeks until Christmas…maybe hang on to most of them for a year? Oh…and I need to look into labeling. I mean it IS my first wine in corked bottles, after all!

 

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Day 144 Muscadine Wine

Crushing foraged wild grapes.

Crushing foraged wild grapes.

I foraged a little over four pounds of wild muscadine grapes yesterday. I have decided to try my hand at wine making this year, instead of jelly…at least with this first round. After a little research on the internet, I am combining a couple of different recipes to adapt to what I have to work with. I have put together 2 quarts of crushed muscadine grapes, skins and all.

Crushed grapes.

Crushed grapes.

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I am going to have to run to the home brew shop for some supplies…a mesh bag and yeast. I may need more sugar from the grocery store. The plan is to combine the fruit (in mesh bag) with 6 quarts of water in a 2 gallon fermentation bucket, add enough sugar syrup to boost the SG to at least 1.090 and then add 2 crushed campden tablets, 1/2 t. pectic enzyme (scant), and 2 t. yeast nutrient. That will be covered with cheesecloth and sit for 24 hours. I guess I’m not supposed to seal the bucket yet, as the campden tablets cause a sulfur gas to be released and it needs to be allowed to dissipate. Yeast is to be pitched tomorrow…instructions say to leave covered with cheesecloth again, for 5 to 7 days, stirring daily. After that, it is strained and sealed with an airlock in place and given around 6 weeks to ferment out. Then it gets racked, probably a few times, to clear. Then it gets bottled and ages for at least two years! I’ll probably bottle in beer bombers…I don’t anticipate making enough wine to justify buying a corker and wine bottles/corks. I haven’t seen anyone express concerns with beer bottles. I might want to use the special oxygen absorbing caps, to reduce the risk of oxidation.

So far, I have boiled 3 cups of sugar with enough water to dissolve it…boiled until clear and set aside to cool…we’ll see if that’s enough to get me to 1.090 or better. The first quart of grapes that I crushed have a natural SG of about 1.048, according to my spectrometer. I’ll discuss yeast at the brew shop. The most likely candidates are Champagne yeast or Montrachet, but I’m open to suggestions.

Okay, after a trip to the brew shop and the grocery store, I was ready to proceed. I got a mesh bag, a packet of Montrachet yeast and a 10 pound bag of sugar. I sanitized the bag and a string and added the grape skins/pulp/juice to the bucket and tied off the bag.

Crushed grapes in the bag.

Crushed grapes in the bag.

Next I added the sugar syrup that I had prepared and I was still way low on the SG. I also realized that I was running out of room in the 2 gallon bucket, so I prepared a 5 gallon bottling bucket and transferred the grape mixture into it. Then, I weighed out five pounds of sugar and added enough water for it to dissolve into and brought that to a boil, removed it from the heat.

Making sugar syrup

Making sugar syrup

I tried adding in a couple of steps and it wasn’t getting close to SG 1.090 very quickly…but the final addition bumped it up to OG 1.113…oops. Oh well. And my volume is up to almost three gallons…I probably should add more grapes, but I’m out.

Volume at almost 3 gallons. Need to find more grapes? We'll see if I get a chance to pick more.

Volume at almost 3 gallons. Need to find more grapes? We’ll see if I get a chance to pick more.

I’ll see what it looks like later…I could add more grapes and another campden tablet tomorrow. That would push back the yeast pitch a day, but in a minimum 2 year process, another day is nothing and could make a huge difference in the finished product. Anyway, I put the lid on and sealed it and popped on an airlock. The brew shop guy thought it would be fine to seal and airlock the bucket rather than do the covering with cheesecloth thing…just seemed more risky.

Ginger beer note: the SG dropped to 1.057, so it’s moving…slowly. I thought all the Champagne yeast that I added to it would start it really chugging. It’s popping the airlock about every 10 seconds, but it’s not very aggressive. I guess it’s just going to take more time and patience than I was anticipating for this little side project.

Update 8/22/14,  10:00 a.m.: I went and foraged another 1 pound and 9 ounces of wild muscadine grapes this morning. After crushing them, there was a little less than a full quart jar.

Added additional crushed grapes and Campden tablet.

Added additional crushed grapes and Campden tablet.

I crushed an additional campden tablet and threw it in with the grapes. I opened the fermentation bucket, untied the bag and poured in the grapes and crushed campden. I re-tied the bag and gave a good stir. Refractometer reading gives a 1.109 updated OG, with a volume now of just over 3 gallons.

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