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2014 Muscadine Wine Tasting

Muscadine Wine, my first wine, bottled October 2014

Muscadine Wine, my first wine, bottled October 2014

My last taste of this wine was a little over a year ago, in February 2015. It was my first attempt at wine. I began the batch with foraged muscadine grapes in August of 2014 and was bottled about 2 months later. The ABV, if I read the hydrometer correctly, was right on 16%. It was fairly hot at bottling. I opened a bottle in February, 2015 when it was about 3-1/2 months in the bottle and the notes were basically that it was still kind of hot, but had a nice color, light body, and fairly dry flavor that I would not have guessed was muscadine.

It is now March 4, 2016, so the wine has been bottled for almost a year and a half. While still slightly warm with alcohol and a little tannin, the nose and color are still nice and the body light. The thing that really jumps out immediately, though, is that the flavor has very noticeably softened. It is definitely more drinkable now! I don’t expect muscadine wine to last a decade, but this one is improving and I think it may benefit from even a little more time…but I have no idea when it will “peak” or turn the corner and head downhill. Tonight, however, I’m having a glass of wine that I’m pretty happy with!

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Update/Additional Racking Blueberry-Muscadine Wine

Blueberry-Muscadine Wine sample.

Blueberry-Muscadine Wine sample.

A very brief update on the Blueberry-Muscadine Wine. I racked the wine again (with a Campden Tablet to help insure no contamination), so that I could use the plastic carboy that it was in for a beer project. The wine is now in a slightly smaller, glass carboy. To decrease the head space a little, I added about a gallon of Culligan bottled water.

Racking the wine.

Racking the wine.

There’s plenty of alcohol, so that’s no problem. (ABV, after checking the SG with a hydrometer looks to be about 15.49%!) The flavor is actually pretty good already…not too “hot” or “green”. The color is beautiful and clarity is good. After a few sips, I added a little Sierra Mist soda to the glass…yeah, I know, but I did anyway, and it was really tasty! I will definitely bulk age this wine a little longer and then bottle condition for awhile; but I may just fill a bottle and take on our Thanksgiving trip to the beach and see what people think.

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Racking Muscadine-Blueberry Wine

Racking wine to secondary fermentation.

Racking wine to secondary fermentation.

I’ve let the muscadine-blueberry wine go as long as I want now, so I racked it to a carboy tonight. It was in a bottling bucket for primary fermentation, so I tried to pull a sample from the spout to test the SG, but there was too much trub. To rack, I had to use a siphon and penetrate the fruit layer.

I added a crushed Campden Tablet to the carboy and started the racking process. The Campden will hopefully start knocking off the yeast that’s still active. I did get a sample and the SG is at 0.991 (0.990 @70.3F)…I would think the yeast would be done!

SG reading

SG reading

But there is still some airlock activity. After racking, it looks a little lower in volume than I thought, but there was about 14 pounds of fruit, so it shouldn’t be surprising.

A little below volume, but high on alcohol, so I added a gallon of bottled water.

A little below volume, but high on alcohol, so I added a gallon of bottled water. (This is before water addition.)

I decided to add another gallon of Culligan water with a crushed Campden Tablet to bump the volume a little. The ABV is 15.75%, prior to the water addition, so I’m not worried about diluting it a little! The color and flavor are nice, so a couple more months of racking and then a few more in the bottles and I think it will be pretty good.

Looking good...dry, but not bone dry.

Looking good…dry, but not bone dry.

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Blueberry-Muscadine Wine, Adjustments and Yeast

24 hours after Campden Tablets added. Sugar, water, blueberries and muscadines.

24 hours after Campden Tablets added. Sugar, water, blueberries and muscadines.

Day 2 for the Blueberry-Muscadine Wine project…time to check the OG(Original Gravity), check the acid, add the yeast nutrient, pectic enzyme, and pitch the yeast. I started with the refractometer and got a couple different readings from the sample I took after stirring the must. (Of course, I sanitized everything that touched the must). Anyway, I felt like I was at the 1.090 range,but wasn’t confident, so I took a larger sample to check with the hydrometer later.

Sample for testing acid and getting hydrometer reading.

Sample for testing acid and getting hydrometer reading.

From the sample, I removed 3ml to test the acid. Following the instructions for the acid test kit, it looks like I was at a reading of 0.225; shooting for the range between 0.55 and 0.65. The recipe called for 2-1/2 teaspoons of the acid blend, but I needed the full 2 ounces that I purchased to get to 0.565. At the minimum of the range, but okay. I also added 2-1/2 teaspoons of pectic enzyme and 3 teaspoons of yeast nutrient. Added to the must and stirred in. Then I sanitized the yeast packet and scissors, and pitched the yeast, gently stirring it in.

I resealed the fermentation bucket and cleaned my utensils. Next, I used the rest of my sample to take an OG reading with a hydrometer. It looks like I have a reading of 1.110 at 71.6F, which adjusts for temperature (hydrometer calibrated to 60F) to OG 1.111.

Hydrometer reading.

Hydrometer reading.

I guess I should not have added all the sugar at once, so this is going to be a higher alcohol wine than I wanted, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I just hope it tastes good! Montrachet yeast is supposed to have an alcohol tolerance of 13%, so if my FG comes in around 1.01-ish, it should be stopping anyway. (The color is good. The unfermented product is so sweet, it’s hard to get a real feel for flavor…but I think it will be good.)

***Update 8/27/15: Continuing to stir every evening, to break up the fruit floating at the top and submerge it all. Getting a nice steady action in the airlock. All appears to be on track. Obviously, it’s still extremely sweet; however, a small sip does have a little more fruit flavor than before, and a little taste of the fermentation.

After stirring down the fruit.

After stirring down the fruit.

Before stirring the floating fruit.

Before stirring the floating fruit.

Update 8/29/15: Stirred down the fruit in the fermentation bucket and noted that the appearance is pretty much the same as the above photos. I wonder if the blueberries that didn’t get crushed are fermenting? They don’t seem to be changing color…hmmm. The sample spoonful definitely has a flavor that has dropped in sweetness another notch.

Update 8/29/15: Continuing to convert sugar to alcohol…definitely a little more tannic feel in the mouth, more alcohol, and drier. I continue to note that the wine is still sweet, but what a difference! I like where this is going…at least, so far.

Again, before stirring down the fruit.

Again, before stirring down the fruit.

 

After stirring down the fruit.

After stirring down the fruit.

Sample for flavor and color.

Update 9/2/2015: Now tasting more like wine and less like sweet, fermenting juice. Photos aren’t showing any real difference, but the flavor is telling the tale!

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Starting Blueberry-Muscadine Wine

Day one: Blueberry-Muscadine Wine, ready for the 24 hour rest.

Day one: Blueberry-Muscadine Wine, ready for the 24 hour rest.

During the height of blueberry season, I got an amazingly good deal on a case of them. We ate some, I made an experimental, very small batch of jam, and then I stuck the rest in the freezer. Now that we are at the height of muscadine grape season, I have foraged several pounds of wild grapes. In doing a little research, I found this article: https://winemakermag.com/461-making-blueberry-wine-tips-from-the-pros  The majority of what I am doing comes directly from their recipe, so go read their article. If you are really interested in winemaking, you might like their magazine.

This is my second attempt at wine. You can find my entries on my first wine on this blogs entries starting about this time last year. It was a straight muscadine wine and I used Montrachet yeast for that batch…as I am using for this batch. The result, is a surprisingly dry, medium to light body wine that is a bit heavy on the alcohol (I overdid the sugar a bit), but not nearly as sweet as you normally find in wines made from muscadines. The color is between a blush and a red. I am pretty pleased with it. So, for my second wine, where I am going to change from the referenced recipe slightly, I’m using 3 pounds of wild muscadine grapes, instead of grape concentrate, and I’m using 11 pounds of blueberries. The blueberries were almost completely thawed, but still cold.

In preparing for the recipe, I did purchase an acid test kit ($8.95) and some blended acid powder from the local homebrew shop (LHBS). I also bought a package of Montrachet yeast. I did not add citric acid to the sugar water and I am not using the teaspoon of tannin. I am also substituting Campden Tablets, crushed, rather than the powdered sodium metabisulfate. The tablets are easy…add one per gallon, so five in this batch.

One tablet per gallon: 5 tablets. Easy!

One tablet per gallon: 5 tablets. Easy!

Campden Tablets to kill off any resident bacterias and wild yeasts.

Campden Tablets to kill off any resident bacterias and wild yeasts.

Capmpden Tablets, crushed in a mortar & pestle.

Capmpden Tablets, crushed in a mortar & pestle.

I’m also skipping the potassium sorbate. I may be wrong, but the Campden Tablets are potassium metabisulfate, and I think using them covers it. (As well as the sodium metabisulfate.) Theses chemicals can get to be a little confusing for those of us who were Liberal Arts majors, rather than Chemistry majors! Anyway, I think I have things covered.

Today was all about crushing blueberries,

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crushing muscadine grapes,

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mixing 9 pounds of sugar with hot water,

Sugar and water.

Sugar and water.

…and then adding the crushed Campden Tablets. I added enough water to rinse the crush bucket and bring the total volume to 5 gallons. (Top photo)

Tomorrow, I will deal with the yeast nutrient, pectic enzyme, test the acid and adjust it, if needed. Then I will pitch the yeast. After that, over the course of the primary fermentation, I will need to stir the “must” at the top of the bucket down into the liquid twice daily. I don’t plan on making a separate entry everyday, just to say that I stirred the must! I will document tomorrow, and when I rack, bottle, and eventually taste the wine. So, I’ve done the steps required for today. I’ll be back!

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Follow-Up on Day 160 Cider

Back on October 1, 2014, (Identified as “Day 160” in my journal, when I was still numbering my posts), I racked a cider that I made from crab apples, pears, Pink Cripps and Ginger Gold apples into four 1/2 gallon jugs for bulk aging/conditioning. The cider was nice and clear and I was confident that they were finished fermenting. I stuck them away in a corner and ignored them until today. I decided to pull a jug out and check it. I saw a little dark streak on the side of the bottle…could have been from a drip when I transferred the cider. It was obviously a drip that had dried and turned dark and sticky. There was a very fine covering one bottom of the jug. When I opened the screw cap, it was immediately apparent that additional fermenting had carbed the jug and I had a gusher!

I retrieved the other three jugs and bled off the excess carb from all 4 jugs and lightly screwed the caps back down, rinsed them off, and put them in the refrigerator.  One of the four didn’t really gush…not sure why. I poured a small amount into a glass to taste. It’s pretty dry, but the flavor is nice. Maybe I won’t bother bottling…just keep the jugs refrigerated and serve out of them. I did add a little sprinkle of Truvia to sweeten the glass I poured and I liked it better. Backsweeten or no? Maybe just sweeten to taste when poured, as suggested by some cider-makers. It seems a little trashy, but, hey, it works.

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Opening a Bottle of Muscadine Wine

Opening my first bottle of  Muscadine Wine!

Opening my first bottle of Muscadine Wine!

I was not really planning on opening a bottle of my first wine until at least August and maybe Thanksgiving. It’s a muscadine wine made from foraged wild grapes. Now, this isn’t the typical Southern sweet muscadine wine. A previous taste, at bottling, was fairly dry and had a nice deep blush color with a light body. With a 16.01% ABV, it was a little boozy. Muscadine wine is not generally considered a wine to age indefinitely, so I just decided I want to try one. I’m also going to take a bottle to my mother to try and she’s almost 85 years old…so why wait!? But I want to try it before I give any away. It’s a Friday night though…and I’ve been drinking beer…so 12 oz of 16% ABV wine might be a wise move! I may just do a small pour and recap and refrigerate the rest. The wine was started on August 20th of 2014 when I picked the wild grapes. Bottling was about 2 months later, on October 22, 2014. The wine has been in the bottle for about3-1/2 months.

Pretty blush color, high alcohol, nice aroma and finish, light body.

Pretty blush color, high alcohol, nice aroma and finish, light body.

So…after a small pour, swirl, smell and taste…dang! Not bad! I don’t think I would be able to identify this as a muscadine wine. Perhaps a person with a trained palate could. It’s still a little young, maybe. I’m not a wine person. I have some experience with Reislings and Rhine wines from Germany…a little Merlot, a little Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon…but not to the point that I would consider myself competent to critique any wine. My best attempt would be to say that it’s still a little boozy up front, but the aroma and the finish are pretty nice. I’ll see what Mom thinks…and then I’ll seek some more opinions this Fall. Cheers!

 

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Day 166 Bottling Muscadine Wine

Muscadine wine...nice and clear.

Muscadine wine…nice and clear.

Finally bottled my muscadine wine! I started with grapes that I foraged from wild vines and now I have my first wine in the bottles! The wine has been bulk aging  in two 1 gallon carboys and one 1/2 gallon carboy.

Bulk aging the wine.

Bulk aging the wine.

I combined them all into a bottling bucket to make sure the wine is all consistently blended and to facilitate the bottling.

Transferred to a bottling bucket.

Transferred to a bottling bucket.

I used the Brewer’s Friend online bottling calculator to figure out how many bottles I would need…calculation is twenty-six 12 oz bottles, plus 8 oz left over, which would be good for a hydrometer reading and sample.  So, I sanitized 26 bottles and all the bottling equipment and supplies.

Sanitized equipment and bottles.

Sanitized equipment and bottles.

I’m using oxygen absorbing caps for the wine bottling. I have read that a lot of homebrewers think they are useless for beer, but this is wine. Some mead makers think they are absolutely worthwhile. The thing is, the caps are recommended for things that are going to be bottled for 2 years or more. Most beers, other that barleywine, aren’t aged more than a year. There are a few exceptions. Anyway, I’ve decided to use them…several bottles of my wine may very well be around for a couple of years or more.

The clarity on the wine is beautiful and the color is a nice blush. The FG is 0.991 and the OG was 1.113, so we have a 16.01% ABV!

Taking the hydrometer reading.

Taking the hydrometer reading…look at the clarity!

The aroma and flavor are definitely that of a young red wine with a heavy amount of alcohol, but it certainly is not your typical North Carolina sweet muscadine wine.

Pretty!

Pretty!

I can definitely drink the sample, but I probably won’t open a bottle for at least a year and probably longer for most of them. The bottling calculator was spot-on, by the way. I filled exactly 26 bottles.

Filling the bottles.

Filling the bottles.

I’m hoping they will mellow and become something special with time. But this is my first real wine, so it’s pretty special to me already!

Twenty-six 12 oz bottles of wine...ready for storage.

Twenty-six 12 oz bottles of wine…ready for storage.

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Day 160 Racking Crab Apple/Pear/Cripps/Ginger Gold Cider for Long Term and Pumpkin Ale

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I needed to free up a fermentation bucket, and the cider that I made from crab apples, pears, Pink Cripps and Ginger Gold apples looked pretty clear, so that’s the one I decided to deal with. I racked from the 5 gallon glass carboy into a bottling bucket. From there, I racked to four 1/2 gallon glass carboys, filled to leave as little head space as possible, and capped. These containers were moved to an out of the way dark corner for bulk conditioning/aging.

I wasn’t too aggressive in getting every last drop, since I knew I was nowhere near having enough to fill another container. As a result, I got a good hydrometer sample and a little drinking glass sample. After I took and SG reading, both samples went into the refrigerator for additional tasting later. The immediate taste at room temperature pleasantly seems to have eased up on the tannin astringency that I tasted last time I was able to try a sample. It still needs some time, but it’s pretty nice. It also packs a wallop! The OG for this batch was 1.097 and it is currently at 0.993, which I’m confident will be the FG. That puts the cider at 13.65% ABV! Whew!

I also racked my Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale to the big glass carboy for some final clearing and making sure it’s absolutely finished fermenting before I bottle it.

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale.

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale.

I have still seen a bubble in the airlock up until recently and I don’t want to rush it. I really want to nail the carb on this beer. If I do, I think it’s going to be phenomenal! The body if full, the aroma is awesome, the spice is well blended and not overpowering. Love the color…it does, as my son suggested when he smelled it, remind me of a ginger snap cookie, but not as sweet.

Sample for checking SG with a hydrometer. (And for tasting!)

Sample for checking SG with a hydrometer. (And for tasting!)

The ABV is 7.74% and my volume is only 4 gallons. This may horrify some homebrewers, but I would rather sacrifice a tiny amount of alcohol by volume and have 5 gallons, instead of 4, so I added a gallon of bottled Culligan water. I’m having samples of the cider and the ale as I write this and I’m very happy…and have a nice little warm feeling. >grin<

Samples: Pumpkin left, cider right.

Samples: Pumpkin left, cider right.

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Day 152 Started Another Batch of Cider

Washed and sorted crab apples. Over 20 lbs. Gotta use 'em!

Washed and sorted crab apples. Over 20 lbs. Gotta use ’em!

Realizing that I have a bunch of foraged crab apples left to use and the clock is ticking, I started another batch of cider today. I started with the juice from about 5 lbs of crab apples and then added juice from 5 pears, 3 Ginger Crisp apples and 4 Pink Cripps apples and a little bottled lemon juice to keep the apple and pear juices from browning too much. Altogether, I got about 3/4 gallon of juices.

Blend of juices from crab apple, pear, Pink Cripps apples and Ginger Gold apples

Blend of juices from crab apple, pear, Pink Cripps apples and Ginger Gold apples

I put that juice into a 5 gallon bottling bucket with the pommace from the crab apples, tied in a cheesecloth bag. I didn’t have enough cheesecloth on hand to fit the apple/pear pommace in, but that’s okay.

Juice, water, sugar, cinnamon, yeast nutrient, campden tablets and pectic enzyme.

Juice, water, sugar, cinnamon, yeast nutrient, campden tablets and pectic enzyme.

I stirred in 5 lbs of sugar, 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 teaspoons of yeast nutrient, 2 crushed campden tablets and a 1/2 teaspoon of pectic enzyme. Then I added a gallon plus 6 cups of water and stirred. It was so close to 3 gallons that I decided to top up…just a couple of extra cups. I checked the SG and it’s around 1.110-ish. I’ll get the official OG tomorrow, before I pitch yeast. Sometimes the sugar isn’t completely dissolved at this point and the reading could be off. I sealed the bucket and set it aside.

My next step was to begin a yeast starter from my harvested Edinburgh yeast.

making starter wort for yeast.

making starter wort for yeast.

I boiled a 1.040 wort for 10 minutes made from light DME and chilled it to about 77 F.

Chilling the starter.

Chilling the starter.

I then added about half of the contents of my 1/2 pint jar of yeast slurry to the starter. I’m out of yeast nutrient, so I hope the yeast is healthy enough without it! I’ll see where the progress on the yeast starter is tomorrow morning.

Ready to build that yeast!

Ready to build that yeast!

Update: 9/8/14   Cold crashed the yeast starter early this evening. About 9 pm, I drained off the excess liquid, opened the lid on the cider, removed and squeezed the cider out of the cheesecloth bag of pommace  and drew off a hydrometer sample. The OG is 1.096 at 72.9 F, so corrected =1.097. I pitched the Edinburgh Ale yeast, stirred and resealed the lid. I refrigerated the hydrometer sample to sip later. Very sweet, as expected. As of midnight, no visual on airlock activity. I will check it in the morning. Pretty sure it will be rockin’ soon. Starter was vigorous, as was the batch I harvested it from.

Update: 9/9/14   Airlock bubbles in latest cider batch at 10 a.m. Not very aggressive yet, but it’s going. By the way, tasting the hydrometer sample that I had chilled leads me to believe that this is going to be a nice clean, crisp cider after the sugar is converted.

Refrigerated cider blend OG sample. Clean and bright! 1.096

Refrigerated cider blend OG sample. Clean and bright! 1.097

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