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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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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 155 SG Check on Samhain Ale

Yesterday, I could see that the activity in the blow-off tube had slowed way down…in fact, it had slowed the day before. I decided to remove the blow-off tube and install an airlock. (And took a quick photo.)

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale. 4 days in primary and activity slowing.

Scottish Samhain Pumpkin Ale. 4 days in primary and activity slowing.

Last night and today, I haven’t seen any activity. I’m not convinced that it has finished fermenting yet, though, so I took a SG reading and it’s at 1.031 (corrected from 1.030 @ 74.3F). According to the recipe, it should make it to 1.023 to finish, so I’ll let it keep going. It’s only been 4 days since brewing. I don’t need to be terribly concerned with fermentation being quite done in primary, however, because it will go into secondary with more pumpkin, spice, and a vanilla bean (soaked in vodka). The sugar in the pumpkin could cause a little more fermentation, so I’m planning on giving it plenty of time. Then, I’ll probably do a tertiary for final clearing.

The hydrometer sample has gone into the refrigerator for a look at how it clears, color and flavor…later, but a small taste yielded a very nice flavor that I am quite pleased with, so far.

Hydrometer sample...nice color.

Hydrometer sample…nice color.

My ciders and muscadine wine continue to condition. The crab apple/pear/Cripps blend actually still has some airlock activity in primary, so another week? Probably.

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Day 153 Racking Caramel Cider and Muscadine Wine

Keep on racking! Muscadine wine.

Keep on racking! Muscadine wine.

Racking day! I decided to rack the caramel cider and muscadine wine again today. I had to spend some time cleaning the kitchen, assembling vessels and utensils, making a new batch of sanitizer, etc.

I started with boiling some water in my starter beaker for 10 minutes, in case I needed to top off anything. Covered it and put it in an ice bath. Then I racked the cider. I completely filled a gallon, but the half gallon went down considerably. I didn’t want to top off that much with water, so I sanitized a 22 oz bottle and filled it. I used what was left to fill a tester bottle  to see what it does for carbing. Just an experiment…I want the rest to clear quite a bit more and maybe just condition awhile. The SG is 1.020 at this point and, overall, it’s looking good.

Cider in a 1-gallon glass carboy, a 22 oz beer bottle and a little carb tester experiment. Wine on right. Crab apple, pear and apple blend cider in the middle.

Cider in a 1-gallon glass carboy, a 22 oz beer bottle and a little carb tester experiment. Wine on right. Crab apple, pear and apple blend cider in the middle.

For the muscadine wine, the clarity is looking quite good and the color is pretty. I racked to two 1-gallon carboys and about 2/3  filled a half gallon carboy.

Racking to all glass containers.

Racking to all glass containers.

I did go ahead and add some water to this one from the beaker that I boiled. I figure this will work out okay when I combine it back with the two gallons for bottling. In the meantime, I can bulk condition the wine without fear of oxidation…or at least the risk is greatly reduced. I think the wine is done fermenting. It’s got an SG reading at 0.990, which is about where it was when I racked it last time, I believe.

The more recent cider, a blend of crab apples, pears, Ginger Crisp apples and Pink Cripps apples just had yeast pitched last night. Airlock activity is continuing to slowly build this afternoon.

I’ve had a little sample glass of the muscadine wine in the refrigerator for the last few days, following the previous racking and I’m sipping on it as I’m writing this.

Muscadine wine sample.

Muscadine wine sample.

It’s really quite good…obviously young, but not too sweet. A little tannin on the tongue. It’s not as muscadine-y as I thought it would be. I think it actually has a better “real” wine flavor to it. It’s not heavy. We could probably easily drink a bottle of this next Spring or Summer. We’ll see. I’m planning on hanging on to most of it until maybe around Thanksgiving 2016.

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Day 151 Racked the Cider and Wine Again, Washed Crab Apples

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Racked again.

The crab apples have been outside in a bucket for several days and it looks like some squirrels or raccoon nibbled a few.  I decided I better move them inside and go through them. I washed them and picked out a couple of handfuls of ones that were beginning to rot. While I was at it, I went ahead and weighed what I have and it’s a little under 21-1/2 lbs. That’s after a batch of jelly and a 2 gallon batch of  cider (half of which was Pink Cripps Apples).

Washed and sorted crab apples. Over 20 lbs.

Washed and sorted crab apples. Over 20 lbs.

After that, I went ahead and racked my muscadine wine and cider batches to continue on their quest for finishing fermentation and achieving clarity. The processes went smoothly and all seems to be on track. Colors are nice!

Pretty color of red for the wine!

Pretty color of red for the wine!

The Montrachet yeast appears to flocculate well.

Wine trub. Fairly stable.

Wine trub. Fairly stable.

Careful racking leaves the trub almost undisturbed. The Edinburgh Ale yeast I used in the cider is a little less settled and required a little more finesse, but I managed pretty well, I think.

Racked cider and empties.

Racked cider and empties.

Amazingly, shortly after racking, a new sediment layer was obvious, especially on the cider. I haven’t done cider in awhile and I’ve forgotten that they require racking so many times before their final clearing.  But they do eventually become beautifully clear and golden! Eventually, I’ll bottle carb and condition the cider. The muscadine wine should wind up beautiful as well. It will be bottled in 22 oz beer bombers, unless someone convinces me otherwise, and aged for a minimum of two years. Geez, the wait for wine is agonizing, isn’t it?

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Day 150 Woo hoo!!! Racking Cider and Muscadine Wine to Secondary

2-1/2 gallons Muscadine Wine

2-1/2 gallons Muscadine Wine

1-1/2 gallons Crab Apple & Pink Cripps Cider.

1-1/2 gallons Crab Apple & Pink Cripps Cider.

 

Moved my Crab Apple/Pink Cripps Cider and Muscadine Wine to secondary today. I got good hydrometer samples from both. The cider is down to 1-1/2 gallons and the wine is down to 2-1/2 gallons.

The cider is quite tasty! The molasses, cinnamon and cloves did a good job adding flavor, without being overpowering.

Ready to rack the cider to secondary.

Ready to rack the cider to secondary.

The color is as expected. The current SG is down to 1.055, down from OG 1.102, leaving a current 6.17% ABV.The wine is a little lighter in color than I expected. I guess it will wind up more of a blush than a red.

Blush color of the muscadine wine.

Blush color of the muscadine wine.

Anyway, the unique muscadine aroma is still evident. The flavor is definitely young wine, lots of alcohol, a little fresh grape, a bit less sweet than anticipated…which is okay. the current SG looks like 0.993 for a 15.23% ABV…yeehaw! I would not want to drink this right away; however, I think I sense the future potential for this wine…2 or 3 years from now. *sigh*

Spent grapes...ready for compost. I hope fermented seeds don't germinate.

Spent grapes…ready for compost. I hope fermented seeds don’t germinate.

 

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