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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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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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Racking There Gose Sea Breeze and Blueberry-Muscadine Wine

Racking the gose base onto the grapefruit zest.

Racking the gose base onto the grapefruit zest.

Fermentation seems to have slowed way down on the “There Gose Sea Breeze” beer and I’m trying to get it done for Thanksgiving, so I racked it today. Problem: my Blueberry-Muscadine Wine is in my other carboy. I need a third to make this process work. So, I went to a local home brew shop to check out my options. I decided to go with a 5 gallon Better Boy brand plastic carboy with a port on it for a tap. That will allow me to use it like a bottling bucket, rather than having to use a siphon. Maybe this will reduce the chance for infection by one more function…maybe. Seems like a good system, but the tap is a bit tricky to install and it ain’t cheap. The carboy itself was about $28. Then, the tap comes as two separate pieces that add up to about another $30. Then, I needed the special size of stopper for the top, some 1/2″ tubing and a 1/2″ diameter bottling cane. Altogether, with tax, it was about $85.

After I got everything organized, cleaned, put together, and sanitized, things went pretty smoothly. I went with the 5 gallon Better Boy because I plan to generally use it for secondary fermentations and, at that point, usually I’m down in that range. When I racked the wine, I got a nice, full 5 gallons.

Blueberry-Muscadine Wine racked for some bulk conditioning.

Blueberry-Muscadine Wine racked for some bulk conditioning.

I then squeaked out about another quart, into a half gallon glass jug. I may go ahead and bottle that in a 22 oz bomber, when I get a chance. There’s too much head space there and I don’t want it to oxidize.

Once the wine was transferred and the glass carboy it was in was cleaned and sanitized, I prepared to rack the beer into it. I set-up the siphon and hose. Next, I added the grapefruit zest and vodka from the freezer to the carboy and began racking the beer onto it.

Grapefruit zest and vodka from the freezer.

Grapefruit zest and vodka from the freezer.

Once that was all squared away, I started making the hibiscus tea.

Unsweetened, dried hibiscus flowers.

Unsweetened, dried hibiscus flowers.

I used a quart of hot Culligan (bottled) water and 5 oz of dried hibiscus flowers to a 2 quart stainless steel sauce pan.

Steeping to a beautiful concentrate.

Steeping to a beautiful concentrate.

Since I didn’t have one a bit bigger, I went ahead and brought another quart of the water to a boil in a big stainless stock pot. After the hibiscus flowers were brought to a boil, I covered them and turned off the heat. The other water boiled for a few minutes and, after the flowers steeped for 10 minutes, I strained the tea concentrate into the boiling water. I cleaned the smaller pot and then strained the entire amount of liquid back into it and it just did manage to fill it completely. Note here…steeped hibiscus flowers don’t do well in a garbage disposal unit. I should have composted them. Live and learn. After a little disposer cleaning, I got back to my hibiscus concentrate and funneled it into a sanitized glass container, covered it with sanitized plastic wrap and stuck it in the refrigerator to cool overnight.

Bringing the temp down on the hibiscus tea concentrate.

Bringing the temp down on the hibiscus tea concentrate.

 

 

 

 

The final thing I wanted to accomplish tonight was to attempt to harvest some yeast. If I like the result in this gose, I wouldn’t mind making another gose or a maybe try making a kolsch, before the really cold weather starts coming around. So, for tonight, I poured off some of the trub that was left behind in the carboy that I racked out of and funneled it into a sanitized 1/2 gallon glass jug.

Attempting to harvest some yeast for future use.

Attempting to harvest some yeast for future use.

I topped that off with Culligan bottled water and added a sanitized cap. I’ll let that sit out overnight and separate. I’ll update here tomorrow when I add the hibiscus tea concentrate and further separate the yeast.

11/2/15 update: Added the hibiscus tea to the gose and it looks like a giant jar of cranberry sauce!

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I also decanted the liquid off of the yeast I’m trying to harvest. My understanding is that the yeast is the thin whitish layer on the top of the sediment. I transferred that to a pint jar and added water, We’ll see how that settles.

Transferred yeast to smaller jar and added water.

Transferred yeast to smaller jar and added water.

Yeast settled for harvest.

Yeast settled for harvest.

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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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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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Update Kombucha and Fruit Cider/Wine

Kombucha getting started.

Kombucha getting started.

Following up on the two little side fermentation projects that I have going on: kombucha and a mixed fruit cider/wine thing….

First, on the kombucha, I have reached out to some folks online regarding my progress, because I don’t really know how this is supposed to look. I’m using 1 gallon of green tea, a cup of sugar, and the dregs from a bottle of kombucha soda. After a couple of days, I have some bubbles around the perimeter of the carboy, a small “island” in the middle, and a few floaters that appear to be dark green and hang down like a “beard”.

perimeter bubbles and "beard" floater.

perimeter bubbles and “beard” floater.

There’s a little more sediment at the bottom than I started with, too. The little floaters are my biggest concern…all the pictures that I’ve seen online show the “SCOBY” (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) are off-white to tan in color. A little further research shows the floaters to be common…need to watch out for mold growing on top. That would be mean throwing out the batch. Also, it sounds like I may need to make a “baby” SCOBY and start another batch to grow a “mother” SCOBY? It’s a learning experience, that’s for sure!

Moving on to my mixed fruit little experiment: I racked the juice and it was still pretty thick on the bottom. After racking, I have just a little under a gallon.

Ready for first racking.

Ready for first racking.

I may only get a half gallon by the time this batch is racked and aged enough. So, I took some juice from the dregs and strained it to use for a hydrometer sample…I hope any “body” in the juice isn’t affecting the hydrometer’s measurement.

Taking hydrometer and temperature reading.

Taking hydrometer and temperature reading.

The hydrometer reading is 0.998 at 70F, so that is 0.999 corrected. With the OG of 1.073, that puts it at 9.71% ABV. It’s still on the border between cider and wine…not sure what will end up being. (Other than delicious, I hope!)

Update 1/19/15:

Racking with a little mesh bag on siphon.

Racking with a little mesh bag on siphon.

Racked the mixed fruit cider to a 1 gallon glass carboy. I strained the dregs and took a hydrometer reading of 0.996@69F.

Transferring

Transferring

I’m thinking I may top off with Culligan bottled water next time I rack, so I have a gallon. Currently, it’s a little under a gallon…maybe 10% short? Looks good though and over 9% ABV, so a top-off won’t hurt it.

A little under a gallon of mixed fruit cider.

A little under a gallon of mixed fruit cider.

The Kombucha is coming along…looks like a pretty decent skin is forming…almost covering the surface. Now.let’s see if it thickens. The jug has a small neck, so I’ll need to figure out removing the SCOBY and find a new, more appropriate container.

Early SCOBY signs! Day 11.

Early SCOBY signs! Day 11.

Probably one of those 1 gallonlemonade/iced tea dispensers with the spigot. The smell is a little tangy…haven’t attempted a taste yet. I’m not sure whether this first batch is supposed to be drinkable or not. We’ll see when I remove the SCOBY…somehow.

Update 2/24/15:  Okay, so, I’ve been been saving some of a hydrometer sample of the mixed fruit cider, in the refrigerator. I’ve been taking a little sip every couple of days. It has settled nicely and the flavor is not agressive, but it IS distinct from straight apple cider. The jug is looking good…still needs more clearing. I’ll let it go another week and rack it onto just enough clean water to top it off…should only take about 2-3 cups.

Now for the kombucha: pretty much “Wow”. I sanitized a turkey baster to retrieve a sample. (I need a new wine thief!) I had  to nudge the SCOBY aside…it is definitely holding together as a solid raft. I may go ahead and go to the next batch soon! The sample that I removed was tart and tasted “lemony”. I’m not a huge tea fan, but this stuff is really good! Not much tea flavor…just a little. I’m glad I used green tea. So, thumbs up! Let’s see if it will continue with the next round.

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