Thursday, 23 October 2008

Fruit Wine Update

Yesterday I began siphoning my fruit wines into clean demijohns. I have two batches on the go at the moment - this is my first year of home winemaking, and I started small.

I have three demijohns, and I have been meaning to start a new batch of wine, beer, or maybe mead for some time. I realised, the most logical course of action would be to siphon batch one into the empty demijohn, batch two into the newly-empty (and cleaned) demijohn that contained the first batch, and start my new batch in the one that held batch two. So, yesterday I started the process, which isn't terribly complicated, but needs a little care.

I cleaned the empty demijohn by scrubbing with hot water and washing up liquid inside and out (I have a bottle brush for the interior), then filling with warm water into which are crumbled a few Campden tablets, which disinfect the glass. Then, this is siphoned off, and the wine is siphoned in.

Today, I did the second batch. The motivation, other than a feeling of achievement, is that you get to taste the wines as you siphon them into their new home.

Both batches are of blackberry wine. My back garden has gradually been overgrown with brambles over the past few years, despite periodic attempts at clearing. The upside is that a huge quantity of free fruit is produced each year. Last year I made a fruit liqueur with some of the blackberries, boiling the fruit with sugar, straining, and mixing with Armagnac (you could use any spirit). Unfortunately, due to excessive pectin, it took on the appearance of clotted blood - lumpy crimson goo. It was, however, delicious, and remained pleasurable to drink for almost a year.

This summer, my grandparents leant me a couple of home winemaking books. My grandad has made his own wines and liqueurs for decades, although he doesn't any more. I saw the blackberry wine recipe, and decided it would be an excellent way to use up a few kilos of bramble fruit.

He leant me his two demijohns, and I bought the rest (another demijohn, a siphon, Campden tablets and wine yeast, the bottle brush, and a hygrometer) from Wilkinson, which sells a wonderful range of home brewing equipment. I picked enough fruit, followed the recipe (which involves steeping the fruit with boiling water and sugar, sieving, and fermenting with yeast for several months).

The first batch was made from fruit harvested in early August. Some of it was a little under-ripe, so it is lighter in colour and lower in natural sugars. The second batch, harvested a week or two later, contained much riper fruit, indeed some which was probably already fermenting on the plant. It's darker, and in theory, richer.

The first batch tasted yesterday as it did a few weeks ago - balanced, quite rich, still quite sweet, effervescent, and yeasty. Surprisingly, the second batch, a glass of which I have in front of me, is much drier. The colour is a wonderful bright ruby, and the smell and taste are much more redolent of the fruit it is made from. I suppose it is a little jammy, it's certainly less yeasty (still slightly fizzy, though - it's still fermenting quite vigorously), but has a tannic edge that might put some people off. I'm actually glad they are different - I decided not to blend the two batches, but rather to bottle them separately, not long after I started them off, to see which style I preferred, and to demonstrate that fruit wine can be complex too.

So, the two batches, once siphoned, are topped-up with boiled water that has been allowed to cool (so as not to kill the yeast), and re-sealed with airlocks. I don't know if they will be ready in time for Christmas, which was my hope, but my new project should hopefully fill the gap in the meantime. And that is? Well, not a fruit wine, but a beer - pumpkin beer, to be precise. But more on that in my next entry.

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