Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Tale of Two Wines

2008 Apple Wine, Uncorked July 2009
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I have been making my own wines intermittently for about 7 years. I have learned a whole lot about fermentation, brewing, and sanitation, and as you'll read here, apparently I have further yet to go. One obvious thing that's tough about producing your own food, wine, beer, tobacco...etc.. is that you have to try to "get it right" under circumstances that are never the same - a nearly impossible task unless you are an industrial - size producer (which would defeat the purpose of this exercise, wouldn't it?). Less obvious is the fact that you've got to deal with your own human expectations - a scale that rarely slides in the "artist's" or "producer's" favor.
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And "art" it is. To accomplish these feats at a small scale require a very human touch, and often a lot of attention. And sometimes you just have to admit, "The commercial guys do it better." So let's take a look at the wines I made in 2008, which I just bottled today after 15 months of dark, dry storage.
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The apple wine (above) is a delicious wine, although a little bit of disappointment - a great example of not meeting my own unrealistic expectations. I would give it a 3/5. The wine, which was made from organic apple juice, organic cane sugar, and Champagne yeast, is delightfully plain and light, which is what an apple wine should be. There is a full apple taste that carries throughout, and very light tannins and no bitterness. There's also a pretty detectable taste of cinammon or allspice - which I cannot explain, since those spices were not added to the wine. It's pretty enjoyable and we'll see if the taste matures any with some additional aging in the bottles.
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So why was I disappointed? It's simple - the last time I made apple wine, it was better (likely a 4/5). The taste was a lot more complex, and the wine was just as sweet. As you'll read, last time I used fresh cider instead of apple juice. That may account for the difference.
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What will I do differently next time? I will consider adding some spice (or oak barrel chips) to the wine to bulk up the natural flavors and add some complexity. I will also use fresh cider (which I used to make my favorite batch of apple wine so far), instead of apple juice. I'll actually go to an orchard and buy some fresh-pressed cider. Even if I have to freeze it, it should give me a much more complex taste than the organic apple juice I used this time.



2008 Elderberry-Blackberry Wine - Uncorked July 2009
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You may have previously read about my trials and tribulations with elderberries here. Or here. You may even remember when I posted about making this elderberry wine, here.
I love elderberries - they are a great native plant, and they provide lots of delicious berries for the songbirds. This year (2009) was an awful year for production - due to our heavy spring rains, many of the stems fell over and broke in half, never blooming.
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In spring, 2008 I pulled out 2007's elderberry crop, which had been frozen over the winter. I started calculating how much fruit I would need to make wine, and clearly, I did not have enough. What I did have were 2007's blackberries from our yard, which together with the elderberries, "almost" gave me enough fruit to make 2 gallons of wine. The previous sentences describe my first several mistakes....but I'll continue. I added some champagne yeast and a whole ton of organic sugar (I was warned that elderberries are quite sour and require lots of sugar), and let 'er rip. I uncorked it today and bottled it, finding very little finings or other residue in the bottom. This is very unusual for a fruit wine.
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Upon first taste, this wine is not nearly as good as the apple wine. I would give it a 2/5. The berry flavor is quite underwhelming, and the tannins are very strong (probably from micro-sized pieces of fruit skin in the wine). Strangely (or not), the wine is not very sweet. I could tell you (as I will probably tell people) that I deliberately undersweetened the wine to make it more like a dinner wine, and less like a dessert wine, but then I would be lying. I will most likely be serving this wine to people who are already intoxicated and do not have the sense to decline.
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What will I do differently next time? Oh boy. First, I don't think I will use raw fruit again. The fruit I collected from our yard, while of decent quality, was probably pretty sour from the start. I will either buy a juicer - a $200 investment, or just buy the commercial, super sweet and well-filtered fruit juices for wine making. Why? At least then, I will know precisely what issues I'm dealing with, in regards to bitterness, tannins, etc - prior to fermentation. It was such hard work boiling and separating skins from wine must - and there was absolutely no benefit from it, in this case.
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Second, I will make sure I have enough fruit for the wine recipe. I used about 15% less and the results were pretty predictable. I thought the wine's flavor would "fill in" and boy, was I wrong. It *almost* tastes watered down. In fact, if it weren't for the strong tannins, it would be watered down.
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Third, I will not be afraid of adding too much sugar. I added double the sugar to this recipe, and the yeast tore through it really quickly (particularly since there wasn't enough fruit juice to sustain the yeast colony).
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Well, there you have it. I am planning a strawberry wine for drinking next summer, and who else knows what I'll think of?

5 comments:

{nUtTyPrOfFeSsOr} said...

I want to not have the 'sense to decline' therfore helping with the disposal of ur wine!

tugboatdude said...

no arguement there nutty,you have no sense,haha I kid I kid

Swamp Thing said...

Yup because when it comes to making good decisions while drinking - T Dogg is clearly, The Man.

The berry wine will make a GREAT marinade for steak, venison, and goose, I can tell that much already.

tugboatdude said...

everybody has to be good at something,I just happen to be great at making poor choices.

Swamp Thing said...

On a not-unrelated note, I happen to be good at getting my nose broken!