Category Archives: Wines

Use the Fruits!

I’m a fan of infusing fruit and berries into meads, and making country wines (i.e., wines that don’t rely on grapes for their base sugars) with whatever fruits or berries – or a mixture thereof – are on hand. To me, it’s a way of capturing a season, using a quantity of standard white sugar and a quantity of fruit juices or, even better, whole, in-season¬† fruit.

But how best to get the terrific flavor of, say, a peach or a pear, into the neck of a one gallon demijohn?

I have tried a number of methods by now, and by far the best approach is to keep the fruits or berries as whole as possible. If you put fruit through a juicer (which I have repeatedly done), the resulting juice will have a tremendous amount of pulp in it. It’s not something that you might necessarily notice if you just drank the glass of juice, but when you’re going through the process of clearing a wine, using juiced fruits tends to require more racking, and the sediments are wispier, lighter, and more easily agitated into suspension – meaning more racking down the road.

One of my favorite fruit adjuncts is blueberries. They’re small enough to fit into any vessel’s neck without damage, and they add a wonderful depth and richness to the flavor. Because they’re so easy to use intact, they result in a pretty no-fuss ferment/rack/clear process.

I find that a long simmer, as though you’re making a fruit stock, can give you a lot of good to work with if you have larger fruit. Twelve or twenty-four hours in a stock pot or crock pot, just covered by water (replenish as needed), usually results in a rich liquor (in the old school sense, not in the booze sense) to be mixed in with your other sugars.

I don’t have a lot of experience with fruit infusions in beers, but maybe this winter I’ll get something light started that can secondary on something weird, like a wheat beer infused with dates and a jalapeno.

Hey, it’s homebrew. Dream weird.

I know, I know, sunlight is bad…

But this morning it’s finally autumn, and this is five gallons of summer sunshine converted into a semi-dry pear wine. As it ages and clarifies in secondary, I use this exacting, “Look how it catches the light!” test to judge progress.

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Definitely a ways to go yet – and a lot more mornings for the sun to check in on this thing it made.

Vinometer

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There are so many gadgets available for the home brewer and I freely admit that I have bought quite a few of them. Sometimes I even end up with the right gadget at the right time and that is how I felt about the vinometer.

Using the vinometer is easy. First, position the cupped end upright. Next, add about a milliliter of wine or cider to the cup and wait until drops begin to work their way out of the bottom of the tube. Finally, invert and watch the column of fluid drop until it stops then read the alcohol percentage from the scale.

Easy right? Well, there is one one catch. The vinometer really only works accurately for dry wines. I also have had luck using it with dry ciders where the SG is at or under 1.000. It works by capillary action where the specific gravity and surface tension cause the column of the liquid being measured to drop until an equilibrium is achieved. Alcohol lowers surface tension, so the higher the alcohol content, the further the column drops down the tube. Any residual sugars will cause your readings to be low as the sugar will increase the surface area. This makes it not so handy for beer, but certainly can be helpful for country wine, cider and perry where getting an accurate initial SG can be challenging due to the fruit solids in the must.

Opening up the Heatwave Tutti-Frutti

One of the fun things about brewing, especially wines and meads, is that there’s a long lead time and a lot of mystery during the wait. Here’s the Heatwave Tutti-Frutti country wine we brewed on June’s brew day, when we spent twelve hours putting together various one-gallon batches of various fruit wines and meads. This was sort of the “catch all” batch at the end of the night: 2# cherries 2# strawberries 7# mango (mostly pulp from the juicer) 2# plums 2# table sugar 1# dark brown sugar 2# turbinado sugar Premier Curvee yeast Gravity went from 1.076 to 0.990. We tasted it. It made my soul sad. Hopefully it will improve with age.

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Just don’t feed it after midnight.