The Wine Pages: Homebrew winemaking
I love making very full bodied sweet dessert wines. Normally I like dry white wines, but I do have a great love of the big powerful Sauternes wines - I blame my dad - he started serving them at Christmas when I was relatively young, and I have been hooked ever since.
I have always considered the homebrew wine kit makers are missing a trick with dessert wines. You do not see many kits specifically for making fulled bodied Sauternes style wines. The occasional port or brandy kit come close, but a good dessert wine kit made with Chardonnay/Semillon would be great.
A good approach dessert wine recipe formulation is to start with grape juice concentrate. Normally with a grape juice concentrate wine, the concentrate is diluted with water to make a must that starts around 1085 and will ferment out to a dry wine. Instead of using water for the dilution, make up the 1 gallon (or whatever) quantity with Apple juice. This gives a very full bodied wine. Additions of bananas give more body.
I try not to start any higher than about 1080. Once this has fermented out I keep adding more grape concentrate and/or sugar, until the yeast cannot take it any more. The wine can then finish up anywhere between 1010 and 1040 depending on how brave you feel. I recently measured the gravity of some 1998 Sauternes - it was 1032 - very sweet!
For this batch of dessert wine, I was aiming at a finished quantity of about 2 gallons.
The first batch of ingredients:
3x 1.75 litre Copella English apple juice (specific gravity 1.044)
2x500ml Ritchie's white grape juice concentrate
SPC Natures finest pear, peach and pineapple in juice. Net weight 1kg, drained 550g, 67kcal/100g. Came from Sainsbury's
Make up to 10 litres mark on large fermenter with water
Add 600g (and then a little bit more, maybe another 100g) of sugar to make it a 1086
500g washed sultanas Sainsbury's own brand. Washing in warm tap water
1 tsp acid mix
Half tsp tannin
Add Sauternes yeast.
Add 10g dried elderflowers
Add packet oak chips - might have overdone the oak in retrospect.
A teatowel tied over lid as flies building up now in the first week of July. The weather is very wet but daytime temps holding 16-19C
Bananas are a bit green, so placed them in sealed bag with apple to speed ripening.
Morning of 10th July observed some froth breaking a raised cap - not full fermentation but getting there.
Strained on evening of 14th July. Into demijohns. Gravity was down low to about 1020, so I upped it a little bit by about 10 with sugar.
16th: fermenting well
19th: added quite a bit of sugar to get gravity just up beyond 1010, also used a bit of white grape concentrate, but both demijohns are very full now despite a racking.
Various additions of sugar and grape concentrate over the next few days.
26th: added more sugar and left in airing cupboard. Gravity just over 1010, probably needs to be a bit more, but now clearing from the top as fermentation has slowed.
3rd august: racked and campden and tiny bit of sorbate
Sat 9th August added finings
Sat 16th Augst 2008: quite clear now. Several samples tasted, generally well accepted. Slightly coarse taste, but strong nose of elderflower. Lots of orangey / marmalade tastes and a good mouth feel. Sugar about right.
Monday 25th August: drinking well, very tasty. Must get this sealed!
14 Sept 2008: racked both demijohns into one container, added just shy of 2 campden and then bottled 2 half bottles and 3 normal bottles. The remainder was put back into a demijohn and sealed and waxed and put in the back bedroom. Also bottled the port on this day.
16th Sept 2008: Last unbottled bit in fridge. Must not serve too cold. Peter liked it a lot. Must hide other demijohn in cellar to avoid early drinking.
27th Sept 2008: took the demijohn to a friend's cellar