Can you have Red dessert wine?

I enjoy my dessert wines - I've always been a keen consumer of sweet Sauternes and I tried various recipes to recreate something close to a nice full bodied white dessert wine. One day whilst looking in my books and on the internet I saw some homebrew winemaking recipes for Red dessert wine. Now, the first thing one things of with regard red wines and dessert is a big port type wine. Port is of course a fortified wine - and I've experimented with this in the past, however, I've never tried a big full-bodied very sweet (ie >1030 final gravity) red dessert wine.

With a white dessert wine, I start with some grape concentrate, add a fair bit of apple juice, some bananas, and anything else which comes to mind. I decided to follow a similiar path with a red dessert wine. Red grape juice is easily obtained, but what to dilute it with? In a white dessert wine the obvious choice is apple juice. Looking at some recipes, I saw that orange juice is sometimes used, so I vowed to follow this course in the creation of my first batch of red dessert wine.

As a base layer for a full bodied red dessert wine i decided to start with my usual bananas. You cannot go wrong with a few bananas in a good homemade homebrew wine. I find bananas to be an invaluable homebrew winemaking ingredient. The wine does not end up tasting of bananas, but they add a nice touch of body. I took about 6lb of bananas and chopped them up. I raised them to the boil in about 3 litres of water.

My local Sainsbury's supermarket sells 1lb packets of frozen fruit. I think these are destined for making "Smoothies" (whatever one of those might be) but they are another useful homebrew winemaking ingredient.

The following fruit was selected and tipped into my large plastic fermenting bucket.

  • 3x400g SB raspberries frozen
  • 3x 480g SB Dark Sweet Cherries frozen
  • 2x 400g SB blueberries frozen
  • 2x 500g sb frozen dark forest fruits (cherries, black grapes, blackberries and blackcurrents

Total frozen fruit 4.4kg. These packs were on special offer as well, so I got quite a bargain. I do get some funny looks in the supermarket checkout. I had intended to use just cherries, but they didn't have enough, and on reflection, a selection is probably going to give a more rounded result.

I then put 400g of dried elderberries in with the bananans and boiling water. I brough it back to the boil and poured it over the frozen fruit. Another pint or so of boiling water was added to rinse.

Next came my orange juice. I didn't choose the cheapest orange juice for my homemade homebrew red dessert wine recipe, but i didn't go for the most expesive orange juice either. Into the bucket went 4 x 1 litre Sainsbury's Pure squeezed orange juice - not from concentrate.

I now needed a batch of red grape juice concentrate. For this red dessert wine I started with a Beaverdale Cabernet Sauvignon 1 gallon kit. I tipped the grape juice into the bucket, but discarded all the other elements of the wine kit. As a bit of filler I added 500ml Ritchie's red grape concentrate. I added 1 teaspoon of acid blend as well and a generous dose of starch and pectic enzymes.

Finally I chucked in one campden tablet and left the whole lot for 24 hours. After this time, I measured the gravity at about 1080. The bucket was filled up to about the 15 litre mark. I don't like to start sweet wines with a very high gravity - one feels that the flavours get carried off in the inital rush of fermentation if you give the must too much sugar at the start. I added 1 packet of oak chips, a big dose of nutrient and then pitched a Sauternes yeast onto the surface. This was the evening of the 19th September 2008

Progress of the red dessert wine

20th September 2008: Fermenting very well. Temp about 17.5C

20th September 2008: Added 1lb of chopped sultanas.

25th September 2008: Strained. Added 2 litres of Sainsbury's red grape juice drink, 500g of sugar and another 500ml of Ritchie's red grape juice concentrate.

27th September 2008: Down to about 1010 so I added about 12oz of sugar.

3rd October 2008: Down to nearly 1000, so I added a 900g tin of red grape juice concentrate.

5th October 2008: Fermenting well.

homemade homebrew Red dessert wine after racking

6th October 2008: Down to about 1005, so I added sugar up to about 1025.

11th October 2008: Down just below 1020, I think it has finally had enough! Racked and added 4 campden tablets. I also added 250g sugar to bring it to around 1028 gravity.

The first picture on the right is at the 11th october after racking. Pretty murky. I'll get another photo when the stuff clears a bit.

12th October 2008: Added 10g bentonite

June 2009: The whole thing tastes and smells a bit, urm fruity. Young and fruity. I think this needs longer to mature.