Further adventures with wine

Well, it has been nearly a year since I started the wine I blogged about, and I haven’t kept up with the blog very well.  The wine, however, has matured nicely. 

The wine is lovely – it tastes almost fizzy, though it is not a sparkling wine, and there are very nice blackcurrant flavours. Tim says this is nicer than any of the commercial rose wines we have ever bought, and I agree! I think it is about 11% alcohol, so it should store quite nicely.

Six bottles of rose wine in green bottles

Bottled Blackcurrant Wine

I bottled the wine last week, in anticipation of storage issues when the freezer cannot cope with the output of my blackcurrant bush.

It is just one bush, but it is a Ben Lomond.  This variety just sounded nice when I bought it, but I don’t think I could have found a better variety for my allotment.  I read up about it recently at http://www.blackcurrantfoundation.co.uk/varieties.html and it seems that with the need for a very cold winter to make it fruit well, and a late flowering, it is perfect for the Yorkshire climate!

The bottling also meant that I had the ideal wedding gift for a friend of mine who is heavily into gardening fruit and veg, guerilla gardening, wine and beer brewing, and similar.  To be able to say “this is one of only six bottles, and it is my first go at wine” was pretty special.  She seemed pretty pleased, anyway.  Another bottle went to my Mum, who has been hinting heavily that she wouldn’t mind trying my wines out…  Hmmm, perhaps she likes wine too much.

So that freed up another demijohn.  I have started a new batch, double quantity this time, and with a slightly different yeast.

Here’s the stuff I used:

Notebook, recipes, sterilising powder, yeast, nutrient and pectolase

Notebook, recipes, sterilising powder, yeast, nutrient and pectolase

The recipes are a very popular book “First Steps in Winemaking” by CJJ Berry. Just reading it, you realise how long the book has been going, and the author!, and there is a lot of practical advice. Last year I used a super-fast general yeast, but this year I am using VR21 as suggested by the brewing shop at Morley Home Brew Centre near Leeds. Apparently it should not strip out as much colour or flavour as the fast yeasts. The pectolase is vital because blackcurrants have a lot of pectin, which yeast doesn’t like.

Water trap, siphon and cork pusher

Water trap, siphon and cork pusher

The siphon is for moving wine gently between containers, as too much oxygen will spoil it. The cork pusher comes into its own at the end of the process. The water-trap airlock is vital to allow carbon dioxide to escape while the wine brews without allowing infection in.

25 litre plastic mashing bin

25 litre plastic mashing bin

All the kit – including the funnel and silk/muslin I use to filter out the pips and dead yeast – is sterilised using sodium metabisulphate granules first, so that no wild yeasts or bacteria can get into the wine.

This is where the fun starts!

6 pounds of frozen blackcurrants

Frozen blackcurrants – 6 pounds here

The essential part – I keep them frozen as much because I cannot always make wine right away as because it helps the fruit to mash and reduces wild yeasts.

cane sugar

cane sugar

This is Fairtrade cane sugar, but I am sure that most true sugars (not Splenda, sweetex, and the like) will work. There were 6 pounds of this to add to the 9 litres of water, which is then boiled. The whole lot is added to the fruit once the sugar had dissolved completely. The heat helps to unfreeze the fruit. When the temperature is under blood hot the pectolase is added. This is given 24 hours to work, and the yeast – half a sachet – is added. The sachet claims to be good enough for 2.5 times the volumes I have described here, but it is better to have slightly more yeast that slightly too little.

A clear glass 5 litre demijohn with thermometer strip attached

Demijohn

When the main mashing/brewing stage has passed, the wine is siphoned off into two of these sterilised glass demijohns for the last of the yeast to eat the last of the sugar much more slowly. The siphon still needs to pass the wine through the funnel and silk filtering arrangement to get rid of pips and dead yeast. An airlock will protect it from exploding or getting infected, also indicating whether brewing is still taking place, and the thermometer strip allows me to see whether it is warm enough. Once the yeast sediments settle firmly at the bottom of the jar, the wine will be very carefully siphoned off into another sterile jar to fully clear before bottling. This stops the dead yeast from spoiling the wine.

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