Saturday, July 24, 2010

Blueberry Wine 2010 - Phase I

What is that, you wonder?? Well that is what a vigorous primary fermentation looks like, my friend.

This is my second year of home wine making and I've been looking forward to making this batch all year.  I think it's because picking blueberries from the local farm down the road makes the whole thing a family affair.  Gin House Branch Farms in Priceville, AL is only a 15 minute drive and they have a great pick-your-own field where everyone pays on the honor system.  It's the real deal.  Anyhow, blueberries are done about a month or so before grape season, so they are a nice little prequel to the grape harvest in the early fall.  It doesn't hurt that these tiny little berries are one of the most healthy fruits known to man.

For those who think home wine making consists of smashing some fruit, adding water, sugar, and yeast from the local store, and burying it in the yard for a few months, then your information is...very wrong.  These days the home wine maker can produce wines that rival the quality of store bought wines (or better) with consistent, predictable outcomes.  It involves a little homework, but the process is fairly basic.  Online stores provide home vinters with bottling options that produce a custom bottle with premium corks, punted bottles, capsule closures, and labels that no one would ever believe were made at home.  What's the cost, you wonder??  About $5 per bottle.  Now that said, it's true that wine making is not for the faint of heart.  You can't rush things.  As with anything worth doing, wine making takes time and a little attention to detail. 

Back to the blueberry wine.  I like to take these little blueberries (picked in the morning for optimum sweetness) and combine them with dark Washington cherries to enhance the color and flavor of the finished wine.  Then grape tannins and a special acid blend are added to increase the complexity, balance, and clarity of the wine.  Pectic enzymes are added to aid in clearing pectic haze that can sometimes form.  I then add a ripe banana, which imparts almost no flavor, in order to help smooth the finish of the matured wine.  The wine is then sweetened to a specific gravity of 1.110 for a potential alcohol of around 14% after factoring in several rackings topped up with Spring water.  To ferment, I use a specially formulated burgundy wine yeast strain from Lalvin for full extraction.  The wine then goes through a primary, aerobic fermentation (seen above) at a temperature of 70 degrees to maximize the varietal character and fruitiness of the finished wine.

So on that note, you'll have to wait until my next post (in about 5 days) to hear more.  This is when the wine will be ready to enter Phase II or secondary, anaerobic fermentation under airlock.  And just think, only 12 more months until the wine is ready for a taste!

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