Thursday, December 23, 2010

Making Chez Ray Mmmm-Berry 2010

Starting, October, 2010:  I've made a couple of prior Mmmm-Berry batches before, where I've mixed various combinations of blackberries, black raspberries and red currants into a light red wine, finished slightly sweet.  The aromatics and natural acids of the berries bring a nice lift to the glass.

Recipe:  For the Chez Ray Mmmm-Berry 2010 edition, I am blending a mix of frozen local berries together.  Covering almost two-years of picking in Westport, CT, the recipe included (roughly) 50% blackberries, 40% red currants, 10% white currants and a big handful of mixed red raspberries and blueberries.

Process:  To make the wine, I started with approximately 40 pounds of berries.  I decided to plan for about 5 pounds of berries per gallon of finished wine, yielding a target of 8 gallons of wine.

I started thawing with the help of a microwave oven.  Then the berries were dumped into 6-gallon fermentation buckets.  As I dumped the berries in, I layered in approximately two pounds of sugar per gallon of intended wine.   The sugar helps draw out liquids from the berries, and would be needed in the final blend anyway.

After thawing, some crushing in the buckets and mixing, and adding some additional water to get closer to what I thought would be the 8 gallon target, I measured a starting sugar level (brix) of about 24 degrees, yielding a potential of just over 13% alcohol if my wine finished dry. 

Using Go-Ferm, I reconstituted 71b-1122 yeast, which I chose to highlight long-lasting tropical fruit aromas.  The 71b yeast also doesn't survive at high alcohol levels, allowing me to sweeten the wine at finishing without as much fear of fermentation beginning again.  I have enjoyed using Cote des Blancs yeast for these Mmmm-Berry wines in the past.  71b is said to have similar fermentation characteristics, with the additional leaning towards aromatics.   My plan was also to conduct the bulk of the fermentation in cool, 60-degree F wine cellar conditions, which would further emphasize aromatics over color and tannin extraction. 

After a full day of fermentation in warm conditions, I supplemented the fermentation with Fermaid-K nutrient.  This has worked well for me with past fermentations to feed active yeast. 

After another day or so, I poured off the free-running liquid (almost 6 gallons of the target 8 gallons) into one bucket for continued fermentation.  Separately, I took the berry pulp and pressed it through a wine press, yielding most of the additional two gallons of liquid I sought.

I decided to ferment the pressed juice separate from the free-run juice, just to see what differences might ensue.  All of the wine went into my cool wine cellar.

Within a day or so, I noticed a sulfur "funk" (HS2) coming from the free run juice.  To correct this, I poured the fermenting juice back and forth several times between buckets, to agitate and incorporate oxygen.  After this treatment, the sulfur smell was almost eliminated with another day.
The juice has continued to ferment - slowly - for the past two weeks in the wine cellar conditions.  The alcohol level is steadily rising, nice aromatics are forming, and the early markings of another pleasant berry wine are in sight!

Bottling, December, 2010:  My juice - with free run and pressed juice combined - has been settling in the plastic food-grade pails, covered with wax paper.  Today, I poured the clean juice from the settled bucket and added 1/4 teaspoon potassium metabisulphite.  I collected this juice in another food-grade bucket, and bottled a half-dozen or so bottles with 12 teaspoons of sugar per 750 ml bottle. The remainder was left without sugar in the pail, with the wax paper coating.  I'll tap it for additional bottles in the future.

Blending, later December 2010:  I found that this Mmmm-Berry 2010 was especially pleasant when blended 50/50 with botrytised chardonnay/chenin blanc.  Both were finished dry, and the blend required around 16-18 teaspoons of sugar per 750 ml bottle to get a dessert-like finish that still let the bright acids shine through.  I called this Elmstead Lane 2010 Sweet Berry Wine.

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