It’s never too late to use

old tricks

Here are some key factors to consider if you want to make a better fruit wine.

By Gary Strachan I

t’s really hard to find information on how to make good wine from any fruit except grapes. Certainly

there are plenty of “recipes”, but good wine isn’t made by following a recipe. Grapes have a composition that

mostly leads by default to a pleasant product just by extracting the juice and adding yeast. It isn’t quite that simple, though.

Every good winemaker has a bag of tricks that are used to assess the grapes before crush and then extract the flavours and colour for a particular style of wine. A good place to start when making

fruit wine is to examine the composition of a similar product made from grapes. This enables us to

use established winemaking tricks to make a better product. Let’s start with sugar. Grapes typically have between 20 and 25 per cent sugar. Many fruits have only 12 to 15 per cent sugar. I use an empirical conversion factor of 56 per cent conversion of per cent sugar to per cent alcohol by volume. Thus, a fruit with 12 per cent sugar can be expected to produce 6.7 per cent alcohol if it ferments to dryness. If you want to make a low-alcohol product such as cider, then perhaps 12 per cent sugar is OK. If not, then it’s probably better to correct the sweetness prior to fermentation. Don’t forget that adding sugar will change your volume. If you adjust your sweetness from 12 to 20 per cent, the final volume will be increased by about 4.5 per cent. Prior to fermentation, the added sweetness will increase the volume by 620 mL per kilo of sugar added. Always remember that the higher the alcohol content, the more resistant your final product will be to spoilage. Be careful during sugar addition. If

10 British Columbia Berry Grower • Fall-Winter 2017

the fermentation has already started, the addition of sugar will cause a lot of foam. Dissolve the sugar before adding it or you may find a lot of granular sugar on the bottom of the tank when you rack the wine from the lees. If you want to retain fruity flavours,

you should first choose a fruit variety that has a good aroma. With any luck (and a little skill) you should be able to retain the aroma through fermentation and into the final wine. Check your acidity, especially pH. I like to keep the pH in the range of 3.2 to 3.4 for a white wine and 3.4 to 3.6 for a red wine. The lower pH will help you slow the fermentation slightly and make the wine more resistant to oxidation. Another empirical value is that

citric acid or malic acid will bring the pH down by about 0.2 pH units for each addition of a gram per litre of must. Citric acid is less expensive but malic acid will add a fruitier, apple type of acidity. Again, don’t add powder to a fermentation that has already started.

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