Tuesday, 29 September 2015

101 Ways to use 100# of zinfandel grapes (just kidding, it's 3 ways)

I have never made wine before, but my Italian brother-in-law has made it since he was a kid, and he was willing to lend me his wine press for making my first batch.

The first thing you can do with 100# of grapes? Make wine!!! The first step was to destem all those grapes, which was a pain in the ass. I did it by hand, just grapping the clusters and gently pulling off handfuls of grapes trying to avoid pulling off any stem remnants which would impart a strong tannic taste. I washed my feet very well.... because I was going full traditional! I wiped my feet with some alcohol and stomped all the grapes to crush them. All those grapes wouldn't fit into one fermentation bucket so I split it between two different buckets, added campden tablets and the next day I pitched some dry wine yeast to each bucket. Twice a day, you have to push down the "cap" of grapes that rises to the top of the bucket in order to keep them submerged. This punching of the cap works both to prevent acetic acid formation, and to aid the wine in pulling pigment, tannins and flavors from the wine skins. After it had fermented for a week, I loaded it into the wine press (seen above) and filled a 6 gallon carboy with the juice. I was left with an extra 2 litres of red wine, and some still very wine soaked grape pomace. I will leave the wine to age and finish fermenting before aging on oak.

Mmmm, 2 litres of extra zinfandel, and tons of grape pomace... What to do??

Well let's get rid of those grape guts! I spooned them into a bucket, and definitely noted how much wine was still contained in the grapes. I had an idea inspired by the novel trend of wine-beer hybrids.

 #2: What's that? I have a wild-fermented beer from the bugs in my back yard that's ready to go? Well hell yeah, let's do that.

I racked all of the lambic onto all of the grape guts. I tasted it before racking, and it's almost tragic that I'm still not bottling one of my wild fermentations straight because it was tasting great! It nearly filled the fermentation bucket. Now, for my concerns! I did not crush the grapes very much while pressing, but I am still running the risk of taking too much tannins from this experiment, so I must take frequent tastings to prevent that. Secondly, with punching the cap and the fermentation bucket I will get quite a lot of oxygen exposure.. I think that with the sheer volume of grapes and wine I will be racking to a carboy sooner than later, so I will keep a eye on it. I don't think I would mind a hint of acetic, but what a slippery slope.. We will see! I will try to recover as much as I can from these grapes so I may even gamble and try pressing the grapes once this is done. I took a sample the first evening after adding the grapes and it has an amazing wine complement that was never present in my concord grape lambic (even with 10# of grapes in that beer!)


#3: Yes, right. What to do with this extra 2 L of wine?  Let's get WEIRD.

For this, I made a one gallon batch. What I did was take that 2 L and I topped off the fermentor with my Chthonian Dubbel, which finished cloyingly sweet. That's not enough though! So I added cultures of Brettanomyces lambicus, clausenii, and bruxellensis (Wyeast). This one gallon jug used to house a house culture of sour bugs from tons of bottles of sour beers but I decided to toss it for this experiment. The bung and airlock were reused, so I have a feeling there may be some bugs getting into this experiment as well! I tried washing it with hot water and sanitizer but plastic is notoriously hard to sanitize. Since this is 50/50 beer to wine, I am debating whether I should bottle it flat as a "malted wine", or carbonated as a "wine beer". I'm hoping the dubbel will compliment with the burnt sugar and dark fruit notes. Who knows, but we will see! I am really excited for these experiments.

Thanks for reading!

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