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Adding Body to Country Wines (1)

Adding Body to Country Wines (1)

I’ve been spending a fair bit of time reading older books on country wine making, and I find I am coming up with a lot of questions. One of these is, why are people using such weird and wonderful things to try and create body in their wines?

From grains to raisins to grape concentrate, I haven’t been able to find a lot of real knowledge on what does what and why one method might be better than another in any application. I strongly suspect people’s choices have been governed by ‘what is near me and cheap’, and ‘what I’ve always used’. Certainly I have never had the opportunity to sit down and taste different methods side by side, in similar wines. I wonder if anyone has. So this year I’m setting up my own experimental batches.

My goal is to make three different yellow peach wines (because that’s as many as I have room for).

I’ve chosen peaches for a few reasons. On their own they are tasty, but thin-bodied. Their light colour and delicate flavour will allow visual, aromatic and taste perception of the different adjuncts in each batch (unlike, say, a gutsy elderberry wine). In addition, I’ve made peach wine a few times so I know what to expect in general terms, and I know that if the whole thing goes sideways, my friends and I will still happily consume a *lot* of it! Plus, peach is usually ready to drink within six months or so, fairly young. So there won’t be a full year to wait on this.

The three body agents I plan to test are: banana water, glycerine, and grape juice concentrate.

I considered, but chose not to test, the following: molasses, honey, recycled skins or raisins. All of these would significantly impact the flavour and colour of the wine. Increasing the fruit content is used by some, but can make the wine unpleasantly alcoholic. Barley or wheat are also not included: some past experience makes me think they will add harshness to an otherwise delicate table wine. If you know of other methods, I’d be curious to try them out in the future.

It’s going to be a little difficult to establish firm controls here. If all of the body agents were something that could be added in secondary, I’d ferment one very large batch and split it, but some methods (eg banana water) are used in the first stages of fermentation and contribute to the starting gravity, while others (eg glycerine) are added nearer to bottling.

Some controls can be established. Each wine:

  • will be made in a 5 litre batch with the same amount of fruit from the same source.
  • will be fermented with the same yeast (CY17), in a 5g pitch, with the same nutrient schedule.
  • will be fermented together at the same temperature (I can fit three small buckets in my fermentation fridge), and
  • will be racked and aged under the same conditions.

As nearly as possible, each wine will be brought to the same OG pre-fermentation, run dry,  then back sweetened slightly to the same FG.

Base recipe for all batches:

  • Sliced peaches 1.8kg (bagged)
  • Acid blend 3/4 tspn
  • Yeast nutrient 1 1/2 tspn
  • Water approximately 4L (adjusted to create similar volume and OG across batches)
  • Potassium metabisulphate to begin; pectic enzyme @ 12 hours, hydrated yeast @24 hours.

Method 1: Banana water

  • 600g ripe, peeled, sliced bananas, simmered for 20m in some of the water. Water added to the primary.

Expectations: A rounded and hard-to-detect flavour that complements the fruit. I expect the banana to add a pleasing depth that’s quite hard to distinguish from the peach. I’ve made this before and I like it.

Cost: low – when peaches are cheap in late summer, so are overripe bananas. I tend to stash overripe ones in my freezer anyway so they are usually at hand.

Convenience: high. This is easy to do, and takes just an extra half hour or so.

Method 2: Glycerine

  • Glycerine added at bottling. EC Kraus recommend between 2 and 8 ounces of Glycerine for each 5 gallons of wine, so I’ll shoot for a mid value and use 5; that would be about 49ml in my 5L batch.

Expectations: I’m not sure – I haven’t done this one before. I’ve heard mixed reports that it is immediately obvious in wine, but others have used it and liked it. I want to try it out for myself. I imagine that this batch will need a bit of extra sugar to come to the same OG as batches using banana water or grape concentrate.

Cost: moderate. $8.50 for a bottle that can cover several batches.

Convenience: high. Glycerine can be bought from the supermarket and keeps well.

Method 3: Grape juice concentrate

  • 470ml grape juice concentrate in the primary.

Expectations: I think this will work very well to make a wine with the body of a ‘regular’ white, because, well, it is one.

Cost: high. Grape juice concentrate is popular overseas as an addition to country wines, and I think that this has something to do with the cheap concentrate (eg Welch’s) available easily in supermarkets. Not a thing here in Australia. Grape concentrate is pricey ($15/lt), does not keep well, and has be bought from a homebrew store.

Convenience: low.

I’m planning to kick this off in a week or so, and would very much appreciate any wisdom!

Update, one year later: read about the results here!

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