First Impressions of Matt’s Strawberry Melomel

First Impressions of Matt’s Strawberry Melomel

It’s been six months now since I bottled my strawberry melomel (here’s the recipe if you like: Matt’s Strawberry Melomel). My wife and I had some friends over for dinner and I decided to offer them some to see what they thought of my creation (these were the same friends I put through the Riesling Yeast Experiment tasting). Unlike the previous tasting this was not a formal event. I merely asked our friends if they cared to try another one of my wines before dinner. They agreed so I put one of the 375ml bottles in the freezer for fifteen minutes or so to chill it down. Whenever you make wine it is a good idea to periodically taste it and take notes so you know how the wine changes over time. I’ve decided to share my notes and lessons learned with you here in this article so you can see what I’m looking for. When the wine was cool enough to serve I uncorked it and noticed that there was a bit of sediment that had collected in the bottle. Handling it only served to mix it all back up again so the melomel was not as clear as I would have liked it. Not one to get discouraged I decided to pour the melomel through a coffee filter into the glasses. This took care of the bigger pieces and with the condensation on the glass from the chill no one noticed that the wine wasn’t 100% clear. Early Tasting for a Mead As far as meads go this one is still pretty young. Most of the time it is better to wait one to three years before regularly consuming a fermented honey product. This wine is an exception though. I wanted to get an earlier taste with this wine for two reasons. First, this melomel was made with a lot of strawberries and most fruit wines tend to peak early. If you wait too long they can taste tired and boring. The second reason for tasting this wine early was because I used potassium sorbate to stabilize the wine before I back sweetened it. Over time sorbate can produce off flavors and I want to check in periodically to gage how this wine is aging with the sorbate. So while honey fermented beverages tend to take a long time to mature I have two factors that may cause this wine to peak sooner rather than later. I will be opening three bottles this year and then two bottles each year for the next few years. This is a long term experiment that will give me a glimpse at how well a wine like this ages. First Impressions All in all this strawberry melomel is pretty good. It still needs a bit more time for all the flavors to come together. There was a tiny bit of that young mead alcohol flavor which sort of covered up the strawberry flavor but all of the components are there. I was expecting a bit more of a fresh, fruit forward strawberry flavor and was a little disappointed that it took...

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The Great Riesling Yeast Experiment Part III

The Great Riesling Yeast Experiment Part III

The Great Riesling Yeast Experiment has drawn to a close. The two different Rieslings produced during the experiment have now been finished, blended, and bottled. If you missed the first two parts here is Part I and Part II. Otherwise here’s a brief summary of the experiment. Starting with a single six gallon World Vineyard Riesling Kit from Winexpert I split it into two three gallon batches. Each batch was then fermented with a different strain of yeast. The purpose of the experiment was two fold: 1. determine if different yeast strains could produce different flavor and aroma profiles. 2. see if I could create a more complex wine by blending wines made from the same grapes that had been fermented with different yeast strains. Parts I and II cover making the wine. In this part I’ll share how the wine was finished, blended, and bottled. Degassing Degassing turned into quite a project. I ended up degassing on two separate occasions because of how long it was taking. Up until the first degassing the wine had been stored at around 66 degrees (F). When wine is stored below 72-75 degrees (F) the degassing process can take much longer because the cooler temperatures help carbon dioxide stay suspended in the liquid. This was evidenced by the 20+ minutes of degassing during this first round that didn’t get all of the carbon dioxide out. After my first attempt I moved both wines where I could store them in the low 70’s. They sat for one week before I started round two of the degassing process. The increased storage temperature made all the difference in the world! I was able to fully degas both wines in about 30 minutes. Clarifying The Wines The problem with degassing in two stages was that the second degassing stirred up everything that had cleared up to that point. I added the isinglass clarifier at the time of the first degassing per the kit instructions. However, when I degassed the second time the wines were just as cloudy as they were prior to the first degassing. The RHST Riesling cleared completely within a week of the second degassing without any additional clarifier. This wine was never really that cloudy to begin with. The W15 Riesling was another story. This wine had always been really cloudy. The isinglass didn’t do much to begin with but the second degassing undid any progress it had made to date. To clear the W15 I had to add a bentonite slurry. It took two more weeks but it did finally clear. Just in time for my parents to give me a hand  blending and bottling. All in all both Rieslings sat for four weeks during degassing and clearing. This was much longer than I would have liked, however, it was necessary to keep from bottling sediment and floating isinglass. No off flavors were picked up from sitting on the lees though. That was a relief. Blending and Bottling The last step was to get these two wines blended together and into the bottles. Keeping in mind the purpose of the experiment I...

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First Impressions of My Shiraz and the Mistakes I Made

You’re really supposed to wait six months after bottling a red wine before you taste it…but I couldn’t resist! When I bottled my Shiraz I wound up with 29 full bottles and about a half bottle left over. Needless to say I couldn’t store the half bottle for any length of time without oxidizing it. So, the only thing left to do was drink it! I wanted to taste the wine as bottled for two reasons. First, I wanted to know what it tastes like in the beginning so that I have something to compare it to as it ages. Second, I wanted to see if I made any mistakes that I could learn from. Here’s what I found when I tasted my wine. It’s Definitely a Young Wine I had never tasted a wine quite this young before and wasn’t sure what to expect. However, after only a few sips it became evident that this was indeed a young wine. For starters the tannins are a bit gritty. They haven’t had time to string together and form longer molecules. Longer tannin molecules are much smoother than what I was experiencing. Additionally there was a distinct green taste to the wine. Almost as if I’d bitten into a grape stem. This will go away as the wine matures. Looking at it in the glass it has a color to it. Most young wines have a purple tint to them that eventually fades to red. The fact that mine is red really doesn’t tell me much being that it’s from a kit. I think the color would be more telling had I used fresh grapes. However, the fact that it’s not brown or orange tells me the wine is basically in good shape. My Mistakes Despite the lack of aging there were three mistakes that became self evident in my half bottle of wine. While it is very disappointing to find so many mistakes this is how a winemaker learns and grows. 1. I didn’t get all of the carbon dioxide out during degassing. After twenty minutes with the wine whip I thought I’d gotten all of the carbon dioxide out. However, upon tasting the final product I could clearly detect some bubbles on my tongue. Just to make sure I wasn’t mistaking high acidity for bubbles I gave a sample of wine a shake in my test jar and was greeted with a burst of carbon dioxide when I removed my hand. Proof that there is still gas suspended in there. Next time I need to be much more patient and diligent with the degassing tools. Also, had I kept the wine at the proper temperature during fermentation and clarification I wouldn’t have had so much trouble getting the carbon dioxide out. 2. There is sediment in my bottled wine. During bottling there were a couple times when I started to lose my siphon. In an act of desperation I plunged the racking cane to the bottom of the carboy so that it would stop taking in air. By doing this I wound up sucking up some of the lees. Because Shiraz is so dark...

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Fermentation Has Begun

Five days ago I began making a six gallon Shiraz wine kit. As I go I’m recording videos on how it’s done, here’s the first video on what comes in a winemaking kit. Shortly after recording that video I started making the kit. Videos on how to do that are in the making right now! Today I wanted to share my first update on my wine. I’m four days into the wine making process. After the first day the airlock started bubbling away signifying that the primary fermentation had begun. When fermentation first began the airlock was bubbling quite rapidly. The lid to the fermenter was pushed up in the middle from all the pressure, so much so that I was wondering if that little airlock was going to shoot out like a rocket. The fermentation has since slowed down and it doesn’t look like the airlock will be flying through the air. There is still a steady stream of carbon dioxide bubbles coming out, however, it no longer looks like it’s boiling. This tells me that the yeast is starting to run out of sugar to convert to carbon-dioxide and alcohol. Over time the smell of the fermenting wine has changed. In the beginning it smelled amazing! The smell was worth the effort of making wine by itself. However, as time has gone on it now smells like somebody sopped up spilled beer and grape juice with an old towel. This is all part of the process. Over the next few days the bubbles will continue to slow down up until it’s time to rack the wine. In another two to three days I’ll be testing the specific gravity of the must again to make sure it’s where it needs to be. If the specific gravity is 1.010 or less it’ll be time to stop the fermentation and rack the wine into my glass carboy. Please stay tuned for upcoming videos and more updates on how my Shiraz is progressing. Comments or questions? Jump right...

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