by Peter Robinson
A few years ago we manage to recruit two new members to Ware Wine and Beer Circle who were very enthusiastic to learn about the hobby and improve the quality of their wines. As many of our members no longer make wine, we decided to set up some separate sessions for those of who were active winemakers which were dubbed the Masterclasses. This was obviously a successful venture as both individuals have become successful competitors at all the major shows and one has become a National Judge as well. With a couple of newer winemakers in the club we decided to start these up again – the results of our first session are shown below.
The starting point was the set recipe for the South West Counties Show in October, which made a wine solely from apple juice (sounds like cider to me). I am always a bit dubious about wines without any grape content as they seem to be alcoholic fruit juices to me, so we decided that participants should try adding other ingredients to this recipe to see which resulted in the best wines.
Wine 1 – was the basic recipe of apple juice only. It had a dry finish but was quite drinkable – better than I expected I must admit.
Wine 2 – involved the addition of grape concentrate to the basic recipe. It had a marked grape nose compared with wine 1, with more body and flavour. It was quite pleasant but unfortunately rather cloudy. Even Sparkalloid had been unable to clear this one. To the uninitiated, Sparkalloid is only available in the US (I have my contacts). It is a bit like Bentonite and has in the past proved adept at clearing the most stubborn of wines, until this one…
Wine 3 – was an apple and pear mix. As well as adding grape concentrate, we introduced some Granini pear nectar, resulting in quite a strong pear nose and flavour. The wine had a good mouth feel with some resemblance to a Viognier style. I have used Granini pear nectar myself in a few recipes myself and consider it a very useful ingredient. Given the strong flavour and somewhat syrupy texture I tend to use it in social rather than table wines.
Wine 4 – used grape concentrate and elderflower cordial (500 ml). It had a strong elderflower aroma and flavour – probably a bit too much and was quite acidic. We felt that it was a good base for a flower wine but would benefit from watering down and/or sweetening. For future reference, perhaps half of the quantity of elderflower cordial would suffice.
Wine 5 – deviated a bit more by using fresh apples cooked in a steamer as the base with grape concentrate added. As you might have expected the aroma was of cooked apples. Unfortunately the wine had a pronounced mouse. The process of steaming is probably not conducive to good standards of hygiene which may have accounted for this. Steaming works for some red fruits but I am a bit dubious about its use for white fruits and especially apples with their tendency for browning.
Wine 6 – used a Bill Smith recipe which included grape concentrate, rhubarb juice and a little honey. This had a good complexity and mouth feel. It was clean and fresh with the honey just evident on nose and taste. It was probably the best wine of the night. As an aside, wines 1, 2 and 6 were all made using Tesco apple juice as the favoured choice of Capella was only available in cloudy apple form. Wine 6 was star bright, wine 1 very slightly hazy and wine 2 very cloudy. Very puzzling although I must say anything with fresh rhubarb juice always comes out very clear in my experience. Given the lack of variation in other ingredients I can’t work out the reason for this. Still the hazy one is drinkable and can always be used for cooking.
Wine 7 – was made by one of our new members, who had used Welch’s grape, pear and apple juice along with premium apple juice and the juice of a few nectarines. The wine had an aroma of brown sugar about it. The flavour was pleasant with a slight sweetness and quite a bit of alcohol. Close questioning revealed that fermentation had taken place in an airing cupboard for a protracted period – the classic way to make Madeira. We felt that this wine could take a bit more sweetening and would then be a reasonable social wine according to our judging definitions.
A very interesting session with lessons for all of us in terms of things to avoid. Apples and apple juice are certainly very useful stock items for producing a good dry white table wine but benefits from one or two additions to liven it up. However, you must be careful about overwhelming it with strong dominant flavours.
Having had a bumper crop of apples this year, I have started another recipe from the Gerry Fowles stable using a mix of apple varieties both cookers and eating, chopped up small and fermented on the pulp for 4 days with grape concentrate. It will be interesting to see how this recipe compares to the others.
For our next session, we plan to try out my members’ recipe for 2024 for a frozen red fruit wine. We are each going to use fruit from a different supermarket and see how they compare. Whether we want to share the results of this with you, I’m not sure!