Blackcurrants are rarely sold in shops and when they are they are expensive. I got them from a pick-your-own farm with three kilograms for half the price of a supermarket. Ms Gazette has frozen some for jam making, we made a cordial that will keep for a month, if it lasts that long and then 1.5kg was used for 4.5 litres of wine.
While last years blackcurrant wine is still a year away from truly being mature I opened a bottle to test the recipe ready for this years harvest and fermentation. I was initially worried that there was too little fruit as it uses half a kilogram less per gallon than blackberry wine. That was totally unfounded as although the wine was a medium bodied with light tannin it was full of a rich fruit flavour. Another 12 months will allow the acidity to mellow and it will be a lovely easy drink and a totally different character to the fuller more tannic elderberry or full bodied blackberry wine.
Blackberry is well suited to a cold maceration that allows colour and flavour to be extracted from the thick berry skins before fermentation is started. It is important to prepare the fruit by removing leaves, bruised or mouldy berries and as much stem as possible. They are then covered in water in a sanitised pan and placed in a fridge to stay cool, ideally between 5 and 15 degrees C. Few microbes or yeast will be active – especially if a campden tablet is used. There are no hard rules as to if or how long a cold maceration should be used but it generally lasts between two and five days, though some wine makers extend this to a whopping 14 days in exceptional circumstances.
After the cold soak the fruit was allowed to warm and then sugar and acidity were adjusted and the yeast pitched. Fermentation was slow to start with R56 yeast but explosive when it did decide to kick in. After six days primary fermentation was starting to slow so I used my new toy… The Krushinator. Well its a wine press as crushing fruit is different to pressing fruit. Crushing is pre-fermentation breaking the skins so that juice can escape into the must. Pressing is post-fermentation that allows all the juice to be extracted ready for secondary fermentation. As an amateur wine maker you do not need a press and it is a considerable investment to make – this is by far the most expensive piece of kit and x5 the price of anything else I have bought. It will get a frequent run around as I intend to use it on gooseberry wines (one of which has just been started), blackberry, elder and black, elderberry wine and maybe even my first cider if I take the plunge. In the future it could be used on haskap, red currant, or rosehip wines and I may experiment with it on quince and parsnips though it may extract too much starch so this is under investigation.
The press was initially a daunting prospect as it needs meticulous sanitising and preparation. I used an MDF board on the kitchen bench to protect it from the metal legs and force that it can exert that could have scraped or gouged marks. Set up was easy but I did plan where my primary fermentor was and the target demijohn to make sure it was all organised for the cleanest and easiest press.
The blackcurrants were initially removed with a jug into clean muslin in a large brewers funnel. This let the initial run off fall into the demijohn and the berries to be kept. Once all the berries were collected the muslin was lifted out and placed into the press pan. The muslin keeps the fruit in one place and stops any goop squirting out when it is pressed as well as keeping the solids together. The plate was screwed down gradually so that it did the work gradually rather than my arms screwing it all flat in one messy action. This allowed a controlled, clean press. The juice was released gradually but steadily and was a fantastically dark purple as it was squeezed from the flesh. As so much pressure can be applied richer flavour can be extracted from the flesh and skins of the blackcurrant which I hope will make a more complex wine. I may very well have been able to extract more juice but as a first test I was more than happy. The resultant “cake” was pressed flat with none of the mess from an elbow grease powered hand squeeze. It is possible to over press fruit and extract bitter tannin from seeds or pips but there was no danger here.
In six months the wine will have been racked twice and may well be bottled only to be popped open when it is two years old. The Krushinator will get a work out next week with a gallon of gooseberry wine then a few berry wines in August and September.
BLACKCURRANT WINE – 4.5L
Suitable Yeasts – Lavlin 71B, RC212 or Vintners Harvest R56
Suitable to be oaked
Best kept totally or almost dry (to avoid Ribena references)
1kg Sugar – to 1.09SG
Juice of 1 lemon
After destemming and washing the blackcurrants, cold soak for at least 3 days and up to 5 with as much of the water as you can. Keep below 15 degrees C. (a guide to cold maceration is above)
Boil the rest of the water and and let cool in time to…
Mash currants in the cold soak with sterilised potato masher, then add the cooled water. Leave to get to room temperature and add pectolaise and leave for 12 to 24 hours.
Add the lemon juice, sugar, yeast and nutrient.
Cover in primary for 5 or 6 days in primary fermentation stirring 4 times a day if possible.
When SG reaches 1.01 (or bubbling starts to slow if you have no hydrometer) squeeze currants thoroughly and rack into secondary fermentation with a closed demijohn and airlock
Rack after one month, then two months after that.
Final rack at 6 months in age and stabalise and back sweeten if desired.
Bottle and leave for ever. Takes two years to fully mature though some people leave it four!