For some reason grapes are prioritised in wine making. Tradition I suppose but has any one ever drunk a “grape” wine?
Grapes as well as defining the properties of wine are also lucky in containing pretty much all that is needed to make wine too. Tannin, sugar and acids are the basics with others esters and phenolics being the more complex and unique taste and aroma compounds. Twice as many grapes are generally needed to make wine compared to other fruit but they have everything in balance. It just takes right processes and time to make it all work. Making a wine with strawberries or quince or elder flowers means you have to “fake” some of the basic tastes such as adding extra sugar, tea for tannin or lemon juice for acidity.
Certain properties need to be faked too and “body” is one of them. Every one has seemingly contradictory explanations but the velvety sensation and viscosity of the wine that makes a wine seem full and rich. Traditional grape wines have body defined through alcohol level particularly stronger 14% ABV, tannin level and type such as young tea like tannin or mellower oaked tannins, residual sugars, types of acid like harsher malic acid or velvety lactic acid. With us junior wine makers typically the more like a grape the less likely you will need to add body. Elderberries are the “Englishman’s grapes,” gooseberries are “hairy grapes” and blackcurrants are “not quite grapey grapes” that all give good body making wines that need to age for years rather than months. Virtually everything else needs help and there are 4 main ways to build it.
Grape concentrate comes in 250ml portions made from either red or white grapes for the corresponding style of wine you are making, you can even start to home in on particular strains of grape to get really specialised. Its easy, effective and reliable… and cheating if you ask me. You have decided to make a country wine, why go so close to tradition?
250g of raisins per gallon of must can add body to wine. Hardly surprising as it is basically grape concentrate but not in a bottle… raisins are simply sun dried grapes, little grape zombies. Chop them roughly to break the skin and then add to the other ingredients is all that is needed. Some sort of inoculation will be needed to kill natural yeasts and bacteria. This can be done chemically with a campden tablet, with heat boiling them with your ingredients or by themselves and letting the “raisin juice” cool for addition later. Raisins can over power your primary fruit so beware, either through too many by volume or suitability with the over all taste.
Sounds disgusting but try not to throw up at the thought of it… You need to use the flesh and the skins… Try not to throw up… You need to use well ripened bananas that have blackening skins… BLEURGHHHHHHHH!!!! Sorry. I don’t like bananas but luckily they only provide certain tastes and no one will accuse of making a Banana Daiquiri Vino Split.
Simplest way to add them is to chop one or two up, skin and all into1cm slices and drop them into the must for 24 hours. Fish them out and job done. A more scientific method is making banana water. 120grams per litre of wine, chop, boil in some water for 20 minutes then leave to cool – remember to take this volume of liquid into account for the rest of the recipe.
Banana adds a lighter body that is more suitable for white wines than raisins in some cases.
Remember the nongrape grapes? Elder, gooseberry and blackcurrant skins can be reused after they are removed from their initial fermentation in another wine. Elderberries are particularly good and I have used slightly more than the recommended weight of raisins giving a more well rounded taste. Say 350g of skins to 250g of raisins.
The biggest draw back is availability and timing. They have to literally be dropped from one fermentation to the next – you cannot store them. The yeast does happily travel with the skins so no need to re-pitch it.
Honey can be added at the end of fermentation if a wine needs sweetening and lacks body. White sugar will naturally add a hint but honey adds more per weight. Be careful though as it also has flavours that may not be desirable. Correcting is never as good as having a well balanced recipe so honey is of limited use.