This year has seen an abundance of blackberries that has been made into a port, wine and mixed with elderberries to make Elder and Black with a few left over added to gin. The year previous it was rather slim pickings as a lot of the blackberry bushes had been trimmed back and the weather damaged a lot of them remaining, I did get enough for a gallon of wine making 6 bottles though.
As this was made in a small batch I nothing to lose and decided to try and modify my recipe. Most recipes just use blackberries and rely on them totally for tannin and acidity. This means that blackberries make a medium bodied wine and it is probably better suited to a 12% ABV so that the alcohol does not taste too hot. To add more body I upped the blackberries adding 200g extra to 2.2kg as well as 100g of raisins.
The effect has been dramatic pushing the wine from medium to full bodied. More tannin has added from the extra skins and raisins creating more mouth feel and the wine is thicker with a velvet feel as you drink. Colour is far darker compared to last years changing from a bright red that allowed light through to a thick black gloss. The taste is also deeper and richer with a less pronounced blackberry base though there is certainly more than a hint being joined by a cherry and slightly nuttier addition. This seems to handle the alcohol creating a more balanced wine.
As the wine is more tannic I gave it longer to age. Usually a blackberry wine is matured for 12 months and it can even be drunk at 9 months. This has taken 15 months and will continue to mature possibly up to 24 months. It is not that this is necessarily a better wine though I do think I prefer it as it is more complex and like a traditional grape wine.
As everyone knows Port is a rich fortified wine that helped red nosed bankers deal with the pain of working through a boozy lunch and leering at secretaries. Sorry… sorry… it is a rich fortified wine made in the Duoro Valley in Portugal and became popular with the British when they were having a biff boff match with the French who kept all the good wine to themselves. It is generally but not necessarily sweet and of a higher ABV than wine at about 18 to 20% that comes from fortification using a 100% proof brandy like spirit called aguadente. If Port does not come from its traditional home it is often called Oporto.
I am making neither Port or Oporto as I cannot get aguadente, don’t live in Portugal and I’m not using grapes. I do want to make a port style wine that is rich, full bodied, strongly oaked and reasonably sweet to be used as an aperitif and as a Christmas present for Papa Gazette – don’t worry the sausage fingered old buffer cannot use a mobile phone never mind the internet so this will be a total surprise for him.
Dessert gooseberries are too similar to white grapes for this and blackcurrants would create a drink too close to Ribena for my liking. This left blueberries and blackberries as the likely candidates with blackberries eventually chosen for their rich dark taste. I have read about using Damsons which sounds intriguing but I will leave that for another year if I can find some to forage.
Compared to a traditional blackberry wine this uses at least double the fruit at 4kg minimum. I actually went with 4.5kg because I am greedy. Making fruit based ports is far less about recipe as constant tinker and adjustment through the fermentation to maximise the alcohol created. The recipe is a guide only and as you are constantly monitoring it during primary fermentation it is a some what organic process. With more juice macerating there is generally no need to add any extra acid and with more skins macerating and 20g of oak chips added for three months there will be more tannin present lengthening the ageing process – this probably need a minimum of 1.5 years to mature and may well get better and better over three or four.
As well as extra fruit there will be extra sugar as it has a higher desired ABV of 18% This is unfortified but the yeast was incrementally feed with sugar to get the highest alcohol it can produce and tolerate. Some choose to use grape concentrates, raisins, extra tannin as tea or malt extract to give various versions of extra body to the port. I have decided to use 500g of raisins as this has done wonders for my traditional blackberry wine and 70g of extra light dry malt, added for flavour – it should be noted this is only for taste rather in beer when it is “mashed” to extract the sugars for fermentation.. I think… I’m not a beer maker. This malt will give a fuller richer taste and hopefully take the place of the aguadente. I am choosing to probably not fortify in any way but some add brandy or vodka or a combination of the two to pump up the alcohol content – I will only really decide when the port has aged just before bottling it.
The start gravity is the usual 1.09 using the hydrometer to measure it. It will be fed incrementally with more sugar added whenever the hydrometer drops to 1.03. In total 2.2kg of sugar has been added through the primary fermentation and there was the larger reserve of ambient sugar in the huge amount of blackberries used. The yeast will eventually be killed by its own bi product – the ethanol it makes as it ferments. When the yeast dies the sediment changes from the cream looking pure yeast layer to a pinkish hue with the yeast and blackberry solids. This is from less agitation because of the yeast dying so the fruit solids can more easily fall out of suspension. With no active yeast I feel no need to use any campden and sorbate to stabilise the wine before bottling – others may well have their reasons to do so though.
BLACKBERRY PORT – 4.5 Litres
Suitable yeast – champagne, port, burgundy styles
4kg blackberries (more can be added if physical space allows)
Approximately 2kg or more of sugar
70g light malt
Mince the raisins and drop into 500ml boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the malt when when removed from the heat and leave to cool
Wash and mash the blackberries (in a sanitized pot is best) then add to the now cooling raisins and water.
Leave to get to room temperature then add a tsp of pectic enzyme and one or two campden tablets to sanitize and leave covered for 24 hours.
If you can get the blackberry pulp into a fermenting bag to stop unwanted plugs and “boil over” occuring during fermentation.
Stir in 0.5 to 1kg of sugar so the must is at 1.09 Start Gravity ( Do not add all the sugar)
Add the yeast according to their instructions.
Stir twice a day (and squeeze the bag at least a little if you can)
When the gravity drops to 1.03 add more sugar – 300 to 500g
Repeat until gravity radically slows in reducing.
Transfer to secondary fermentation vessel and squeeze as much juice from the fermentation bag if you used it. Add the air lock and leave in secondary fermentation.
Rack if sediment gets to 1.3cm deep or after 5 weeks which ever is earlier. Top up with santisied water or grape concentrate.
Rack again at 13 weeks old, then 25 weeks.
Back sweeten to your own taste!
Bottle or if you can leave to bulk age for 3 to 6 months then bottle.
Summer and autumn allowed me to get all my red wines made. First was blackcurrant wine made from a pick your own farm. Wet weather made for a late foraged harvest of blackberries that was at the same time as the early foraging of elderberries. I also managed to make an elder and black wine from these two fruit as a second run on the elderberries and a frech crop of blackberries. These reds have now been racked for their final time and are between 17 and 21 weeks old. They probably have another 12 weeks in demijohns before they are bottled to make way for new wines in the spring months like nettle, dandelion, beetroot or any multitude of others – the jury is out at the moment.
I am pleased with all of them but the blackberry seems to be the stand out winner at the moment. I modified last years recipe adding 200g extra fruit upping it to 2.2kg and also adding 250g of chopped raisins to add more body. Already really tasty it seems to have matured quickly with no real sediment settling now. The new recipe makes a full bodied wine rather than a medium. It seems to be free of carbon dioxide and will need no degassing artificially so bottling could happen earlier if I want some demijohn space.
This is the first year I have made blackcurrant wine and initially I was sceptical when prepping the fruit in a cold maceration and primary fermentation as it smelled so much like a fruit juice like Ribena. The worry was that this would be like a alcho-pop and too sweet or too floral to be a genuinely nice drink, especially considering the price of getting the fruit. Now aged and oaked for a month it has really developed reducing in the overly fragrant and over powering fruitiness into a complex medium/full bodied wine. It may well need a long time to bottle age but it will certainly be great in two years. I will certainly be repeating this next June.
The elder and black is the lightest of all the wine in terms colour, no real surprise as it was made as a second run so much of the colour was extracted in the first run wines. That is not to say that flavour is lacking. It is punchy though still needs more time for all the sediments to totally fall out. Certainly better than last years attempt as the fruit was less sour – patience is a virtue when foraging!
The elderberry wine is the biggest worry but also the most unknown at this point. I have been using a modified technique which I may well refine next year too. The wine had 5 days in cold maceration and then 6 days in primary fermentation before the elderberries were squeezed and returned to primary for a few days more. Next year I may reduce this to four days before pressing as I think too much tannin might be being extracted. Elderberries have a lot of tannin in their skin and this is extracted via alcoholic maceration rather than the aqueous extraction for other flavour compounds. As fermentation occurs and alcohol rises so does the tannin extraction. My plans are all supposition as the elderberry will have at least 18 months maturing and I can see that tannin is already precipitating out as thick black spots so the wine is changing all the time. It also is still the thickest with the most particulate floating about so it is still relatively young. This and the blackcurrant have the most potential to age for a long time and to develop. It would be folly to judge it too soon.
Wine making seems to escalate into mania rather than any real money saving or taste experiment turning into entertainment for hoarders. Currently I have the equivalent of 70 or so bottles of wine fermenting from this years recipes to compliment the ones that are aging in bottle in the Zero Drop Wine Cellar… the cupboard under the stairs. The rather heavy investment is to allow the blackberry, blueberry and elderberry a decent chance of aging rather than being snaffled too early.
The Elder and Black wine allows myself to indulge this greed for the last time this year. Elderberries are full of flavour, so much so that they can be recycled into a second run wine – this is from the skins being so thick and proportionally a lot of the berries as they are teeny weeny compared to grapes. The flavour is not as strong as the first run only having about half the punch so the 4kg of fruit from the pure elderberry wine is now the equivalent of 2kg of fruit. The taste has also changed to be less fruity moving towards the tannic side so I am using 2kg of blackberries to make up the deficit. These two berries compliment each other as the blackberries provide to fruitier top tastes and the elder skins the baser bitter tastes to make an at least medium red wine.
Alternatively I could have just reused the skins but halved the volume of wine being made but I was worried this would be too tannic dominating the light style that would be created by just the skins.
Planning ahead was important as I needed the blackberries to be blanched and steralised with boiled water to be the correct temperature to add to the left over skins. After racking off the thick rich elderberry wine I was left with a rather gloopy mess of juice and yeast. To this I added the soaked blackberries, some citric acid and 2kg of sugar to make to take it to 1.08SG. The yeast was already present and was energetic to say the least starting to bubble within 10 minutes of the sugar being added.
Party time was an intensive 4 days in primary fermentation and when I racked it had a rich vibrant blood red colour, different to the ink black of the pure elderberry. The smell was fruity and even at such a young age the two berries seemed well suited to each other. This mongrel may even outshine the pedigree but only time will tell. This year I have both an elderberry wine and a blackberry wine on the go and then the love child of them with recipes and methods tailor made to get as much flavour out of all of them. In theory the blackberry will be first to be opened at 9 months maybe 12, then the elder and black at 12 months and the thoroughbred elderberry at 18. If I can I would like to leave them at least twice as long to really bulk age them.
700g sugar to 1.09sg
1tsp yeast nutrient
Juice of 2 lemons
Foraging blackberries has been difficult this year as the warm but wet weather created a lot of growth but few blackberries that refused to ripen. Then just as all the jammy-mammies has picked them too early they were savagely cut back. It was like a scorched earth policy so I only managed to get 1kg myself and had to rely on shop bought fruit to bulk it up to the 2kg I needed for one gallon of wine.
It seems a lot later than last year getting the blackberry wine fermenting but this may pay dividends as I have some thoroughly ripe fruit that will make some excellent wine. Last year I was one of the dunderheads picking too early! The very nice blackberry wine I made last year was a medium body but very fruity number and this year I have decided to add 100g of raisins to add a little body and push it towards a full bodied red.
Blackberries have thin skins so there is no need to cold macerate them. First thing was to pour some boiling water over them to break the skins and sanitise them, as it cooled some pectolase was added so it could break down the pectin. 24 hours later it was time to add the juice of a lemon, sugar and yeast. The fruit must have been busting with natural sugar and the 24 hours as the must cooled really allowed it into the water and only using 700g extra was impressive. Some British recipes recommend adding 1.5kg which would surely be too much for the yeast to tolerate and make either an overly sweet wine or a horribly alcoholic one. I decided to use Lavlin 71B yeast to test it out but last years used the very good Vintners Harvest R56.
I used a sparge bag to pack all the blackberries into as I wanted them contained. When fermentation starts the fruit rises due to the Carbon Dioxide given off by the partying yeast – last year this created a perfect plug that rose up and exploded over the side of the fermenter. Just for the record blackberry stains to not wash out of wooden floors. Luckily it was a bare floor about to be relaid but I did not want any repeats this year.
Fermentation in primary took 6 days with thankfully no explosions. Racking off the gross leas was easy into the demijohn through sterilised muslin. This caught the fruit pulp allowing a really good squeeze to get all the lovely flavour from the berries. The pulp still looked very rich and often people reuse this for a second run rose wine. I could not manage it as the resulting fruit is half as flavourful so you half the volume of wine being made from the originator and I had already used the relatively small 4.5l demijohn. Rather than waste it I decided to throw it into some gin and added two bay leaves. In three weeks time this will hopefully have infused into the gin and be ready to filter then drink.
The wine however will sadly take a little more time. Racking off the yeast will happen in 6 weeks and then again at 3 or 4 months to remove any sediment that precipitates out. Last years wine was perfectly palatable after nine months maturing and even better after 12. I imagine that the raisins creating more body will mean that it needs a minimum of 12 months in the bottle and I may try to leave it 18 months if I am a good boy.