Tag: Leaf wine

ROUGH GUIDE TO TANNIN

Tannin I think is often misunderstood in fruit wines. Feared even. It is often talked of in terms of minimising tannin levels as if it should be totally removed from wine and wine making altogether. Often tannin it is actually added either as a pure additive, as tea or in oak chips when it is ageing. Oak chips provide “hydrolyzable tannins” that provide greater mouth feel with a softer taste to the harsher “condensed tannins” that are present in fruit juice in low quantities and more prevalent in some fruit skins, seeds and stems.

Tannin left after elderberry
Excess tannin that settled during last years elderberry wine.

Both red and white grape wines have tannin present but it is far more prevalent in reds as it macerates on the fruit for longer. Little tannin is extracted aqueously but as the ethanol level rises so too does the extraction of tannin. Grape wines are the basis of fruit wines as the taste template we use as a reference. Home wine makers are beholden to those norms. Sadly not all fruit has the same characteristics of grapes so adding or managing tannin becomes important to replicate the balance between sweet, acidic sour and bitter tannin tastes of grape wines.

White fruit wine ingredients vary in tannin content. Elderflowers for example need tea added as the petals are naturally low in tannin. Gooseberries – the “hairy grape” has tannin present in the pips and skins so does not need any additives and I have found that pressing after an initial short maceration helps manage the tannin content to match that of a traditional white or rose wine. This is done two days into fermentation when the solids are removed, pressed then tossed away and the remaining wine happily sits in primary fermentation for a few days more.

GOOSEBERRY WINE RECIPE x2
Last years gooseberry wine

Red fruit wines have more variance in finished tannin content due to personal preferences in taste and style as well as the initial tannin content of the fruit that makes them. Some people may want a full bodied tannic blackberry wine, a medium bodied blackcurrant or perhaps a light bodied almost rose elderberry wine made from a second run fermentation. The tannin levels vary between the base fruit but it can be managed to make the style of wine you want. Because of this tannin becomes far more about management than simply addition or removal as with a white wine.

Always plan ahead and have an idea of the wine you wish to make. Generally it is thought that high tannin content and low tasting acidity and higher alcohol content work with each other as a flavour profile. This means that an idea of the final ABV and initial sugar content derived from a hydrometer reading is useful. Fresher tasting younger style wines will need less tannin, but if you have a preference for full bodied wines, with both time and will power to age your wine more tannin can be present.

Strained walnut liquer
Walnut leaf wine macerating. The liquor is brown from the tannin and can be seen as a floating white film on the left image.

I can think of few fruit wines other than oak or walnut leaf wine and possibly some dandelion wines that use stems. Stems should always be removed from fruit as they are high in harsh tannins. This is especially so in something like elderberry or elderflower wine as the stems are toxic as well as tannic! A good eyeball and preparation of fruit will help you make a good wine.

After a style is in mind a recipe needs to match it. Blackberries have some tannin present in them and are a good example where the recipe can change the style of a wine. The berries left to themselves will create a traditional medium-bodied wine that could be drunk at nine months in age if you are very very lucky. Blackberries with a tea added will make a fuller bodied wine that will need 18 months ageing before it approaches drinkability.

Pressed blackcurrants
Pressing fruit means that juice can be kept and tannin rich skins discarded

Elderberries have the opposite problem and as they have a high proportion of thick skins and seeds compared to the juice they provide when crushed or pressed. When processing tannin rich fruit it is important not to break the seeds or pips as the interior has the harshest tasting tannins that could ruin a wine if extracted in large quantities. Blending in a foot processor or an extremely thorough press could crack the seeds and release it. There are several methods to control the amount of tannin extracted. Cold maceration allows an aqueous extraction of the least harsh tannins from the skins before the berries are crushed. In conjunction with removal of the fruit mid way through primary fermentation less tannin will be extracted. Pressing the fruit pre-fermentation then discarding half the skins and allowing those remaining to sit for the duration of primary fermentation could also work. This will allow the extraction of different tannins as the seeds will be exposed for far longer.

CLICK HERE FOR A ROUGH GUIDE TO COLD SOAK/MACERATION

Alternatively whole elderberries could be left to ferment with months in bulk ageing to allow the tannins combine and fall out of suspension as sediment that is left behind when racking. This very much leaves it to chance. In addition or an alternative certain settling agents like gelatine or isinglass can be added to remove tannin when racked. It should be noted that tannin can also act as a natural settling agent combining with certain proteins as it ages and settling agents could interfere. Mechanical filtration though filter pads is a final way to remove tannin but that can also remove other flavour compounds… apparently… the jury is still out on that discussion.

oaked-and-topped-up
Oaking blackcurrant wine.

Oaking a wine occurs neer the end of bulk aging just before bottling. This replicates the aging process in a wine barrel. Few white wines are aged in oak barrels but it is not unheard of and I may try it with my elderflower wine next year to simulate a Chardonnay style. Whites are generally unsuited to oaking with chips as the higher acidity (lower pH) conflicts with the tannin tastes. Typically less than 10g per litre of oak chips are added to either white or red wines and they can sit for a few days to three months extracting the oak flavour. A home made port is an exception as it is so rich and more than likely sweet it can with stand the high tannin extraction, ranging from 20 to 30g of oak chips added per gallon and resting for up to three months or more. Oak is not a tannin addition like tea and is not meant to provide the whole tannin content, merely to compliment it with a range of usually lighter tannins to add complexity as top notes. All oaked wines will need longer to age than an un-oaked wine of the same recipe as the tannin will gradually bind over time to create a rounded mouth feel and balanced taste.

THE GOOD, THE BEET AND THE UGLY!

Last year I made about 9 differing red and white wines that all differed with the base fruit used and if they were foraged or bought ingredients. Some were sweetened just before bottling and some were left to ferment to dryness. A few of the heartier reds like the elder and black and blackberry wine were aged on oak chips while others like the elderberry were not. A few recipes were refined versions of previous wines I have made while others were totally new and experiments.

Oak leaf wine tasting
Light and refreshing oak leaf wine

OAK LEAF WINE RECIPE

About a year ago decided to make oak leaf wine simply because it sounded interesting and unique. I think it was the first blog post I ever did and I have now been able to taste the results. Fermented totally dry it is a light crisp wine with a slightly woody herbal taste and quite different to what I was expecting when picking the leaves. There are are often dire warnings of how tannic it can be but this seems to have mellowed nicely. The next bottle may not be opened for another six months to allow it to mature even more and as I am experimenting with walnut leaf I may not make another batch. The neutral-ness that errs towards the herbal may mean it could be a good base wine for a vermouth so I may well experiment with it further though.

Rowan wine bottled
Lovely colour but questionable character!

ROWAN WINE RECIPE FOR THE BRAVE

The rowan wine is a far stranger beast and I have no reference to what it should taste like as no one has described it in online recipes. Rowan is hardly a regular in any kitchen as it is generally bitter and often thought to be poisonous due to the parasorbic acid in raw berries. Fermentation and freezing removes the acid but the wine is still very bitter though an age away from the must that was like a fermenting battery factory. It might well age out and with some back sweetening be a genuine surprise but lets be honest there may well be a reason no one has described the taste. When I open a bottle this could be the first wine I do not drink but at pennies to make it will be no great loss. Lovely colour though!

Beetroot wine
Beetroot claret!

CLICK HERE FOR THE BEETROOT WINE RECIPE

Although not yet ready to bottle the beetroot wine has had a final rack. In three months it will be thrown into a bottle for a years ageing. When young the beetroot wine was earthy and unpalatable with a zinc-ish bite but that is changing steadily to be a more pleasant umami with an almost raspberry like after taste. It certainly seems like a far better experiment than the rowan. There is not much I can do with it but wait as it seems unsuitable to oak even though it is a red wine so only time will tell if this is a recipe worth repeating.

Quince and rose petal wine bottled
Quince and rose petal just before an 18 month nap.

My quince and rose petal also seems to be a success but I have to wait 18 months to really see what happens and it that time the slight rose infusion will blend with the quince. Tasting the still young wine it was still as if there were two flavours competing rather than complementing each other. It has given me a few ideas to test if I make it again next year or the year after – I may age it on the lees using battonage to give a fuller mouth feel and also oak it ever so slightly even though it is a white wine.

WALNUT LEAF WINE

Walnut leaf wine 6 days old
Walnut leaf wine: six days old entering secondary fermentation.

English walnuts can be be added to the list of English things that are not English just like tea, fish & chips and the royal family. English walnuts – Juglens Regia are probably from Persia, adopted by the Greeks then Romans and can be found all over the world including England.

Walnut leaf
Walnut leaf

Iran is not that big on wine making but there are various uses of green walnuts in liqueurs like Italian Nocino or Orahovac from Croatia with almost every European country having a variant on it. The French make Vin De Noix again with green walnuts but in red wine rather than a spirit base. Mature walnuts can be used for amaretto/frangellico like liqueurs. There are several black walnut bitters from America to add a deep smokey tobacco-esque taste to cocktails and finally the leaves can be used to make wine. Walnut trees really do seem to be the unsung hero of DIY drinkers.

 

Many leaves can be used to make wine with oak, grape, bramble, maple, beech, lime or birch. Walnut leaf and particularly black walnut leaf wine are meant to be the best of the lot and I have been wanting to make it for a while. Finding walnut trees is tricky in Britain – English walnut trees are rare and American/black walnut trees (Juglens Nigra) even more so. Around Vintner HQ there happened to be a tree that was sadly next to Walthamstow’s busiest road. I don’t really want to make walnut & diesel soot wine. As if to rub it in there was a tree on common land that was too small to harvest leaves from. I want 6 bottles of wine but do not want to kill a tree in the process. Then there was a black walnut tree in a park so off limits… Mother Nature seems to be bit of a tease it seems. It has taken over a year to track down trees that are both suitable and possible to forage. Sadly these are just English walnut trees… but they are walnut trees!

American black walnuts
Juglens Nigra: the black or American walnut tree

Walnut trees are wide stocky lads with stout trunks and large canopies. Early in the year there have distinctive catkins and small walnuts start to form in late May. The leaves are pinnate with Ameican and English trees having slight variation in size and shape but they both have a very distinct scent. Rub the young leaves and they will smell like a lime flavoured nail polish… mmmmm!

English walnuts
Juglens Regia: the English, common or Persian walnut tree (Londinium Orientalis Hipsterus can be seen sheltering under the tree)

These pungent leaves are far stronger than others that make wine. Oak leaf wine needs 3 to 4.5 litres of leaves picked to make 4.5 litres of wine, walnut only needs a fraction of that at ¾litre so picking is far easier. There are spring and more tannic autumn harvested oak leaf wines but walnut leaves should be harvested only when they are young and fragrant in May or June. The recipe is essentially the same with oranges and lemons adding some acid with their juice and also flavour with the zest. I have chosen to use raisins to add body though some prefer to leave this out for a more esoteric brew suited as an aperitif, while others use white grape concentrate or even a malt extract. If you do want the more aperitif like wine use light brown demerara sugar instead of regular white sugar to the same amount.

CLICK HERE FOR THE OAK LEAF WINE RECIPE

Spring time oak leaf wine is herbal and light but with the young walnut must there is currently a smooth caramel like taste that is certainly richer. I am hoping the walnut leaf will be a stronger with a warmer nuttier taste coming through. Using my oak leaf wine as a guide I will need to let this mature for at least 18 months or possibly even two years. Six months from now I will have four bottles sealed and aging and the remaining 1.5 litres will sit in a small demijohn to oxidise. The idea is that this will make a fino like sherry as they often have nuttier tastes – there is no way I am investing in any flor yeast or moving to Jerez so lets agree to call it a Faux-no.

Before you start cover every surface that might come into contact with the leaves. Walnuts stain and were a traditional source of dyes and the leaves have the potential to stain wood and clothing.

WALNUT LEAF WINE – 4.5 litres
Suitable yeasts – white wine like CL23, SN9 and others

Up to 1L freshly picked walnut leaves
200g raisins
1kg-ish sugar to 1.09SG
Juice of 4 oranges and zest of 2
Juice of 2 lemons and zest
Yeast
Yeast nutrient
4.5l water

Walnut leaf wine ingredients
Walnut leaf wine ingredients

Pick and then rinse the leave to remove any hitch hiking spiders. Pour over the 3.5L of boiling water and leave for 24 hours. Any longer than one day soaking will release far too much bitter tannin that will dominate.

Walnut leaf wine infusing
One pan of leaves the other of zests and raisins

As the leaves steep boil the roughly chopped raisins and lemon and orange zest in the remaining litre of water.

Orange and lemons zested
Two oranges can be left un-zested

Sieve the leaves out of the water once the 24 hours has elapsed and combine with the raisins and zest. Add the sugar, lemon & orange juice and stir till the sugar has dissolved.

Soak strain mix ferment
Clockwise top left: Steeping leaves, strained away, added to the zests and raisins then in primary fermentation.

Add the yeast & nutrient according to its instructions. Leave to ferment in primary and then transfer to an air locked demijohn when fermentation slows after five to 10 days leaving the raisins and zests behind.

Walnut leaf wine end of primary
Lid removed just before being transferred to secondary fermentation.

Rack if sediment builds and certainly at one then two months to remove the settled yeast.
Leave to bulk age in a demijohn for as long as you can – six months at least.
Bottle and open a minimum 18 months after starting.