The Novocastrian Vintners Gazette is now two years old and it has pushed me to try refine my techniques, ideas and recipes to get the best I can out of the fruit I use. In all that time blueberry wine seems to have eluded a decent write up despite being a personal favourite. So far I have made some very nice medium bodied blueberry wines that age excellently. Anyone who says blueberry is best drunk young has not waited until it undergoes an amazing transformation at about 18 months into a complex fruity wine with an oddly sherbet undertone.
Now with a little more experience and a lot more ambition I am hoping to adapt the recipe and techniques to make a full bodied red wine managing as many variables as I can to make the best wine I can. Using a Malbec as an influence I plan to create a jazzy little Bluebec with full fruit aged on the leas in an extended maceration, with high alcohol and tannin content, strongly oaked and aged for three years.
Before any grape nerds throw bricks through my window… Yes, I know its not made with Malbec grapes. No, I don’t live in France or South America. Yes, I understand these processes are used in many styles of wine. No, I don’t care that you prefer a different wine. Yes, I know I just made up a name for my wine and its totally meaningless…
So recipe, acidity, temperature regulation, maceration time and pressing the skins have all been updated from the traditional recipe I have used earlier. This will be as much a master class I can do and by “master” I mean my usual cack handed flight into the unknown.
The recipe has been overhauled with 200g extra of blueberries taking it to a total of 2kg of fruit per British Gallon of wine. To add extra vinocity the raisin content has similarly increased from 250g to 400g with a stronger tea brewed to add tannin. The raisins and tannin both add body that will play off against the higher fruitiness of the berries. It should be noted that as I am Britain I am using European blueberries that are considered to be less flavourful than US varieties and most blueberry wine recipes I have seen have been American based using less fruit.
Acidity has been monitored more closely and adjusted with tartaric acid used rather than the citric acid from lemons. Acidity seems to be one of the dark arts of wine making that an amateur can hope to adjust but not massively monitor. Traditionally I have used citric acid by squeezing a few lemons into my must. Citric acid is only present in grapes in low quantities with tartaric acid being far more dominant. As grape wine informs the general taste and sensation of fruit wines I have decided to ditch citric acid entirely. Citric acid that can be described as too sour at a basic level and too “fresh” or “artificial” in taste. The tartaric acid will soften the taste of the acidity but still provide enough stability for the wine to age for a decent enough time. Compared to tartaric acid, citric acid is more volatile than other acids and well liked by bacteria that can convert it easily to acetic acid creating a vinegar taste in low quantities or out right vinegar in extreme cases. There are acid blends that have a mix of tartaric, malic and citric acid in a 2:1:1 ratio which I may look into in future but that will need a lot more investigation.
Temperature management was used through out making the wine and will continue to do so as it ages in the coldest part of the house to try and match a cellar at 15°C. Initially the blueberries had a cold maceration for 5 days. The cold soak allows water to penetrate the skins to extract flavour, colour and aroma before the yeast is pitched and it enters fermentation and an alcoholic maceration begins. To do this have a sterile pot for the fruit, cover it with as much water you can and add a campden tablet as insurance against wild yeasts and bacteria. Cover the surface of the water with cling film to stop new bacteria entering and minimise the chance of oxidation. Sitting at 7° C for five days will allow a head start for certain compounds like anthocyanins and phenolics can be extracted just like grapes in a traditional wine.
After the cold maceration the berries were mashed and the remaining water, minced raisins and pectic enzyme added. As the pectin broke down over 24 hours the must was allowed to naturally rise to room temperature of 21° C. Sugar is added to achieve a Starting Gravity of 1.08 and then the R56 yeast added. I did one additional dose of sugar and nutrient four days into the fermentation to further raise the ABV to a potential of 14% as it fermented. The natural rise in temperatures, stepped sugar addition and yeast nutrient addition when the yeast could possibly need it were all intended for a easy fermentation with no peaks to shock the yeast in their environment.
Red wines are generally fermented “hot” between 25 to 30° C but lacking a Mediterranean climate I cannot usually hope to get to those temperatures naturally. I have invested in an immersion heater to raise it gently towards this point but in the current summer weather I was lucky enough to be getting 26° C shown on the adhesive thermometer and the partying yeast will probably have added a degree inside too. Stray too close or over 30° and you can “cook” the fruit for off tastes or stress the yeast creating sulphur dioxide. In the colder months when I make an elderberry wine I may well need the heaters though.
Thrice a day the must was gently stirred to mimic a pump over in a commercial winery. Just enough to agitate the fruit and re-submerge to keep it moist. As fermentation started to radically slow I needed nerves of steel to add another new process with an Extended Maceration. The idea is simple with an extra three days sit the crushed fruit gets an even longer window for more flavour to be extracted. There is also possibly the chance of a little micro oxygenation to aid tannin binding as the carbon dioxide given off lessens and there can be a small amount of contact with oxygen. During this time I chose not to stir the fruit or open the primary fermenter as less carbon dioxide is available to protect the wine – more agitation means potential oxygen dissolved. The extended maceration has its pros and cons as it not only allows extra fruit flavour to be extracted from skins but also more tannin with even harsher tannins extracted from the seeds. The micro oxygenation is risky as it is done totally on faith with out any way to monitor it as an amateur. The idea is that small levels of oxygen allow a greater level of flavour complexity to build and tannins to bind with richer colour extracted and fixed. Leave it too long and micro turns to macro. Full on oxygenation will simply ruin the wine turning it to sour vinegar. Luck and the more stable tartaric acid should aid it though.
Pressing the fruit allowed me to extract every last drop from the blueberries to get a rich thick juice as it entered secondary fermentation and bulk ageing with the 10g of oak chips. The colour is richer than I have ever managed to get with blueberry with a lovely thick red hue. The wine will sit for one possibly two months as I wait for the lees sediment to settle with another rack and possibly a malolactic culture added if it does not happen spontaneously.
BLUBEC BLUEBERRY WINE RECIPE – 4.5litres
Full bodied tannic red wine at 14%ABV. Red wine yeast needed (I used R56) Aged with oak chips and open two or three years after making. Suitable for malolactic fermentation.
2kg of blueberries
400g of raisins
1kg-ish sugar – aiming for max 1.10 SG through a stepped addition.
Tartaric acid to 0.6g/l
1/2 tsp. pectic enzyme
1/2 tsp. yeast nutrient
Cold soak the blueberries for 5 days in fridge with as much of the water as you can with a campden tablet to kill any possible infections. Stir once a day and keep the surface covered to stop infection and oxidation
On the fourth day mince the raisins to the 3.5 litres of water as it boils. Leave covered to cool
Pour the blueberries into primary fermenter and crush with a sanitised potato masher. Add the water and raisins then the pectic enzyme. Leave for 12 to 24 hours to get to room temperature.
Add the tea and sugar aiming for 1.08 SG using a hydrometer to measure.
Adjust acidity to 6% then add the yeast according to the sachets instructions.
Cover and leave to start fermenting. Stir three times a day with a gentle punch down to resubmerge the fruit.
On day 4 add additional sugar to raise gravity by 0.2 and add half a tsp of yeast nutrient to aid the yeast.
Monitor fermentation and leave for three days once gravity reaches 1.01 or lower. Do not open or stir the wine after this for an extended maceration.
Squeeze or press the pulp getting as much into an airlocked demijohn for bulk ageing.
After five weeks to two month rack away from the lees and add 10g of medium oak chips and leave a further three months to age. If wanting a malolactic fermentation add the culture at this point.
Rack again if needed and bulk age. A year after starting all carbon dioxide should be expelled and no manual degassing needed.
Bottle. Keep in a cellar like environment and open the first bottle at two years of age.