I checked my Piazza yesterday at lunch time. It was fermenting vigorously. My daughter is complaining about the fermentation smell throughout the house. The fermentation has proceeded faster than I anticipated. ICV-D47 is supposed to be a slower fermenting yeast than EC-1118 but this one seems to be racing to the finish. I didn’t check the hydrometer reading yesterday but I knew from experience that this wine had reached at least it’s half way point so I added the second dose of nutrients as recommended by Lallemand in their Fermaid-K fact sheet. I didn’t have any Fermaid on hand so I added a half teaspoon of yeast nutrient instead. I then gave it a good stir. I’ve been stirring my wine at least three times a day since the fermentation began. My reason for doing this is to help keep the yeast and bentonite in suspension. I’m hoping that it will help to ferment the maximum amount of sugar leaving the finished wine with very little residual sweetness. It’s common practice to stir wine in large commercial tanks but I don’t know if it will make much difference in a small 23 litre batch. We’ll see.
I just checked the specific gravity of my wine. It is at 1.020. That’s lower than I expected. Maybe it’s because of the extra yeast and stirring I’ve been doing. The temperature has dropped slightly to 18º Celsius. That’s 2 degrees lower than it was yesterday. The optimum temperature for the yeast I’m using is between 15 and 20 degrees Celsius so I’m in good shape but I’ll have to keep an eye on it and make sure it doesn’t drop too low.
My Piazza is coming to the end of its primary fermentation and I’ll soon be transferring it to a carboy. It’s time to starting thinking about my second wine which I will be putting on this weekend. Calls for snow so it should be a good winemaking weekend.
This year RJ Spagnols has decided to forgo the traditional naming of their Restricted Quantities wine kits. They’ve given the kits unique names that indicate a life style rather than the grape variety that they’ve used in past years. I like the idea. It’s fun and adds an aura of excitement and playfulness to the Restricted Quantities series. So let’s get started.
The first kit I’m making is the Cru Select Piazza. The grape varieties used in this wine are Chardonnay and Garganega from Italy. Here’s how RJ Spagnols opens the description of this interesting wine. “Found in the heart of every town in Italy, a piazza is where locals and tourists alike gather to enjoy a glass of wine and unwind after the stress of the day.” Then they go on to write.“Enjoy this full-bodied white wine, which receives its luscious mouthfeel from fermentation on raisins in a white amarone-style experience.”
I started my Piazza two days ago. The kit contains 15 litres of fresh grape juice ameliorated with grape concentrate. The juice was light in colour and aromatic. The addition of raisins was intriguing since I have never seen or used raisins in a white wine kit before. There was also a small 125 ml packet of finishing blend included as well as yeast, bentonite, finings, stabilizing packets and a packet of attractive labels. I have one beef about the packaging. The raisins for some reason were at the bottom of the box under the large bag of juice. Most people pour the wine from the box so it’s a good chance they might have missed the raisins and thrown them out with the empty box. I’m familiar with RJ Spagnols kits and I knew that this particular one included a packet of raisins so I lifted the bag to find them. Others may not be so lucky.
I used pink chlorinated cleaner (sani-brew) to clean and sanitize all the equipment that I would be using. After 20 minutes I rinsed and sprayed everything with a sulphite sanitizing solution. I used bottled water. I prefer reverse osmosis water because I know that I’m not adding anything to my wine that shouldn’t be there. I boiled a kettle full of water and poured it into the bucket then added the packet of bentonite and stirred to dissolve. I then poured the bag of juice into the bucket, stirred it well and added more water to bring it up to about 21 litres. The raisins had been soaking in a bowl of hot water and were ready to go so in they went. Next I added hot water to the juice bag, rinsed it, poured it into the bucket and more water to make up 23 litres.
RJ Spagnols uses Lalvin EC-1118 yeast exclusively in all their wine kits. There is a good reason for this. EC-1118 is a forgiving yeast. It is a fast fermenter and can tolerate a wide range of conditions which is an important consideration if you are marketing a product that will be used by novice wine makers. But I’ve set out to make the best wine possible from this kit so I’ve opted to use a yeast that is more suited to the style of wine I’m making. From Lalvin’s recommendations and information found in their fact sheet ICV-D47 seemed to fit the bill.
ICV-D47 is a more demanding yeast than EC-1118. The fact sheet recommends a 5 gram packet of yeast per 20 litres of wine. Since the kit will produce 23 litres of wine I added two packets of yeast. Adding the extra yeast will shorten the lag time before fermentation begins. Long lag times can produce unwanted flavours and sluggish fermentation. I rehydrated the yeast as per instructions on the yeast packet. ICV-D47 requires fermentation in a fairly narrow temperature range between 15º and 20º Celsius. The must was at 22º when it was time to add the yeast. The rehydrated yeast temperature was 35º Celsius so I added 1/2 cup of the must to the yeast to help it adjust to the cooler temperature. I waited 5 minutes and repeated. This brought the temperature of the yeast solution within range of the must. I waited another 5 minutes then added the yeast to the must. I gave it a good stir and said goodnight.
The next morning the fermentation had already begun. The raisins had rehydrated and looked like tiny grapes (which they are) floating on top of the must. The temperature had fallen to 20º so I was quite happy. I gave it a good stir and left for work. When I came home for lunch I added 3 grams of Fermaid-K. This is a nutrient made by Lallemand which they recommend for wine fermentations. Their fact sheet says that you should add 1/2 of the recommended dosage at the beginning of fermentation then the remainder about 1/3 of the way through.
The wine is really cranking it out this morning. The smell of fermentation is all through the house. I’ll be taking a gravity reading tonight and making some observations. I’ll let you know all about it tomorrow.
Each year I have aspired to make all ten wines from the Cru Select Restricted Quantities and the Selection Limited Edition series of wine kits but it has never happened. Always a desire but never a reality. This year I’m going to do it and blog it! I’m hoping that by blogging my wine making activity over the next few months it will keep me focused and committed. I hope you’ll come along for the ride and help keep me motivated.
It’s a daunting task. I will have to make ten wine kits over the next four to six months—five RJ Spagnols Restricted Quantities and five Winexpert Limited Editions. I’ve also put some extra pressure on myself. I’ve committed to give these wines special care. I want to make the best wine possible from these kits so I will be making some small tweaks but nothing drastic. I want my wine to be an exemplar of the style intended by the manufacturer so most of my tweaks will be process related.
I’ve made the commitment and now the onus is on me to deliver. My first wine is the Cru Select Italian Piazza. I’ve already started this wine and I will begin its blog tomorrow. I intend to share my thoughts and actions for each wine I make right up to bottling time. Then sometime this fall I will start opening the wine and give an account of my initial impressions. I hope you stay with me. It should be fun.
I’ve been a Guinness drinker for some time now. I’ve been told that Guinness doesn’t travel well and to experience the real Guinness taste you have to sample it in it’s place of origin. I finally got the chance.
This past week I travelled to Ireland to attend my niece’s wedding. No time for unpacking. I went straight to one of the numerous pubs and had my first pint of many during my stay in Ireland. And I wasn’t disappointed. Guinness served in Ireland is the best. It has a smoother taste and always served at the right temperature by expert publicans who know how to serve up a good pint.
I’m going to miss my perfect Guinness pint but it’s a great incentive for me to plan another trip to Ireland and to learn and see more of this beautiful Island.
A number of beverages are bestowed the “winter warmer” moniker but for my money none of them are as worthy as port. Port is the authentic winter warmer. Typically a red, sweet, dessert wine, port is usually fortified with brandy to bring it’s alcohol level into the 20% range. The sweetness and viscosity from the unfermented sugars and the hotness imparted by its high alcohol content is what makes this wine a special treat on a winter night. Sitting by the fireplace, reading a good book and sipping on a glass of port is one of my favourite things.
Port wine also known as Vinho do Porto, Porto, and often simply Port is a Portuguese fortified wine produced exclusively in the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal. While true Port can only come from Portugal, fortified wines in the style of port are made in most wine making regions.
Over the past few years some wine makers have been experimenting with flavoured port styles. They usually start with fortified wine and then add flavourings such as chocolate, raspberry or strawberry. Wines made in this manner don’t taste like traditional ports but they do make fantastic dessert wines and can be served wherever a liqueur would be appropriate. They’re also great when used as an ingredient in desserts or as a topping on ice cream.
Wine kit manufacturers have not let this trend escape them. There are now a variety of flavoured port style wine kits available from the major manufacturers. Two of the most popular are the Selection Chocolate Raspberry Port from Winexpert and the Cru Select Orange Chocolate Port from RJ Spagnols.
So start up the fireplace, pour yourself a glass of port and enjoy this authentic winter warmer.
They’re sitting there. A looming presence. Three carboys of wine that could have been bottled months ago and two boxes of grape juice that should be wine by now. I’m in a wine making torpor.
Torpor is defined as sluggish inactivity or inertia. That’s an accurate description of my wine making at this time. I’m sure it happens to everyone. Your wine rack is becoming depleted and you keep telling yourself that you’ll soon have to make more wine. Here are a few tips to help you move in that direction.
Think about wine. Read a wine magazine. Read wine articles. Surf the internet. Go to a wine store and peruse the different wine styles. Read the labels. Anything that has to do with wine. It doesn’t have to be about wine making. The idea is to get excited. Get the adrenalin flowing. This will increase your desire to make wine.
Get the ingredients. Buy a wine kit or juice. Get some grapes or fruit. Whatever you need to make wine. If you have the ingredients on hand you’ve made a big step in the right direction.
Prepare your equipment. Gather your equipment then clean and sanitize it. Once everything is ready to go it will be easier to overcome your inertia. When you get that first batch going you will have slain the torpor. The process of tending to your wine will bring back the desire and you will be well on your way to replenishing the empty spaces on that wine rack.
And now to follow my own advice.
If life gives you lemons make lemonade. But what if life gives you blueberries, strawberries or raspberries? Then you can always make wine. That’s what thousands of enthusiastic winemakers do every year.
You have to admire their diligence as they take to the fields and roadsides to gather berries. It takes quite a few berries to make five gallons of wine and that means a lot of stooping and picking. It’s hard work and it doesn’t end with the picking. You have to take the berries home, clean them and chop or crush them before they can be used for wine making. The berries will then have to be fermented with the addition of water, sugar and a number of other ingredients including acids, nutrients and yeast.
Making wine from berries is a lot more involved than making wine from kits. I know. I’ve been there. But it’s also a great opportunity to learn the craft of wine making. You will get a better understanding of the whole fermentation process which will make you a better wine maker.
So the next time life gives you blueberries make wine. Visit Clickabrew.com to see Wild Berry Additive kits.
I’m up at 5:30 am. A quick shower and breakfast. Ken just drove into the driveway. Off to the airport we go. Our flight arrives in Halifax at 8:00 am. We pick up our rental car and drive straight through to New Brunswick where we check in to the Chateau Moncton hotel.
So begins our busy weekend for the official launch and tasting of the RJ Spagnols Cru Select Restricted Quantities for 2011.
We had an informative and busy day that culminated in a dinner and wine tasting hosted by a professional sommelier. Unfortunately, because of an archaic law, we were not allowed to sample wines made from the Restricted Quantities kits so our sommelier had to choose commercial benchmarks which he assured us were very close representatives.
It was an entertaining evening. We were given a short instructional talk and slide show on how to taste wine and then we got down to sampling the wines with food pairings. If our sommelier was correct in his assertion that the wines we sampled were good benchmarks for the Cru Select Restricted Quantities then we’re all in for a treat. All the wines we tasted were outstanding but two of them were standouts for me. I was very impressed with the Argentina Tango and the Trek from Chile. These two will definitely be on my cellar list.
The 2011 Cru Select Restricted Quantities should be a big hit. I think this year’s are the best ever. Head on over to our Brewery Lane website to view the tasting notes.
The much anticipated RJ Spagnols Restricted Quantities and Winexpert Limited Edition wine kits will be announced next week. Both manufacturers are planning release events over the next few days. The information on the varieties available will not be available until the official release dates. This is done to build excitement and anticipation in the wine making community. Both manufacturers use this buildup but Winexpert seems to leverage it more. Winexpert are vigilant about keeping their Selection Limited Editions varieties secret until the official release date and have a dedicated web site for their Limited Editions. RJ Spagnols are a little less serious about it and Restricted Quantities varieties are often “leaked” before the official launch date.
I’ll be off to New Brunswick next weekend to attend the RJ Spagnols Restricted Quantities official release event. So I’ll have all the details then. As soon as I find out anything I’ll post it here.
Lazy summer days are receding, the fall harvest is on and the holiday season will soon be upon us. The perfect conditions for wine making euphoria.
My inbox is filling up fast these days. New product announcements from wine kit manufacturers arrive daily. There’s a dizzy array of wine kit offerings intent on capturing the heart and attention of craft wine makers. Winexpert and RJ Spagnols have released their seasonal products which will be arriving in our stores any day now. These include the increasingly popular flavoured port wines. You like chocolate raspberry? How about orange chocolate, white chocolate, apple tatin, blackberry? These are all available in this year’s lineup of seasonal ports. Then we have the ever popular Orchard Breezin’ Cranapple Chardonnay which is becoming a staple at the Christmas dinner table.
The RJ Spagnols Restricted Quantities and Winexpert Limited Edition kits will be announced in a couple of weeks and both companies have added new seasonal releases of their value line of kits.
This is the busiest time of year for us and the deluge of new offerings can be sometimes overwhelming. We have to do our best to get all this information out to our customers while juggling the daily demands of a super busy season.
Am I complaining? No. But I’m happy it only comes once a year. Let the euphoria begin!