Chokecherry Wine - My First Attempt

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TasunkaWitko

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Chokecherry Wine - My First Attempt

Those of us who live in “Chokecherry Country” know that we have a great thing going with these wonderful little spheres of purplish-black love, known scientifically as Prunus virginiana. Chokecherries are an integral part of the culture and the people who live with them, from the Native American tribes who gathered and used them hundreds (and probably thousands) of years ago, to the pioneers and settlers who arrived to tame the land and discovered an irresistible treat waiting for them when they arrived.

All my life, I’ve enjoyed chokecherries, mostly in the form of syrup and jelly, but occasionally in a few other creative ways. Late last year, I even brewed a chokecherry-wheat ale that came out really well, and I intend to brew it again later this year. But in spite of the fact that I have lived in Montana and the Dakotas all of my life, one of the most popular ways to experience the chokecherry is one that I had never tried before - in wine.

Last year, I set out to remedy that situation when I picked several pounds of chokecherries in the mountains south of home with my youngest son. It was one of those late-summer mornings that exist to let you know that autumn is approaching; cool, foggy and with occasional drizzles of light rain. The aroma of wet leaves and grass was heavy in the air, and in many ways, it was nearly a perfect time to be where I was and doing what I was doing. Interestingly, the chokecherries proved to be difficult to find last year, due to a late-spring frost; however, after much searching outside of our usual areas, we did find a couple of nice groves that contained a wonderful harvest of plump, ripe chokecherries. I made some of them into syrup, and I used a small portion for the aforementioned chokecherry-wheat ale that I brewed...and the rest eventually became my first attempt at chokecherry wine.

The Wonderful, Thoughtful and Beautiful Mrs. Tas, knowing my desire to learn about making wine, bought this 1-gallon kit for my last birthday:

http://mastervintner.com/master-vintner-fresh-harvest-fruit-winemaking-kit/

What I especially like about this kit is that it simply contains the equipment and necessary additives for making wine; the beauty of it is that you get to supply all of your own fruit for making it, and it can be whatever you want. You can get it at the market, grow it in your garden...or you can gather what Nature provides. The possibilities are endless, and I am grateful to her for choosing this option, because I feel that it would be much more rewarding to go this route, than to make a “normal” wine using pre-packaged ingredients from a factory somewhere. This type of venture appeals to me, a descendant of immigrants, farmers, gardeners and gatherers going all the way back through their migrations to their origins; Montana, North Dakota, Ukraine, The Black Forest Region of Germany, and finally to 18th Century Alsace - and before that, as well.

There are probably hundreds of different recipes for chokecherry wine out there on hand-written notecards and in kitchen cupboards all across the northern United States and Southern Canada, often written with vague, generalised instructions using archaic terminology or esoteric-sounding directives such as “soak chokecherries in water until a white film grows over them, then add bread yeast.” There are also quite a few recipes to be found on the internet; however, it seemed to me that many of those recipes will contain blends with other fruits or wines, or that they call for the wind to be infused with additives, adjuncts and other ingredients that are - in my opinion - distractions from the true character of the chokecherry. In most cases, the recipes that I found are for very large batches of wine, calling for 50 or 60 pounds of chokecherries at a time and methods that could almost be on an industrial scale. Even most of the smaller recipes were for a minimum of 20 gallons of wine, an amount that would take me decades to consume.

For my own requirements, a small, low-maintenance, home-based batch that would be typical of any rural farmhouse wine, there were a few recipes out there; all were similar, but there were differences in the details that were enough to be a bit confusing for someone who has never made “real” wine before. Luckily, I found salvation in the form of a friendly and helpful woman on a home-brewing forum that I am a member of who goes by the moniker of “Yooper.” Being from the Midwest, she has been making chokecherry wine for many years; consequently, she is very well-versed on the fundamentals of the process, the pitfalls and the dozens of other little things that will really help someone who is starting out. Thanks to her experience and mentorship, I was able to bring some order to the chaos and finally get this project started after several years of wandering around aimlessly in the wilderness. I am very grateful to her for all of her patient and valuable help with this project!

Here is her recipe, scaled down to 1 gallon:

Yooper’s Chokecherry Wine

2-1/2 pounds chokecherries
2 pounds table sugar
1 tsp acid blend
1/2 tsp pectic enzyme
1/4 tsp grape tannin (or less)
1 tsp yeast nutrient
1 crushed Campden tablet
Champagne yeast

Freeze berries first, for ease in crushing, but no need to destone. Place in a sanitized mesh nylon bag (very large so the berries have room), and then bring approximately 6 pints of water to a boil, and add 1.5# of sugar. Stir in acid blend, grape tannin, yeast nutrient, and crushed campden tablet. Pour over the berries. Stir well, cover loosely and let stand 12 hours. Add pectic enzyme and let stand another 12 hours. Stir well, estimate volume (you will be removing the chokecherry pulp, so I lift out the bag and look at the volume in the primary bucket). Check the SG (Specific gravity) to ensure it is between 1.085-1.100. Write this number down. Add yeast, stir and cover again.

Gently squeeze bag twice daily to extract juice. After five days, drain bag and squeeze well to extract as much juice as you can. Rack to secondary, and fit airlock. If the original SG was low, this is the time to add additional sugar to boost the ABV. Rack when lees are 1/4" thick, or in about 30 days. After that, rack whenever lees are 1/4" thick, or if there are any lees at all in 60 days.

After no new lees fall after at least 60 days, and the wine is clear, it can be stabilized and sweetened if desired, or racked onto oak for a period of time for a table wine.

I would miss the grape concentrate in this, so I would add a few raisins in secondary for body and flavor.

In a batch about 5 years ago, I got an SG of 1.094 from 8 pounds of sugar in 5 gallons, so I'd start low (the 1.5 pound above) and add more later if necessary. The batch the following year needed 12 pounds of sugar in a 6 gallon batch, so you can see how much it varies!

Due to several factors, including my father’s recollections from watching his own father make chokecherry wine years ago, my attempt was slightly different; however, It seems that the essentials should be close enough to get things started so that I can learn what I am doing and why I am doing it. My goal was for a slightly- (but not overly-) sweet, fruity wine that has plenty of rich, chokecherry flavour. Once I am able to see the results of this batch, I will be able to adjust toward that end, if necessary.

Here’s how my first batch of wine came together (deviations from Yooper’s original recipe are in parenthesis, for comparison):

Ron’s Chokecherry Wine (First Attempt):

2.9 pounds chokecherries (2.5 pounds in original recipe, but 2.9 is what I had)
1 cup golden raisins (my interpretation of “a few” called for in original recipe)
2.25 pounds sugar (2 pounds in original recipe)
3/4 teaspoon acid blend (1 teaspoon in original recipe)
1/2 teaspoon pectic enzyme
1 teaspoon yeast nutrient
1 crushed Campden tablet
1 pkg Montrachet yeast
7 pints Montana spring water (6 pints in original recipe)

Not used: grape tannin (my dad insisted that his dad never used it, so I tried it his way)

I began my chokecherry wine on Saturday, February 27th, 2016. Since beginning this project, I have been trying to follow the basic procedure outlined in Yooper’s instructions, but there have been a couple of minor differences. With my work and home schedule, I’ve only been able to stir the chokecherry must once each day, rather than twice. Another difference is that I’ve never used a hydrometer before and don’t yet have all of what I need to use one in order to check specific gravity, final gravity etc.; I’ve since ordered the modest equipment that I need, so I will have it by the next time I start a batch of wine. This will help me keep better track of what my wine is doing at various stages of its progress, and will allow me to accurately measure the alcohol content, as well.

At the time of this writing, I am still in the beginning stages of fermentation. I will keep a record of my progress here on this thread as I learn what I am doing. This will serve the dual purpose allowing me to retrace my steps next time - adjusting when necessary - while also (hopefully) providing useful information for anyone who is wanting to start their own batch of chokecherry wine. This and subsequent posts will contain terminology that might be new to those who have not made wine before; to be honest, I am still learning many of these terms myself, so my understanding of them is still rather superficial. I might know some definitions, but it will take more experience before I am able to grasp the context of and interrelationships between many fundamental aspects of home winemaking. I will do my best to explain some of these terms when and where I can. If you have questions, please be sure to ask, or to consult many of the excellent resources available.

Here is a record of my progress up until this point:

Saturday, February 27th, 2016

Well, Glory be ~ I was finally able to start my chokecherry wine today!

My dad, who used to watch his dad make chokecherry wine, came over today telling me about his progress with his own first batch of wine, which he started a couple of days ago. Because of this, I figured that now is the time to finally get going, and I am sure glad that I did. Everything went very smoothly, and I think that I am going to end up with some very nice wine. It actually took longer to get the equipment clean and sanitised than it did to actually get the wine going, so once again, I am kicking myself for taking so long in getting a project started. I could have been sampling some wine right now, If I would have gotten going on it!

Sunday, February 28th, 21016

I did my first stirring and pitched my Montrachet yeast today; I had intended to make a yeast starter, but forgot to do so.

Ambient temperatures are right around 70 degrees, plus or minus a couple of degrees, depending on the time of day.

If I read Yooper's instructions correctly, the primary bucket should be covered loosely (not clamped down) and the airlock should not be on, until it goes into secondary. My dad agrees with this, saying that is how he is doing his.

We're cruising along here, and I think that all is well.

Monday, February 29th, 2016

I stirred my must and squeezed my bag of chokecherries today after work. I was unsure about just how vigorously I should be squeezing things out, so I gave it a few firm squeezes, squishing around so as to hopefully mash up the chokecherries (but not the stones, of course), and then called it good. It did look like a lot of pulpy stuff seeped out of the mesh bag, and I am guessing that by the time my first week is through, I'll have what is essentially a bag of skins and pits.

Temperatures had fallen to 68 degrees, but I am going to guess that this is okay, as long as it was only for a short time. I bumped the heat up and tucked the fermenting bucket away until tomorrow.

The must is looking great, with a characteristic chokecherry colour starting to deepen from purple (with a hint of brown) into deep burgundy. I did not notice any signs of active fermentation, but this is my first batch, so I am not sure what exactly to expect. There were the very beginnings of foam on top, it seemed, so I'll check it tomorrow and see what I have. It is really starting to smell rich as well, almost like the beginning of wine, so I am assuming that I am on the right track.

With my first attempt, I did not add tannin to the recipe, as my dad was insistent that his dad never used it, apparently on the grounds that the few small stems that make it through the picking process provide the necessary tannins. The recipe only calls for 1/4 teaspoon for the gallon, and I am hoping that the wine is not affected in any adverse way. My goal is a rich, slightly-sweet, slightly-fruity wine, so time will tell.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016 (morning)

I looked in on my wine this morning. Ambient temperature was 68 degrees, so I bumped it up just a tiny bit to stay around 70. It was dark in the room, but I think I saw the beginnings of some foam at the top, which I would take as a confirmation of fermentation. It might also have been the mesh bag; I'll know for sure when I get home from work.

I am definitely getting some wonderful, chokecherry-powered aroma from this must, and to me, it definitely SMELLS like fermentation is happening. This is my first batch of any "real" wine, so in many ways I am not sure what to expect. Going forward, I plan to use a hydrometer, as I should have been doing all along, but for now, it seems that things are progressing.

When I get home from work tonight, I'll confirm visual signs of fermentation, stir, squeeze etc.

More as it happens, etc. &c.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016 (evening)

I came home tonight from work and checked on my wine before stirring it. It looks like things are going well!

Ambient temperatures are holding steady as above, and the wine is getting a nice, deep aroma that definitely has some fermentation in it. Colour remains as described above, a nice deep burgundy with a bare hint of tan or brown added. I still do not see any real foam on top, but maybe I am expecting to see it because of the krausen that I am used to seeing with beer brewing. The wine is quite cloudy now, which is expected, and as I squeezed the mesh bag full of chokecherries, I was getting plenty of good, thick pulp into the bucket. I was also able to feel that about half of the chokecherries are squeezed down to the point where they are pretty much just pits. By Friday, I am guessing that this will be the case for nearly all of the bag, if not all of it.

A few errant drops gave themselves up to a taste test, and I think we've got some good things here. It is actually starting to taste like a young wine; just slightly more sour or acidic than I expected, but I assume that will balance out. There's also plenty of sweetness still, and oodles of chokecherry flavour.

That's all I have for now.

2 March, 2016

As if this morning, things appear to be moving right along. My ambient temperature was 71 degrees when I took a quick peek this morning, and the heart-warming smell of fermenting chokecherries was in the air. I’ll stir tonight when I get home and note any progress.

3 March 2016

I stirred my chokecherry must again when I got home from work last night. Temperatures were holding steady at 71 degrees, right where they need to be.

Everything looked, smelled and tasted the same as before...only more advanced, better, I'm not sure what the proper term would be. But it definitely seems that we are moving along well. There are still no big, billowing piles of foam on top of the must, as I would have expected before I started this project; however, there were definite visual signs that things were "moving around" as fermentation continues, and I have come to the conclusion that for wine, this must be normal.

I looked in this morning, as well - just a quick peek to make sure that bandits hadn't run off with my wine. Temperature was still the same - 71 degrees - and the wine-ish, chokecherry aroma was really smelling beautiful.

When I got home from work tonight, I stirred the chokecherry must. Ambient temperature was 72, so I bumped the temp down just a tiny fraction, to keep it in the neighbourhood of 70.

Appearance and aroma were as in previous posts, but apparently further along and more advanced. I did see a tiny bit of foam on top of the must, and a few bubbles rising. Squeezing the mesh bag, it was evident that nearly all of the chokecherry pulp is gone, leaving behind only pits and remnants of skins, as expected.

Tomorrow or Saturday, I'll be racking the wine to the secondary fermentation; then the wait begins! :)

According to schedule, the primary fermentation should be complete tomorrow or Saturday, if my calculations are correct. I will rack this wonderful stuff to a fermenter at that time, and as this wine progresses to what will hopefully be a wonderful end.

What shall my next project be? I'm not sure. It is going to be a little early for dandelion wine, rhubarb wine and any other fruit wine that comes to mind using locally grown or gathered ingredients. I could pick up some good quality IQF fruit of some variety; another option that I have heard of would be to buy fruit puree or possibly use those cans of "Oregon" fruit. I assume that the sugar needs to be accounted for, but a few folks have reported great results. Other options are out there, too - banana wine, perhaps? Or maybe even a second batch of chokecherries - I have more that I got from my dad, so more batches are possible.

I'll think of something....

4 March 2016

I took a quick look this morning - The chokecherries are smelling beautiful - I'm loving it! Ambient temperature was right between 70 and 71 degrees - I think things are going just fine! :)

(later)

I stirred the must when I got home from work tonight. Ambient temperatures were the same, right about 72 degrees, and it smelled wonderful. As predicted, we're pretty much down to skins and pits in the mesh bag, and the must, while cloudy, had wonderful burgundy colour.

Today marks "Day #5" since I pitched the yeast; there were no visible or obvious signs of activity, but I am certain that fermentation is progressing right along and is transitioning to a slower pace. By the time I begin my next batch, I'll be able to do a better job of keeping track of this; but for now, I think it is ready to rack to its secondary fermentation in my 1-gallon glass fermenter. I will get this done tomorrow or Sunday, as time permits.

I've been wanting to get photos of my progress, but at the moment I'm limited to the mediocre ones that my phone and iPod can take. Here's one that I took after stirring the must this evening:

Chokecherry%20Wine%20-%201st%20Batch%20-%201.jpg

5 March 2016

Well, today I did receive the hydrometer testing tube in the mail. It was also the day that, by the schedule, I should rack over from my primary bucket to my gallon-sized glass fermenter. I went ahead and did exactly that this evening, and here is what I ended up with:

Chokecherry%20Wine%20-%201st%20Batch%20-%202.jpg


I then tested my must; if I am reading the hydrometer correctly, the measurement is exactly 1.000; it is definitely no lower than that.

The fermenter is currently sitting in my closet, protected from any light that might come into contact with it and finishing the last stages of fermentation while the sediment (lees) settle to the bottom, clearing the wine. As you can see in the photo above, we've got some pretty cloudy stuff, at the moment. This is, I am sure, due to all of the skin and pulp that was fine enough to get through the nylon mesh bag during primary fermentation. Based on my readings, I am sure that it will settle down and clear out quite nicely; I also suspect that as the wine clears, the true, deep burgundy colour of the chokecherry will become evident, as I have seen with many chokecherry wines. But, since this is my first batch, it is all new to me; time will tell.

Right now, with all of the floating particulates, the must is a bit sour and bitter (tannic, maybe?), as would be expected with chokecherry pulp and skins; however, as the wine settles out and clears, I am guessing that this will ease off as well, allowing the real essence of the chokecherry to come through.

I might take a peek at it tomorrow, just to see what's going on and to make sure that the temperatures etc are where they need to be. After that, I will do my best to leave it alone and forget about it for at least a week, in order to let the wine do its thing and come into its own.

More as it happens etc. &c.

6 March 2016

I took a look at my chokecherry wine just a moment ago. It appears to be doing very well and looks like it is already starting to clear as the sediment has settled down a LOT. I've been describing the colour as deep burgundy, but it would probably be more accurate to say that it is somewhere between a deep burgundy and deep mahogany; either way, it looks beautiful, so far.

Another thing that I noticed is that there had been a little airlock activity, so it seems that some very slow fermentation is taking place. As far as I know, this is perfectly normal.

I'll leave the wine alone for a week and see what we've got next weekend. Hopefully, it will be a really nice sight!

That’s where I am at so far - I’ll take a look at it this weekend and see what I’ve got.
 

dorfie

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Very nice detailed notes! i wish i had the ambition to write that much, i'm lucky if i record when i started and racked!
It is looking pretty good from what i can tell. I use a bit more fruit with my chokecherry wine, but I am shooting for a heavier dry wine.
you probably won't have a massive amount of airlock activity since it is mostly fermented at 1.000.
The only thing that i would mention is timing for racking. I think there is some discussion on when it should be racked. I personally wait until the vast majority of the lees settle out before doing my first racking. I do this to loose less wine from rackings, and to try to reduce the wines exposure. others rack earlier, its up to personal preference I would say.
my chokecherry (from whole fruit) takes awhile to clear. now i mostly use juice for it.
Great start!
 

TasunkaWitko

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Hi, Dorfie, and thanks for the kind words. I do a lot of writing, and I am a big believer in documenting things for people to read and understand for the future, so it kind of goes hand-in-hand.

I took a quick peek this morning and the wine was clearing up quite a bit, but of course was still a little cloudy. After less than a week sitting, there seem to be quite a bit of lees on the bottom, and more to come, I am sure. My recipe from Yooper says to rack after 30 days; she also mentions that she adds a crushed campden tablet at every other racking in order to prevent oxidation. I'll see how things go.

The wine also seemed to show a little bit of fermentation activity, and had a bit of a "fizzy" appearance. According to what little I know this is normal after transferring from primary, as fermentation finishes up. The colour is absolutely beautiful, and promising to become even more so as it clears up.
 

dorfie

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Agree wholeheartedly with the crushed campden tablet, it prevents the wine from oxidizing or getting any microbial growth during bulk ageing.
Fizzy-ness is to be expected, the wine is still fermented and saturated with CO2 from fermenting, as it bulk ages it releases this gas, and becomes still.

Like I said, there are different thoughts on when to rack, I normally rack as little as possible, so I will often have a decent amount of lees. You would still have what's called "gross lees" which are lees made of fruit particles in your wine, these can possibly cause off flavors, so people will normally rack once the majority of them fall out. I have left it several months on gross lees and not had any issues however. So I would say go by when you feel that majority of the particles have fallen out, and when you have some time! I think when I have time determines mine more than anything ha!

Chokecherry is one of my absolute favorites, always turns out great! keep it up, and have fun with it!
 

TasunkaWitko

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Sounds like some good advice there, and it goes along with what I've learned as I get more experienced at brewing beer. My own schedule is determining most of when things happen.

I plan to not even really think about it for about 30 days, and will see how it is. If it goes 45 or so, it sounds like it's no big deal. My main goal is clarity, and a bit of a toning down of the sourness and bitterness (tannin?).

Funny thing - my dad started a similar batch a few days before I started mine. The main difference is that he did not crush/press his chokecherries. He's racked it off, with maybe a pint left over. I told him to save that for topping off future rackings, but he prefers to drink it the way it is. It actually tastes pretty good now, not as acidic or bitter as mine, but maybe a little "warm" and slightly thin." Of course, mine has much, much more pulp/particles than his, because I squeezed and pressed mine to the point where the skins and pulp were liquefied. I said that he'll need to let it age for at least a year, maybe two ~ and he said no way he's going to wait THAT long...lol
 

dorfie

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Yah it's pretty incredible how some changes in practice will garner vastly different outcomes. I am not sure if your bitterness would be tannin or acid, or just the particles that are floating right now.
When I make mine with juice, I add tannin and acid to it, can't seem to find me notes from when I made it from whole fruit. I would guess that it just tastes "young" right now, and will smooth out in time.

One of the hardest parts of this hobby is patients haha! It's hard but usually worth it to save a few to age!
 

TasunkaWitko

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I hear ya, dorfie - the wait is killing me, but I figure I'll make some Dragon's Blood and Skeeter Pee in order to tide me over in the short term!

Here's a quick update and a question, for those who might have an answer:

My chokecherry wine was racked from primary fermentation to my 1 gallon fermenter 8 days ago. SG reading was exactly 1.000, if I am reading it correctly. There was enough to fill just within an inch or so of the top of the fermenter. Temperatures are in the close neighbourhood of 68 degrees.

It looks to be clearing nicely and is getting a really beautiful colour. There is probably half an inch of lees on the bottom, still some clearing to go, of course. This morning I noticed just a bare hint of what I *think* might be a sulfur smell, along with some really nice emerging chokecherry aroma.

My question is, should I go ahead and rack it onto a crushed/diluted campden tablet now, after 8 days, or wait it out to 30 days?

Thanks for any advice -

Ron
 

dorfie

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I would wait, I would definitely wait. the lees at the bottom will compact more as time passes, giving you more wine. Also I don't add campten until the second racking (moving from the primary to secondary is technically a transfer) because there should still be adequate sulfate preserving the wine from the initial dose.
 

TasunkaWitko

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Sounds good - I will do that.

First batch, so I'm like first-time parents! LOL

Many thanks ~

Ron
 

TasunkaWitko

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28 March 2016

Here's how it's looking a little over 3 weeks after racking out of primary:

Chokecherry%20Wine%20-%201st%20Batch%20-%203.jpg


It's clearing up very well, it's got a nice, rich, deep colour and I think we're onto something good here. I'll probably rack it off the lees next week, which will be after 4 weeks. We'll see.

My dad stopped by while I was checking on it, and of course he had to sample it. Before, it was filled nearly to the top, but now it is down a bit, as shown above. My question is, should I be topping it off, or is it fine at that level?
 

dorfie

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It is fine at that level. I go by if the wine has reached, or is nearing the full with of the bottle, then you need to top up. Some will say earlier, but most of the time I trust the sulfates to keep with wine from oxidation up to that point.
It's looking good!
 

TasunkaWitko

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Thanks, Dorfie - I do have reason to hope that my first attempt will be successful.

The main thing I am learning is similar to what I learned about brewing beer: just leave it alone and let it do its job; first the yeast, then the wine/beer itself.
 

dorfie

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Thanks, Dorfie - I do have reason to hope that my first attempt will be successful.

The main thing I am learning is similar to what I learned about brewing beer: just leave it alone and let it do its job; first the yeast, then the wine/beer itself.

Most definitely! Patients is key with these things. I always try to mess as little as possible. Just check once in a while to see how things are progressing, and adjust as needed.
Once you get a good thing going, you'll be hooked! And once you get the basics down you will get a rhythm and feel for whats going on.
Have Fun!
 

TasunkaWitko

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On Sunday, 17 April, I racked my wine over in order to get it off the lees. I used a crushed/dissolved campden tablet in order to ward off any possibility of oxidation, and the procedure went without any hitches that I am aware of.

The wine seems to be clearing very well on its own; I sucked up a little bit of the lees, but not very much at all, considering what was there before. There is a thin film at the bottom of my fermenter now, but nothing that I plan on getting excited about. I'll check it again in a month or so, and rack one more time if necessary before stabilizing and bottling.

Due to my dad's "sampling" and the space that was opened up when I took it off the lees, I did have to top it off a little to get it to the same level as shown above. Since this appears to be a normal procedure and the recipe takes this into account, I am not concerned. I used a cup or so of the same spring water that I use when I started the wine, which has always worked very well in my beer brewing. The next time I make chokecherry wine, I'll be able to top it off with...chokecherry wine!

The only questions that I really have at this point would be:

a) Does temperature matter at this point? It is currently in a place where it is around 70 degrees, but if I move it down to the dark, cooler basement, I am assuming that it can continue to "do its thing" undisturbed.

b) Is an airlock still required, or can I use a screw-top lid now that all fermentation is finished?

Other than that, I think I am on my way to some very nice wine. It has an aroma that is really something - I'm still learning my vocabulary for this, but I like it. I took a very small sample that settled out of the lees and found it to be very, very good. It does have a noticeably bitter (tannic?) edge to it, which I am guessing to be expected at this young stage, but with some really nice chokecherry just starting to come through. I suspect that as things come into balance, it is going to be really nice.

I have no plans to back-sweeten at this time, but we'll give more thought to that option when we get to that point.

Near as I can tell, I am very well on track with this. Time will tell, of course ~
 
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Yes - Move it to the basement. Best temp for long term aging is 55 F but between 68-70 is considered by the pro's as quite acceptable. (Checked with several sites other than this one to be sure.)
Yes - Keep the airlocks in place. If nothing else they can tell you if any gassing off is going on - They should pretty much not be 'burping' during the aging process. If you have any residual sugars in your wine it would be a shame to have them start fermenting again and blow up.

That bitterness may be due to the influence of the lees or just the 'youthfulness' of your wine. Many stories on here and other sites about those early months and sharp/biting tastes that mellowed out as the wine matures. There are always exceptions but what everyone keeps reporting is that at about a year your wine should really be hitting it's stride and ready to be enjoyed. I have had a couple that were ready (Quite enjoyable) much earlier but that is not normally the case.

One last thing. Backsweeting is totally a personal pref but if you have a little to spare you might try a little sweetening to see fit it kicks up the flavor a notch for you. My blueberry wine was ho-hum until I sweetened it up to about 1.000. Fruit wines just seem to need a little of that.
 
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TasunkaWitko

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Hi, Scooter, and thanks for the post. It pretty much confirms what my instincts were about, and it's good to know that I'm on the right track.

The tannic taste is actually kind of nice - rather like the bit a person gets when eating a good, dark chocolate. I don't mind it at all, but I am really interested in the chokecherry that is emerging from the shadows. I am thinking that as it moves forward and things come into balance, I am going to find myself with a really nice table wine.

I was thinking about experimenting with back-sweetening a bit - maybe one or two bottles - or even a glass at sampling. I've got plenty of chokecherries for at least two more batches, maybe three, so I can even back-sweeten a whole batch for comparison.
 

Scooter68

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I usually draw off 1 or 2 cups to test my sweetening amount. Recently I sweetened some apple using my own simple syrup of 1/2 cup water 1 cup sugar. (Heated the water to near boiling, added sugar then let it cool.)

I started with 2 cups of wine and added 1/4 oz of simple syrup . That was Ok but not quite as sweet as I wanted it & The apple flavor was still hiding in there somewhere. (Tested the SG and it was 1.000 (It started at .992)) Added another 1/4 oz and it was just ever so slightly sweet - SG was now 1.003. I then figured how much more I had to add to the remainder of the gallon. 14 cups x 1/4 oz = 3.5

Your numbers and preferences may vary (And my memory of the amounts may be off too) but that's one way to try without committing the entire gallon or even a bottle to being either too sweet or too dry.

You can do this with 1 cup but then measuring the simple syrup becomes tough. My Hydrometer cup needs at least 4 oz to read so a minimum of one cup is best.
 
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TasunkaWitko

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Hi, Scooter - sorry for taking so long to get back to you on this. I've still got the wine bulk-aging (and hopefully clearing) in my closet, and haven't taken a look at it in a little over a month. I was planning on racking it over this weekend for the final time before bottling.

As for the sweetening, I'll see what's up - I like the simple syrup idea, and might simply make some, adding it a little at a time until I get somewhere that I like. In fact, I actually have some chokecherry syrup that I made with the same batch of chokecherry syrup last year, so that might be an option. Then again, I might just leave this first batch alone to do its thing and bottle the batches as-is, then experiment with a cup or two here and there as you suggest.

I don't know - it's my first batch! :)
 

TasunkaWitko

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Well - today, Saturday, 4 June, I tried racking my wine again, after a little nearly 7 weeks of settling and bulk-aging. I snuck (sneaked?) a wee sip before doing so, and it tasted great. Unfortunately, I then proceeded to run into a wee problem.

The wine seemed to have cleared quite well, and there was only a bit of fine sediment on the bottom. I was thinking that after this racking, I'd be ready to bottle in a month or so, but a couple of things happened, and now I don't know if I'll even have good wine.

Here's how it went down: I began racking it over, and everything seemed fine; then, my siphon/tubing started making a sucking noise for some reason, pulling nearly as much air as wine into the fermenter that I was racking into. There was no apparent reason for this, as the end of my siphon was completely submerged nearly to the bottom (and probably picking up a bit of lees, too) as far as I could tell. Then, the siphoning action quit completely, with probably a quart left to go in the racking.

It was here that I did two things that either saved my wine, or ruined it.

First, since there was obviously an issue with the siphon, I carefully poured the last of the wine into the new fermenter, completing the racking over. I was as careful as possible, but of course some air (and lees) got into the new fermenter. I held back maybe a half-cup of wine that was filled with stirred-up sediment. This, by the way, tasted pretty darn good, albeit "muddy." from the lees.

Then, worried about oxidation, I crushed and dissolved a campden tablet in 1/4 cup of hot water, then added 1/4 cup of cold water to bring the temperature of the water to room temperature. I had added a campden tablet with the previous racking (on 17 April), but all things considered, I figured I'd better do it again; however, in doing so, I had no choice but to add a half cup of water to my wine. This had the effect of bringing the level of the wine up into the neck of the fermenter, so perhaps all will be alright, I hope.

So - how bad did I frak this wine up? I don't know; maybe things will be fine; maybe things will be only a little messed up and maybe it's ruined.

Time will tell. I'll take a look at it in a couple of weeks, then see what I have. I will probably not add any finings; but then again, maybe I will. I'll probably cold-crash, stabilise and bottle, in whatever order is appropriate.

Any advice or suggestions would be welcome.
 
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Scooter68

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I doubt that any serious issue will come up other than another racking to get rid of whatever got sucked up or poured in.
Did early wine makers have racking canes and tubing? Or were they forced to pour carefully? As for oxidization, again you filled up the carboy right. Unless it was foaming through the tube, I think it should do fine.
 
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