How much do you sweeten your blackberry wine?

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DavesWine

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My blackberry wine has finished in secondary and racked off the lees after clearing. I’m ready to sweeten it up a little. I know sweetening is to taste, but I’m curious if anyone measures the sugar level so you can just repeat easily. What’s the best way to calculate the sugar in the wine? Just measure the Brix and that’s the percent of sugar?

Right now I’ve sweetened to about 3.8B or 1.015. I guess you’d call that semi sweet.
 

DavesWine

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I have to believe commercial wineries sweeten to a set point for repeatability. I get as a home wine maker we have the luxury of tasting to what we want, how do you calculate that level when reached so you can go.back and see if your consistent?
 
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I have to believe commercial wineries sweeten to a set point for repeatability. I get as a home wine maker we have the luxury of tasting to what we want, how do you calculate that level when reached so you can go.back and see if your consistent?
It's a matter of scale. When a winery makes thousands or tens of thousands of gallons of wine, they have the ability to blend batches to produce the same wine (or close enough) each year.

You and I do not have that. Every wine is different -- let's say I grow strawberries and make strawberry wine using a given recipe every year. Each year's wine may be different. If I make 3 different batches in a year using fruit from the same garden, I may get 3 very different wines that require different levels of backsweetening.

I assume you're trying to apply a scientific method. That works only so far, as you're trying to solve an equation which contains variables that you don't even know are present. This is why winemaking is an art, no matter how much we attempt to apply science.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't try for science and consistency, but accept that Mother Nature is in charge and she will surprise you at surprising times.
 

Rice_Guy

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@DavesWine As a food industry person we like specifications where a high school graduate can reproduce the product made last year, ,,, and we don’t have to depend on senior plant workers. We put specifications together and look for logic controllers to automate the decisions.
The impact of acid and sweet on the taste buds is a function of the quantity. For quantity of acid the Titratable Acidity is a good measure. For sweet gravity is the fast traditional measure and as long as one keeps working with the same kind of fruit juice it reflects sugar measured in a lab test. For wine tannins compliment the acid flavors, polyphenols in black berry also can create astringent so there is a fairly clean beverage rule with exceptions for highly flavored additives.
The impact of sweet also has a pH effect. For wines the microbiological rules push the family to live between 3 (yeast don’t live) and 4 (lots of other bacteria live) so one can mostly ignore pH.
A guideline for where to balance TA on wine;
after club contest this year I collected eight first place wines which are the red triangles
View attachment 81200
The sample set "cloud" is primarily commercial wines, with some collected in the vinters club and here on WineMakingTalk
NOTE: TA is one of several quality traits which a first place wine has as absence of flavor defect, appropriate aroma for the variety and clarity , , , etc.
NOTE 2: this is an easy test, if ya'll are interested in your wine ,,, PM me
Another exception to the rule is the name on the food. Cranberry and current are expected to have higher sharp notes so they can broduce some of the scatter on the graph. There also is burn out. An extremely high solids beverage would produce more of a curve. A third variable is that smaller manufacturers strive to be different and thumb the noise at the 90% of main stream products, again scatter in the world of repeat sales
 
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cenk57

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I have done deep thought on this. If you keep what I call the "Macro Elements" (pH, acid, starting SG, finishing SG, finishing pH) consistent, you can get very close results from year to year when backsweetening. For example, your blackberry. Lets say you start at 1.100 SG, pH of 3.3 TA of .6 and finishing SG of .994 finishing pH of 3.4. You backsweeten to 1.015 SG. Next years blackberry crop will more than likely be very different. Mother nature works like that, lol. So, you will probably need to adjust your "Macro Elements" with additives to as close to your "control" year as possible. So, if you backsweeten to 1.015 the second year and your macro elements are fairly in line - the sweetness "taste" should be vary similar. It will never be exactly the same. Your older wine may taste less sweet as older wines tend to do that. That all being said, bench trials is the way to know for sure if the sweetness of each batch is to your liking.
 

DavesWine

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The Blackberry wine I made is from FWK Frutta series. They come with two sweetening packs. I used one so far and that bumped the gravity to 1.015, or 3.8B. I'm assuming adding the second would push it close to 1.030 which seems on the level of a desert wine. I find it hard to believe people use both packs.
 

Rice_Guy

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The Blackberry wine I made is from FWK Frutta series. They come with two sweetening packs. I used one so far and that bumped the gravity to 1.015, or 3.8B. I'm assuming adding the second would push it close to 1.030 which seems on the level of a desert wine. I find it hard to believe people use both packs.
Grams Sugar addition is a linear function against gravity, yes expect 1.030 ,,, or the numerical increase from the gravity at the end of fermentation.
 
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The Blackberry wine I made is from FWK Frutta series. They come with two sweetening packs. I used one so far and that bumped the gravity to 1.015, or 3.8B. I'm assuming adding the second would push it close to 1.030 which seems on the level of a desert wine. I find it hard to believe people use both packs.
What was the SG before you backsweetened? I have Frutta Blackberry and Strawberry, which finished at 0.998 and 0.996, respectively. After adding 1 packet to each, the SG is 1.006. I'm bulk aging for 3 months, then I'll adjust sugar and backsweeten.

Why did I have different starting points and the same ending point? The strongest likelihood is stirring. I stirred both well, but sugar is thick and it's entirely possible that no matter how much I stirred, it wasn't enough.

After bulk aging, I'll check SG again. It's possible that either or both will change.

I'll be adding part or all of the second pack to each wine, based upon taste. In the past I've bottled immediately after backsweetening, but I'm going to put the wines back in the carboy for a week or 2 after the "final" backsweetening. This gives the wine time to meld.

Regarding sweetness, I purchased several bottles of a commercial Vignoles, and after buying spotted "sweet" on the label. Darn, I enjoy dessert wines, but sweet wines in general are not my taste. When I tasted the wine, it tasted off-dry. The wine is highly acidic, and the sugar balanced the acid so it doesn't taste sweet.

Both of my Frutta tasted far better after adding 1 conditioning pack, but both need more. Both tasted dry, which indicates higher acid than is apparent to my palate. In a couple of months I'll add glycerin and 1/3 pack to each, stir well, and taste. While I don't expect to use the full packs, I accept the possibility that the wine may require it.

In addition to my regular winemaking notes, I have a "In Detail" blog that records my progress. You may find it useful.


BTW - it just occurred to me that I should check the SG again after I rack back into the carboy. The act of racking is also a stirring/blending action, and I may get a more consistent reading by doing so.
 
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I backsweeten until it tastes right.
One of my college roommates taught me how he made fried rice. I asked how much soy sauce to use on the rice, and his response was, "until it's the right color." ;)

@DavesWine, I appreciate your POV on this topic, and hope you're getting what you need, or at least the confidence to wing it.
 

BABRU

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Enjoying everyone’s approach but surprised that nobody said they don’t backsweeten at all. My process is use home picked black raspberries. ferment to dry, bulk age 2 years and bottle age 1 -2 years more. Time seems to do the job of mellowing the flavor to perfection. No sweetening needed. Obviously those who prefer sweet may not agree. An old timer (somewhat older than me) told me that black raspberry wine must be aged and the longer the better. I find that to be true. PS: The “old timer” got me started making wine. He saw me making jelly from my black raspberries and said I was wasting them in jelly and should be making wine. He brought me a 6 gallon ferment bucket, a few needed ingredients and his recipe. Haven’t made the jelly since!
 

Obbnw

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Enjoying everyone’s approach but surprised that nobody said they don’t backsweeten at all. My process is use home picked black raspberries. ferment to dry, bulk age 2 years and bottle age 1 -2 years more. Time seems to do the job of mellowing the flavor to perfection. No sweetening needed. Obviously those who prefer sweet may not agree. An old timer (somewhat older than me) told me that black raspberry wine must be aged and the longer the better. I find that to be true. PS: The “old timer” got me started making wine. He saw me making jelly from my black raspberries and said I was wasting them in jelly and should be making wine. He brought me a 6 gallon ferment bucket, a few needed ingredients and his recipe. Haven’t made the jelly since!
I started my wine journey with "what am I going to do with these 35lbs of blackberries?"

I didn't bother backsweetening either. I was surprised at how "wine like" it was. After that first year I started planning my "vineyard" so I could make wine with grapes.
 

Ty520

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Interestingly, I recently stumbled across a lost bottle of my first blackberry wine that I had put off as a "failure." I did not back-sweeten.

at 12 months, i found it unpleasant - vegetal, and too tannic
at 16 months, i still found it was still unpleasant

...and then at 20 months, it was enjoyable

I looked back at Jack Keller's book, and he recommends that blackberry wine needs at least 18 months to age, as well.

that being said, I have found that, in general, I back-sweeten my country wines around 10 points
 

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