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Make port from wine kit?

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Cat

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I really wanted to make a chocolate orange port for Christmas this year, but it seems the manufacturers rotate the flavors and didn’t produce one this year. The closest I’ve seen is a chocolate orange wine kit (Island Mist, I think.). Can I turn half of it - which would be 3 gal - into a port?
I have made wine and mead from scratch, but not port. Any suggestions for tweaking a kit, or recipes, especially using cocoa nibs would be appreciated. I’ve seen one of J Keller’s but waiting a year to bottle wouldn’t work for this Christmas
 

sour_grapes

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I have never done anything like this, I have never made an Island Mist, so take this with a LARGE grain of salt. But, hell yeah. I do not see any reason that making the Island Mist kit, and then fortifying with some brandy, wouldn't give a nice result. If it were me, I might consider making the IM kit to 5 gallons instead of 6 to make it taste more intense, and perhaps adding some sugar to bump the ABV. Then fortify it with brandy to get the desired ABV. JMHO.
 

pillswoj

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Back in the "Wine Art" days they had instructions to turn any kit into an Ice Wine style, I don't recall exactly the steps but basically you make the kit to 3 gallons. You split the concentrate in half and dilute it just enough that the yeast will start it, you then step feed the rest of the concentrate back in in two or three shots until max alcohol is reached - the yeast would die out before it got to dry leaving a sweet dessert wine. You could try something like that with the island mist kit.
 

GaDawg

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I have never done anything like this, I have never made an Island Mist, so take this with a LARGE grain of salt. But, hell yeah. I do not see any reason that making the Island Mist kit, and then fortifying with some brandy, wouldn't give a nice result. If it were me, I might consider making the IM kit to 5 gallons instead of 6 to make it taste more intense, and perhaps adding some sugar to bump the ABV. Then fortify it with brandy to get the desired ABV. JMHO.
If you use Everclear it will not change the taste, and it’s cost less.
 

tjgaul

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I agree with all of the above. Using EC-1118 and step feeding you can get to a pretty high ABV before fortifying. You can either target a starting SG that will just barely go dry and back sweeten or go for the gusto, ramp up the starting SG beyond what the yeast can handle and live with the residual sugar left behind. The benefits I see to going dry first are that you can back sweeten to your taste and if you reserve some of the concentrate, you can use that for back sweetening to further amp up the flavor profile.

Anyway you shake it, making a port from a wine kit is definitely possible and fun. I've made 2 small batch ports by stealing a little concentrate from kits, adding a homemade F-Pac, sugar, dark chocolate, vanilla bean and whatever else looked good at the time. They both came out nice to my taste. I would think that if you started with a kit that was already on point with the flavor you are looking for that you would be well ahead of the game.
 

cmason1957

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I am going to disagree somewhat with what others have said. In my mind, one thing that distinguishes a port from just high alcohol wine is the perceived thickness, maybe it's mouthfeel of them. They should coat your mouth with flavor and feel almost like a syrup. At least the ones I like the best give that kind of a feel. Starting with an Island Mist kinda kit, which is generally a lower alcohol, thin, wine cooler type of style. I would think you would end up with a high alcohol, rocket fuel tasting beverage, but I could well be wrong, that's just my $0.02, take it for what it's worth.
 

drainsurgeon

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I have done this with IM Black Raspberry Merlot. Reduce to 5 gallons, step feed (usually up to 16%-18%) and fortify with brandy up to about 22%. I add some glycerin for mouth feel. It actually turns out pretty good for a cheep kit. Go for it!

Island Mist also has a Black Cherry which sounds pretty good. I'll have to try that one soon.
 
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jdwebb

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This is hardly from a kit, however, it is made from Alexander's concentrates. Here's my take on a port wine using honey to crank up the sugar content. Some may chose to call it a mead, so how about a port mead? This is my second recipe, the first is a blackberry/cherry that is exquisite and resting comfortably on cognac-soaked French oak after having worked it's ass off to get to 20% ABV. This is not for the noob, it is intense, and it takes some patience. You're going to coax a yeast that typically peters out around 18% up to around 20%, then kill it with some brandy or cognac. Proceed at your own risk, it is expensive to make;

1 can ea Alexander’s Cab, Red Zin & Sirah
*9 lbs caramelized avocado or Wildflower honey up front
1/2 can ea Vintners Plum & Black Currant puree
1 1/2 lbs very ripe bananas (black skins) thick sliced skin on and 8 oz dried cherries simmered gently for 5 min, cooled and added to the fermenter
Water to a SG of 1.160+ (*honey addition needs to be controlled at this point to reach the right SG, I suggest around 1.165)
Wyeast 4946 (it is highly recommended you make a starter for this)

Now, at this point you may have to adjust the starting temps a bit. Keep it warm until you get a good, healthy and vigorous fermentation going, then start lowering the temp to around 68-72ºF. Unlike most red wines that ferment at higher temps to dump most of the fruity esters and flavors, you want to hang on to some with this project.

At 1.080 – 60 – 3 more lbs of honey, remove bananas and cherries stir in slowly (bananas may sink to the bottom, this is OK)
At 1.040-20 – another 3 lbs of honey – looking to push the ABV to about 20%

Secondary with 1/2 can ea of Plum & Black Currant puree
2 lbs mixed cherries for at least a month to 6 weeks.

Tertiary with 4 oz brandy soaked oak, 750 ml of good brandy after racking off the cherries. Give it 4 to 5 weeks, if you want more oak, add it 1 oz at a time, wait a few weeks and taste it. Once you add it, you can’t take it out.

Patience, lots of patience and attention is needed for this project. Daily monitoring, gravity readings is necessary to ensure a good ferment. Remember, you’re trying to push the yeast beyond it’s rated ABV, somewhere around 20%. This may require making slight temperature adjustments along the way, and a good stir every now and then to keep the yeast in suspension for at least the first 5-7 days. A good head of steam is needed to accomplish this so think of the yeast as your children, give them the same attention, love and care.

***Regarding the two honey additions. I usually remove about a quart of must, mix the honey well in a large food grade container, and slowly pour it back into the must. DO NOT heat the honey or the must, be patient, stir it by hand until it is well mixed.
 
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Dennis Griffith

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I somewhat disagree with letting the ABV get past 10% before fortifying. Most port makers stop fermentation at somewhere between 8 to 10% by adding the brandy, taking the ABV to about 18 to 20% based on taste. I make both port and sherry. Some wine kits could also end up tasting foxy when you fortify, so experimentation is what you need to do to get to where you want to go. As always, journal what you do so that you can repeat it.
 

jdwebb

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I somewhat disagree with letting the ABV get past 10% before fortifying. Most port makers stop fermentation at somewhere between 8 to 10% by adding the brandy, taking the ABV to about 18 to 20% based on taste. I make both port and sherry. Some wine kits could also end up tasting foxy when you fortify, so experimentation is what you need to do to get to where you want to go. As always, journal what you do so that you can repeat it.
Keep in mind this isn't a normal method of making port, it's more of a pseudo-port. Also, adding enough cognac to a 5 gallon batch at 10% abv would require perhaps a gallon or two to get the abv above 20%. At that point I'm afraid it may taste like fruit flavored cognac. I've already done one recipe with blackberries and cherries using honey, Red Zinfandel and Merlot. It came out fantastic, and is currently aging on some French oak. Whether or not the methods are correct or not as far as making port, the bottom line is, I have a very tasty adult beverage that mimics a port wine.
 

Dennis Griffith

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Keep in mind this isn't a normal method of making port, it's more of a pseudo-port. Also, adding enough cognac to a 5 gallon batch at 10% abv would require perhaps a gallon or two to get the abv above 20%. At that point I'm afraid it may taste like fruit flavored cognac. I've already done one recipe with blackberries and cherries using honey, Red Zinfandel and Merlot. It came out fantastic, and is currently aging on some French oak. Whether or not the methods are correct or not as far as making port, the bottom line is, I have a very tasty adult beverage that mimics a port wine.
Could it not be considered a sherry then? It does sound like a interesting mix. I suppose it doesn't matter what you call it, if you like it, then that's enough.
 

GaDawg

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Keep in mind this isn't a normal method of making port, it's more of a pseudo-port. Also, adding enough cognac to a 5 gallon batch at 10% abv would require perhaps a gallon or two to get the abv above 20%.
The brandy they use in Portugal isn't available here. It's about 190 proof. For our faux port or whatever you want to call it, I use Everclear or Golden Grain. They are 190 proof and unlike 2 gal of brandy it will not change the flavor, and it is a lot cheaper.
 

Dennis Griffith

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The brandy they use in Portugal isn't available here. It's about 190 proof. For our faux port or whatever you want to call it, I use Everclear or Golden Grain. They are 190 proof and unlike 2 gal of brandy it will not change the flavor, and it is a lot cheaper.
Very true. I have tasted the stuff and all I have to say is 'no open flames'. I have been looking for a small distiller that would be willing to make it for me from wine that I deliver. I know one in Maryland that may do it for me, if I can get him to spare a still for my brandy. I know he has some small ones (7 gallon) that he makes small test batches with before committing one of his 500 gallon models to a task. He does make the best rum I have ever tasted. Maybe he could even make some high test rum for me? I've heard of people using 151 rum.
 
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jdwebb

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I am going to disagree somewhat with what others have said. In my mind, one thing that distinguishes a port from just high alcohol wine is the perceived thickness, maybe it's mouthfeel of them. They should coat your mouth with flavor and feel almost like a syrup. At least the ones I like the best give that kind of a feel. Starting with an Island Mist kinda kit, which is generally a lower alcohol, thin, wine cooler type of style. I would think you would end up with a high alcohol, rocket fuel tasting beverage, but I could well be wrong, that's just my $0.02, take it for what it's worth.
The Blackberry/Cherry Port mead I have aging right now will leave you wondering where your knife and fork went. I agree on the viscosity of a good port leaving you with a mouthful of goodness to ponder over for a while after it passes the tonsils. This is far from just a fortified wine, it has two different grape juices, hints of vanilla, blackberry, cherry, tannin's from the oak, a richness from the cognac, and honey character and aroma from the wildflower honey.
 

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