Port - Kit conversion to Port

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hawkwing

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I have made a port kit in the past. It was from WineKits and was a fortified version. I've downloaded the instructions for a few kinds and most now it seems more popular to add more sugar or concentrate to get higher alcohol than to fortify. Regardless Port kits are expensive and only half size. I could literally make 2-3 times as much for the same price by converting a kit. Only trouble is getting similar results. I've never let that stop me before and I enjoy such a challenge.

There is this old thread I found but I didn't get the impression they were completely satisfied with the results. I'm hoping to learn and improve.
Making a Port style wine from a Standard Wine Kit

For a donor kit I've been looking at the Costco line of Argentina Ridge Merlot. It's a 60 bottle kit or two 7 L concentrates. I will check my local stores at come point. My favorite store is run by an older gentleman who doesn't have a website. He's legit from the old countries so he might have something to say about this idea.

I want to start with a wine that is similar in body and flavor if possible. I was going to choose Merlot because it is recommended as a best substitute for port in cooking in a Google search. It also has medium tannin levels similar to a port. I'm looking to start with a ruby port. Perhaps try to make a tawny later on.

I'll have to do some calculations to figure out how much concentrate to save for back sweetening and use less water to get a similar SG to other port kits. I am thinking of fortifying rather than adding more sugars to ferment higher alcohol. Part of the reason for this is I think it will make for a cleaner product with less impurities and thus less hangover effect. In the past I have used brandy to fortify however, I might consider using Everclear. This is for two reasons, one less dilution and two cheaper.

I may have to add oak chips etc. depending what comes in the kit I get.

Does anyone have any thoughts\pointers\things to avoid on my plan or my choice of Merlot for a base wine?

Thank you!
 

sour_grapes

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As you seem to know, they make true ports (i.e., in Porto or Oporto), by adding the fortifying alcohol during an active fermentation, so that the increased ABV stops the fermentation and leaves the desired amount of residual sugar (and the desired ABV). I worked out the math for that (quoted below) here: Whole grape port

I also wrote up a spreadsheet that will make this calculation for you:

Well, I put this into an Excel sheet, which you are welcome to (if I can figure out how to attach it). There are two sheets: one you input the sugar in g/l, the other you input the SG of the must instead. In both sheets, you input parameters in the yellow boxes, and the answers come out in the blue boxes.

View attachment 14828
 

hawkwing

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As you seem to know, they make true ports (i.e., in Porto or Oporto), by adding the fortifying alcohol during an active fermentation, so that the increased ABV stops the fermentation and leaves the desired amount of residual sugar (and the desired ABV). I worked out the math for that (quoted below) here: Whole grape port

I also wrote up a spreadsheet that will make this calculation for you:
How easy is it to overshoot the fortification point? I’ve always back sweetened however, I’ve read that it tastes different.
 

hawkwing

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If I was to go with the Costco kit apparently using 1.5 bags to make 30 bottles is much better according to a review on Amazon. So I could factor that into the calculations when making the port.
 
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How easy is it to overshoot the fortification point? I’ve always back sweetened however, I’ve read that it tastes different.
Fermentation may not stop immediately, so hitting the desired point may be difficult. Keep in mind that commercial wineries may have hundreds or thousands of barrels, so they can blend to get the desired ABV.

If I was to go with the Costco kit apparently using 1.5 bags to make 30 bottles is much better according to a review on Amazon. So I could factor that into the calculations when making the port.
Consider that the kit you mentioned is balanced for reconstitution to 46 liters. Adding 50% more concentrate will correspondingly increase the acid that much.

The final wine will have high ABV and RS, which may balance the acid. Or it may not, as increasing the acid by 50% may be too much. I would hesitate to use that much concentrate, but if you are comfortable with that risk? Try it. You can freeze the remaining half-bag and if the acid is way too high, ferment the last half-bag and blend it in.

Be careful of winemaking advice from Amazon reviews. While you don't know me, either, there are dozens of folks on WMT who will post an opposing opinion if they disagree with me -- which is good. We spot-check each other and the final advice is better.
 

hawkwing

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Fermentation may not stop immediately, so hitting the desired point may be difficult. Keep in mind that commercial wineries may have hundreds or thousands of barrels, so they can blend to get the desired ABV.


Consider that the kit you mentioned is balanced for reconstitution to 46 liters. Adding 50% more concentrate will correspondingly increase the acid that much.

The final wine will have high ABV and RS, which may balance the acid. Or it may not, as increasing the acid by 50% may be too much. I would hesitate to use that much concentrate, but if you are comfortable with that risk? Try it. You can freeze the remaining half-bag and if the acid is way too high, ferment the last half-bag and blend it in.

Be careful of winemaking advice from Amazon reviews. While you don't know me, either, there are dozens of folks on WMT who will post an opposing opinion if they disagree with me -- which is good. We spot-check each other and the final advice is better.
The 1.5 times will probably not matter as I’ll dilute to whatever SG a port should start at. Then I would adjust the pH whichever way it needed to go. I know it might not turn out exactly right but I’m hoping it’ll be good. So far I’ve been lucky in my experimentation.
 
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The 1.5 times will probably not matter as I’ll dilute to whatever SG a port should start at. Then I would adjust the pH whichever way it needed to go. I know it might not turn out exactly right but I’m hoping it’ll be good. So far I’ve been lucky in my experimentation.
You have confused me. I thought you were using 1.5 bags (enough for 45 bottles) to make 30. If you dilute it down to a lower SG, what is the point in using the extra concentrate? Or am I completely misunderstanding you? [if so, it won't be the first time! ;) ]

What SG is the kit supposed to be when reconstituted? What SG is your target?
 

hawkwing

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You have confused me. I thought you were using 1.5 bags (enough for 45 bottles) to make 30. If you dilute it down to a lower SG, what is the point in using the extra concentrate? Or am I completely misunderstanding you? [if so, it won't be the first time! ;) ]

What SG is the kit supposed to be when reconstituted? What SG is your target?
Wouldn’t be the first time I’ve confused someone either. :h

What I meant was someone on Amazon suggested if making the kit from
Costco as regular to make a merlot or whatever style it ends up better if you use 1.5 bags to make 23L not 2 bags for 46L. In that case I don’t know what the SG should be for the regular wine as I haven’t purchased a kit yet. But whatever range say a Merlot should be.

For making the port however, the SG range I have seen in kit instructions varies from 1.115 to 1.133. I would likely target in there somewhere but those instructions plan for chapitalization which is a new term to me and I believe that’s adding sugar part way through. So I will have to determine what range is best if in planning to fortify over chapitalization.

Looks like bottling is in the 1.010-1.020 range. I’d probably aim high as I like the sweet. I should buy another bottle of port and measure the SG.
 

Ohio Bob

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For my port kits as well as my wild blackberry port, the protocol is to make a wine that would be 13-ish % alcohol. Either stop the fermentation early to retain some sweetness, or ferment dry and back sweeten. Then fortify to 20-ish % alcohol. I’ve not seen any kits that advise fermenting to 20%.
 

hawkwing

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For my port kits as well as my wild blackberry port, the protocol is to make a wine that would be 13-ish % alcohol. Either stop the fermentation early to retain some sweetness, or ferment dry and back sweeten. Then fortify to 20-ish % alcohol. I’ve not seen any kits that advise fermenting to 20%.
I’ve made a kit from WineKitz back when they had their own branded kits. Now I think they sell Wineexpert. And it’s called apres or desert wine or both. I can’t find the instructions for that kit though. I do recall fermenting dry then adding brandy and another pack of juice to it as per the instructions.

Now the WineExpert instructions have a dextrose pack to add part way through the fermentation for chaptalization and I don’t see any mention of fortification. Not sure if I’m going to attempt to try and stop the fermentation or back sweeten yet. I’m tempted to try and stop the fermentation as I’ve read comments that say it tastes better.
 

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Perhaps they don’t say how to fortify since it involves fortifying spirits they don’t/can’t control. Should they recommend vodka, brandy, Everclear? Too many variables that also involve personal taste.
 

hawkwing

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Perhaps they don’t say how to fortify since it involves fortifying spirits they don’t/can’t control. Should they recommend vodka, brandy, Everclear? Too many variables that also involve personal taste.
I suppose brandy would be more traditional choice but I suspect commercially it would be raw white brandy not aged in oak. I’m probably going to use Everclear since it’ll be cheaper and less dilution. I think our Everclear is 95%.
 

ratflinger

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I've successfully made 'port'. I'll use a something like a tempranillo or zinfandel, ferment it dry, and let it go through my standard racking & bulk aging process. So the port base will be about 6 months old, minimum. Then I'll split it into however much port I want to bottle, usually 3gal for my wife and 3 for my daughter. I'll use simple syrup and sweeten to taste, add any flavorings I wish to use, then hit it with 190* Everclear, and pump the ABV to up around 20. Too much Everclear and the port will always taste 'hot'. Brandy is the preferred choice for fortifying, but in France they make a 150* proof brandy just for this purpose. The problem with anything lower, ABV wise, is you tend to thin the wine base too much.

You'll need to carboy age this for a bit, while testing for sweetness and flavor. I like it just a little too sweet & a little too flavorful going into the bottle. After a year in the bottle the flavors and sweetness blend and moderate a little.

If you totally miss then all is not lost. I missed a batch, rather badly, so I dumped the bottles back in the carboy and added some fresh wine and redid the whole batch.
 
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@hawkwing, if you start with a very high SG, the environment may be too rich and the yeast may not be able to survive. Yes, there can be too much sugar. I don't recommend starting higher than 1.115 to get a good ferment going.

The methods @Ohio Bob and @ratflinger outlined are good ones. It's a pretty much guaranteed to ferment out as expected. The only drawback is the lower the ABV from fermentation, the more spirits are required to reach the fortified ABV.

You have 3 choices to up the initial ABV: chaptalization, step feeding, or both.
  • With chaptalization, reconstitute a kit and bump the OG to 1.100 - 1.115 with sugar. Let it ferment dry and age as @ratflinger said. From my POV, this is a better method, as you know the ABV and can calculate more accurately how much Everclear to add.
  • With step feeding, each time the wine gets down to 1.000 - 1.010, add enough sugar to bump the SG by 0.010. Repeat until the yeast gives up the ghost. For this it's essential to keep good records, else you'll have no idea what the final ABV is.
  • For both? Start with a high OG and step feed. Ditto on issues.
Me? I'd chaptalize, both for ease of record keeping and calculations, and because it's a straightforward process.

You can try adding Everclear at 1.020 to try to stop the ferment. If it doesn't stop quickly enough, add sugar to taste. I don't use a hydrometer to decide now much to backsweeten a wine -- I go strictly by taste, and measure SG when done. For one in the range you mentioned (1.020) you may need to add a bit of tartaric, else the wine will taste flabby.

@Ohio Bob & @ratflinger, do you adjust acid?

In my state, Everclear caps at 150 proof.
 

SLM

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I've been experimenting with port. There is advantage in splitting batches and trying different spirits to see what you like. My favorite flavor so far is Christian Brothers brandy. I bulk age a minimum 6 months, gone as high as 22% abv and it still tastes smooth. I don't adjust acid but I'm using wild blackberries. My next experiment is to age some in oak.
 

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I've played with port style; black raspberry/chocolate, Concord from juice, banana. The first attempts (raspberry and Concord) were fermented dry then back sweeten and then fortified with brandy. The banana was the first I ever tried stopping fermentation with spirits to retain residual sugar. I made the decision on the banana in mid primary so my ABV was not as high as I would have liked.

I fortified the banana with Malibu Rum (coconut) and Everclear. The rum is a lower ABV so I supplemented the fortification with Everclear 151. I may try another batch with both the Malibu and a higher ABV rum. Bananas and rum are a great combination and I have been underwhelmed with regular banana wine.

More experiments to come. Maybe that fig batch that is trying to be vinegar.

I have oaked the raspberry and Concord batches. That adds a nice touch.
 

Malach58

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@hawkwing, if you start with a very high SG, the environment may be too rich and the yeast may not be able to survive. Yes, there can be too much sugar. I don't recommend starting higher than 1.115 to get a good ferment going.

The methods @Ohio Bob and @ratflinger outlined are good ones. It's a pretty much guaranteed to ferment out as expected. The only drawback is the lower the ABV from fermentation, the more spirits are required to reach the fortified ABV.

You have 3 choices to up the initial ABV: chaptalization, step feeding, or both.
  • With chaptalization, reconstitute a kit and bump the OG to 1.100 - 1.115 with sugar. Let it ferment dry and age as @ratflinger said. From my POV, this is a better method, as you know the ABV and can calculate more accurately how much Everclear to add.
  • With step feeding, each time the wine gets down to 1.000 - 1.010, add enough sugar to bump the SG by 0.010. Repeat until the yeast gives up the ghost. For this it's essential to keep good records, else you'll have no idea what the final ABV is.
  • For both? Start with a high OG and step feed. Ditto on issues.
Me? I'd chaptalize, both for ease of record keeping and calculations, and because it's a straightforward process.

You can try adding Everclear at 1.020 to try to stop the ferment. If it doesn't stop quickly enough, add sugar to taste. I don't use a hydrometer to decide now much to backsweeten a wine -- I go strictly by taste, and measure SG when done. For one in the range you mentioned (1.020) you may need to add a bit of tartaric, else the wine will taste flabby.

@Ohio Bob & @ratflinger, do you adjust acid?

In my state, Everclear caps at 150 proof.
I just made a Red Zin old vine kit and chapitalized 3 times to attain a 17% abv, and stopped at 1.025. I fed a little goferm as I did this. Also, I added banana chips for a smooth mouthfeel.
I removed 1.5 gallons for my wife, and then added1.75 liters of brandy to bring it to 19ish%. It is a great tasting port so far. 🍷
 

Ohio Bob

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@hawkwing, if you start with a very high SG, the environment may be too rich and the yeast may not be able to survive. Yes, there can be too much sugar. I don't recommend starting higher than 1.115 to get a good ferment going.

The methods @Ohio Bob and @ratflinger outlined are good ones. It's a pretty much guaranteed to ferment out as expected. The only drawback is the lower the ABV from fermentation, the more spirits are required to reach the fortified ABV.

You have 3 choices to up the initial ABV: chaptalization, step feeding, or both.
  • With chaptalization, reconstitute a kit and bump the OG to 1.100 - 1.115 with sugar. Let it ferment dry and age as @ratflinger said. From my POV, this is a better method, as you know the ABV and can calculate more accurately how much Everclear to add.
  • With step feeding, each time the wine gets down to 1.000 - 1.010, add enough sugar to bump the SG by 0.010. Repeat until the yeast gives up the ghost. For this it's essential to keep good records, else you'll have no idea what the final ABV is.
  • For both? Start with a high OG and step feed. Ditto on issues.
Me? I'd chaptalize, both for ease of record keeping and calculations, and because it's a straightforward process.

You can try adding Everclear at 1.020 to try to stop the ferment. If it doesn't stop quickly enough, add sugar to taste. I don't use a hydrometer to decide now much to backsweeten a wine -- I go strictly by taste, and measure SG when done. For one in the range you mentioned (1.020) you may need to add a bit of tartaric, else the wine will taste flabby.

@Ohio Bob & @ratflinger, do you adjust acid?

In my state, Everclear caps at 150 proof.
I do not adjust acid, although I should be measuring it. I back sweeten my wild blackberry with Hershey’s chocolate powder. Just enough to take the tart off and not be a recognizable chocolate flavor. I’ll also blend in wine especially to top off the carboy but also at bottling. I use Everclear 190. Not available in Ohio, had to get 150 I think in West Virginia, my neighbor gets me 190 when he makes a few trips down to Texas.

Funny story, my local grocery store suddenly had 190 on the shelf of the liquor section, so I grabbed a few bottles. Went back months later and there were none. Seems they are not legally allowed to sell it but got it from their distributor by accident! Wished I would have grabbed everything I could, had I known.
 

hawkwing

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I've successfully made 'port'. I'll use a something like a tempranillo or zinfandel, ferment it dry, and let it go through my standard racking & bulk aging process. So the port base will be about 6 months old, minimum. Then I'll split it into however much port I want to bottle, usually 3gal for my wife and 3 for my daughter. I'll use simple syrup and sweeten to taste, add any flavorings I wish to use, then hit it with 190* Everclear, and pump the ABV to up around 20. Too much Everclear and the port will always taste 'hot'. Brandy is the preferred choice for fortifying, but in France they make a 150* proof brandy just for this purpose. The problem with anything lower, ABV wise, is you tend to thin the wine base too much.

You'll need to carboy age this for a bit, while testing for sweetness and flavor. I like it just a little too sweet & a little too flavorful going into the bottle. After a year in the bottle the flavors and sweetness blend and moderate a little.

If you totally miss then all is not lost. I missed a batch, rather badly, so I dumped the bottles back in the carboy and added some fresh wine and redid the whole batch.

Looks like those wines are similar to the Merlot I was considering. So it will depend on local availability.

I have been bulk aging in carboys for a while. Given the size I may have to use the larger 54L Demi Jon. But would be harder to move.

It’s good that it could be salvaged and mixed to save if necessary. Thanks for the idea.
 

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