Question #2 - I like to use this method. This was the port is sweetened by the natural sugars of the grape and (to me) is a much more simple approach. Simply kill of the yeast by adding the appropriate amount of fortifier and you are good to go.
Question #3 - Very good question. To be honest, I make very small amounts of port and I really never bother to check PH, but just adjust to taste. I feel (and I could be wrong here) that the fortifier is a great preservative and maintaining an appropriate PH level is much less of a concern.
Question #2 - In the case of this elderberry, there isn't that much natural sugar, it's mostly sugar I added so I suppose this reasoning wouldn't apply, do you agree?
My other concern here is the volume of fortifier. WineCalc tells me that if I fortify my 1 gallon mid-ferment at 7% ABV, I need 0.65 gallon of 80 proof vodka to get to 20% ABV. I may as well just flavor the vodka. OTOH if I let the thing ferment out to let's say 16%, then I only need 0.20 gal of the 80 proof vodka to get to 20% ABV.
Yeah, I agree with your reasoning. Might as well make your own ethanol as pay someone else to do it for you (especially since it will be table sugar either way). Less dilution of your flavor your way, too.
I would definitely want to do something to smooth out the everclear. I tried it in a port I was making recently up against brandy and decided to use xo brandy as the everclear just made it taste too harsh. The xo brandy actually added a few nice background notes that vodka wouldn’t bring in although I considered that too. This was a grape fpac based port (toasted marshmallow) kit so definitely not the same thing. I’ve never done anything with elderberry, so I can’t make an informed recommendation, but if it was me, I would bench test a few small samples to determine if you like what it’s tasing like before doing the whole batch. That’s how I decided against the everclear versus Brandy and went with a slightly higher brandy : port ratio than I originally thought about.
Better to not like one or two ounces than a whole batch!
I split off just over 1 gallon, added sugar back to 1.030, fermented that to 1.004, added sugar back to 1.030 again, and that has fermented down to 1.014. Somewhere in there I gave it a little dose of Fermaid O. It hasn't completely stopped but it has slowed way down. By my calculations, I'm at 16.14% ABV with 3.6% RS. Smells good, no off odors, but I haven't tasted it.
My plan for today is:
5oz Everclear brings me to 19% ABV
Dose with KMS
No additional sugar
Taste test for acid additions
I'm also interested in thoughts on 1) oak cubes; 2) blackberry infusion to add some fruitiness.
I made a mess out of 5 gallons of port this last year, that I’m still trying to recover from. The plan was to make it from Cab grapes, arrest at 7 brix with Brandy to 20% abv. The cab came in at 23.5 vs 25.5 brix and the yeast kept chugging away, so I kept adding sugar. Well, then it stopped and I had a light red port that was too sweet. I added a gallon of Petite Sirah that I had, a spiral of oak, as well as another handle of brandy...yea volume is expanding.
The person I’m making it “with” likes the way it tastes now, but to me it is still lacking any interesting flavors that I have gotten before when I made Zin port from a stuck fermentation. I was thinking of adding brown sugar as another winemaker had done, to give it some carmel notes. Has anyone else done this?
I made a "port" two years ago. Every year I make a large blueberry wine run. Usually around 20 gallons. Well that year the blueberries were terrible, but I made the wine anyway. It was bad, but I was able to rescue it.kinda. I decided to try something radical. I racked one 5 gallon carboy into a 6 gallon carboy then added two blueberry flavorings, two bottles of blueberry vodka, and one bottle of Christian Brothers brandy. It was awful. It tasted like something they'd serve you on death row if you liked blueberries and sadness. I basically forgot about it for a year. Then I needed bottles for this year's blueberry run, I decided to dump the evil blueberry port. When I uncorked the first bottle I got a rush of blueberries that smell nothing like the swill from a year ago. Shockingly it was now fantastic, you couldn't even taste the alcohol. Amazing what time does to even very bad wine.
I make a batch of port every year from my home grapes, typically use leftover concord 1 or 2 gallons, I let the fermentation run dry, capitalizing the wine to produce a 14% wine then fortify with brandy and back sweeten. It produces an excellent port. My wife is a bit of a port snob and absolutely loves it. Usually bottle it in 375ml bottles. Simple process but works very well.