Questions on my first port

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drainsurgeon

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I'm back from my winter break and ready to start my first port from Jack Keller's site. It's a Raspberry-Chocolate Port and I'll be making a 6 gallon batch with a 96 oz can of Vinters Harvest, 15# of frozen raspberries and Dutched Chocolate.

Whats confusing me is the recipe says to run the sugar up to 1.09 for starting SG which will produce about 13% ABV. Then adding brandy to bring it to about 18%.

First I would like to know if 18% is normal for a finished port? I thought they were a higher ABV than that. Secondly, why not just bring the SG up to 1.13 (or maybe 1.1 and step feed sugar), use 1118 yeast and just ferment up to 18%? Another thread I read tonight someone stated that if step feeding was done properly, that you could run 1118 yeast up as high as 20%.

I believe to be a "Port" style wine, that it must be fortified with brandy or vodka, but why not take the ferment up to a higher ABV to start with?

Any and all advise on making this port is welcome. I'll have close to $150 invested into this batch and don't want to screw it up!
 

richmke

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First I would like to know if 18% is normal for a finished port?
19-20% is the usual range. You need it high enough to keep the yeast from fermenting the remaining sugar.

I thought they were a higher ABV than that. Secondly, why not just bring the SG up to 1.13 ...
I agree with you. That said, traditional port uses grapes starting around sg 1.13, and stopping fermentation at 1.03 by adding brandy.
 

JohnT

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My approach is this..

The goal is to fortify to a level that is tasty while also providing an environment where yeast can not survive. The latter is important because you do not want to allow any yeast to ferment the residual sugar in the port.

Since most yeasts die off at 18 or 19abv, some can survive up to 20abv. So, I like to shoot for 22abv to be safe. I also like the strength of it.

Perfect to serve in small port glasses on a cold wintery day while standing in front of a roaring fire.
 

drainsurgeon

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My approach is this..

The goal is to fortify to a level that is tasty while also providing an environment where yeast can not survive. The latter is important because you do not want to allow any yeast to ferment the residual sugar in the port.

Since most yeasts die off at 18 or 19abv, some can survive up to 20abv. So, I like to shoot for 22abv to be safe. I also like the strength of it.

Perfect to serve in small port glasses on a cold wintery day while standing in front of a roaring fire.
OK, now I understand why he says to add the fortifying brandy right after transferring into secondary, even if a slow fermentation lingers. Like you said, this will leave some residual sugar. He didn't mention back sweetening or even a finished SG to shoot for.

I'm also not sure how to calculate how much brandy to add. He said to go to "Blending Wines" for a calculator. I entered base at 16%, fortifier at 40%, desired at 22%, it gives me 18 base and 6 fortifier. Does that mean that I will need to add TWO GALLONS of brandy to six gallons of wine to reach 22%?
 

drainsurgeon

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19-20% is the usual range. You need it high enough to keep the yeast from fermenting the remaining sugar.



I agree with you. That said, traditional port uses grapes starting around sg 1.13, and stopping fermentation at 1.03 by adding brandy.
So you are suggesting stopping the ferment at 1.03 by adding the brandy? This will put the wine at 13% and I'll have to add even MORE brandy to get it to 20 or 22% as some here are suggesting. I think I understand the basic idea to stopping the ferment early to leave some residue sugar, but wouldn't it be better to let it ferment out to a higher ABV (so less brandy would be needed to bring it up to 20%), and then back sweeten to desired level? I think I'm missing something here.
 

JohnT

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I'm also not sure how to calculate how much brandy to add. He said to go to "Blending Wines" for a calculator. I entered base at 16%, fortifier at 40%, desired at 22%, it gives me 18 base and 6 fortifier. Does that mean that I will need to add TWO GALLONS of brandy to six gallons of wine to reach 22%?
If it is the person's square, then the result would be proportions

6:18 (fortifier to base) or 1 part fortifier to 3 parts base...

*** let's have someone else verify this before you do anything. My math abilities have been lacking lately.
 

sour_grapes

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I'm also not sure how to calculate how much brandy to add. He said to go to "Blending Wines" for a calculator. I entered base at 16%, fortifier at 40%, desired at 22%, it gives me 18 base and 6 fortifier. Does that mean that I will need to add TWO GALLONS of brandy to six gallons of wine to reach 22%?
Yup, that is exactly what that means!

So you are suggesting stopping the ferment at 1.03 by adding the brandy? This will put the wine at 13% and I'll have to add even MORE brandy to get it to 20 or 22% as some here are suggesting. I think I understand the basic idea to stopping the ferment early to leave some residue sugar, but wouldn't it be better to let it ferment out to a higher ABV (so less brandy would be needed to bring it up to 20%), and then back sweeten to desired level? I think I'm missing something here.
You can do it either way. Some people favor leaving grape sugars as the sweetener (which, as you point out, requires using more brandy). Some prefer using table sugar for sweetening/additional alcohol production, and hence need to shell out less for brandy. You're the winemaker, you get to decide! :b
 

drainsurgeon

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Yup, that is exactly what that means!



You can do it either way. Some people favor leaving grape sugars as the sweetener (which, as you point out, requires using more brandy). Some prefer using table sugar for sweetening/additional alcohol production, and hence need to shell out less for brandy. You're the winemaker, you get to decide! :b
I'm not as worried about the cost of the brandy as I am about the taste of the finished port. 3-1 seems like an awful lot of brandy and that I won't be able to taste the wine any more LOL! I want it to taste like a port. Maybe I should go buy a bottle of port wine before I start to know what I'm shooting for.

I appreciate all the advise I'm getting here. Keep it coming!
 

sour_grapes

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Well, you could always shoot for 20% first, then taste and see if you like it that way. That would require only 1.2 gallons for 6 gallons of wine.

I usually make much smaller batches of port. Why not try making just a bottle at 20%, and another bottle at 22%, and see how you like 'em!? Also would give you a chance to play with levels of sweetness.

What I sort of settled on was taking a dry wine at ~16%, then adding sugar to get it to SG=1.015 to 1.020, and then add brandy to 20% ABV.

This worked out conveniently for me. I buy brandy in 1L bottles. If I take an empty 1L bottle, add one 750 mL bottle of wine and 3 Tbsp of sugar, then top the bottle off with enough brandy to fill (~250 mL), it works out right. No measuring needed (except for the sugar).
 

Noontime

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I believe most commercial port is made with brandy that was distilled from the same grape as the wine, specifically for the port. So commercial brandy made for sipping or cocktails may not be analogous. The first port I made I used store bought brandy, I made another using everclear, and have made a few more step feeding. The step fed ones are definitely more "integrated" and smoother. The brandy one was not that great and the everclear was a little harsh. I can't really blame the brandy since it was my first port and I don't expect to be good at something the first time. I also can't fault the everclear since I made a mistake with the pearson square and made it a bit too hot for my taste (22%). Good luck!
 

drainsurgeon

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Well, you could always shoot for 20% first, then taste and see if you like it that way. That would require only 1.2 gallons for 6 gallons of wine.

I usually make much smaller batches of port. Why not try making just a bottle at 20%, and another bottle at 22%, and see how you like 'em!? Also would give you a chance to play with levels of sweetness.

What I sort of settled on was taking a dry wine at ~16%, then adding sugar to get it to SG=1.015 to 1.020, and then add brandy to 20% ABV.

This worked out conveniently for me. I buy brandy in 1L bottles. If I take an empty 1L bottle, add one 750 mL bottle of wine and 3 Tbsp of sugar, then top the bottle off with enough brandy to fill (~250 mL), it works out right. No measuring needed (except for the sugar).
I like all these ideas, thanks. I'm set up for 5 & 6 gallon batches with carboys. Plus I have 4 kids and lots of friends that love my wine, and 6 gallon batches last a little longer. :h I'm also trying to build a little inventory for aging.

I going to have to split this into 2 batches after fortifying. I'm going to end up with 8 gallons of port. It might be time for some 3 gallon carboys. Keller says you only need to age this one 3-6 months before bottling. I need to get it started because we head south after Thanksgiving and it needs to be bottled by then.
 

tjgaul

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I made my port by both step feeding and fortifying. I'm not a fan of brandy in wine and as noted above the Everclear is harsh. Thus, I step fed to obtain close to 20% ABV and added 300 ML of vodka to a one gallon batch. Once fermentation was over and the vodka went in I back sweetened a bit more. It came out much better than expected. This batch used 750ML of concentrate from a super cheap (Amazon) Merlot kit, plus one can of Welch's frozen concentrate.

The fortification volume needed is greatly affected by the ABV of the wine. See the 2 examples on the attachment. Note that your total volume in these calculations is more than 23 liters so you probably need to modify the wine volume in the calculation to make room for the booze.

Maybe I'm taking chances, but I figured anything in excess of 20% ABV would be sufficient to avoid making bottle bombs.

Capture.JPG
 

drainsurgeon

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You guys are all giving me great ideas. I never considered vodka. It's probably a more neutral flavor and I was worried about drowning it in brandy and only tasting only that. I do like the approach of step feeding the must and driving up the ABV as much as possible in the primary ferment. If I can hit 18-20% doing that, I won't need much fortifier. I think I may split this into two batches and fortify one with brandy and one with vodka.

One more thought. No one has mentioned sorbate after primary. If 22% is a bit harsh for some of you, and 20% is kind of boarder line for continued ferment or bombs, why not hit with a dose of sorbate before fortifying? If I'm going to age this for 6 months before bottling, that should give any remaining yeast time to expire. Thoughts?
 

richmke

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The ways the Manufacturer's do it is:

Start with grape juice in the 1.10 range, and ferment down to 1.03. They then at 140 proof "brandy" to stop the fermentation, and raise the alcohol to 20% abv.

The "Brandy" is not what you buy at the store. It is "young brandy" made for this purpose, and neutral flavored.

http://www.winemakingtalk.com/port-and-brandy.html

The reason to use "brandy" is so that it is an "all grape" product. Everclear and Vodka are made from grains. As a home brewer, you can do as you want.

What I do is make the dessert wine kit, at the end of fermentation, step feed the f-pack so that the yeast ferment the sugars (kit dessert wines are too sweet for me). This ends up around 18% ABV. I then add about 1.1 liters of 80 Proof E&J VSOP Brandy to the 3 gallon kit. This raises the ABV to 20%.
 

drainsurgeon

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The ways the Manufacturer's do it is:

Start with grape juice in the 1.10 range, and ferment down to 1.03. They then at 140 proof "brandy" to stop the fermentation, and raise the alcohol to 20% abv.

The "Brandy" is not what you buy at the store. It is "young brandy" made for this purpose, and neutral flavored.

http://www.winemakingtalk.com/port-and-brandy.html

The reason to use "brandy" is so that it is an "all grape" product. Everclear and Vodka are made from grains. As a home brewer, you can do as you want.

What I do is make the dessert wine kit, at the end of fermentation, step feed the f-pack so that the yeast ferment the sugars (kit dessert wines are too sweet for me). This ends up around 18% ABV. I then add about 1.1 liters of 80 Proof E&J VSOP Brandy to the 3 gallon kit. This raises the ABV to 20%.
Very good information Richmke. You've got me rethinking the vodka batch. Thanks

BTW, on dessert wines I add about 2/3 of the f-pac in the primary also. Works great.
 
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vacuumpumpman

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I have been making port style wine for approx 10 years or so, but I am no expert on it.
It has always been a concern how to get the alcohol up there without dilution.
My ports are made from ever clear (195 proof ) and they are added during fermentation and it stops the fermentation because of the high alcohol content , which leaves you with a heavy bodied port and typically little sweet to off set the ABV. I will typically add the alcohol once there is approx 4% residual sugar left - but that is to the eyes of the winemakers taste.

I use everclear, typically I would add distillers charcoal with the everclear for a week prior to using it. That would usually take out most of the odors that come from it (fussils oils ) Back in the day (from what I read) Port was fortified with non cut brandy, which means distilled wine and not diluted with water,so the abv was similar to everclear

I also will add oak sticks in the everclear for approx 2 weeks - if not longer prior to adding to my port - it adds a little extra flavoring - similar to brandy

I hope this helps ?????
 

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I just finished a 3 gal batch of cherry wine that I want to make a port with. My cherry ended with SG 14% and my brandy was 40%. I was shooting for 22% final so that gave me 2.2 gal of wine and .8 gal of brandy. At 22% fermentation stops so I can bottle (or age in Carboy). I already stabilized the wine and cleared. I can taste both flavors. I get the crisp, tart cherry up front with a hint of the brandy afterwards. Incredible. I love making wine! I split my batch and dropped 3 vanilla beans in 1 gal and will set that aside until Christmas (for me lol)
 

Noontime

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One more thought. No one has mentioned sorbate after primary. If 22% is a bit harsh for some of you, and 20% is kind of boarder line for continued ferment or bombs, why not hit with a dose of sorbate before fortifying? If I'm going to age this for 6 months before bottling, that should give any remaining yeast time to expire. Thoughts?
I can't imagine any yeast being able to restart a fermentation above 18%, unless it is specifically designed to do so (I know there are super yeasts that can go to 22-25%). Even EC1188 and K1V1116 can be tough to get up to 18%. This is certainly based on my own personal comfort level, but if I get the alcohol up to 18% and the fermentation stops, and I still have residual sugar, I have complete confidence the colony has died. After racking and bulk aging for a few months there's no worry about refermentation (for me).
 

WellingtonToad

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I believe to be a "Port" style wine, that it must be fortified with brandy or vodka, but why not take the ferment up to a higher ABV to start with?

Any and all advise on making this port is welcome. I'll have close to $150 invested into this batch and don't want to screw it up!
Port style wine requires the addition of alcohol. This can mean there are legal issues in the making, as a result the step addition method is an alternative.

All winemaking is a question of balance. Port style wines are no different, it is just that the balance is a little bit different. In a still wine the balance is acid, tannin, fruit flavour, and alcohol. In port it is just a balance of fruit flavour, sweetness, and Alcohol. The influence of acid is not so important, because of the levels of sugar in the wine.
Consequently, if the "Port" is of thin flavour then you will not want too much alcohol (18%). If there is a lot of body then the alcohol level can be increased (20%).

Remember you are the winemaker the decision is yours.
 

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