We finally bottled my plum wine a few weekends ago, and for a first batch, it was actually drinkable. Strong as hell, not the tastiest, full of room for improvement, but drinkable.
Strong as hell
I did two fermentations. Twenty-four hours after the campden tablets dissolved, I made a sugar solution in a quart jar with 2.25 pounds of sugar, 16 ounces warm water, and plum juice and stirred it into the juice in the bucket. I then made a yeast solution (with champagne yeast, recommended for fruit wines) and added that.
When the yeast activity slowed, about 12 days later, I transferred the liquid to a carboy, and did another fermentation with the same recipe of sugar solution. This means I added 4.5 pounds of sugar to 4 gallons of straight plum juice. The wine then sat for about 4 months in the carboy.
When I siphoned the stuff into the bucket for step one of the bottling process, just having it in my mouth gave me a gentle buzz. When I had a less-than-8 oz glass with dinner that night, the buzz did not seem alcoholic as much as it seemed other-drug-like. Relaxing and pleasant, nonetheless.
Not the tastiest
Sarah and I both have a sweet tooth, and this wine is sour. It has a nice fragrance and does not smell vinegary, but it is sour. We experimented by adding sugar to the desired sweetness. This made the wine more palatable, but if it weren’t homemade, I can’t honestly say I’d be drinking it. I sent a bottle off to Richard, my plum wine-making mentor, who prefaced his responding email, ‘DO NOT DUMP THIS WINE!’ He’s very positive. He thought the wine was too acidic, but has good color and is decent for a first attempt.
In the meantime, after we bottled it, I discovered all kinds of online literature that pointed to sweetening wine before bottling it, but cautioned that the yeast may undergo another round of activity. A home-brewing friend said champagne yeast is rather notorious for behaving this way and suggested sweetening after opening the bottle.
Full of room for improvement
1. I don’t even really like champagne or other dry wines. And the back-taste of champagne is quite present. I think I’ll research other suitable yeasts.
2. The plums weren’t necessarily ripe. The tree had been stripped clean, plum ready or not. I think I’ll opt for ripe fruit next time, or a bit overripe, or some combo.
3. Yes, I will add more sugar.
4. But I think I’ll taste-test more along the way, too. Doh!
5. Did I let the wine sit in its yeast debris too long? Maybe I should have siphoned it off, then let it sit. I remember Richard saying he strained before letting it sit for a few months.
It is. It has a great color and clarified nicely (an attribute of champagne yeast apparently). It isn’t horrible, it’s just not as good as it could be. I think I have 10 bottles. I used it to cook a pork roast one night. The more applications, the better, I think.