Some notes on my plum wine making for 2016 (learnings for next time)
Fruit – picked approx 60kg of fruit – 4 times my harvest of 2012 (the last time I made plum wine). The tree was loaded this year. I picked the ripe plums between 5th and 12th Jan, that’s later than usual for the plums to ripen. I ended up discarding about 25% of the fruit due to being smushed, broken skin, not ripe enough – made jam and cordial with some of that.
Batch 1 (started 12 Jan)
- washed approx 20kg fruit in bath of warm water & washing soda (sodium carbonate) – not sure of ideal qty
- rinsed fruit in bath of cold water
- slit fruit with sharp knife to make easier for mashing
- mashed with potato masher
- added 4 campden tablets crushed and mixed in warm water
- let sit over night and added pectic enzyme next morning (best to wait at least 8 hours as SO2 retards action of pectic enzyme)
- separated juice from pulp – not easy! First tried my large BIAB bag but not easy to squeeze liquid out. So then did smaller batches in a muslin bag. Messy and time consuming – don’t recommend this approach again – just ferment on the whole fruit instead. Ended up with 13 L of pulpy juice.
- SG: 11.5 Brix
- PH 4 approx (litmus paper)
- Used chaptalization calculator to determine how much sugar to add. Added 1.4kg sugar dissolved in 1L of hot water. This brought Brix up to 18.5 but my desired Brix was 21. Added 400g more sugar which brought Brix up to 20 and left it at that.
- Added 12g yeast nutrient and 1 yeast activator tablet crushed. The latter was probably unnecessary but I had them on hand so why not.
- 13 Jan: Pitched 2 pks of Vintners Harvest VR21 Yeast. Pitched dry as recommended in the yeast instructions.
- Added more 2L plum juice after fermentation had kicked in
- Added 5L wine from batch 2 on 20th Jan
- 5 Feb (day 23) – racked to glass carboy
The approach used for batch 2 worked out less troublesome and quicker so recommend this method for next time – i.e. ferment on the whole fruit instead of trying to separate the juice from the fruit
- Prepped the rest of the fruit approx 30kg over 2 nights (14th and 15th Jan) and placed it into my 50L stainless steel brew kettle (with bazooka screen in place).
- Removed 2L juice from tap on kettle and added to batch 1. SG was 11 Brix.
- Added 2.3 kg sugar & 5L water. The Brix was now up to 20. Also attempted to check SG with hydrometer but too much solids to take a measurement.
- Pitched 2 packets of dried yeast ( VR21 – same as batch 1)
- Fermented for 5 days in ss kettle. On 2oth Jan transferred wine from kettle into fermenter – 24 L into batch 2 fermenter and 5L to top up batch 1 fermenter. The wine poured freely from the tap on the kettle leaving mostly solid fruit residue behind. Liquid losses were pretty low and it was a lot easier than trying to squeeze out the juices so I recommend this approach for next time I make plum wine.Measured SG at 1.012.
- My written notes were a little disorganised – I added 2.3 kg of sugar & 2 L water on 20th Jan when I transferred the wine from SS kettle to fermenters. I thought at the time that I had not added sugar to batch 2 but according to 3. above I had!
Update (April 2016)
Racked on 3rd April. Both batches very clear. Just a small amount of sediment/lees in both cases. Taste is ok but quite sharp – will need back-sweetening. Batch 2 is tasting the least sharp which is another tick in favour of fermenting directly on the fruit. Racked batch 1 into plastic fermenter, added oak staves. Racked batch 2 to glass carboy (full up so very little head-space).
Update (July 2016)
I bottled batch 1 (the one I had in plastic fermenter with oak staves). I treated it with campden tablets potassium sorbate to kill off the yeast, left it for a day or 2 and back-sweetened it, then bottled it. It tastes pretty good, a bit sweet as it took quite a bit of sugar to balance the sharpness. (I need to find my notes and fill in amount used!) A little sediment made it into the bottles so appearance is a bit cloudy. Perhaps if I take more care when racking batch 2 I can end up with clearer result.
Batch 2 is left to bulk age for longer in the glass carboy.