View Full Version : Native grapes

08-21-2009, 10:34 AM
Busy posting day for me...

This past weekend I picked two and a half gallon freezer bags full of concord grapes. They are rinsed, picked of stems, debris, bug infested fruit etc and frozen at the moment. I'm interested in making a small batch of pyment from these grapes, but I'm having trouble finding a recipe that really feels right to me.

I'd like to keep this one relatively simple, no flavor additions other than grapes and honey if possible. I really love the flavor of native grapes...they truly bring back childhood memories of lazy summers on my grandparents farm, so I want to preserve that character as much as possible.

I have access to a pretty wide variety of raw, local honey. I'm thinking of using a variety sold at one of our farmer's markets called mountain berry. It's a lighter, crisp tasting wild flower honey that I think will go well with the grapes.

I have no idea what yeast to use with this combo, but if anyone has a recommendation, my LHBS seems pretty well stocked.

I didn't use much in the way of nutrient additives in my first traditional mead, and my thought is that the pyment should require even less...but if anyone can tell me otherwise from experience, I'd be glad to hear it.

I'm also curious about the issue of wild yeast, I'm sure these grapes came crawling with yeasties, and from what I know of yeast, they will still likely be intact after being frozen...does this mean I need to pasteurize the grapes?

If so, what is the minimum time needed to render the wild yeast nonviable without damaging the aroma of the fruit?

Alternately, what approach would I follow to try to overwhelm any wild yeasties with cultivated yeast? Is this where a starter comes in?

Finally, how should the grapes be prepared for fermentation? Thawed and mushed into a pulp seems about right to me...are the seeds a problem? They are large and numerous, about 4 per grape.

I know this is a lot to read and a lot of questions, but I really appreciate all the help this forum has given me so far.

To recap:

concord grapes, mmmmm.

light, crisp tasting honey the best match?

which cultivated yeast?

how do I deal with any wild yeast on the fruit?

how should the grapes be prepared to be added to the must?

thanks thanks and thanks again folks!

08-21-2009, 11:38 AM
OK, Jason, let's take your questions and the other points that you made one at a time:

1) Almost any honey variety will work in a dark red pyment; unless your honey has a particularly distinctive (and particularly strong) flavor, the grapes are likely to overwhelm it. So, if you really like the taste of that mountain berry honey, save it for a traditional and go and get some bulk wildflower or clover to use in this pyment instead.

2) Concord is a variety of the largest native North American grape species (vitis labrusca), and as such will produce a wine that is sometimes described as "foxy," "musky," or "rank," depending on your particular taste. :rolleyes: The funky aroma (and by association, the flavor) comes from a chemical in the grape that reminds many folks of fox pee. And since we have dozens of foxes in the woods around our house, I can vouch for that similarity! ;D

That said, when handled carefully, Concord grapes can be successfully used in a pyment. Just be prepared for your mead to be something that won't remind you so much of lazy summer days popping sweet dark grapes into your mouth, but rather of something else that you might encounter in the woods....

3) The choice of yeast should work to preserve as much of that wonderful purple color as possible, and also potentially to develop rich polysaccharides that add the perceptions of sweetness and mouthfeel to the resulting pyment. Since you'll use less in the way of grapes than you would for a straight-up grape wine, often pyments come across as tasting a little "thin." Using yeast strains like RC-212, L2226, or D-21 can "juice up" the result, for the reasons I stated above. Of those three, RC-212 will do the best job overall but it is a nitrogen hog (as is L2226), so if you want to minimize nutrient additions, you'd be better off with D-21.

4) The amount of nutrient needed will be a function of the nutrient requirements of the yeast strain that you've chosen as well as the nutrient availability from the fruit. In concord pyments, I've found that ignoring the contribution of yeast assimilable nutrients from the grapes, and just basing my dosing on the needs of the yeast (as if it were a traditional mead), works most consistently. All of the strains I've noted above require more in the way of nitrogen than the lowest nutrient need yeasts out there, so you will have to feed them.

5) Freezing your fruit will not deactivate wild yeast spores. They will "wake up" when warmed to fermentation temperature in the presence of grape juice, and they'll start to do their thing. Your best bet is to either overwhelm them with the commercial strain (which works even with normal pitch quantities without the need to build a starter, since the commercial strains start fermenting so much faster than the wild ones), or alternatively if you're also worried about possible spoilage organisms, you can sulfite the grapes a day or so before mixing the bulk of your must. Sulfite them immediately after crushing, and keep them in a covered container for a day or two to allow the excess free SO2 level to reduce to the point where it won't be a threat to your pitched yeast. then you can mix them into the bulk of your must, and pitch your yeast.

6) Thawed and gently crushed is enough (just break the skins enough to get some juice flowing - pulp mashing isn't needed or desirable). Mash them too much and you'll release loads of tannins and other bitter polyphenols from the seeds - and that would be bad. Try to keep the seeds intact throughout handling your fruit.

7) To avoid excess tannins, herbaceous notes, and other undesirables like the start of spoilage organism colonies, manage the "cap" of fruit by punching it down into the bulk of the must to keep it thoroughly wetted, at least a couple of times a day. You should also remove the bulk of the fruit and the skins sometime between 5 and 14 days after fermentation starts. The actual time will depend on a lot of factors, so taste, smell and visual inspection will usually tell you when it is time to skim off the cap. You'll have virtually all of the extractable color that you're going to get out of the fruit after 4-5 days, and most of the good grape flavor will be transferred by the end of the first 8-10 days in most batches.

8) You didn't ask, but let me suggest that you add a little pectic enzyme just after crushing your grapes. Even though pectic haze isn't usually a problem using fresh or fresh-frozen grapes, the enzyme will assist in making fermentable sugars available to your yeast.

08-21-2009, 04:14 PM
Lots of good stuff

Thanks so much for that post, lots of good info in there. As these things always go though, good answers produce even more questions!

1. Pectic enzyme should be added during must preparation correct? Should I follow the dosing on the label, or is there a general standard per gallon?

2. I can see how native grapes could impart a muskiness to a wine. Is there anything I can do to keep this from reaching an unpleasant level?

3. How does this look as a recipe for 3 gallons?

5lbs concord grapes
7lbs honey
water to 3 gallons
1 package RC-212

I guess this is the point where I run out...any suggestions for nutrient additions?

Thanks again, I'm really excited about making this mead, and this has been a huge help. ;D

08-24-2009, 10:55 AM
Sorry for the delay in reply, Jason. The weekend was pretty hectic.

Here are the answers to your follow-ups:

1) Follow the dosage recommended on the package. Formulations for the enzymes vary enough that you'll want to do what the manufacturer of your particular product recommends.

2) Use the ripest fruit possible. I've found that the foxiness is less pronounced when the grapes are very mature.

3) The recipe looks good. If you have well developed, sweet fruit that should yield an equivalent starting gravity of about 1.090 -- good for a 12% ABV finish if it goes dry.

For nutrient additions, take a look at the newbee guide, and as well pull all the postings that you'll find on staggered nutrient additions. That should get you started!

Medsen Fey
08-24-2009, 12:00 PM
You can also get a good result with reds using K1V which requires little in the way of nutrients.

I've not used Concord grapes (or juice) in a batch, but I've read when using the grapes, if you ferment very cool and press early you can reduce the foxy character quite a bit.

08-24-2009, 04:06 PM
Thanks again, I don't know where I'd be without this forum. I think I've got a little reading to do on staggered feeding and a trip to the LHBS in the near to present future...hopefully I'll start this ferment next weekend, full log to follow.

08-30-2009, 06:27 PM
Today was the day. There's a detailed brewlog up in that section. http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showthread.php?p=128413#post128413

In short:
3 Gallons
grapes, honey and grape juice as fermentables
10 grams RC 212
OG 1.120