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View Full Version : Taking the Bite out of Wild Grapes



Angelic Alchemist
09-21-2009, 07:08 PM
My buddy and I made a batch of wild white mead this past summer and it is now ready to be bottled. Despite the addition of American untoasted oak chips, a malolactic culture, and 3 lbs of local wildflower honey to backsweeten the 5 gallon batch, it still has some mighty pucker power. The batch was allowed to age against 5oz of chips for over 2 months, along with the malolactic culture. We backsweetened last week after the addition of sorbates and campden tablets to prevent renewed fermentation and spoilage.

Here's the original recipe, which we started in June:
3 gallons of wild white grape juice
2 gallons of local spring water
8 pounds of local wildflower honey
5 campden tablets (must was allowed to sit for 24 hours)

1 packet of rehydrated D-47 yeast
OG = 1.74
FG = 0.99

Granted, I know there's only so much we can to do help make wild Texas grapes taste good. Texas has a very short growing season because it gets too hot too quickly, so the grapes from his backyard are always sour and astringent. Does anyone have a trick for making wild grapes less sour?

The mead we made is really fun to drink. It reminds me of sour candy. The aroma is wonderful, almost like sherry. It is a dark amber in the bottle and straw in the glass, with brilliant clarity. The sour note hits the middle of my mouth with a serious bang, then the finish is clean. Sooo...it's not horrid. Actually, I like it. However, it's not something I'd serve to uptight people or mead snobs. Ideas?

Medsen Fey
09-21-2009, 07:36 PM
You can try cold stabilizing it to precipitate out potassium bitartrate to get rid of some acid.

If you want to be more aggressive you can take a portion of the batch and treat with a product like Acidex or some Calcium carbonate to precipitate out all of the tartrate and some of the malate from the portion taken, and then blend back into the main batch. This sort of thing is tough to do with mead because you cannot easily measure the TA in a mead.

What is the pH by the way?

For future batches, there is an interesting product called Pro-Malic (http://www.lallemandwine.us/products/others.php) that might work nicely. I really want to give this stuff a try.

Medsen

Dan McFeeley
09-22-2009, 03:09 AM
A tough one to answer, without knowing more about the grapes you used.

I know that Concord grape wines have a high acidity, and consequently need a long aging period, two years minimum, before they are good to drink. You might be looking at something similar here.

You can check the pH and make adjustments, but the best solution may be to let the pyment age for a few years, maybe more, before it comes into its own.

I have a Concord pyment in the basement right now, a few years old, starting to show signs of improvement but it needs a few more years.

Medsen Fey
09-22-2009, 07:00 AM
Dan's suggestion might be the very best thing to do.

Of course one other alternative for a batch that is too tart is to sweeten enough to offset the acid without making it "syrupy".

Angelic Alchemist
09-22-2009, 01:43 PM
I'll have to go by my buddy's house with pH strips to get the acidity. The whole place is under quarintine right now because he has the flu. Something about bottling mead with an active viral infection doesn't seem like a great idea. I'll follow up asap.

Those are some pretty neat tricks there, guys! Is there anything we can do to the juice before fermentation is induced to improve the flavor for next years harvest? Perhaps the addition of CaCO3 before adding yeast? I don't have an acid detection kit with specificity for citric/malic/tartic/etc yet. Is it a worthwhile investment? How much CaCO3 is needed to precipitate the acids out effecivly without leaving a chalky taste in the must? Can K2CO3 do the same thing? What's in acidex and pro-malic?

Medsen Fey
09-22-2009, 03:53 PM
That's a lot of questions in one post! ;D

Here is some info on Acidex (http://www.homebrewheaven.com/acidex-2-oz.htm).

The link in my prior post will give you some info on Pro-Malic.

If you do an advanced search using the term gluconolactone with Dan McFeeley as author and it will bring you some threads explaining why acid test kits aren't so useful with meads.

akueck
09-23-2009, 12:58 AM
FWIW, viruses can't survive in mead. No worries there. They can however survive in you, so it's still a good idea to wait for your own health.

Dan McFeeley
09-23-2009, 02:36 AM
I can give a quick answer to the problem with measuring titratable acidity in mead.

Gluconic acid is the primary acid in honey, and in mead, but it co-exists in a pH dependent relationship relationship with its lactone, gluconolactone. Briefly, titrating to the endpoint using a standard acid testing kit for winemaking will change the pH (of course) which in turn causes the gluconolactone in the mead to change to gluconic acid, throwing off the readings.

In meadmaking, its best to use pH as a measure for acidity.

This should do, but I've had more detailed info posted here and on the venerable Mead Lovers Digest.

Angelic Alchemist
09-23-2009, 04:21 PM
The write-up on the Acidex is fascinating. The Pro-malic seems a little advanced for me. Perhaps once I'm more seasoned, I'll dig up this thread and look into using it. I think we're going to go the lazy route and just age the bottles. What's the ideal temperature for storing a mead of this nature?

Now, about next years harvest: Can we treat the juice to precipitate out the excess acids? Or, is there a specific style of mead/wine that sour grapes are well-suited to?

akueck
09-23-2009, 05:48 PM
There is in fact a sour grape mead, though I've never tried it or even heard of someone making it. I did try to convince my wife to let me buy some verjuice (green grape juice...sour!) to make whatever the mead was called (omphacamel or something goofy like that). That didn't exactly work. I think it would be a fun experiment. If beers are any indication about sour booze, go light on the alcohol and consider carbonation. Sour beers tend to be in the 2-6% ABV range (at least traditionally, modern homebrewing can be "extreme") and are often highly carbonated.

DaleP
09-24-2009, 06:45 AM
Speaking of wild grapes, here in the Midwest are what are referred to as fox grapes or possom grapes. These are quite small, half the size of a pea, bursting with flavor. My wife makes some of the best grape jelly out of these. I have not had so much luck making a "pyment" out of these however. I believe I'm extracting too much tannin by adding the grapes to secondary (much the same as if I added currants or some other small potent fruit). Next year (the wild grapes were few and far between this fall) I'll add water and juice them on the stove as my wife does for jelly. So many wild fruits, so few carboys......

Angelic Alchemist
09-24-2009, 04:38 PM
Speaking of wild grapes, here in the Midwest are what are referred to as fox grapes or possom grapes. These are quite small, half the size of a pea, bursting with flavor. My wife makes some of the best grape jelly out of these. I have not had so much luck making a "pyment" out of these however. I believe I'm extracting too much tannin by adding the grapes to secondary (much the same as if I added currants or some other small potent fruit). Next year (the wild grapes were few and far between this fall) I'll add water and juice them on the stove as my wife does for jelly. So many wild fruits, so few carboys......

I've seen something similar in the stores here, called champagne grapes. They are really tasty, but don't grow wild in my area. The grapes we get are smallish and VERY sour.

Did you ferment on the skins for your last fox grape batch? That might be where you got too much tannin, in which case pressing off the skins then reintroducing a smaller portion of mash to the must for color extraction (I'm assuming your grapes are red) might solve the issue. Dillution in water would be another fix, as you could add honey to bring the total sugar content to where you want it.

I wish we had more wild fruit in this area. It's just too darn hot for anything besides blackberries, souor grapes and myer lemons.

akueck
09-24-2009, 04:49 PM
I wish we had more wild fruit in this area. It's just too darn hot for anything besides blackberries, souor grapes and myer lemons.

Meyer lemons are worth their weight in gold around here. Well, maybe more like worth their weight in chicken, but hey that is still pretty good. I'll take them if you don't want them!

Angelic Alchemist
09-24-2009, 04:58 PM
Meyer lemons are worth their weight in gold around here. Well, maybe more like worth their weight in chicken, but hey that is still pretty good. I'll take them if you don't want them!

True, true. The meyer lemons won't be ready until November, and we have plans aplenty for them: pickling, hard lemonade, and limoncello! Though, I can ask my buddy with the tree if he's interested in doing a fruit exchange. I hear plums are in season in Central Cali right now, yes?

akueck
09-24-2009, 05:42 PM
Sadly we have no fruit trees. We used to have a meyer lemon (it was a baby though, no lemons yet) and an orange tree two apartments ago. Last apartment we had a few plum trees and a giant apricot tree. Now we have concrete. :(

Angelic Alchemist
09-24-2009, 05:45 PM
One of my oenologist friends in SF says you can go to the "free" section of craigslist and find people who are giving away the fruit off their trees if you go to harvest it. No cost. Just time and labor.

So. Jealous!

DaleP
09-24-2009, 06:30 PM
I've seen something similar in the stores here, called champagne grapes. They are really tasty, but don't grow wild in my area. The grapes we get are smallish and VERY sour.

Did you ferment on the skins for your last fox grape batch? That might be where you got too much tannin, in which case pressing off the skins then reintroducing a smaller portion of mash to the must for color extraction (I'm assuming your grapes are red) might solve the issue. Dillution in water would be another fix, as you could add honey to bring the total sugar content to where you want it.

I wish we had more wild fruit in this area. It's just too darn hot for anything besides blackberries, souor grapes and myer lemons.

There is no pressing these little beauties. They are 90% skin and seed and a little juice mixed with the pulp. I've ate the champaigne grapes and loved them. They are huge and juicy compared to these. But these pack flavor like no tomorrow. Will work more with them next year.

Angelic Alchemist
09-24-2009, 07:27 PM
Please post your method if you figure out a good one!

DaleP
09-25-2009, 07:32 AM
Here's a quick link describing the wild grapes.
http://www.ehow.com/how_5249805_make-wild-grape-jelly-recipe.html?ref=fuel&utm_source=yahoo&utm_medium=ssp&utm_campaign=yssp_art
If I can only get that great flavor in a mead!

Angelic Alchemist
09-28-2009, 05:35 PM
Do you think simmering the stems will add too much tannin to the must? Our grapes are already astringent enough!

DaleP
09-29-2009, 06:27 AM
My last batch, I plucked the little guys off and added them to the secondary, still a bit astrigent I think. I haven't tasted any in 6 or 7 months, might break out a bottle this weekend and see how it is doing.