Wine… Apple Wine

Posted on 11.12.10 10:26PM under Alcohol, Apple Wine

Photo: Five Islands Orchard

I know, this is a beer blog. Why would there be a post about wine? What do I know about wine?

Admittedly, not much. But I might start to learn one day.

Every journey must start with a single step. For me, that first step of my journey into wine making is an almost trivially simple recipe for apple wine. The recipe’s author actually calls it “Apfelwein” – German apple wine.

HBT Rules!

This is a recipe from EdWort on the beer brewing forums. It is a very simple and economically friendly recipe for rather strong dry cider. With a final alcohol around 8%, I have a hard time calling it wine. Actually, it’s made with a really fancy sounding yeast “Montrachet”. So I like to call it “Montrachet”, pronounced as if I were in Paris in my best “French” accent. Mon-tra-shay. With a flick of the hand. I’m not so good with the phonetic dictionary spelling thing.

Anyway, for a five gallon batch, you use five gallons of pasteurized pure 100% apple juice (ascorbic acid is an acceptable adulterant, but nothing else, so they say). Then you add two pounds of corn sugar, a powdery cocaine-looking substance which is technically dextrose – whatever that means – and is commonly used in brewing beer. Finally a $0.69 pack of Montrachet yeast and you’re off to the races. Let it ride for four weeks or more, then package it.

Still or carbonated, warm or cold, there’s no wrong way to drink Montrachet. I serve mine slightly carbonated from a keg, because that’s real convenient for me. I just rack it to a keg and put it on tap. It’s only slightly carbonated because I carbonate at 12 PSI, suitable for beer, but really a sparkling cider ought to be more highly carbonated like champagne. Since I don’t have the facilities to do this, I settle for what I have. It’s actually quite enjoyable this way, though I might try to bottle one uncarbonated and serve it warm, if I can figure out a simple way to do it. I might even just bottle it back in the giant 3 liter bottles from whence the apple juice came.

Breaking down the ingredients: Apple juice serves an obvious role as the basis for an apple wine or cider. The corn sugar serves to raise the alcohol to a more winey level. The Montrachet yeast is a classic workhorse, known for strong fermentations across a wide variety of conditions. Maybe it’s a wine yeast with training wheels? But it works great. No tannin needed. No sulfites, or other weird stuff those wine makers are always adding to their fermenters.

There are a few things that I really like about this. First of all, it takes all of five minutes to make this stuff. Just pour it all into a fermenter and you’re done. No mashing, no boiling, no chilling. Very easy. Second, no temperature control is required for fermentation. Just leave it alone for a month or more and you’re done. Finally, it is cheap and strong. Under $15 for five gallons at 8%. While it will never replace beer in my heart, sometimes it replaces beer in my stomach.

Up next is an experiment. To me, wine ought to weigh in upwards of 10% alcohol. So I’m upping the stakes. The yeast can tolerate up to 15% or more. So I can use 5 pounds of sugar to get a beverage with an alcohol content more in the 12% range. And that’s exactly what I’m going to mix up on brew day tomorrow. In between cooking up a smoked beer and an imperial IPA, I’m going to go for the 12% Montrachet. Something I can truly call an apple wine, rather than a dry cider. If this works, I might try 7.5# sugar for more like 15% ABV, if I feel like pushing for the limit.

In conclusion, for now I’m making a turbo-charged version of Woodchuck dry cider. I’m shooting for something more wine-like. And I’m starting to think that I might just be not that far from trying my hand at actual grape wine. If only I knew anything about wine, I might know what variety to make…

Read Comments

  1. Posted by phlyingpenguin on 11.14.10 4:33 PM

    Thanks for the inspiration. I’ve had this unread in my feed reader for a bit to remind me about it so I’m doing this tonight. I’m planning on subbing brown sugar for the dextrose mostly because it’s what I have laying around, but I also think it makes some sense. Also, I’m thinking about jacking a second batch of it. It gets cold enough during the winter in my new digs to freeze a carboy overnight.

  2. Posted by Keith Brainard on 11.14.10 9:31 PM

    You know, I tried the freeze distillation thing, with about a pint of beer, but it didn’t quite work out that well. We can’t all make the End of History. Good luck with that one!

    From what I’ve read brown sugar should work quite well in this recipe. But don’t forget the Montrachet. Mon-tra-shay. Mon-tra-shay. I just love the sound of that. Mon-tra-shay.

  3. Posted by Wine Racks: Home brew (plum wine) ready for racking, its still very cloudy? on 11.15.10 12:44 PM

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