Small Batches

1/2 gallon ''backyard burgundy'', 1/2 gallon honey apple, and a 1-pint leon-pinotThere are some good reasons to make wine in 5-gallon (19 liter) or larger batches. Once you know what you’re doing, it takes about the same amount of effort to make five gallons of wine as it does to make one. The amount of headspace in a 5-gallon carboy isn’t much more than in a 1-gallon jug. So five gallons of wine. stored in 1-gallon jugs, is in contact with a lot more air than if it were in a 5-gallon carboy. That makes oxidation a bigger problem. So why am making the three small batches in the photo (and many more that aren’t shown)?

Each one has it’s own story. My “backyard burgundy,” a rose made from Leon Millot, Pinot Noir, Siegerrebe, and Price grapes that I grew in my bonsai vineyard, is on the left. On the right is my honey apple, made from Liberty, Ashmead Kernel, and Roxbury Russets that I grew in my bonsai orchard. Finally, my Leon-Pinot, a red wine made from Pinot Noir and Leon Millot grapes from my bonsai vineyard, is front and center.

I’m still not sure what to call my most recent wine, but Backyard Burgundy just might stick. It’s the product of two less-than-ideal harvests from my bonsai orchard. From pests, large and small, to wacky weather I wasn’t sure what I’d get from these grapes. The 2007 harvest sulked in my freezer until it was joined by the 2008 vintage. Growers all over the Puget Sound complained of low sugar and high acid, so I decided to toss all the grapes into a single batch of rose. So I crushed, pressed, and fermented the juice just like a white wine. All the red grapes gave the wine it’s color, and that’s why it’s a rose instead of a white wine. I love my bonsai vineyard, but volume isn’t it’s strong suit, so the harvest from a difficult year – even two difficult years – will be small. The 8.5 lb gave me about 3 quarts of juice, and I’m hoping for three 750 ml bottles of finished wine.

You’ve really got to want to make wine to make it in these quantities, and I do. That’s why I crushed, fermented, and pressed a red wine from my first harvest ever – 4 lb (about 1.8 kg) of Leon Millot and Pinot Noir grapes. It’s been aging in a 500 ml Grolsch bottle since 2006 and I’m getting ready to open it.

The honey apple came from my biggest harvest of apples. It was big enough that I decided not to supplement the apples with store bought juice, like I usually do, and that will make it my smallest batch of apple wine. How’s that for irony?

Was this helpful?

If you got something out of this article, why not spread the word? You can click any of the icons below to give this page a +1 or share it on your favorite social media. Everyone likes a pat on the back - even me!

3 thoughts on “Small Batches

  1. John

    Interesting, Erroll. I am of the same opinion regarding bigger batches. Since I am a newby to the winemaking scene, I always restrict myself to one gallon batches. This way, if a batch goes south I haven’t wasted as much money, and my losses are kept at a minimum. Once I have a few good batches under my belt (figuratively and literally), and I have a better grasp of what I’m doing, I will graduate to the two 6.5 gal carboys I have waiting for me. It kinda gives me a goal to reach for, you know? Oh, I’ll still make smaller batches for the wines I want to drink young, but this way I will also have larger batches to let age in bulk. Hasten the day when I actually know what I’m doing!

    By way of an update, you wanted to know how my apple wine and my blueberry wine came out. Well, despite the fact that they are still young wines, I took two bottles of each out the other day when we had company over. Everyone liked both very much, but the blueberry was the hit by far! I actually prefer my apple, so it worked out. They drank the blueberry; I drank the apple. They are sitting at 13% and 14.5% respectively, so they’re pretty potent. I hope they age well. If they are this good now, I am excited to see how they’ll taste next year!

    Have you ever made wine from muscadines? I am wondering how it compares to grape wines. A neighbor of mine grows them. He has two rows of about 100-150 feet each, and I am contemplating approaching him about trading some of his fruit for some of the finished wine, but if it is an inferior fruit for wine production I probably won’t bother. What do you know about that fruit?

    – John

  2. Erroll Post author

    Congratulations on the blueberry and apple wine! If you have enough, you might just put a few bottles aside and see how they age. Not all wines age well, but it can really be something special when they do.

    I don’t have any experience with muscadines, so I will defer to Jack Keller. His muscadine recipe page includes two recipes plus some background info on the grapes.


  3. John

    Thanks for the nudge toward Jack Keller. I have seen that page before, but it has been over a year so I forgot all about it. I will go read it now. As always, Erroll, you are appreciated!

    – John

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *