Ten months ago I posted a simple recipe for apple wine, at the request of a reader:
I really want to try making apple wine. I know pretty much nothing about wine making. I know of a homebrew shop about 45 minutes from me. I need to know everything I will need to make a sweet apple wine, and I also need step-by-step instructions.
I created an easy recipe for Leslie on the fly. Now, it’s one thing to say that a recipe is easy to make, but how do you know until you try it yourself? That’s what I did, and I’m very happy with the result: an easy to make wine that was ready to bottle quickly and tastes good. What really jumped out at me from this experience was the importance of choosing between unfiltered and clarified juice.
Make wine fast with clarified juice
I’ve made a lot of apple wine, but this is the first time I used clarified juice. I would always buy unfiltered juice; it’s cloudy with a visible sediment at the bottom, and a lot of people (including me!) expect it to taste better than the bright clear juice that next to it on the grocery store shelf. To find out, I’d need to make two batches, as identical as I could except that one used clear juice and the other unfiltered, taste them blind and see. I haven’t done that, so I don’t know.
But I do know that if you want to make good wine quickly, the clarified juice wins hands down. I bottled bright clear wine ten months after pitching the yeast without fining. Doesn’t sound quick to you? It had been bulk aging for four months and hadn’t thrown sediment – not a hint, even after agitating. So I could have bottled four months earlier – that’s only five months after pitching the yeast.
Even accounting for delays or snafus, I’m confident I could bottle bright clear wine in six months every time. Faster with a fining regimen.
Be patient and take notes
Ready to bottle and ready to drink aren’t the same thing. It’s good now, but I’ve seen apple wine improve up to two years. So if you make this, try to spread it out. Drink some now, and open a bottle every few months. Take notes – even if you don’t think you have much to say. Was it smoother (harsher) than you remember? Is the aroma more or less pronounced? Or different in some other way? How about the color? Write it down! You’ll want to know this when you bottle your next batch.
Running the numbers
You’ll also want to know how the wine analyzed out. If you haven’t looked into the nitty gritty of calculating the alcohol content from specific gravity readings, you’ll be surprised at how complex and inexact it can be. I plugged in my original and final gravities into a number of online calculators, and got a range of 13.3% – 13.7%. I’ll save the discussion of just what goes into these calculations, and why different online calculators might not agree for another time. For now, I’ll just call it 13.5% alcohol. It had a final gravity of 0.994 and a TA of 6.5 g/L, as tartaric. pH was 3.5. On paper, it looks like a crisp, dry white.
How does the apple wine taste?
And that’s exactly what it tastes like. Apple wine can be fruity or neutral or anything in between. This one has good flavor, with a hint of apple, and a nice finish. I’ve tasted country wines that seemed watery, and others that were full bodied. This one was right in the middle with a just-right medium body. The aroma was muted and it had a refreshing acidity that wasn’t too tart.
About the label
A good wine deserves an attractive label, and for that you need good artwork. I struck gold when Courtney Bell agreed to let me use this image. The color scheme, the apples, and the first rate photography make it perfect on an apple wine label.
Since there isn’t a lot of room when it comes to the text, what you leave out is as important as what you put in. My labels usually have a header, “Apple Wine,” in this case. At the bottom goes a footer, and here I included my website url and a copyright notice from Courtney. Informational text includes the batch number, so I can refer to my notes, and some basic measurements.
What about your own labels? Think about wine that you’ve bought. Were you curious about something, but couldn’t find it on the label? Put that in yours. What about things that you glossed over? Don’t clutter up your label – leave those sorts of things out.
A great way to start
If you’re thinking about making wine, this recipe is a great way to start. By using clarified juice, you save a lot of steps like processing the fruit and fining the wine. That makes it an easy recipe that’s ready quickly. Another good choice is Welch’s Wine. So stop thinking about it and do it!
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