Category Archives: cranberry wine

Wine, Women, and Lawsuits?

I was thinking about cranberry wine a few weeks ago, and mentioned that a local winery made some. It turns out that they call it “Cranberry Jubilee,” and I suspect the wording is deliberate. They’d probably get into legal trouble if they called their 20% cranberry 80% Chardonnay blend “Cranberry Wine.” Well, they might have some legal trouble anyway, but over not over that.

A tiff over a name

The winery, owned by three women and known for its “working girl” series of wines, is named “Olympic Cellars,” after the Olympic Peninsula in which they are located. It turns out that the U.S. Olympic Committee has exclusive, far reaching, and iron fisted rights to the word “Olympic” in the U.S. This goes way beyond normal trademark law in that no business or organization may use the O word without their permission. Normally, other outfits may use trademarked words for unrelated products or services. That’s why Fidelity National Financial, a title insurance company, and Fidelity Investments, the mutual fund and brokerage company, aren’t at each other’s throats.

An “amicable” demand

So how did this little winery escape the wrath of The Committee up to now? There’s an exception to the Olympic and Amateur Sports Act for businesses in the geographical area. Olympic Cellars is located in the Olympic Peninsula, but The Committee’s lawyers have threatened to sue unless Olympic Cellars turns down internet orders from people who haven’t visited the winery. So, someone vacationing in the Olympic Peninsula that visits the winery and signs up for their newsletter can go back home and order wine from them over the internet. Even The Committee won’t complain about that, but if the neighbors hear about this great little winery and try to order some, Olympic Cellars is supposed to turn them down. If they were to ship that bottle of wine to the neighbors, it would, “dilute the committee’s control of its trademarked word, and confuse people about which companies are official Olympic supporters.” The Committee goes on to say, and I’m not making this up, that they want to settle the matter amicably.

Further reading

This article goes into detail about Olympic Cellars trouble with The Committee, and this one tells of an author who faced The Committee’s wrath over a travel guide.

Commercial Cranberry Wine

I just found out that a commercial winery in Washington made a cranberry wine. They were faced with the same high acidity that I discussed a few days ago, and we both used a similar approach to deal with it. They blended with Chardonnay (20% cranberry and 80% Chardonnay), while I “blended” with water (25% cranberry and 75% water). I considered blending with another fruit, but I want my first wine to be just cranberry. The water, which contributes virtually no acidity, allows me to squeeze in a little more cranberry, and I feel a bit better calling the result “cranberry wine.” Once I get that down and find out what cranberry wine tastes like, I can try different blends by substituting other fruit for the water.

Cranberry Wine From Frozen Concentrate?

I noticed some cranberry juice concentrate on sale the other day, and since I’m thinking about making cranberry wine I bought some. Can you make wine from cranberry juice concentrate? Yes, but “cranberry wine” might not be the best way to describe it. Most cranberry juice products are cocktails that contain cranberry juice. This frozen concentrate, for example, has more apple juice than cranberry juice.

Cranberry Juice Concentrate

What, you thought the “Cranberry” and “100% Juice” on the label meant that it was 100% cranberry juice? Silly you. The first ingredient is apple juice concentrate, followed by water, then cranberry juice concentrate. We’re not quite done. Next comes grape juice concentrate, black currant juice concentrate, and aronia berry juice concentrate. Aronia? It’s deciduous shrub, sometimes called black chokeberry that’s popular in Siberia. Really! Anyway, there’s still a few things in this “cranberry juice:” natural flavors, citric acid, and ascorbic acid.

I don’t want to knock this product. A blend of juices like that sounds promising, and might make a nice wine. In fact, I will make wine from it. Any ideas on what I should call the wine? “Apple Cranberry Grape Black-Currant Aroia wine” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue …

Know Your Ingredients: Cranberries

With Thanksgiving not far behind and Christmas fast approaching, I began thinking about cranberry wine. I’ve never made cranberry wine before, so I think the best way to start is by taking a closer look at what’s in cranberries.

What are cranberries like?

One cup (240 ml) of whole cranberries weigh about 3.5 oz (100 grams). Chop them up and they take up less space, so you can fit 3.9 oz (110 grams) into a cup. Fresh cranberries keep best when stored cold, just above 32F (0C). Phenolic content is high, up to 200 mg/100 g. Some of these phenolic compounds act as antioxidants, others, like benzoic acid, as antimicrobials. Total acid content is about 3 g/100 g, most of which is citric and malic, and they’re rich in pectin.

What’s in cranberries?

100 g of cranberries contain:

87.13 g water
12.2 g carbohydrates
0.39 g protein
0.13 g fat
0.15 g ash

Of the 12.2 g of carbohydrates, 4.04 g are sugar:

3.28 g glucose
0.63 g fructose
0.13 g sucrose

What does this mean for winemakers?

It means we’ve got some work to do in the sugar and acid department. Let’s assume that the juice yield will be equal to the water content of cranberries – call it 87 ml/100 g – and that all the sugar and acid will be in the juice. In that case, we’d get 87 ml of juice, containing 4 g of sugar and 3 g of acid. That puts the acidity of the juice at 34.5 g/L, as citric, and it means we’ve about 46 g/L of sugar. Converting it to more familiar units, we have a specific gravity (SG) of 1.015 (5 Brix) and a titratable acidity of 37 g/L, as tartaric.

I would approach this by diluting the juice, with sugar-water, until the acid is closer to normal – I might target 9 g/L in the must, which is still a little high but within the norm for a dry white wine. Combining one part cranberry juice with three parts sugar-water gets us to 9.25 g/L. How much sugar in the sugar-water? An SG of 1.090 implies about 240 g/L of sugar. We started with 4 g in 87 ml, which is 46 g/L, and diluted it to 25%. It turns out that three parts of 305 g/L sugar water to one part 46 g/L cranberry juice gets us 240.25 g/L.

That would be a good starting point. A larger than normal dose of pectic enzyme and a yeast that consumes malic acid, like Lavlin’s 71-B, would also be good ideas. I’ll think about this some more and pull it all together in a recipe soon.

Further Reading

Haraold McGee’s On Food and Cooking is a great book on the science of cooking. No recipes, but lots of information on ingredients, like cranberries and other fruits, and food chemistry. That makes it a great reference for the home winemaker as well as the home cook.

The USDA nutrient database is a great place to look up the composition of all sorts of common foods. They don’t have much to say about acidity, but still very valuable.