Posted on October 3, 2017 @ 09:09:00 AM by Paul Meagher
A major pre-occupation for me lately is gaining experience with blueberry winemaking.
Over the weekend I crushed six 5 gallon pails of blueberries at my farm property. This yield was added to four 5 gallon pails that were already crushed. Total yield was 45 gallons of blueberry pulp and juice. Plus 5 gallons of plum juice and pulp from a plum tree on the farm property. I will be harvesting grapes from my vineyard in about 3 weeks so this gives me some early winemaking practice.
The video below shows my process for crushing and preparing blueberries for wine making. I do a double crushing of the
blueberries because the berries are smaller than a grape berry which the crusher is more adapted to. Small scale winemaking can be a heavy lifting workout as I demonstrate in the video. You might notice that I don't remove leaves and grass from the blueberries (unscreened). It would be alot of extra work and it is mostly leaves (and a small amount of rye grass) which could be considered a herb flavoring.
I expect the 6 pails I crushed to convert to 7 or 8 pails of fermentable wine once I remove some must from each pail so I can add sugar to create a wine or port style.
There are advantages and disadvantages to the small scale winemaking that I am practicing right now. The main advantage is that because I am making small 5 gallon batches of wine I can experiment with different variables to try to figure out an optimal set of conditions for producing a blueberry cooler, wine or port (e.g., add acid blend or not, add oak shavings or not, control the starting specific gravity through sugar addition or not, etc...). The number of possible permutations is exponential. The disadvantage is that with so many different experiments going on at such a small scale it is hard to guarantee consistency of your product. If I dumped all my berries into a great big vat that is temperature controlled with proper air headspace then I might be able to create a consistent offering from year to year.
It is what it is. Each batch will be unique. For now, I've got to make lemonade out of that lemon reality.
The blueberry cooler style (6% alcohol) is something I will approach from two directions to see which one turns out best. The first approach is to not add sugar, or add very little, to the juice and when it is done fermenting backsweeten with a blueberry jam type fruit pack made from the blueberries. The second approach is to dilute a blueberry wine or port that is done fermenting with water and then back sweeten with the fruit pack. Usually when you make a cooler from a kit you back sweeten with a fruit pack so that is why I think this might work. Here is the preparation process for the blueberry fruit pack that I made by simmering the blueberries for a couple of hours and adding some sugar to taste. Willy Wonka this fruitpack has flavor!
I am ramping up again tonight to process more blueberries into cooler, wine and port styles that I will be fermenting in my garage mini-winery.
It would have been nice to go to wine school to learn winemaking skills, but I'm hoping that deliberate practice over the long term will eventually make up for this lack of formal instruction. Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool's book Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise (2016) offer motivational research on the power of extended deliberate practice to deliver expertise in any skill area.