Welcome to the World of Winemaking! I’m having fun alphabetizing the home winemaking process – here are the links going backwards for your convenience, in case you missed any:
A for Aromas, Acidity and Appearance
B for Barrels, Bottles and Blackberry Wine
C for Color, Clarity, Carboys and Cherry Wine
D for Decanting and Decanters
E for Equipment
F for Fermentation
G for Glass and Grape
H for Harvest
Today’s letter is “I”, so we’ll talk about Infusion!
Bet most of you attribute ‘infusion’ to cooking, don’t you? Well, you can utilize infusion in winemaking, too! It’s actually pretty fun to experiment with different flavors to see how your wine ultimately turns out.
Technically I do wine infusions all the time – after all, I like to be different, and rather than make a regular run-of-the-mill wine, I do unique ones like Blackberry Cabernet or Black Cherry Pinot Noir or Blueberry Pinot Noir or Blackberry Merlot, etc. The only difference, though, is that I’m using the bulk of the winemaking process with the berries, but adding the variety of grapes during the fermentation process to make a specific ‘type’ of wine.
You can, however, rescue a disappointing wine (and I’ve had a batch or two of those, let me tell you!) and infuse it with fresh fruit for a short duration. For instance, you can take a 5 or 6 gallon clear sound wine (that you aren’t 100% happy with the finished taste) and add Sorbate (1-1/2 teaspoons), stir it up nicely then rack it into a carboy where you’ve added fresh fruit.
Recommendations on the fresh fruit are things like 6-7 quarts of fresh strawberries (stems removed, of course), or 4 quarts fresh raspberries (again, no stems), or 12 pounds sour cherries (do I need to say ‘no stems’ here as well?) lightly crushed (but don’t be too aggressive crushing them if you leave the pits in, you don’t want to crush the pits and add bitterness), or cut up peaches (skin and pits removed, and no brown spots). Put the fruit into the carboy then rack the now-treated (with Sorbate) wine into that carboy until it’s full (reserving the rest of the wine to top up later) then let it sit for 5-6 days.
After 5-6 days, rack the wine off the fruit into a freshly cleaned and sanitized carboy, top it up with the residual wine (because you’re going to have left overs from before, since the fruit takes up valuable space) and wait 2 weeks before racking again. If it’s a bit cloudy, you can treat it with a clearing agent like Sparkolloid, then rack when clear (usually 7-10 days).
Add 1/8 tsp meta and 1 1/2 teaspoons of sorbate (again). Sweeten to taste using cane sugar dissolved in reserved wine. Bottle and drink young – it’s usually best if consumed within a year.
Et voila! Yummy infused wine! I also read somewhere that another winemaker suggested canning peaches in wine with a light syrup, using wine instead of water. Follow canning recommendations on use of ascorbic acid in the syrup. That sounds interesting if you can keep the kids out of the peaches! Actually, it’s possible that the alcohol would burn off in heating the wine and sugar when making the syrup. I think it’s time for a scientific experiment, don’t you?
Another method of infusing I tried successfully with a batch of my apple wine one year – I separated the 6 gallon batch into a 3 gallon carboy to keep that one just apple, then 3 one-gallon carboys and added cinnamon sticks to those three, letting the cinnamon infuse into the wine while it bulk aged. I tell you what, that spicy apple wine was delicious! I’m going to have to make that again sometime soon, too.
For the small winemaker (like me) buying a giant oak barrel isn’t going to happen, but so many varieties of wine benefit from the infusion of oak aging – lucky for us, they have a remedy for that, with Infusion Spirals made out of oak. You can get them bottle sized if you just want to infuse the oak in specific bottles, or you can get carboy sized to infuse the entire carboy batch:
Pretty cool, no? You can add oak chips with the same result, but I’m kinda liking those spirals – less mess, less fuss!
You can also infuse herbs into a wine, but I think I’d do that with individual bottles (kind of like infused oils) like so:
I’ll buy unique flavors of wine just to see if I like them, so I can recreate them in a future batch. I have a bottle of tea-infused wine that I haven’t tried yet, it’s sitting in my wine rack waiting patiently for it’s debut. If I like it, I might try to make my own version of it in the future.
Bottom line is, the possibilities are endless for cool and unique flavors when you experiment with wine infusion.
Winemaking is so much fun – at least for me – and am tickled every time I give the wine I make as gifts to friends and family who love drinking it as much as I love making it. While we go through this alphabetical series on winemaking, if you have any burning questions, be sure to ask them in the comments below, and I’ll reply there – and maybe even highlight your specific question(s) in a future post!
Thanks for joining me in this fun adventure!