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TECHNICAL WINE CHALLENGES FACED BY FRUIT WINEMAKERS

Dec 2nd 2019 at 3:50 AM

Are you having one of the many technical wine challenges often faced by winemakers? For fruit winemakers, working with fruit is not always an easy endeavour. I would dare say that making fruit wine is more difficult and the technical wine challenges can be greater in fruit wine than grape wine.3286633678_89f408a0c7

Despite the fact that all fruits will instinctively ferment to some degree under the right circumstances, there is a reason “fruit wine” really means “wine made from fruit other than grapes.” When asked why vitis vinifera won the world winemaking race, Dr. James Lapsley, wine historian and associate professor at the UC Davis Department of Viticulture and Enology explains, “Vinifera is unique in fruits in developing as much sugar as it does, thus resulting in a wine of 10-14% alcohol, which is more stable.

The Technical Wine Challenges

Ripe pineapple, for instance, is about 15% sugar. Therefore, most fruits need sugar additions, or water additions (to reduce acidity) or both. Vinifera makes itself, and hence became the standard.” Commercial fruit winemaking, by default, has largely become a quest for solidity and stability, dominant rather than self-inventing. One of the foremost battles any fruit winemaker wages is with the sugar content of the juice or must. Depending upon the pH of the preliminary material, for a wine to have adequate alcohol to be microbially constant as well as have the right texture in the mouth, winemakers aim for at least 11.0% ethanol. On the basis of the sugar-alcohol alteration factor utilized (0.538 is a general starting point), that would entail an initial sugar content of 20.45 %. Many fruits can hardly top out at 12.0% (be careful of pulpy pendant solids in any hydrometer analysis—it is best to centrifuge samples). With numbers like those, it rapidly becomes apparent that adding sucrose, honey, concentrate, or some erstwhile form of fermentable sugar is essential. Crowe (2007)

What a producer is keen to add to a wine depends upon their stylistic goals. A Japanese study reviewed in the American Journal of Oenology and Viticulture (vol. 46 no. 1 1995) suggests that fruit wines sweetened by means of glucose and fructose, as is found in grape juice and fruit concentrates, scored higher in taste panels than the similar fruit wine sugared by un-cleaved sucrose. A few winemakers get pleasure from the bouquet and extra body that some kinds of honey adds to a product at the same time some only sweeten their wines via similar-fruit concentrates.

Others merely skirt the sugar-addition problem by adding together grape or other fruit brandy to their fruit wines to boost the alcohol content. What a producer can add to a wine is dependant on their federal and state laws and will impinge on how they eventually label the bottled product.

For fruit winemakers in the U.S., TTB regulation group 27CFR4, listed at www.ttb.gov/regulations, is required reading. Ameliorate with slight of the “wrong” thing and all of a sudden an Upstate New York Pink Lady Apple Wine will have to be labeled as “Fruit Wine with Natural Flavors.”

Attaining the acid equilibrium right is the next challenge. The goal is to equal the level of acid to the completed wine style (sweet, dry, or fortified) while maintaining an adequate amount of acid for microbial solidity and color constancy, where pertinent. There is nothing erroneous with having a pH of 2.93 and a TA of 9.75 g/L in a raspberry dessert wine with 7% lingering sugar. The same final wine chemistry, in a dry apple wine, though, would be screamingly tart and the wine would be unhinged and unpleasant to drink. Crowe (2007)

The flip side is likewise hazardous. Low-acid musts (pH’s over 3.80 and TA’s below 5.0 g/L for example) can lead to bacterial incursion, stuck fermentations, high volatile acidity, a flat taste profile, greasy mouth feel, poor color, and a concise shelf life. Most winemakers conflict low acid musts by adding tartaric, citric, malic acid, or an amalgamation of all three. High acid musts are occasionally de-acidified using calcium or potassium carbonate, but time and again, then are simply thinned with water and have sugar added back to the required fermentation level. In the United States, winemakers can add water up to 35%.

Fruit winemaking is often a juggling act of sugar, acid, flavor, dilution ratios. Being intimate in the knowledge of these factors, how they are interpreted by various laws governing wine production and sales in the market will ensure a higher degree of success.

Another important factor and challenge facing fruit winemakers is the identification of “wine problems” or flaws and faults that can occur in the wine process. Being able to identify this early ensures being able to remedy these problems.

Here is a list of “wine problems” and more importantly, how to identify them and hopefully resolve them. This is the first post of a three-part series. If interesting or useful, check out the other two parts.

Wine Faults and Flaws Part 1

Hopefully, your winemaking life will never encounter these problems, but that is unlikely. Just like in life, challenges and overcoming issues in wine make us better winemakers. Focussing on quality control in your winemaking and when issues do happen (and they will), learning from them will fine-tune your skills and help you produce sooner or later something fabulous.

If you need more good information on quality fruit wine production, contact me to purchase the ebook/PDF version of the Ultimate Fruit Winemaker’s Guide. Available for US$19.

Happy fruit winemaking!

Dominic Rivard - Winemaker

Dominic Rivard, winemaker and wine consultant is the author of the The Ultimate Fruit Winemaker’s Guide, this blog and involved in the wine industry as an award winning commercial winemaker. Passionate about wines, especially of the “non-grape” variety.

With over 20 years experience in the wine industry, Dominic has been passionately interested in wine since the age of 17 when he started making wine from local fruits and grapes in Canada.

After becoming a qualified sommelier, he studied advanced winemaking and oenology and undertook and passed the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Higher Certificate with distinctions. He is now studying towards the prestigious Master of Wine accreditation.

Help For Your Wine Project

He is a founding director of the Fruit Wines of Canada Association, which was involved in promoting wines and its industry throughout Canada.

Dominic has won hundreds of awards and medals in national and international wine competitions. This has included the best dessert wine in Canada in 2007, best wine in B.C. in 2008, various best of show awards in fruit wine and desert wine categories, plus best fruit wine in Canada in 2010, 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 plus many other distinctive awards since then.

Over the last decade, Dominic has been busy running numerous wine production and exportation projects with wineries and wine importers/distributors in Canada, USA, Italy, Spain, Chile, Taiwan, Korea, India, Japan as well as China. He he is a speaker on the subject of winemaking and wine marketing at various symposiums throughout the world.

In Canada, Dominic has been engaged in R&D projects for the government of Alberta and New Brunswick and has perfected numerous dessert wine production techniques including iced fruit wine cryo-extraction. He specializes in cider, fruit wine, dessert wine and ice wine production and is known in wine industry circles as an authority in fruit wine making.

Dominic has been active in the burgeoning Chinese wine industry as consultant winemaker, wine judge with the China Fruit Wine Association as well as Chief Winemaker and for Tonghua Winery, the fourth largest winery in Asia, situated in North East China.

Dominic has also been involved in running the wine production of a high quality tropical fruit winery in Thailand and the research and development of wines and other alcoholic beverages using tropical fruits and herbs.

Presently, Dominic is based out of Nova Scotia, Canada and has taken up sustainable and organic fruit growing, is an active speaker at wine symposiums throughout the world and continuing to assist wineries with their wine production on a consultant basis.

He is enthusiastic about the developments in the fruit wine industry and its great potential not only locally but on a global basis.

Dominic is available for on-site consultation or off-site assistance via phone, email or video consultation.

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