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Berlandieri Grape

Vitis berlandieri

V. berlandieri, with 6-inch clusters, in San Antonio, Texas

Vitis berlandieri is known as both the Fall Grape and Winter Grape. At least four North American native grapes share the name "Winter Grape" -- Vitis berlandieri, V. bicolor, V. cordifolia (properly, V. vulpina), and V. cinerea -- but only Vitis berlandieri owns the name "Fall Grape." V. cordifolia/vulpina rightfully owns the "Winter Grape" name. Vitis berlandieri is also known vernacularly as the Little Mountain Grape, Spanish Grape, and Uņa Cimarrona.

This grape ripens in August and September south of the Rio Grande and in October and November in Central Texas. It is acidic until it ripens and then is sweet and quite delicious, but too small for convenient eating and not quite sweet enough to make a decent wine without a little sugar being added. It is small (1/5 to 1/3 inch) with 30 to 70 berries per cluster. The clusters are loose and open, the pedicels (stems) long. The skin is thin, the pulp juicy when ripe, usually with one or two seeds of a coffee color. Ripe berries retain enough acid to make a balanced wine. Their small size makes crushing difficult but necessary, and pectic enzyme will help extract the juice. Destemming by hand takes a while, but is also necessary or the wine will pick up way too much tannin from the stems.

One last word: if the grapes are not yet sweet, do not pick them. I have found no use for these grapes when unripe. Wine from the unripe grapes is undrinkable and a waste of time, grapes and additives.

Berlandieri Grape Wine

Destem and crush the grapes and place in nylon straining bag. Tie bag closed and place in primary. Squeeze bag to extract enough juice to float a hydrometer in its test jar. Calculate sugar required to raise specific gravity to 1,088. Add sugar and stir well to dissolve it completely. Add finely crushed Campden tablet and stir in well. Cover primary with sanitized muslin and set aside 10 hours. Add pectic enzyme and stir well. Recover cprimary and set aside additional 10 hours. Add activated yeast, recover primary, and squeeze bag twice daily until active fermentation dies down (5-7 days). Remove nylon straining bag and drain, then press to extract all juice. Transfer juice to secondary, top up if required and fit airlock. Ferment 30 days, rack into clean secondary, top up, and refit airlock. Rack again after additional 30 days and stabilize wine. Sweeten to taste if desired (probably necessary) and set aside 30 days, or forego sweetening, set aside 10-14 days, and rack into bottles. Age three to six months. [Author's own recipe]

Last update was November 29th, 2003.

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