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Muscadine Grapes


"Fermenting muscadines make their own perfume."

The common Muscadine Grape, botanically any one of a number of varieties of Vitis Rotundifolia, grows wild throughout the southeast United States, from East Texas and Arkansas to the Atlantic. It looks very similar to the Mustang Grape and a dozen other wild southern grapes, but--like the Vitis Munsoniana--it has simple (not forked) tendrils. Muscadines are terrific climbers and reach up high into trees, cover brush and run along fences, growing up to 50 feet per year. The grapes themselves form in small bunches, are extremely acidic and tend to drop from the vine as they reach maturity. They require lots of sugar and positive acid reduction measures to make a decent wine. Like the Mustang, the Muscadine is wonderful for jelly but not the best wine grape. However, it's readily available and free to boot, so it certainly has advantages over purchased grapes. Be prepared to allow it to age. I know lots of people who drink it young and think nothing of it, but if they'd only stash away a couple of bottles for 3-4 years, they'd never drink it young again.


MUSCADINE GRAPE WINE (1)

Boil the water and dissolve the sugar in it. While sugar-water is cooling, wash, destem and crush the grapes, being sure to wear rubber gloves. Pour crushed grapes into nylon straining bag, tie securely, and put in primary. Pour water over grapes, add crushed Campden tablet and yeast nutrient, and cover primary securely. After 12 hours add pectic enzyme. Wait additional 12 hours and measure both specific gravity and acid. S.G. should be 1.090 or higher; acidity no higher than 7 p.p.t. tartaric. Correct S.G. if required by adding additional sugar, acid by using one of three methods described below following recipes. Add yeast, recover primary, and squeeze nylon bag lightly and stir must twice daily for about 5-7 days or until S.G. drops to 1.030. Press pulp well to extract liquid. Pour into secondary fermentation vessel, fit airlock, and let stand 3 weeks. Rack and top up, then rack again in 2 months and again after additional 2 months. If wine has cleared, bottle. If not, wait until wine clears, rack again and bottle. This wine may be sweetened before bottling by stabilizing, waiting 10-12 hours, then adding 2/3 to 1-1/3 cup sugar-water per gallon (2 parts sugar dissolved in 1 part water. May taste after one year, but improves remarkably with age (2-4 years). [Author's recipe.]


MUSCADINE GRAPE WINE (2)

Wash and destem the grapes, being sure to wear rubber gloves. Run grapes through a grape crusher or crush in crock primary using a sterilized 4X4 or other suitable device in an up-and-down action. Meanwhile, bring water to boil. Add sugar to grapes and pour boiling water over grapes and sugar. Stir well to dissolve sugar. Add crushed Campden tablet and yeast nutrient and cover crock. Wait 12 hours and add pectic enzyme. Wait 12 additional hours and measure both specific gravity and acid. S.G. should be 1.090 or higher; acidity no higher than 7 p.p.t. tartaric. Correct S.G. and acid as in recipe (1) above, if required. Add yeast, recover primary, and stir must 2-4 times daily, knocking down "cap" of skins and seeds each time. Check S.G. daily until it drops to 1.040. Strain pulp well to extract liquid and discard pulp. Recover primary and continue fermenting as before until S.G. reaches 1.030. Siphon into secondary fermentation vessel, fit airlock, and ferment 30 days. Rack and top up, then rack again every 30 days until wine has cleared. Wait additional 30 days, stabilize, and rack again. Sweeten to taste and bottle. Allow to age at least 18 months before drinking. Improves with additional aging. [Adapted from recipe published in New Orleans area newspaper, identity unknown, circa 1990.]


This page was updated on September 26th, 2003

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