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REQUESTED RECIPE:

Concord Grape Wines

"Last year we harvested almost a hundred pounds of wonderful Portuguese Concord
grapes.... It's that time of year again, and I am beginning to smell the ripening grapes.
Today I picked 6 bunches (4 1/2 lbs.) for jelly. My question to you is, how can I make a
few bottles of a nice red wine from my grapes? Something not too difficult or too expensive?" Diane Marble, San Diego, CA




Concord grapes are the most popularly planted native American grapes. Early colonists embraced them, harvested them, and used them to make wines, jellies, jams, and tarts. They were the first of the native vines from which cuttings were planted to form vineyards. A variety of Vitis Labrusca, the Concord Grape is resistant to many of the diseases which destroy the European grape, Vitis Vinifera; they were the first onto which Vinifera cuttings were grafted to combat insects and disease and the first to be successfully cross-pollenated with European stock to produce hybrids. Most notable of these hybrids are French-American, but crossings were also made with German, Spanish, Portugese, Lowlands, and Baltic grapes. The resulting vines are hardy and produce good yields.

The Concord, however -- even its hybrids -- rarely contain the high amount of natural sugar that pure Vinifera varieties contain. They also contain more pectin and acid, and their wines may exude a musky aroma disagreeable to some. For these reasons their juice is always reinforced with added sugar, almost always diluted with water to balance the acid, treated with pectic enzyme to ensure that it clears, and may be flavored slightly with certain aromatic herbs or spices to counter the natural muskiness.

I have included three recipes below. The first produces a dry wine, so you may want to sweeten it slightly before bottling if you're not partial to dry wine. The second is diluted only slightly and requires a good many more grapes to produce, but results in a full-bodied, sweet dessert wine. Both wines should be stabilized before final sweetening and bottling, either with a commercial stabilizer (such as Sorbitol) or one crushed Campden tablet and 1/2 teaspoon of potassium sorbate per gallon. Final sweetening is always accomplished using two parts sugar dissolved in one part boiling water and allowed to cool. This syrup must be clear, so stir until every granule of sugar has dissolved. The third recipe is a "second wine," made by using the grape pulp from the first batch of wine. Grape concentrate is added to provide body and vinous quality. I have made several second wines, all of which have turned out extremely well.

If you wish to add an aromatic agent to your wine, any of the following will work: anise, bitter almond, camomile, cardamom, cinnamon, clove, corriander, juniper berries, whole nutmeg, fresh rosemary, saffron, sage, summer savory, thyme, tonka bean, woodruff, or vanilla bean. Do not use ground spices, but rather the leaf, seed, or -- in the case of cinnamon -- bark. Place an amount (one tablespoon per gallon for most, or two nutmegs, tonka beans or vanilla beans) in a finely meshed jelly bag, tied, and place it in the must during the primary fermentation only. Squeeze gently before discarding.

When adding sugar to raise specific gravity (S.G.), a tablespoon less than 8 ounces will raise the S.G. of one gallon of must 0.010. For grape wines, the beginning S.G. must always be at least 1.095 to achieve an alcohol content of 12.7%, while 12% is required to preserve the wine. This, however, presumes very little liquid will be lost during racking, which is a bad assumption. It is therefore wiser to begin with a starting S.G. of 1.105, which under ideal circumstances will produce 14.1% alcohol by volume. Because you will lose liquid during racking, the finished figure will be closer to 12.7%.

Concord Grape wine must age two years in the bottle before being considered ready to drink. It always astounds the novice how greatly wine improves with age. A wine that is terrible after one year will be delightful one year later and wonderful in the third year. Therefore, the best plan for one to follow is to make a set amount (3-5 gallons) every year, set the bottles on their side in a cool, dark closet, and forget about drinking any until you begin the third year's winemaking. Even then, you may want to age them further. Just remeber one thing: it takes five 750 ml wine bottles to store one gallon of wine; 25 bottles to store 5 gallons. Since it takes 5-6 months to make the wine, you have plenty of time to ask friends or neighborhood restaurants to save their empties for you. If you ask restaurants to do this, be sure and pick the bottles up regularly as requested and tell them when you have enough.


Concord Grape Wine (1)

Wash and de-stem grapes, discarding any less than perfect ones. Put in nylon mesh bag, tie securely, and vigorously crush grapes over primary, being sure to crush them all. Place bag of pulp in primary and add water, sugar, nutrient, and crushed Campden tablet. Stir well to dissolve sugar, cover securely with clean cloth and set aside. After 12 hours add pectic enzyme and recover. After additional 12 hours check specific gravity. If not at least 1.095, add sugar and stir until dissolved, then add yeast. Stir daily, squeeze the nylon bag to aid in juice extraction, and check the S.G. When S.G. reaches 1.030 (5-6 days), lightly but steadily press juice from bag. [Set bag aside in bowl to make a second wine (see third recipe below).] Siphon liquor off sediments into sterilized glass secondary and attach airlock. Check S.G. after 30 days. If 1.000 or lower, rack into clean secondary and reattach airlock. Rack again after 2 months and again after additional 2 months. Allow to clear, stabilize, sweeten if desired (1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar syrup per gallon), and rack again into sterilized bottles. Allow to age two years in bottle before tasting. Improves further with additional aging. [Adapted from Raymond Massaccesi's Winemaker's Recipe Handbook]


Concord Grape Wine (2)

Wash and de-stem grapes, discarding any less than perfect ones. Divide grapes into two nylon mesh bags, tie securely, and vigorously crush grapes over primary, being sure to crush them all. Place bags of pulp in primary and add sugar already dissolved in water, nutrient, and crushed Campden tablet. Cover securely with clean cloth and set aside. After 12 hours add pectic enzyme and recover. After additional 12 hours check specific gravity. If not at least 1.095, add sugar and stir until dissolved, then add yeast. Stir daily, squeezing the nylon bags to aid in juice extraction, and check the S.G. When S.G. reaches 1.030 (5-6 days), lightly but steadily press juice from bags. [Set bags aside in bowl to make a second wine (see third recipe below).] Siphon liquor off sediments into sterilized glass secondary and attach airlock. Check S.G. after 30 days. If 1.000 or lower, rack into clean secondary and reattach airlock. Rack again after 2 months and again after additional 2 months. Allow to clear, stabilize, sweeten (1-1/4 cup sugar syrup per gallon), and rack again into sterilized bottles. Allow to age two years in bottle before tasting. Improves further with additional aging. [Adapted from Raymond Massaccesi's Winemaker's Recipe Handbook]


Concord Grape Wine (Second Fermentation)

Begin this wine as soon as practical after pulp is removed from previous use, as you will be using the yeast already present in the pulp (do not allow pulp to dry out). Mix all ingredients except pulp in primary, stir well to dissolve sugar, then add pulp still in nylon bag. S.G. may be lower than expected because of alcohol still trapped in pulp. Cover and ferment, stirring and squeezing bag daily, until S.G. drops to 1.010. Siphon liquor into secondary. Squeeze bag well to extract all juice possible. Add juice to secondary and fit airlock. Rack after 30 days, then every 2 months until wine is clear and no more yeast deposits form after 10 days. Stabilize, sweeten if desired, and siphon into bottles. Taste after two years. [Author's recipe]


My thanks to Diane Marble for the request.


This page was created on August 15th, 1998.

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