2012 Fig Wine (main crop)

This was the second year we made fig wine from the tree out back.  This year the breba crop was too small to make a batch, so I had to wait until later in the summer.  It was a busy year, so we froze the figs and didn't actually get around to preparing them until November!

fresh figs

November 18, 2012

Recipe (combination of Jack Keller’s recipe and adjustments based on last year’s batch):
  • 20.9 lbs frozen figs
  • 8 oz. dried plums (Jed’s idea)
  • 70 cups (4.375 gallons) water
  • 12.75 lbs granulated sugar (edit: definitely not enough sugar!)
  • 17.5 tsp acid blend (edit: disregard this number--acid addition depends on the pH)
  • 5 Campden tablets
  • 5 tsp yeast nutrient
  • 5 tsp yeast energizer
  • 1 sachet Montrachet yeast
I dissolved 8.75 lbs. sugar (2 4 lb. bags + 1.5 cups) in 70 cups Arrowhead spring water in a 24 quart stock pot. This filled it nearly to the top--I was hoping to be able to mix everything together in there but that’s not possible. We peeled the skins off the figs, chopped the plums, and put the pulp and skins in separate nylon mesh bags inside the primary. The sugar solution tasted weak, so I checked last year’s recipe. Sure enough, we used significantly more last time. I dissolved another 4 lb. bag of sugar in the pot. I poured 66 cups of the sugar solution into the primary, which brought the level almost to the top. I don’t want an overflow like last year, so I think I will remove the pulp after the pectic enzyme does its job, which should lower the volume back to around 5 gallons. I dissolved 5 crushed Campden tablets and 6 tsp pectic enzyme in a small amount of warm water and stirred that into the must. The pH measurement was about 5.8 so I decided to add acid blend tonight for added protection against bacteria. Last year’s recipe used 17.5 tsp of acid blend, so I started with half (so as not to risk dropping the pH below the target like I did with the hibiscus mead). I dissolved 9 tsp acid blend in some water and stirred into the must. The must, which was brown before, immediately turned a vibrant red (though slightly brown). The pH was then 2.98. Good thing I didn’t add the entire 17.5 tsp! After stirring the must, the pH rose to 3.06. Oddly, it does not taste overly acidic. I will let it sit overnight and check tomorrow. Perhaps the temperature is affecting the pH or the meter needs to be calibrated again.

November 19, 2012

The pH was 3.78 the next day after the must had cooled. I added 4 tsp acid blend, bringing pH to 3.6. I couldn’t make it to the brew supply store before it closed today so the must will have to sit another night. That might be a good thing, as the pectic enzyme will have more time to break down the pulp.

specific gravity: 1.11
residual sugar (Balling scale): 26.5%
potential alcohol: 14.5% ABV

November 20, 2012

I hydrated the yeast in about a 1:1 ratio of freshly pressed black grape juice and water. I squeezed the juice from the bag of fig pulp and removed it from the primary, however, I left the bag of skins in. The volume of must in the primary is about 5.5 gallons. The specific gravity was the same as last night.  The pH, however, was higher--about 4. I added 1 tbsp acid blend to bring it down to 3.8 and continued adding 1 tsp at a time but pH remained at 3.8. I soaked the pH meter in cleaning solution and tried again. The pH was now 4.8! The total acid blend added tonight was 4 tbsp but the pH only went down to 3.6 before I ran out of acid blend. I need to pick up some more tomorrow, as well as pH buffer solution to calibrate the meter. I put the yeast starter in the refrigerator and sealed the primary. The Campden tablets should keep it safe for now.

November 21, 2012

I cleaned and re-calibrated the pH meter. It was only off by 0.06 but routine calibration never hurts. I need to stock up on buffer solution so I don’t have to go to the aquarium store every time I calibrate it. The must now measures 3.42. Whoops. I guess the acid blend needed time to thoroughly mix. This is still within the acceptable range for a red wine, and the lower acidity will help avoid spoilage. The pH will probably rise over time anyway. I tried a pH strip as well but the color never matches the reference colors exactly. It looks like somewhere between 3.6 and 4.0. That’s quite a wide margin--I’ll trust the digital meter instead. I brought the yeast starter out of the refrigerator and submerged it in a bowl of 100°F water. The yeast is fizzing loudly and bubbling, so there are no doubts about its health. I would probably be concerned if it were Cotes de Blancs but Montrachet is robust. I dissolved 5 tsp Fermax yeast nutrient and 5 tsp Yeastex yeast energizer in some water and added it to the must. Then I pitched the yeast into the must. Gas is starting to push out of the airlock, so it looks like we’re good to go.

November 22, 2012

Still fermenting.

???, 2012

Transferred wine into secondary.

December 31, 2012

Racked wine into new carboy.

???, 2013

Racked wine again. I dissolved 5 Campden tablets in a small amount of petite syrah and stirred into carboy. Topped off with remaining petite syrah and some cabernet sauvignon.

June 9, 2013

Racked wine. I dissolved ¼ tsp of sodium benzoate and one Campden tablet into the wine, assuming there was probably ample sulfites from the previous racking.

racking fig wine   racking fig wine

August 17, 2013

I racked the fig wine into another sanitized carboy and took a sample from the last of it. There was almost no sediment left behind, which means this may be ready to bottle. However, the wine is still young, with a "hot" flavor (as is the pomegranate wine). It may need to be bulk aged longer. Despite this, the aroma and flavor are fantastic. Fig wine is really in a class all its own. What I thought was a defect years ago is actually the characteristic aroma of fig wine. Since fig wines are generally not commercially available, I think I had been unfairly comparing it to grape wine but now, after several batches, I've come to understand that this is how fig wine is supposed to smell. It's unlike any red grape wine.

fig and pomegranate wine samples

September 15, 2013

Before bottling this wine, I wanted to make sure it had ample sulfite.  I recently purchased a vacuum aspiration kit, which revealed our 2013 fig wine had essentially zero free SO2.  That's asking for trouble so I added some sulfite to that.

I ran a test on this batch and found the indicator solution required 0.4 mL of NaOH to turn green.  Multiplying this number by 16 resulted in 6.4 ppm of free sulfite.  Jon Iverson's home winemaking book says wine should be bottled with a low level of sulfite, unless the pH is above 3.6 or 3.7.  This batch is below that number.  At first, the pH meter displayed 3.2 while a pH strip appeared to indicate 3.6 (a highly subjective method anyway).  After recalibrating the pH meter, the pH was determined to be 3.45.  This wine should be ready to bottle, whenever we have time.  I also bought a Buon Vino Minijet filter, so I'll probably pass it through a set of pads first before bottling, since I haven't used any fining agents on this batch.

October 9, 2013

Since I was adding lysozyme to the 2013 fig wine, I figured I'd add some to the other wines that are currently bulk aging.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially in winemaking.  Of course, I sampled a bit with the wine theif.

fig wine sample

Wow, this is delicious!  It has that totally unique fig wine flavor that I've learned to appreciate.  It could possibly benefit from some oak chips but I'm curious to compare oaked vs. non-oaked fig wine, so I may leave this one alone and do that with the 2013 vintage instead.  I want to bottle it right away but I'd better treat it with some lysozyme as an insurance policy.

November 17, 2013

I was already fining our loquat wine with kieselsol and chitosan so I figured I'd do the same with the fig wine while I  was at it.  I drew off 7.5 ml of kieselsol with a syringe and added it to the wine, stirring it with a sanitized racking cane.  An hour later, I added 30 ml of chitosan and stirred that.