2013 Loquat Wine

It's loquat season again, so I'm going to try to improve upon last year's recipe (and seed-removal technique). I was lazy and didn't get around to picking the loquats until late in May, so many of them had begun to shrivel on the tree. Late harvest grapes have a higher sugar content--perhaps loquats work the same way. I picked half a primary fermenter's worth of fruit but, seeing as both of my other fermenters contained bochet at the time, I opted to store the loquats in the freezer until I was ready. To save space, I decided to purée them and keep them in a plastic bag with some sulfite. This time around, I removed the hard blossom ends, reasoning that they can't be adding anything beneficial to the flavor. I saved the seeds to make some nespolino later. Removing loquat seeds and blossom ends proved once again to be a pain in the ass so I only made it through half the fruit before giving up and freezing the rest whole. There has to be a faster way to do this.

July 21, 2013

I thawed the fruit, then removed the seeds and blossom ends from whole loquats and puréed those. The total loquat pulp was 15 lbs. 3.75 oz., lower than last year by a few pounds. It was also very brown. Perhaps a smarter thing to do would have been to add some citric acid to the purée along with the sulfite before freezing it. To make up for the low yield, I went to the store and bought 1.5 lbs. of nectarines (similar flavor and neutral color) and a pound of Mandarin oranges (to enhance the color and increase the acidity). I also threw in a couple of overripe bananas for added body. In total, I ended up with 18.5 lbs. of fruit--close enough.

I dissolved 5 crushed Campden tablets, 3/4 tsp Tanenol Max Nature, and 5 tsp Fermax in some spring water and added it immediately to the fruit to prevent further browning. I then emptied the remainder of the spring water bottle (2.5 gallons) into the fermenter and stirred. I dissolved 5 lbs. of sugar in more spring water (almost a gallon) and added that to the fermenter.

Specific gravity: 1.060
pH: 5.28

The pH was way too high, so I added acid blend in smaller and smaller increments until it reached 3.34 (a total of 22 tsp of acid blend).

July 22, 2013

After recalibrating my pH meter, I found the pH was actually 3.39. Still concerned about the brown color and lack of fruit, I went to the store and bought a half gallon of Welch's 100% White Grape Juice and added that. Normally, I look for grape juice concentrate but all I could find was the reconstituted juice. Either way, it's safe to use because it contains no high fructose corn syrup or stabilizers (although it does contain sulfites, but that shouldn't be enough to stop the yeast). The pH was lowered to 3.36 and the specific gravity increased to 1.068. I let it sit overnight. Meanwhile, I hydrated some Lalvin D47 (known for producing full-bodied whites with spicy aromas if left on the lees) in a 1/4 cup of 105°F water. After 15 minutes, I added about a 1/2 cup of water and a big spoonful of must. Over the next two hours, I increased the volume with more must and let it sit, covered by a paper towel.

July 23, 2013

By morning, the yeast starter had developed a thick, foamy cap like a milk shake.

I carefully poured it over a sanitized spoon so that it would float on the surface of the must, where there was ample oxygen.

In the evening, the airlock was bubbling steadily and a good half-inch thick yeast cap had covered the surface of the must. It's amazing how vigorous the yeast becomes when the starter is allowed to grow overnight. Jed gently pushed the cap under the surface to keep it wet but close enough to the oxygen.

July 24, 2013

I gave the wine a thorough stirring to evenly distribute the yeast. The addition of white grape juice has significantly changed the flavor. It tastes more like a peach than a loquat at this point, though experience tells me that color and flavor profiles change quite a bit during the winemaking process. It also occurred to me that the white grape juice contains ascorbic acid. That means I can't use sodium benzoate to stabilize it later, or it will react and form benzene, a known carcinogen. D'oh! I'll either have to use potassium sorbate (which has a flavor I don't care for), take my chances sweetening it once it's been fermented dry (at the risk of renewed fermentation), or just leave it dry (like I did with the last batch). It's best to stay away from commercial products. When the ingredients come from your backyard, you know what's going into your wine.

specific gravity: 1.052 (2% ABV)

I gave it another thorough stir in the evening and measured it again.

specific gravity: 1.032 (4.75% ABV)

July 25, 2013

Another stir in the morning. It's starting to taste less sweet.
specific gravity: 1.020 (6% ABV)

July 26, 2013

Stirred thoroughly.
specific gravity: 1.003 (8.5% ABV)

In the evening, we prepared sugar syrup from 2.5 lbs. of sugar and 1.125 lbs. of water, let it cool, and stirred it into the wine. The wine did not fizz upon addition of the sugar like the grapefruit wine did earlier this year, possibly because it had already fermented to dryness and the yeast population was probably lower.

specific gravity before addition: 0.999 (~9% ABV)
specific gravity after addition: 1.020
delta: 0.021

July 27, 2013

Stirred thoroughly morning and evening.
specific gravity: 1.012 (10.25% ABV)

July 28, 2013

Stirred thoroughly morning and evening.
specific gravity: 1.002 (11.5% ABV)

July 29, 2013

specific gravity: 0.998 (12% ABV)
I dissolved 2.5 lbs. of sugar in 1.25 lbs. spring water and let it cool. Meanwhile, I suspended the bag of pulp from a doorway-mounted pull-up bar and let it drain into the primary fermenter, squeezing to extract juice. I stirred the sugar syrup into the wine and took new measurements.

specific gravity: 1.016
delta: 0.018
total delta: 0.039
pH: 3.28

From this point on, any specific gravity measurements should use 1.107 as the original gravity (1.068 + 0.039). The selected yeast strain, Lalvin D-47, is reported to impart "ripe spicy aromas with tropical and citrus notes" when left on the lees, so I may try this. However, this wine already had a substantial amount of fine pulp in suspension, so I transferred it to the secondary using a siphon instead of pouring it through the funnel. This left a fair amount of sediment behind, which is good because I don't want to end up with an inch and a half of lees taking up precious volume in the carboy. The wine is very opaque, which tells me it will precipitate quite a bit of lees as it is. I inserted a stopper and airlock and moved the carboy to my bulk aging area.


July 31, 2013

Fermentation is still ongoing, evident by the tons of tiny bubbles rising to the neck of the carboy, like a freshly opened bottle of soda.

August 4, 2013

specific gravity: 0.998

The total change in gravity so far can be calculated as:

original gravity + Δ sugar + Δ sugar - final gravity
1.068 + 0.021 + 0.018 - 0.998 = 0.109 (14.5% ABV)

October 9, 2013

Since I was adding lysozyme to the 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.

loquat wine sample

Wow!  This wine is fantastic!  We didn't watch over last year's loquat wine as carefully and, as a result, it turned slightly brown and developed an unusual flavor (not unpleasant, but not characteristic of a loquat).  This year's batch, on the other hand, tastes just like a fresh, juicy loquat (a boozy one, that is) and the color is still a bright yellow.  We need to be sure to keep the sulfite at the right level.  It's a good thing we're adding lysozyme.  There should be no chance of bacterial spoilage.  I think this one will be a winner.  In fact, this is so delicious and fruity, we should go ahead and bottle this as soon as it clarifies.  No sense letting the bouquet mellow out in bulk aging.

November 17, 2013

The wine was still cloudy from the lysozyme, unlike the grapefruit wine, which was treated at the same time.  I decided to try using a kieselsol/chitosan combination to fine it, since everybody seems to swear by it.  First, I needed to rack the wine off the lees.  I think it had been sitting on them since July!  We really need to be more diligent about this.  Anyway, we racked it into a clean carboy, leaving behind a good inch or more of lees.  The bottle of kieselsol indicated a dosage of 30-50 ml/HL, which I had to adjust since I'm not making wine by the hectoliter.  I started with the mean 40 ml/HL dosage and scaled down to 5 gallons:

5 gal = 0.189270589 HL
0.189270589 * 40 ml = 7.57082356 ml

I measured about 7.5 ml of kieselsol with a syringe and added it to the wine, stirring with a sanitized racking cane.  The instructions said to wait an hour and then add the chitosan, so we let it sit.  The recommended chitosan dosage was 150-200 ml/HL so, again, I chose the mean value (175 ml/HL) and scaled down.

0.189270589 * 175 ml = 33.122353075 ml

I drew about 30 ml of chitosan with the syringe and added it to the wine, stirring with the racking cane.  There was quite a bit of headspace from the racking, so I topped it up with a bottle of Barefoot Moscato.  Jed felt the fruity wine would benefit from a little residual sugar.  Hopefully, there are no active yeast cells present.  We'll have to take a hydrometer reading and keep an eye on it.