hist-brewing: Historical Wine Sweetening

Mills, Scott Scott.Mills at COMPAQ.com
Fri May 26 13:35:40 PDT 2000


> It's a common practice today to add sugar to
> "country wines," but aside from 
> meads and similarly honeyed brews, were
> historical/period "country" wines 
> sweetened?  Were they all-juice or did they add
> boiling water as is common 
> now?

There are period references  (Digbie, etc.) of adding sugar to wines to
sweeten then sometimes after the primary ferment.  But unless you are trying
to closely follow a period recipes I think there are better ways to get it
done.

IMHO the best way is to simply know your yeast and it's alcohol tolerance.
Take an original gravity reading of you must and adjust accordingly.  Once
you have the OG and therefore the potential alcohol of the raw must you can
choose a yeast that with the appropriate alcohol tolerance that will leave
the desired amount of residual sugar/sweetness for you.  With my meads I
will often adjust my OG up by adding more honey, or down by diluting with
water until I get it to a point where I know the yeast will leave the amount
of sugar that I desire.

If you want something more sweet don't be afraid to use an Ale yeast on your
wines.  I like a sweet cider and most "wine" yeasts just leave the cider way
to dry for me.  Therefore I most often us American Ale "Chico" yeast to
ferment my ciders so that I get the residual sweetness that I wan't. 

> On a different but related note:  Cider is fermented
> apple juice.  Perry is 
> fermented pear juice.  Would a non-sweetened,
> all-juice ferment be a "wine" 
> or more "cider"-related?

To my mind all fermented fruit is a wine.  Cider is an apple wine, perry is
a pear wine, there is peach, strawberry, and of course grape wines, etc.
etc. etc.  I also consider mead a wine.  To me these are all wines
regardless of their final alcohol content.  

Likewise in my mind all fermented grain is a beer regardless if that is
barley, oats, wheat, rye, rice, etc.   

Then there are the hybrids like braggots and fruit beers.  Then it just
depends on what the primary source of fermentables were.  Some braggots I
would call honey-beers and others I would call malteglins (malted meads).  

I guess to me it boils down to if you are starting from sugars then it is a
wine, if from starches then it is a beer.

Keep in mind that legality is a completely different matter and in those
cases the distinction in beer and wine might simply be alcohol content.
Different states have different laws for instance here is Texas all strong
beers have to be called "bock" even if they nothing like a traditional
German bock.

Regards,  
 
Scott Mills 

aka Ld Eadric Anstapa

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