Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Harvesting the Brant-Vine 22 Sept. 2010

Ripe and healthy Brant grapes in my patio garden
The Brant grapes were harvested on the last sunny and warm day of September 2010.
According to the Met-office we will have rain and chill from now on.
I believe them, so I set out with buckets, secateurs and a ladder in 24 C.!!

At the top of the road, in the front garden of Nr. 2, I had spotted a wild growing Brant, that for 2 years had spread its tentacles into a tall Magnolia tree. The grape bunches were literally whispering to me every time I passed: "pick us - pick us" - - so I asked if the people actually were interested in their grapes.
As the answer was no,  that's where I started.
It was a difficult climb and I had to leave several tempting bunches where they were due to the height, but I managed to pick 2 full buckets.
The grapes were not ripe, many were totally green, but so what? All they contained was grape juice.
Nothing that can't be modified with the aid of a bit of sugar. 
My own Brant left - "imported" grapes at rear and right

The average sugar content of these grapes was 14%

Next I picked my own grapes.
And that was a different kettle of fish!
One bucket full and sugar content of 17.5

So there's the difference between a grapevine looked after and a wild growing one.
I have used 'green cropping' (i.e. removing green grapes or bunches) in order to concentrate the fruit in the remaining grapes - although probably a waste on Brant ;-) - - but they do that in the Bordeaux region, so why not in London?

Late afternoon, and all was crushed and poured into the fermentation vat, where I shall leave the must for 4 days.
Why 4?
Well, 3 is too little and 5 too much.

The colour is best described by Rudyard Kipling's marvellous description of "the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo river" - You can almost taste the rythm - although I trust the wine will improve considerably on this image.
I remember seeing the same colour many years ago in the Mosel district, when a huge tanker tried to pour its content of newly pressed must into a steel vat for initial fermentation and the hose popped out, spilling a considerable content on the concrete foreyard. The difference between sewage and raw wine must appeared insignificant. Commercial winemaking is surely a little less poetic than what goes on in a couple of patios in West London!
I suspect the colour will change a little, as the red skins from some of the grapes deliver their 'teinture', but the wine is definitely going to be more rose than red.
What a difference from the Triomphe d'Alsace's dark, blood-red colour.

Finally, a little 'chaptalisation' with 700g sugar to the 15 litres in the fermentation vat brought the sugar content up on the desired 21% - enough for a 12.5% alcohol result, if all goes well.
It is important regularly to press the cap of the crushed grapes down at regular intervals lest noxious bacteria develop on the surface. I presume it also helps provide colour and 'fruit', as all skins get in contact with the must.
Initially one has to work hard on the cap, but after a couple of days it becomes easier to press it down.

The cap of crushed Brant-grapes on the second day.

It is interesting to notice that you can feel the heat from the fermentation as you work the cap.

When the pulp has been wringed through a linnen bag and the juice stored away in the two waiting demijohns, there's little more I can do than wait and hope for the best.

There is only one matter I haven't got sorted out: Malolactic fermentation. Once the initial fermentation has finished around Christmas and the wine has been bottled, there is a good chance that a second fermentation may take place. That's the one that makes all the corks pop and leaves you with a major cleaning job in the morning, when you find the fruit of your efforts on the kitchen floor.
I will have to seek advice on this effect next year.
Beyond the 2 gallons of Brant now bubbling away I had a little more than 2 litres of must left over. I poured this straight into 3 bottles and corked them loosely, so any CO2-result of further fermentation could escape.
Brant "Suser" Sept. 2010
This is what the Swiss call "Suser" (Suess-wein/ Sweet Wine), the Germans call "Feder-weisser" ('feather wine' due to the white colour as a result of the suspended yeast particles). The French call it "Bourru" or "Vermache". During my years in Switzerland we tried it several time. It is  actually quite refreshing due to the CO2 and the fruitiness.
It may be drunk 'as is',  filtered (melita filters work well) or left alone for a couple of days for the sediment to sink to the bottom, after which it can be decanted.
It is a good idea to add a little sugar before drinking this way it becomes the most delightful  'fruit juice'
Whatever you do, it is your own, it is the result of your efforts and it is organic.
 There is no end to the fun you can have with wine!

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