How To Make Muscadine Wine
When thinking about sweet dessert wines, muscadine wine is rarely the first to come to mind. Nevertheless, this exquisite wine should definitely be considered if you want to surprise your family and friends with your winemaking skills.
In fact, many amateur winemakers are wondering how to make muscadine wine. While finding muscadine wine recipes is easy, one that stands out and that will surely impress your loved ones is the straw muscadine wine.
Although uncomplicated, the process has a few steps that need to be respected if you want to obtain a quality beverage.
Let’s understand more about muscadine grapes, then learn how to make straw muscadine wine like a pro!
Understanding Muscadine Grapes
When talking about muscadine, many people confuse them with the Muscat grapes. Yet, there is to say that the muscadine grapes are not a variety of Muscat.
Muscat grape is a term used to indicate a large variety of vines that originate in the ancient Greece; their name is given by the characteristic smell that resembles the moss. All Muscat grape varieties are also characterized by a sweet taste, and over the centuries these grapes have been used with success to create a wide variety of sweet dessert wines.
Muscat is a grape characterized by an intense aroma and a very sweet taste, making it an ideal grape to create sweet and passionate wines, both stale and sparkling, but also to be eaten as table grapes.
From Greece, the Muscat grapes widespread first throughout the Mediterranean basin, then through northern Europe and finally worldwide, today these vine varieties being considered international.
On the other hand, muscadine grapes are native American, and although their flavor and aroma is somehow similar to Muscat, they are much larger and distinguish themselves with ease from their cousins.
Today, muscadine grapes are practically cultivated in almost all wine regions in the USA and worldwide, the grapes being used to make countless quality wines, including numerous AOC wines.
Muscat & Muscadine Grape Varieties
Muscat grapes are a large family, counting at least 9 different varieties. The grapes vary from white to black, yet they are all characterized by the intensely sweet flavor.
Probably the most famous variety is Zibibbo, also known as Muscat of Alessandria.
Muscadine grapes can roughly be divided into bronze and black. The bronze variety includes all the muscadine grapes that are green, yellow, or tan in color, while the black variety includes the rosé, red, and black grapes.
Native to America, the muscadine varieties spread throughout the world, and viticulturists usually divide them into the fresh market usually used to make dry wines and those that can be dried on the vine and used to make pressed juice or straw wine.
Although the organoleptic characteristics of muscadine wine are not so different from the most famous Muscat, the wine production process is completely different.
What Is Straw Muscadine Wine
A wine loaded with sugar, with an intense aroma and flavor, perfect to pair with a wide variety of desserts and cheeses, this is how muscadine wine can be defined. But how is muscadine wine made?
Straw suscadine wine is a raisin wine obtained from drying grapes. To make straw muscadine, winemakers dry their grapes either directly on the vine, by harvesting them late, or after the harvest by leaving the grapes to maturate in wooden boxes.
When dried through late harvest, the grapes are left on the plant after the ripening period. Through over ripening, the level of natural sugars in the grapes rises, the result being an extremely sweet wine characterized by a full body and a really low acidity.
When the grapes are dried in wooden boxes, it is said that the drying process has been enforced. In this case, winemakers arrange the grapes in wooden boxes and place the boxes in a ventilated environment with a constant temperature of about 86°F.
Apart from temperature, the humidity of the environment is also constant and maintained at about 60%, to avoid the grapes from rotting.
Obtaining an enforced drying of the grapes is rather complicated, yet many winemakers prefer this method over the natural drying because the enforced process requires about 10 days, compared to the at least 80 days required by the natural drying process.
In hot areas such as California and in some southern regions in Europe, the grapes are even left to dry outdoors, exposed to the sun.
When dried correctly, the sugar concentration of the grapes reaches about 40%, the result being a very concentrated juice that will develop unique aromas and flavors during the winemaking process. In most of the cases, the grapes used to make muscadine wine are the bronze variety, the wine developing golden yellow or amber colors depending on the original color of the grapes.
If you want to make muscadine wine at home, it is recommended to purchase dried muscadine grapes from a local vineyard. However, if this is not possible, you can still try to make your own muscadine wine starting with fresh grapes.
In this case, you will have to expose the grapes to an enforced drying process, leaving the fruit to dry in a well-ventilated and warm environment. The ventilation is crucial and you should also monitor the grapes regularly, to prevent the development of abnormal mold.
Once dried, the grapes will produce a low quantity of juice, yet the juice will be really flavorful and sweet, given the sugar concentration of these grapes.
How To Make Straw Muscadine Wine
Because we speak of a raisin wine, the production of muscadine wine must be split into five different phases: the choice of the grapes, the drying process, the pressing process, the fermentation process and the aging.
You Will Need
- 22 lbs. of early harvested bronze muscadine grapes
- Wooden boxes
- Wine press
- Sterile pot
- 1 tablespoon white wine yeast
- 1 tablespoon pectic enzyme
- 2-gallon demijohn
- Oak barrel
- Wine bottles and corks
How To Make Straw Muscadine Wine
1. The Choice Of The Grapes
As already mentioned, muscadine is a type of raisin wine, and its production process starts with the selection of perfectly healthy grapes. Since many vineyards don’t sell already dried muscadine grapes, it is advisable to purchase grapes that have been harvested early and let them dry in a well-ventilated area.
Through this process, you will allow the natural sweetening of the grapes to be progressive. In this way, the final aromas and flavors of the wine will be sweeter and stronger, offering to the beverage the characteristic taste.
To avoid the deterioration of the grapes during drying, you must select all the fruits carefully and make sure that they are free from any mold.
2. The Drying Process
Although simple, the drying process must be made following a few clear steps. To avoid the development of the mold, you should dry the grapes in wooden boxes on which you have previously arranged a layer of straws.
If you don’t have wooden boxes or enough space to store them properly, you can also dry the grapes on shelves or even hung them from the ceiling in a well-ventilated area. If you started with early harvested grapes, the drying period ranges from six weeks to four months, depending on the weather.
If you started from mature grapes, the drying process is much shorter and you could start making wine even after 10 days if the grapes achieved the desired level of sweetness.
An important aspect of the drying process is the monitoring of the grapes. You should check the grapes daily and remove those who present any sign of alteration as soon as you notice it. Mold is usually gray and it can easily be considered dust in the early stages, therefore a constant monitoring of your grapes is a must.
During the drying period, the water evaporates, resulting in an increased concentration of sugar in the dried grapes. Typically, the concentration of sugar is about 40%, yet the yield of the muscadine grapes is rather low.
In fact, because of the drying process, from a 2,2 lbs. of fresh grapes are obtained about 21 oz. of dried grapes that translate in about one glass of wine. For this reason, it is recommended to start making muscadine wine from at least 22 lbs. of grapes, if you want to produce at least a few bottles.
3. The Pressing Process
After the drying process, it is time to press the grapes to obtain the juice. You will be able to press the grapes after at least six weeks of drying, but you can wait even longer if you want to make a sweeter wine. In fact, the longer you wait the sweeter your wine will be.
At this point, the grapes will be almost raisins and the juice yield will be extremely low. For this reason, the pressing process is probably the hardest part of the whole muscadine wine making process.
4. The Fermentation Process
The fermentation is a long process that starts with the thermic preparation of the grapes. In fact, once the grapes are pressed, you must transfer both the grape skins and the juice into a sterile pot.
Bring the juice to a simmer, then cool it down to room temperature and add water up to two gallons. Add the white wine yeast and the pectic enzyme, stir vigorously and cover the pot with a lid.
The wine will start fermenting, forming a foam over the surface of the liquid. At this stage, transfer the liquid into the demijohn and cover with an air lock. From this stage, the fermentation can take up to three months and you will be able to tell when it’s ready as the wine will turn clear and will have a strong yellow or amber color, depending on the type of grapes.
After an initial strong fermentation of about 1 and a half months, it is recommended to rack the wine into another sterile demijohn.
The fermentation process will stop naturally when the alcohol concentration in the wine will reach 15°, while the unfermented sugars will give the muscadine wine its characteristic sweetness.
5. Aging Process
As soon as the fermentation stopped, it is time to age the wine. The white muscadine wine is usually aged for up to 2 years, rigorously in oak barrels.
For this purpose, as soon as the fermentation process is ready, rack the wine into a sterile demijohn to remove all the sediments, then transfer it into an oak barrel. Place the barrel into a dark and cool place, such as a cellar or basement.
The place chosen for the aging process should be well-ventilated, yet both the temperature and the humidity must be constant. The ideal temperature should not exceed 50°F and the air humidity should be about 60%.
This step is important to ensure that the fermentation process is indeed ended before bottling the wine. Moreover, the oak will improve the final taste of your beverage, giving it distinctive smoky and wooden notes.
6. Bottling And Storage
Because the muscadine wine you just made is white, the aging process can vary between 6 months and 2 years. The best way to decide whether your wine is aged enough is by tasting it and deciding if you want to develop its organoleptic characteristics further or if the wine achieved the structure and flavor you expected.
As soon as you’re satisfied with the taste, it is time to bottle the wine. This type of wine is best preserved in classic chardonnay bottles, making sure you sterilize them before use.
Transfer the wine into the bottles and cork them as quickly as possible. Store the bottles in a cool and dark place in a horizontal position.
The storage temperature and humidity must be constant, and for this reason, it is recommended to store your wine in a wine cooler or cellar.
If stored properly, you can keep the muscadine wine for up to 3 or 4 years, and brag about it in front of your family and friends. We can guarantee that if you follow these steps and pay attention to all the details, your muscadine wine will be simply delicious.