Anyone Want To Loan Me Some Cash?

This picture from a small store in Lisboa says it all:



If that figure makes your jaw drop, then you are in for a real treat if you go to one of the many Port “Lodges” in Vila Nova de Gaia, just south of Porto. My wife and I toured and tasted at Taylor’s today, then entered Offley’s to enjoy another tasting (and to get out of the deluge we were quite unprepared for). The high figure we saw was the $2500 a bottle “SCION” from Taylor’s which was simply stated as “Very Old”. Wow. Just, wow. Oh, no fears; you can taste it for a mere 100 €! We purchased some port, but remained quite far from that range.

In any case, my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Maybe some day…

Here are pictures from Taylor’s:

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And from Offley’s:

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We didn’t get a tour, but we did get to test out pairings of chocolate and cheese for them, and give them our feedback for “future” visitors. Their sheep-based cheese (the poor lady kept saying “cheap cheese” – but we knew what she meant), especially the paprika-cured one, was exceptional with the ten-year tawny. It was okay with the Late Bottled Vintage (LBV), but I would take it with the tawny any day. Kim did more of the chocolate-port pairing/tasting. I tried it, but much preferred the cheese.


Mendi Restaurant

Indian (India, not Native American) food in Porto, Portugal? Yes, and quite good. Below are two photos my wife shot of her 1/2 garaffa of a Porto red:

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Tomorrow we take the early train to Lisbon. Maybe more photos?

March 16, 2013

So, I am heading to Porto, Portugal; actually in the airport, though my plane is delayed (a resigned, ugh).

Seeing that I would be gone for the next couple weeks, and that of my current batches in secondary ferment, all but the strawberry melomel had fairly sizable layers of lees, I decided to rack before leaving. Oh, the strawberry melomel had lees, of course, just not as much as the mead or braggot.

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I started with the braggot (okay, actually I sanitized equipment first with a potassium metabisulfite solution), checking specific gravity and then racking. I was shocked at first to find my reading at about 1.022. If you recall, the last reading was 1.020, which would actually make that an increase in specific gravity, so I rechecked the measurement, twirling the hydrometer to throw off bubbles. That did the trick, and I ended with a reading of 1.017. I then proceeded to rack to a temporary primary fermentation bucket, then again back into the original carboy and glass jug (3G and 1G respectively). To fill back up the gallon jug, I had to use most of the “leftover” bottle of braggot still standing air-locked on the baker’s rack in my kitchen. The result is a beautiful reddish brown and quite cleared ferment. I hope it is finished when I arrive back in town. There were still quite a large number of bubbles rising to the surface before racking – which I’m thinking were coming off the layer of sediments at the bottom. With those removed, not sure if that will keep up.

I then moved on to the melomel. It is a glorious reddish-yellow tint, but still quite opaque in volume. With an SG of 1.001, it is moving along. I racked similarly (bucket then back to the carboy), and had to top off with water. My brother-in-law tried some, and noted its tartness. I quite agree, and as he commented – that is not necessarily a bad thing!

Finally, I got to the mead. The mead is just as opaque as the melomel, if not more so. It is a deep yellow, as expected, and has quite a bit of sweetness – not so unexpected for the measured SG of 1.010; and tons of bubbles still surfacing prior to racking. Once again, I racked to the plastic bucket then back to the carboy, topping off with water.

That’s all for now. I hope to share with you samplings from Porto. Maybe I will get to see some wine-in-progress. May not have time to do so while there for work, but when my wife arrives to vacation with me, it is much more of a likelihood. Até lá…

Crispin Honey Cider

Honey? I like honey… Cider? I like cider…

My wife and I split a 22oz Crispin Honey Cider at lunch today, and I have to say – and did – I could totally pull that off. In fact, not pulling that off is probably harder. Having never ordered it, just going on the name of the drink, I wasn’t sure what to expect – except a sweetly flavored apple beverage.

First, the honey is not a very strong component of the flavor (and I verified with my wife, who quite agrees). I expected a cleared beverage, since it is very uncommon to find a commercial product that isn’t – and this one isn’t. The front of the bottle describes it as “unfiltered” from freshly-pressed apple cider. I don’t know what unfiltered really has to do with it. The stuff was full-out opaque. A pretty pale-yellow, but opaque. The back was more clear – this is a fermented drink made from the first racking. And while not being quite as “yeasty” in flavor as my taste-tests of early mead or apple wine, it is pretty similar in taste and exactly the same in look and feel.

It is definitely carbonated, and big bubbles – so not sure it is natural carbonation through fermentation. But I imagine it would be easy enough to reproduce. First, ferment to the first racking to get about the ABV you want (the Crispin was 6.5%). Then, crown cap (lovely 22oz, dark-brown bottle) and give some time for it to build up carbonation – but not too much. Then, to make sure it is done, I would likely pasteurize it. I’ve never done that myself – but I have read numerous recipes for sweet carbonated ciders/beers attempting to go this route. Obviously, the finesse is in the amount of time to carbonate, the amount of time before racking, and the amount of sugars (whether natural in the cider or added honey/sugar) in the initial must. Those make the recipe. But I am inspired by the simplicity of the idea – though I doubt that such an uncleared drink has a truly wide audience among a public that expects crystal clear ferments.

That’s it. No “Fermentation Log” recently since everything is in the longer, secondary fermenting stage. In fact, I’m out of town right now – first, because of the death of my grandmother which has taken me to Virginia for the funeral. And second because immediately after getting back to South Carolina I am headed to Portugal – land of Ports (I will actually be in Porto) and many other yummy things – for the remainder of the month. We’ll see how things are settling out once I return!

March 1, 2013

I have about twenty crown-capped bottles of dry primed (for carbonation) apple cider, and today marks about a month since bottling. The bulk will be held for six months of aging, but today my wife and I finally sampled the first. I have marked out two a month until up to the sixth month, but we only opened the first, and will let the second have a little more time.

So, thoughts… I may not have added enough priming sugar. It is definitely carbonated, but tiny tongue tickling bubbles rather than the larger ones I might have expected. Maybe time will do more, but I’m guessing not. We shall see. As to the taste; it’s not bad, but it definitely has the “fermenty” flavor my wife has not really appreciated in my work so far. Not sure what is causing it – my impatience, a problem with process, strain on the yeast, or something else.

For my wife’s taste, we added Truvia to sweeten it a little, having already tasted some unsweetened. That definitely cut the fermenty flavor, but not completely. And with very little Truvia it was noticeably sweeter.

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Other than the cider-tasting, not much new to report. Things in secondary are bubbling away.