Better Than I Could Have Hoped

Friday night potluck at a friend’s house was Asian themed. My immediate thought, “It’s time to begin bottling the plum wine!” It seemed to be a big hit. But I am getting ahead of myself…

These are pictures from just before racking. I started by testing the taste with a syringe of each, the oaked (1G) and the un-oaked (3G). I let Kim sample, too, as my judgment of sweetness doesn’t always meet with her approval. In this case, I was completely surprised when she said that they were fine without the addition of sugar. I was quite fine with that; it’s much easier. But nonetheless surprised.

I started with the Hungarian oaked plum, filling first a single 750 mL bottle, and then racking the rest onto 1/4 tsp. potassium sorbate and a smidgen (1/20 tsp.) of potassium metabisulfite in a waiting gallon jug. Then I moved on to the plum without oak, filling another single 750 mL bottle, and racking the rest into a carboy with similarly proportioned preservatives (3/4 tsp. potassium sorbate and 3 smidgens of potassium metabisulfite. The bottles needed no additions, as they were going to dinner! The rest need to sit a couple days before bottling for storage.

Now, I’m used to plum wine having very distinctive character. First, the color is a deep ruby red. Second, it is thick and syrupy. Also, most are just short of sickeningly sweet, this barely covering up the taste of alcohol peeking through the plum. This plum wine “fails” on all counts.

In the carboy, as you can see above, they both were a very nice pinkish-red color, with the oaked version distinctly more brown. In the bottle, the sheen was more a pinkish orange, with the color difference between oaked and un-oaked less apparent. In the glass, they looked exactly the same, light pink with a glow.

It is thin, not syrupy, but not at all watery. There’s no doubt that it is alcoholic, but the alcohol is not jarring or out of balance, despite the seeming lightness of the plum. That being said, after a glass and a half, having previously forgotten to check the ABV, I decided to check the ABV. Based on the original reading of 1.106 and a final reading of 0.992 (taken months ago, but I see no reason why it would have changed), I calculate an ABV of 16.2%. Yeah, I think that’s about right.

And it is dry, which allows the plum to come through nicely. The plum flavor is light, but it is clearly plum. And better yet, placing a nose to the rim of the glass and simply sniffing: it is one of those sensations of stopped time – so deeply plum, with a feeling of contentment and joy. Don’t interrupt someone in the middle of this reverie.

Personally, I thought the oaked plum did have one issue, and that was too much oaking. Both variants of the plum wine have aged en masse, rather than in the bottle. And much of the time (8.5 months) in secondary the oaked jug had the tiny blocks of wood delivering their character. Probably a little too long, as the plum flavor did not stand up as well to the strength of the oak. But it still tasted good, just stronger than I imagined it “should” be. And all that from 0.5 ounces of Hungarian oak!

So while the plum wine has turned out nothing as I expected when I first put fruit to bucket, any use of the word “fail” to describe it is a mistake. I’m definitely satisfied with the results, and look forward to enjoying the remainder once bottled.

And coming soon, a barley wine only slightly modified from Jack Palmer’s “Fightin’ Urak-Hai Barley Wine”. Or maybe I will try starting a small batch of fig wine (again) first. The possibilities…

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