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I stated in my post 3 days ago, about kicking off the rose (Chablis Blush), that I made a silly mistake and filled it too high in the demijohn. I left it as it was, rather than pouring away the extra, as there was still an air gap, and it felt wrong to pour away some of what would be lovely wine in the not too distant future.

As you can see, pouring away the excess looks like it would have been a very good idea. I stupidly didn’t check in on the wine until the strawberry wine needed topping up, so it may have had a couple of days like this before I realised. If I am honest, I also didn’t sanitise the airlock given the wine wouldn’t come in contact with that – would it ;-). All I can do now is hope that I have got away with it and the wine has not been contaminated. At least I know know you really shouldn’t fill the demijohns above the 4.5 litre mark with these kits.

Three days after starting the plum wine going, it was time to top it up to the full 4.5 litres. The instructions simply stated it should be ‘tepid’ water. I took this to mean basically the same temperature as we wanted the wine to be fermenting in, so 20-25 degrees. I tried pouring just a little boiled water in the bottom of a 1litre jug and topping up the rest with cold tap water. I measured this and found it to be about 23 degrees so I added this and another 3 jugs to take the level up to the 4.5 litre sticker. I replaced the airlock and the job was done.

As we had some guests round on Tuesday, we opened one of the half bottles of Strawberry wine, os that the girls could have a glass each with their meal:

(Please forgive the quality of the last few images on here – my camera is still full of holiday pictures and I keep having to delete pictures to make just enough space for the odd beer blog picture. They all looked ok on the little camera screen, but I didn’t have the space to take 2 or 3 like I normally would, just in case.)

After only a few days, its no surprise the wine tasted much as it did on bottling day. Its definitely not a wine lovers wine, but its sweet and tasty, though still with a very slight chemically after taste. It certainly went down very well with the girls.

So, 3 days after I kicked off the Sherwood Forest Bitter, it is time to add the bag of hops. I stupidly added them before taking a picture, but it was basically a small seal bag, about the size of a couple of postage stamps next to each other, full of what looked like a dark cat litter – mmm, nice.

I sprinkled the contents into the beer and, having poured boiling hot water over the stirrer, I stirred them in. Initially, they mostly stayed on the surface, but I’m sure I recall reading that aerating the wort during the early stages of fermentation is not a problem, so I made my best effort to stir them all off the surface. Job done. Hopefully this will add a little more flavour to the final beer.

Prior to adding the hops, I did take a gravity reading:

I took the reading as being about 1.020 – not too bad after 3 days. I will now leave it for at least another 3 or 4 days before taking another reading. I am now keen to not leave any brews for more than a few days once fermentation has stopped.

Tasting the Merlot

As intented, with today’s Sunday lunch, I had a glass of the Merlot that I bottled yesterday.

As you can see, it looks the part. Tastes pretty good too 🙂

I am really pleased to report that this is definitely a decent quality Merlot. I’m very pleasantly surprised. It already has a complex, fairly deep flavour with a pleasant oaky after taste. There is a very very minor chemically taste right at the end, but I’m sure this will fade completely as the wine matures. If the flavour improves further it really will be a great wine.

My final task for the weekend was to get a second wine going. I have had this kit for quite a while now. I got it with the first lot of wine gear, so its about time I got it going.

I emptied the bag of grape juice into the demijohn and rinsed out the bag with water and poured that in too. I filled the rest of the demijohn with a mix of cold and boiled water in order to keep the temperature of the wine at about 20 degrees. I shook it well and measured the gravity to check it was fully mixed. It was about 1.080, matching the target of 1.075-1.080.

I was told this was a Rose but it looks pretty dark at the moment – I therefore ignore the “white wine only” instruction to add the Bentonite. I did add the oak chippings and then the yeast and gave the demijohn a good shake until my arms hurt. I then poured a little extra water into the demijohn to wash all the yeast and chippings that had stuck to the mouth of the demijohn into the wine. However, I got a bit carried away and filled the demijohn up a little higher than I should have done. Hopefully this won’t be a problem.

I finally put the airlock in the top and placed the wine in the brewery.

Unlike the Plum, this can now be left alone for 2 to 3 weeks while fermentation completes.

After a quick taste of the recently bottled Strawberry wine suggested it would be a very pleasant summer tipple, the missus persuaded me to kick off another. She picked a plum this time. Starting it brewing began by pouring the contents of the tin of grape juice into a sanitized demijohn and adding 1.8 litres (3 pints) of cold water. I then dissolved 450g (16oz) of granulated sugar in 0.6 litres of boiling water. (I actually did this in 2 batches as I didn’t have a large enough jug to do it in one), and added this to the demijohn. Finally I added the wine yeast and nutrafine sachets and shook the demijohn as vigourously as I could. I also tested the strength of the demijohn by dropping it in the sink – its pretty strong 😉 .

I finally added the airlock and placed the wine in the brewery. In 3 days I need to top up the level to the 4.5 litre mark with tepid water.

After bottling the stout I took a trip to the homebrew shop while the fermentation bucket was soaking. I had intended to buy a lager style beer ready for the summer, but for no reason at all the missus pointed this box out so I figured – why not. I am keen, for now at least, to stick to two tin kits where no sugar is required.

The kit didn’t take long to get going. I emptied the two tins into the bucket and added a kettle and a half of boiling water to the bucket, via the tins to rinse them out. I stirred this for some time until all the wort was dissolved. I then filled up the rest of the bucket with cold water, before checking the temperature, and then adding the yeast. This again became very lumpy, but with another really good stir they finally all broke down. I popped the top on the bucket and carried it into the brewery.

In 3 days time I will add the hops. There were two options for adding the hops – either boil it to add extra bitterness, or simply add it to the wort on day three. Given the amount of home brewing I had done by this point I went for the easy option. It will be interesting to see how this comes out, and whether it misses a bit of bite.

After yet more bottle cleaning, I was ready to bottle the Merlot that had been clearing. Having had issues when syphoning the Strawberry, I bought a new syphon from the homebrew shop. I also attached an extra length of tube to the tap, so that this could be fed to the bottom of the bottle, as well as meaning the tap was no longer the last part of the syphon.

I followed the same method I used for the Strawberry, and I’m pleased to say that with the new syphon, it went very well. Again I had knocked up some labels to imprive the bottles appearance, as well as to identify the wine.

With the win bottled, corked and labelled I placed it on the rapidly filling wine shelf in the brewery. I only managed to get the equivalent of 5 full sized bottles of wine, which is one whole bottle less than i should have done. This is quite a hit on such a small amount of wine. I did actually get a further quarter of a bottle, which I am looking forward to having with my Sunday lunch today 🙂