Monday, January 11, 2010


I've had about 9 lbs of rhubarb sitting in my chest freezer since the spring of 2008, but just haven't had the time to get it into a fermenter. This fall, the chest freezer left the house and my kitchen freezer became stuffed to the gills, so the time had come to free up some space. I made a rhubarb wine previously back in 2006 and wasn't all that happy with the results. I went for a strong rhubarb flavor and used 4.5 lbs/gallon. There was also a slight sugar miscalculation and the wine ended up about 14.5% alcohol--aka, rhubarb flavored rocket fuel!

To gain some new inspiration, I popped open one of my last bottles while I contemplated my goals for this wine...

Ewww, YUCK! Holy oxidation, Batman! Tasted like rhubarb flavored sherry--and that's not a good flavor. Apparently the synthetic cork had slowly allowed O2 into the bottle and turned this stuff absolutely rancid.

Back to the drawing board for a wine destined to be a light summer sipper (dry, of course).

There's been a discussion on the Winepress.US forum for a rhubarb wine with some added pineapple juice for complexity (see this link), so I thought I would give it a shot. One of my concerns about fruit wine is that they are very uni-dimensional, i.e. an apple wine tastes like apple, and a raspberry wine tastes like raspberries. Not a lot of other flavors to add complexity. So I was intrigued by adding some citrus notes to the rhubarb. I also thought about fermenting as a normal white wine after "pressing" the juice from the pulp.

With thought whirling through me head, I rolled up my sleeves, pulled the rhubarb out of the freezer and set to work:
1) Placed the frozen chopped rhubarb in a 5 gallon bucket and let thaw a little overnight.
2) Added 4.5 lbs of sugar, Scottzyme Cinn-Free Enzyme, 1/8 tsp potassium metabisulfite, & 0.4 oz calcium carbonate and mixed well (good thing I've been working out this past year--my arm muscles got some exercise mixing all that together)
3) Let stand in the garage to sugar extract & thaw. The cold garage allowed me to let this sit for 7 days without spoilage.
4) Brought back inside to warm up. There was a LOT of liquid extracted from the rhubarb! I "pressed" the pulp by straining through a mesh strainer to obtain about 0.75 gallons of rhubarby goodness.
5) I added 92 oz Dole pineapple juice & 2 gallons distilled water.
6) The must was adjusted to Brix = 19.0 (10.5% potential alcohol) and pH = 3.22 by addition of sugar and tartaric acid. Interestingly the acid addition made the must turn a lovely rosy-salmon color.
7) Hydrated a packet of Lalvin D-47 yeast with Go-Ferm nutrients and added to the must.

I observed a strong fermentation with 18 hrs. It's sitting in the coldest corner of my kitchen at the moment fermenting away. Gone through 1/3 sugar depletion within 48 hours! Lot of foam, but that rosy salmon color is still gorgeous (I'm betting it won't last past the first K-meta addition, but we'll see).

I'll probably pour into a fermenter in a couple of days to ferment under an airlock, but it's certainly going like gang busters!

a MA Winemaker