Information by Dr. Murli Dharmadhikari (Director of the Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute at Iowa State University)
Making fruit wines can be economically rewarding. A certain segment of the population enjoys these wines. A winemaker can produce high quality fruit wines as a specialty product and benefit from this existing niche in the marketplace. Compared to grape wines most of the fruit wines take less time to process and, therefore; the capital is tied up for a shorter period of time. This translates into a quicker return on invested capital. Fruit wines can also be made during a less busy time (after grape harvest) of the year, thus permitting efficient use of winery facilities. Sometimes a decision to make a fruit wine is made because surplus fruit is available at a very attractive price. Often in such cases, the fruit quality is poor and the appeal of low prices can induce a winemaker to produce mediocre wine that he or she would not otherwise make if the price were not so cheap. Although the price of the raw material is an important consideration, it should not be the sole criteria. Remember that the cost of the raw material is a small portion of the total cost, and devoting valuable resources to produce a poor to mediocre product amounts to underutilized or even misuse of precious resources. The important point is that the choice of making fruit wine should be based on sound business reasons.
There are a variety of fruits suited to making a good quality wine. The fruits commonly used for making wine are: Apple, pear, peach, plum, cherry, strawberry, blackberry, raspberry and blueberry. The choice of fruit depends upon several factors. These include: market demand, availability of raw material, production facilities, and sound economic reasons.
In Missouri, apple, cherry and berry wines are commercially produced and, therefore; these production techniques merit some discussion. This article deals with apple wine. In the next issue we will discuss wines from other fruit.
Raw material-Generally, locally grown apples which are in surplus after meeting fresh market demands are used for making juice and wine. It is important that the fruit be sound, i.e., free of decay or rot and well mature. Unripe or immature fruit should not be used since it is high in starch, acid, and astringency; and low in sugar and flavor. On the other hand, overly mature fruit can be low in fresh and fruity flavor, difficult to process and also difficult to clarify.
Many apple varieties can be used for making wine. Generally the choice is largely governed by locally available fruit. The amount of fruit constituents such as sugars, acids, phenolic compounds, color and flavor vary considerably among the apple varieties. It can be difficult to obtain a single variety which would contain all of the important constituents in an ideal proportion. For this reason a combination of varieties should be used to obtain the most desirable composition in the juice and wine. To achieve a good blend it is necessary to know the fruit composition of locally available varieties. Once this information is known, blending can be done to obtain desired results.
For example, Mcintosh and Golden and Red Delicious varieties are considered rich in aroma, crabapples are relatively more astringent, and varieties such as Jonathan, Northern Spy, Winesap and Baldwin usually have good acid levels. Combining aromatic and moderately acidic varieties in a blend is more likely to yield a pleasing wine.
Instead of processing apples, one can buy cider to make wine. In such a situation great attention must be paid to obtain only high quality juice. The cider must not be made of immature, inferior, or decayed fruit. It should have a rich apple flavor, good color and sugar, and astringent compounds in proper proportion.
Sometimes fruit concentrate is used for wine production. The concentrate is easy to store, requires less space, and can be processed when the winery operation is less busy or slow. When using concentrate, only high quality concentrate with good apple flavor should be used. The apple aroma of the juice from concentrate can be enhanced by blending it with fresh apple juice.