Plum wines are lovely! A well made plum wine for me is one of the most delightful fruit wines to have.
The process of making a good plum wine can differ slightly from other types of fruit wines but when good care is taken, a great product is made.
Plum wines are commercially made in many countries and very popular in Japan, Korea and China where it has been made and enjoyed for over a 1000 years. In Japan, the most popular drink made with plums is called “Ume Shu” and made with unripe plums steeped in alcohol. We’ll get more into that in a future entry.
With Plums now being in season in a lot of the Northern Hemisphere, it may be worth giving this wine a try.
Certain varieties of plums give fairly respectable wines. Those of red flesh or black or blue skins are the best to make a good wine with.
Plums are very rich in pectin; hence should not be heated, as the juice and wine then become too viscous. They ferment rapidly when crushed and inoculated with wine yeast. The Narbonne or “71-B” works best as it bring out the plum aroma quite well.
Owing to the high acidity of plums and their pulpy nature, they are best made into wine by the methods described in what follows:
By setting the rolls of a grape crusher or apple grater far enough apart, the flesh of the plums is well crushed without breaking the seeds. The seeds should not be broken as the kernels may impart a bitter almond taste.
The plums can also be pitted and sliced by fruit pitter. Of course, there exists machinery for the commercial fruit processor and fruit winery but for the amateur winemaker, you may have no choice but to crush and de-pit the plums manually or with a small-scale grape crusher.
Addition of Water
Next, water is added. A rough guide is to add water to about equal in weight to the plums used. This can be added once you have measured the amount of plums used after de-pitting.
Fermenting the Crushed Plums
To the crushed plums and water mix, up to 80ppm of SO2. This will make sure that the wine is free of anything that can grow into spoilage organisms and give you problem issues later.
After well mixed, a strong and active yeast culture us added at the rate of 25g/100L or dried wine yeast, rehydrated in water and some of the plum juice.
The crushed plums should be stirred or the juice pumped over twice a day. Usually, 2 to 3 days’ fermentation is sufficient to disintegrate the plums and liberate the color. They should then be pressed. They should not be left too long in the vat or there may be a chance of vinegar bacterial developing in the wine.
The fermented plums are pressed in a basket wine press or rack and cloth apple press.
Addition of Sugar
The wine at this stage is too low in alcohol and sugar to give a palatable, stable wine; hence sugar must be added.
For a dry table wine, add to each 1L of juice about 170 grams of sugar, with an aim to start with a specific gravity of about 1.090 or so. The amount of sugar to be added will depend on the initial natural sugar of the plums. Either cane sugar or dextrose (corn sugar) may be used. Be certain the sugar dissolves well.
Continue the fermentation to completion in a covered tank or cask. From this point on, handle and age as normally done with other wines such as grape wines or even hard cider. Final adjustments of acid and residual sweetness will need to be done before final filtration. The alcohol yield will be about 12%.
Sweet Plum Wine
If desired, the fermented dry wine may be sweetened with sugar and fortified to 18 to 20 per cent alcohol with high proof brandy.
Or, by means of the sugared fermentation process, a non-forti¬fied sweet wine of high alcohol content, 17 to 19 per cent, can be made. This method was described in my last entry on making higher alcohol orange wines (August 12, 2008).
These wines are aged, filtered, etc., as directed for similar orange wines. Plum juice does not make very good Sherry so I would not recommend trying it.
If you would like more info on making this wine or have questions, do not hesitate to contact me!
Next blog entry will talk about plum liqueur, Ume Shu to be more exact. Stay tunes for all the details and a great recipe..
Happy Fruit Winemaking!