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elderflower wine (or champagne)...

Posted: Wed Apr 20, 2016 5:50 pm
by BernardSmith
First post here. :wave: I brew beer, make wine, have begun to make my own cheese (using kefir as the culture) so I have some familiarity with fermentation. At least once a year I make a batch of elder flower wine and I am curious. I see that many traditional recipes call for the addition of vinegar, and for the life of me I have no good sense of why you would add vinegar to a wine when one of the problems that is created by poor wine making protocol is that the yeast can create too much acetic acid while another problem is that during aging, exposing the wine to air (too much "headroom" in the fermenter) allows or encourages acetobacter to transform all the wine into vinegar.

Is the addition of vinegar (and it is not clear , at least to me, whether the preferred vinegar is cider or wine or whether the vinegar is live (with mother) or has been pasteurized) for taste or is acting as a bactericide? And if the latter, would it not be better to add K-meta (AKA Campden tablets) to eliminate bacteria and fungi and wild yeast through its production of sulfur dioxide - or is there some other hidden reason for adding vinegar? Is this just one of those "things" for which there is really no very good reason? Thanks.

Re: elderflower wine (or champagne)...

Posted: Wed Apr 20, 2016 6:49 pm
by Green Aura
Hi Bernard and welcome to Ish. :wave:

I'm not sure why vinegar is used, although, if I were to guess (which I'm going to :wink: ) it would be that most white wines require the addition of acid (usually citric - lemon juice). Because elderflower is a country wine I wonder if lemons wouldn't have commonly been available so vinegar was used in its stead.

The recipe on the main site has mild white wine vinegar which would usually be pasteurised so I think the acid rather than sterilising properties are the aim.

Re: elderflower wine (or champagne)...

Posted: Wed Apr 20, 2016 7:20 pm
by Brewtrog
Not sure I'd ever listen to a recipe that added viniger to any brew, far too much danger of infecting the whole thing and getting however much viniger.
As a guess the viniger in short fermented elderflower "champagne" is to add similar acidity to champagne, rather than just what citric might bring. Also, if it is a short ferment and no aging then there should hopefully not be enough time for the whole batch to turn acid.

Re: elderflower wine (or champagne)...

Posted: Wed Apr 20, 2016 8:13 pm
by BernardSmith
Thanks for these quick responses but if the idea of adding acidity was what under girded the use of vinegar then most of the folk recipes also suggest the addition of lemon juice (see for example: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/2426 ... -champagne). But more to the point on May 23 2011 Andy Hamilton posted this about his vinegar free recipe (originally published in the Guardian)
"This recipe is not the same as every other elderflower champagne recipe as it makes a wine first, which you then re-ferment to make it bubble. Hence no need to add vinegar".

So the vinegar has some fundamental function other than adding acidity. But doesn't any recipe where you have dissolved sugar standing at room temperature for a few days ferment whether you add an inoculant of yeast or you allow wild yeasts and bacteria in the flowers or fruit to reproduce - the result is wine.

Re: elderflower wine (or champagne)...

Posted: Thu Apr 21, 2016 10:59 am
by Brewtrog
I've got to admit, I wouldn't trust wild yeast in the way hfw suggests, but that's in part having failed at a wild yeast sourdough.
Unless he's meaning that some of the wine has chance to oxidise naturally into vinegar, so you still get that bit of the flavour profile.
As for the question about what is wine, most EC recipes (as with fermented ginger beer) don't get to high abv, probably too low for most people to accept as wine. Also, if using the wild culture, depending on what other bacteria are there, it might be something else (eg lactobacillus) fermenting the brew, so even less ethanol.
I've asked about vinegar on the brewing forum, hopefully someone has a definitive answer for us.

Re: elderflower wine (or champagne)...

Posted: Thu Apr 21, 2016 2:13 pm
by BernardSmith
Thanks Brewtrog, Not wanting to hijack my own post here but I also find cultivating wild yeast for sourdough never an easy task. I suspect that the problem is that the pH of the dough is often insufficiently low for yeast to reproduce but sufficiently high for other bacteria to volunteer and create an environment that is at once hostile to yeast yet self limiting for the bacteria in their ability to reproduce in the environment they have created for themselves. My solution is two fold - I increase the acidity by adding some lemon juice and I might add a quarter cup or so of grains I have used to brew a batch of beer and which I have stored in the freezer and now allowed to thaw on the counter. I sometimes cheat too, and use the lees from some wine or beer that I have bottled or racked (siphoned) to a secondary fermenter.
Additionally, I suspect that what people call "wild yeast" is often more bacterial activity and that lacto-bacteria are what is responsible for the sour effect of sour dough rather than "yeast"... but I am not a chemist and have never tried to identify the microbial activity with a microscope

As for the elderflower champagne, I use a wine yeast (71B) and I bottle my EC dry at about 12 % alcohol by volume (ABV).

Re: elderflower wine (or champagne)...

Posted: Thu Apr 21, 2016 7:51 pm
by Green Aura
Read my article on sourdough on the main site.

Re: elderflower wine (or champagne)...

Posted: Fri Apr 22, 2016 4:01 pm
by BernardSmith
Hmm.. so the secret is rice... Gotta try that. Thanks

Re: elderflower wine (or champagne)...

Posted: Fri Apr 22, 2016 10:11 pm
by Brewtrog
BernardSmith wrote:As for the elderflower champagne, I use a wine yeast (71B) and I bottle my EC dry at about 12 % alcohol by volume (ABV).

That's where you and Andy follow the same idea. A lot of elderflower champagne, and similar recipes (dnb, ginger beer, etc) use not a great deal of sugar and bottle while it's still fermenting, another trick I'm not in a hurry to try.
Re-vinegar all I've got from the brewing forum is that the people who answered guessed it was for acidity and that they also wouldn't trust it.

Re: elderflower wine (or champagne)...

Posted: Wed Apr 27, 2016 1:14 pm
by BernardSmith
Thanks Brewtrog. You have more or less convinced me that if it ain't broke , don't fix it :sunny: and as my elderflower wine is a favorite of my family and friends I am not going to be risking contaminating my wine making equipment with the addition of vinegar. If the elderflower wine needs an acid kick there is always lemon juice, or malic acid (from apples), tartaric acid (from grapes), and citric acid (from citrus fruit) or a blend of the last three.

Re: elderflower wine (or champagne)...

Posted: Tue Aug 02, 2016 10:37 am
by fenris
my other half has a problem with elderflower champagne - the last few years he's tried making it it always turns into a vinegar-smelling wallpaper paste. i reckon its because he likes to use the natural yeasts and not brewing yeast, so i think whatever good helpful yeasts are there are not present in enough quantity to properly get going before bacteria sets in and ruins it. whereas if you just used a proper brewing yeast in the first place it would get going and produce nice booze. does this sound reasonable?

Re: elderflower wine (or champagne)...

Posted: Tue Aug 02, 2016 7:09 pm
by Brewtrog
Sounds about right to me. There is a reason that wild fermentation only stayed popular in one or two brewing areas (not just because the Belgians are crazy). I've tried sour dough from our natural yeasts and it has always tasted awful. Definitely worth trying it with a cultured yeast, at the very least it makes an interesting experiment.

Re: elderflower wine (or champagne)...

Posted: Thu Aug 04, 2016 1:33 pm
by fenris
thankyou brewtrog. We've missed this years flowers, but I can't wait until next year to be proven right :iconbiggrin:

Re: elderflower wine (or champagne)...

Posted: Thu Aug 04, 2016 5:28 pm
by Brewtrog
If you've missed the flowers just pick the berries, they make a fantastic wine.

Re: elderflower wine (or champagne)...

Posted: Fri Aug 05, 2016 7:39 am
by ina
I've decided to plant my own elder - there don't seem to be any wild ones in the area, and my friend has a small one going spare...