Monday, May 12, 2008

Racking with oak

After putting it off for far too long, I racked my current batches of mead last night. That's the five gallon blueberry and 1.5 gallon passion fruit (maypop). I was worried about seeds and skins and assorted chunky bits causing a problem with the process, but things progressed fairly smoothly. The blueberry mead (technically considered a melomel--that's honey wine with fruit added) has the most stunning purple color to it. It looks like a good red wine, one that's just verging on rosé--it's dark, but not so dark you can't see through it. The passion fruit was a clear, golden yellow in color, significantly darker than, say, a chardonnay, but still fairly transparent. All in all, I was struck by how clear these two melomels are clearing out far better than I'd anticipated.

Not that either one's drinkable yet. Yeesh! The blueberry was particularly pungent, with the dreaded "Listerine" effect in full display. Probably a result of the extra sugars from the fruit. The passion fruit, however, had a much more subtle profile and will probably be drinkable much sooner.

In any event, after I racked them and added a small bit of honey to force the oxygen out of the aging vessels via fermentation, I took the next step--I oaked my mead. I've never tried this before, in all honesty. I've just recently gotten a good handle on acid blends and tannins, and how the addition of such can have a profound impact on the quality of mead, so experimenting with oak seems the next logical step. I used four ounces of medium toast French oak chips, split proportionally between the two different batches. I boiled the oak in preparation, then let them soak for about five hours before adding them to the mead. Let me tell you, I didn't expect that oak water to be as thoroughly browned as it turned out to be. It looked like I was pouring out Worchestershire sauce when I was finished. But the aroma coming up was quite enticing--woody, yes, but the vanilla overtones you often hear wine buffs speak of when discussing "oaking" was very clearly defined. Interesting.

I plan on racking the mead off the oak chips in two weeks. We'll see where things stand after that.

Now Playing: Michael Kamen The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

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