how can I make sherry?

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how can I make sherry?

Postby rummaker » Tue Aug 09, 2005 6:22 am

I want to make sherry so I can add it to my rum. How is sherry made?
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Postby The Chemist » Tue Aug 09, 2005 8:01 am

Sherry presents a few more problems than your regular wine. But nothing insurmountable.

Start out like you're making a light dry white wine. The character given by the sherry yeast (Saccharomyces fermentati) is delicate, and can easily be overwhelmed by a robust varietal. You can go one of two ways with the fermentation. 1) You can ferment with regular wine yeast (S. cerevisiae) and add the sherry culture when they are done, or 2) ferment with the sherry yeast from the beginning. Option 2 is recommended.

For the sherry film to form, you need about 16% alcohol. As it's difficult to get this in normal wine fermentation, the must is often "syruped". You'll need to calculate the amount of sugar that should be added to give about 17% alcohol, and add this amount as a syrup, in two or three additions during fermentation. You don't want to add it all at once, because high sugar content inhibits fermentation. You only have about a 1-1.5% alcohol concentration range where the vinegar-causing bacteria are killed (above 14%) and the upper limit for the sherry yeast (~17%).

When the primary (alcohol) fermentation is complete, and the alcohol concentration is acceptable (~16%), let the wine settle for a couple of days, then rack to a clean container. Now, this is where it gets squirrely. (If you used regular wine yeast for the primary fermentation, now's the time to innoculate with the sherry yeast) DON'T FILL THE CONTAINER ALL THE WAY UP! (Heresy to the home winemaker) The sherry yeast needs air to do it's stuff. The alcohol concentration will take care of vinegar bacteria. Cover your container with multiple layers of cheesecloth, and wait. If a film forms on the surface, great, that's what you want! Taste the sherry every couple of weeks to be sure you're making sherry and not vinegar (if the alcohol concentration drops, vinegar can form--be sure it doesn't. Add some brandy, or high proof neutral spirits to keep the alcohol concentration around 16%). Now just let it keep going as long as you can stand it!! Sherry is frequently subjected to a Solera, letting this slow secondary fermentation go on for years and years, blending some of the old with some of the new--but that's a whole different story.

Good Luck!!
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how can i make sherry?

Postby rummaker » Tue Aug 09, 2005 1:35 pm

can I age the sherry on oak, make some irish whiskey and age the whiskey on the oak that I aged the sherry on?
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Postby The Chemist » Tue Aug 09, 2005 2:49 pm

By all means, please do!!! Usually aged in a barrel, but go for the chips!
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Postby Virginia Gentleman » Tue Aug 09, 2005 7:30 pm

It's amazing how effective wood chips and chunks are, how quickly they work (esp. with small volumes) and how much color and flavor they impart. The more I work with them, the more I slightly pity those poor bourbon makers bound by law to age in costly new oak barrels for at least 3 years. I know it's the time-tested way, and has advantages but hard to ignore soaking.

If you made a commercial spirit that came from bourbon mash and cuts, but was aged on wood chunks for less than a year, what would you call it? Could you call it whiskey, according to legal deifinitions?
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Postby The Chemist » Wed Aug 10, 2005 6:51 am

Ah, VG, your getting real close to my business!! If whiskey makers in the US used our wood product (we don't like the word "chips"--our process is quite sophisticated), they could only call it "whiskey", no Bourbon moniker, and they would have to state on the label that wood chips were used. That's why we do no business in the States!

If they COULD use our process, we could save them about a third of their maturation costs. More when you factor in retiring all the rickhouses, etc.
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Postby Virginia Gentleman » Wed Aug 10, 2005 12:51 pm

Thought that was up your alley, Chemist. I understand why US distillers won't use it, but seems like if they wanted to make a cheaper, faster whiskey and get it to market while the good stuff was done the standard way they could just accept the Whiskey moniker, and the disclaimer that "chips" were used, sell for less and still have a decent market for it. Or do they just refuse to consider other methods?
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Postby rummaker » Wed Aug 10, 2005 1:55 pm

thanks for the tips! But I have one(or 2)
more questions:
is oak chips more effective than oak barrels?
and if it is why?
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