Sugarplum Fairy dessert wine

Alcoholic beverages which are not classified as spirits.

Moderator: Site Moderator

Post Reply
User avatar
Site Donor
Site Donor
Posts: 5848
Joined: Fri Sep 27, 2013 3:18 pm
Location: Pacific Northwest

Sugarplum Fairy dessert wine

Post by cranky » Wed Sep 02, 2020 2:08 pm

Over on the fruity goodness thread I had some requests about a recipe for a wine I make from time to time that I call Sugarplum Fairy
I posted it in the thread but someone asked if I could post it somewhere more easily found than buried in a lengthy thread like the fruity goodness thread so I though this is probably the place to do that.

So here is a slightly revised version of that post.

Keep in mind that I violate a lot of normal wine making rules in the making of it or as I tell people, I do everything wrong but for some reason it works.

I don't think I would recommend Sugarplum Fairy if you have a limited number of plums...but then again that's what I had when I started making it but remember I do everything wrong and I'm told it shouldn't work but it does for me your results may vary and it's almost impossible to restart a stuck high sugar ferment.

Sugarplum Fairy came about as a mistake in the regular process I use for making plum dessert wine so to begin with it's best to cover the basics of how I make pretty much any dessert wine and talk about the differences.

When I started out my recipe was to take 1/2 to 3/4 of a bucket of pitted plums, depending on how heavy you want the wine. You could even use an entire bucket full if you like it very heavy. I often make 7 gallons of must so when I top up I am topping up with wine that is already fermented the same as the wine I am racking, although the wine in gallon jugs ferments much faster than in 5 gallon carboys. Right now I have numerous sizes of carboys ranging from 12, 7, 6 and 5 gallons plus an assortment of jugs that are both imperial and US gallons and 1/2 gallon so it's easy for me to start off in a 7 gallon carboy, rack to a 6, then to a 5. or start with 12, rack to both a six and five or pretty much any combination I need. My old method was to use a 5 gallon carboy and 2 imperial gallon jugs to start with. The reason for this is when I do plum wine I lose a lot in the process.

I only use fresh European plums for Sugarplum Fairy, there is a reason. If you use fresh European plums The final wine will finish golden or light pink with a lighter body. If you freeze and thaw the plums it will finish dark color, red or burgundy with more body, and probably more heavy plum flavor. In my case I find the yeast prefer the fresh plums but that isn't to say they don't like the previously frozen ones.

I don't use compden because my wife and I have adverse reactions to sulfites. I've never found the need to add DAP to plums but there is no reason it couldn't be added if you like although the sweet mead yeast I use for normal dessert wine does have a nutrient pack. I may or may not use Pectinase depending on my mood but it probably helps plum clear. I feel there are enough tannins in the plum skins to give the final wine balance so I don't add tannins either.

Boil enough sugar and water to make 3 gallons of simple syrup, this is just sugar and water with maybe a little bit of lemon juice or citric acid to invert the sugar. Pour the boiling water on the plums and mash them up. My inverted simple syrup contains as much sugar as the water will allow, it's something like 10lbs sugar. I like to bring the S.G. of the must up to around 14-16% potential alcohol (1.100- 1.120 S.G. or 24-26 brix). If I overshoot I have plain boiling water to adjust S.G.

Pour the boiling water on the plums and mash them up. Do this in a plastic bucket, or better yet stainless steel container NOT GLASS. Mash them with a potato masher or something like that, you can even just squeeze then by hand when you pit them if you like but DO NOT use an immersion blender because it will make the pulp so fine that it will be very difficult to strain and take forever to settle (ask me how I know :roll: ). I have a stainless steel stock pot I use for the hot water part. The reason for pouring the boiling water over the plums is to pasteurize them since I don't use compden. It might be worth noting that I live at 200ft above sea level which gets the sugar water as hot as possible without a pressure cooker so if you are at a high altitude you may not get quite as hot.

With Sugarplum Fairy I purposely boost the S.G. up to 21% potential alcohol (1.150 ish S.G., 33ish brix)

I then seal up the container as best as I can and let it cool. It wouldn't be a bad idea to force cool it but the temperature in my garage seldom gets above 60 and is usually in the 50s so I just set it on the cold concrete floor and wait overnight before pitching yeast. One thing you can do is purposely overshoot the S.G and use cold water or ice to bring the S.G. and temperature back down for pitching. Leave lots of head space in the primary because the must will try to escape while fermenting. I often split it into 2 primaries for a 5-7 gallon batch.

Once the must is down to temperature below 100f I aerate it by shaking or stirring the crap out of it them pitch the yeast.

My favorite yeast is actually Wyeast 4184 Sweet Mead yeast which as mentioned above comes with a nutrient pack but will only ferment to 11-12%.

Due to the high starting gravity Sugarplum Fairy uses EC-1118.

With Sweet Mead yeast I follow the directions on the package but with 1118 I just sprinkle the dry yeast on top of the must and let the yeast find their way in the world.

12hrs later I check on it, stir it up and seal or cover it. It's very important to have the primary properly vented because it will be making a lot of CO2. While in the primary I give it a gentle stir every 12hrs or so, once in the morning and once in the evening to keep the cap wet.

Eventually the cap settles and I strain it and transfer it to a carboy, make sure it is within an inch or two of the top and air lock it. If I'm making Sugarplum Fairy I leave it a little low and top it up with more simple syrup. Racking to a secondary usually takes place about a week after pitching the yeast but it needs to be before fermentation finishes but after the ferment is starting to settle down.

I then let it sit for 30 days then rack to a clean sanitized carboy, sometimes I re-rack after 2 weeks if there is a lot of sediment, then again at 30 days and do the same every 30 days after until it is clear and ready to bottle.

Each time I rack for regular dessert wine I top up with wine that is in one of the 2 gallon jugs because I start with 7 gallons. With Sugarplum Fairy I top up with simple syrup. Be aware that Sugarplum Fairy tasted dreadful right up to the point you are ready to give up and pour it out and then it suddenly magically changes. In my case this usually takes 4 months but it takes as long as it takes. By this time the yeast have given up and the alcohol level is down to around 18%.

Once the wine is clear and I deem it ready to bottle I sample it and adjust the sugar level to my taste, which is as sweet as a good expensive icewine, there is no set S.G., I just do it by taste, more correctly Mrs. Cranky does it by taste because she is the decider. I then let it sit another 2 weeks to a month just to make sure it isn't going to start re-fermenting, then bottle.

It's best to let it sit in the bottles for at least 2 months after bottling because the wine needs to adjust to the bottle and will taste off for the first month or two. Keep an eye on them to make sure fermentation doesn't restart and start pushing out corks or blowing up bottle but I have never had this problem with plums only blueberry. Blueberry likes to start re-fermenting after bottling, I've left blueberry in a carboy a full year after back sweetening before bottling and still wound up with fizzy tasted great but it was fizzy :D

Post Reply