A Tale of Neglected Wine, or How I Turned My Neglected Wine into a Tasty Holiday Treat!
It has happened to just about everyone here at Great Fermentations at one time or another. You start a wine fermentation, and then life takes over. You get busy, and you wait three or four weeks before moving from primary to secondary. An even longer time passes before you get around to clearing and stabilizing the wine, then it sits, forgotten, in an out-of-the-way carboy. Before you know it, a year has passed! Even if you kept up on keeping the airlock topped off, your wine has no doubt become somewhat oxidized, and is not the wonderful treat you were originally hoping for.
I hate to admit it, but this happened to me quite recently. I started a World Vineyard California Trinity Red kit over a year ago, a kit I have done numerous times, and that I like to keep around as a solid table wine for any occasion. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, Trinity Red is my go-to for a delicious, well-balanced dry red wine that pairs well with roasted meat dishes. It’s a wine that you really can’t go wrong with, in my opinion…until you let it sit in the carboy for a year!
With a holiday party coming up and no other beer or wine made that wasn’t already dedicated to other events or gatherings, my mind sprang into action. I had to save my oxidized wine! Kegged wine is becoming all the rage, and with a personal collection of nine kegs, five of which were free, I decided to keg the wine up and add a little something to offset the heavy oxidation. A trip to a close-by specialty store netted me a 64 oz bottle of something called “Winter Wassail,” a blend of spices and juice that I dumped in the keg, and a bottle of cherry juice concentrate which went in next. After racking the wine into the keg, I tasted the results…perfect! The spice and cherry from the wassail made the perfect winter beverage for a Christmas gathering.
Wine can be kegged and served just lightly carbonated, or petillant, which is how I plan to serve this wine, purging the headspace with CO2 and just using it to push the wine out of the keg. If you want to preserve the degassed wine as-is and serve with a more inert gas, you can use argon or nitrogen. Great Fermentations sells a mini argon-nitrogen regulator which can be used with kegs. Or, if you like the stuff just fine and want to bottle it, go ahead! You might want to mix these together with some potassium metabisulfite to preserve, and degass before bottling some away for next year.
Mulling wine is a good option, as well. There are many mulling recipes out there, which usually involve a spice blend, sugar, water, and sometimes citrus peel, boiled together, then added to wine which is heated up and served warm to hot. These mulling blends do a great job of covering up oxidation.
Hopefully you will be more diligent with your wine than I was, but if not, it’s not the end of the world. By blending with some spicy, wintery mixes and juice concentrates, your neglected wine may turned out to be a happy – and delicious – surprise!