MANY old recipes advocate far too much sugar, with the result that the winemaker is disappointed when the yeast fails to use most of it up, and be is left with a syrupy, almost undrinkable concoction.
As a good rule of thumb, remember the figure 3—3 lbs. to the gallon of liquor for a medium wine. Half a pound less will usually produce a dry wine, half a pound more a sweet. Below 2 lbs. of sugar to the gallon the wine may not be strong enough to keep, above 3J it may well (although not always) be sickly sweet.
So remember—2 ^ lb., dry; 3 lb., medium; 3 ^ lb., sweet.
Many old recipes, too, specify candy sugar, but this is a hangover from the days when most sugar was unrefined and this was the best quality obtainable. Nowadays there is little to choose, for all practical purposes, between modern refined beet or cane sugars; they are all of excellent quality. Brown or Demerara sugar will impart a golden colour to a wine. It is therefore sometimes used to colour an uninteresting looking wine, but it should not be used with wines where one wishes to retain a delicate natural colour from, say, a flower. It will also impart a slight flavour.
"Invert" sugar, too, is now available to winemakers. When yeast sets to work upon household sugar, or sucrose, it first splits it into its two main components, glucose and fructose, or "inverts" it. In invert sugar this has already been accomplished chemically, so that the yeast can start immediately to use the glucose (the principal sugar found in grapes). Thus by using invert one may well obtain improved fermentation, improved to the extent that the yeast does not itself have to effect the inversion. Invert will ferment more quickly than household sugar, and is widely used in the brewing industry. If you wish to use invert sugar, use 1 H lb. in place of every 1 lb. of household sugar specified in the recipes.
Pure glucose, or grape sugar, can also now be purchased; both this and invert are naturally slightly more expensive than ordinary domestic sugar. Honey, of course, can also be employed to produce mead-flavoured wines. With liquid honey or with thick, crystalline honey use pound for pound.
It is far better to make your wine dry, and then sweeten It to your taste, than it is to put in too much sugar at the outset, hoping that most of it will ferment out.
A dry wine can always be sweetened, but there is little one can really do about a wine which is oversweet, other than blending it with a dry one of the same type. If you decide to sugar a finished wine and are afraid this may start it fermenting again, add one Campden tablet per gallon to prevent this occurring.
It is also a good idea, since it eases the task of the yeast and makes for better fermentation, to add the sugar in stages, half the total quantity at the outset, and the remainder by stages in 4 oz. lots each time the ferment slows. Draw off a pint or so of the wine, dissolve the sugar in it by stirring thoroughly (use no heat or you will kill the yeast) and restore the sweetened quantity to the main bulk of the wine. Any undissolved sugar in the wine may case the ferment to "stick."
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