Monday, February 1, 2010

Blending Wine and Lambic

In my three years of blogging about fermentation I've touched on a good number of fermentables including: beer, kombucha, ginger beer plant, cheese, yogurt, pickles, sourdough, mead etc... I thought I had covered just about all of the popular fermentables.  Recently I was reading the Lambic and Wild Ales blog when I came across an article that  mentioned that you can ferment grape juice into a beverage called "wine."  This blogger even had some good suggestions for wines that might appeal to people who are into sour/funky beers.

On that advice I picked up a bottle of Maison Trimbach Riesling at the local good beer store (apparently they have a whole section of wines that I hadn't noticed).  Trimbach is apparently known for their adherence to tradition and hatred of overly sweet (American) wine.  To compare to this supposedly dry/tart wine I also opened a bottle of Oud Beersel Gueuze (blending them together also seemed like a good idea).  

The Riesling is nicely fruity (grape?, lemon), with a moderately dry palette.  The flavor is minerally, and still very fresh despite being from the 2006 harvest.  The acidity is from malic acid (Trimbach does not employ malolactic bacteria to convert it to softer lactic acid), which has a sharper/shorter burst on the back of the tongue than you get in sour beers. The Riesling doesn't have much tannin presence, and the flavors are relatively reserved overall. 

The gueuze really bursts with flavors and aromas (lemons, oak, and similar mineral character) in part due to the carbonation which lifts them up to the nose.  The acidity is pretty similar (this is more balanced than many lambics), but it is dryer and smoother.  The beer also brings that big earthy funk that makes my mouth water.  For my money (about the same ounce for ounce) I'd certainly take the beer, but then that isn't much of a surprise.

A 1:1 blend the wine and beer leads to a bland, lackluster blend with the character from each seeming muted.  The fruit is mellowed, but it still serves to cover up most of the funk from the beer.  A 3:1 blend of beer to wine works much better, with the sweetness from the wine giving the gueuze a more balanced (not that I necessarily like that) and an added fruit character that enhances what it already had.  The Riesling also made a nice addition to a glass of my hoppy saison (and a chicken cacciatore that Audrey was cooking).

Trimbach and Oud Beersel produce two beverages with the same general characteristics (tart, rustic, minerally, fruity, and dry), but the flavors and aromas of the wine just doesn't speak to me in the same way the beer does.  I'm not sure if it is a lack of a wine tasting experience on my part, but I took to beer very quickly once I discovered "good" beer (wine seems like more work).

In truth I have been considering "brewing" a wine for awhile (adding some of the must to one of the sour beers I have aging, in the style of great sours from Cantillon (St. Lamvinus or Vigneronne) and Captain Lawrence (Rosso E Marrone and Cuvee De Castleton).  Alternatively I think red wine grapes would make a great addition to a dark strong ale, as they can have some dark fruit character that I think could blend well with the fruit (a friend of mine went to the Lost Abbey barrel tasting a few month back and had great things to say about their Angels Share on Cab Franc grapes).


Paul! said...

Whenever I have a great wine I tend to find beer inspiration from it. Lately Ive been thinking of doing a barley wine type of beer that will mimic some of the nicer qualities of rieslings, using honey malt, nelson sauvins, amarillo and a nice sulfery yeast. I think you could make a nice beer that emphasizes the same flavors of the wine, like you said, but would ultimately speak louder

Unknown said...

We made a belgian strong and added a quart of must to it. This beer turned out exceptional. This last time we added a bit more must and will be seperating a gallon after fermentation to age with a mixture of Torinado 20 and Deviation dregs that I have been growing in a starter. I cant wait to see what that adds and maybe even brew another batch and do a full wild fermentation for a gallon or so.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Sounds like a couple delicious ideas to me.

Patrick, hopefully you don't have the same issues with your dregs that we did with our Cable Car/Deviation starter (acetic, nail polish etc...)

Unknown said...

I read about that yesterday and went home to smell the starter and it had a very sour almost citris smell to it but no real off aroms's. The smell from the starter was pretty close to what I remember the beers tasting like so I have my fingers crossed. I will probably be adding some to the carboy this weekend and then putting the rest in vials for later use if it turns out well.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

Glad to hear, good luck on the batch.

Unknown said...

As a homebrewer who works in the wine business, I'm thrilled to see you post a blog about wine. I think you started with a great one. I once heard a rep from Trimbach describe their wines as made in a "reserved, protestant style." As such, they tend to last a long time, 2006 is not at all old for a wine of that type, though they can get quite funky/petrol-like in their old age. I couldn't open the link that had suggestions of wines for lovers of funky beers, so I hope these don't overlap, but here are a few: anything from the central Loire made from Chenin Blanc; Savennieres, Dry Vouvray, etc. For reds, try some Cru Beaujolais (NOT nouveau), some can be quite rustic and funky. Check out McArthur's on the boulevard of the same name in the palisades, they have a great selection.
Also, it's worth keeping in mind that dead wine yeast cells, called lees, do not have the same deleterious effect on flavor as trub. In fact, letting the wine sit on the lees is often considered beneficial. Just a thought.

Rostephirch Tyomith N'ylfn said...

on a somewhat unrelated note, have you ever had a Gose? The salty lactic sour beer from Leipzig? They are yuuuuuuuum. I am surprised you haven't mentioned the style considering how many sours you've done, or perhaps you don't care for the style. Reliable recipes have been difficult to find and I've only recently begun to attempt to come up with a suitable one. I am drinking one of my attempts as I type this, had I only used half the salt I did, I'd say it came out alright.

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I have had the Gose that Bahnhof makes. I've enjoyed it, but I'm not the biggest coriander fan in the world. I'll probably get around to it at some point, since it would make a good summer beer, but I have yet to really be inspired to brew one.

My friend Dan did a pretty tasty version of one, here is his recipe:

Scyrene said...

It's funny how your description of the wine is less wordy than your beer tasting notes... I have the same problem in reverse, coming from wine into beer - I still lack the words to adequately describe beers (even after diligently writing tasting notes on a good 150 of the latter). It's amazing how even an experienced taster can be confounded by a different product. (For what it's worth, it seems a lot harder to assign a flavour or aroma to the malt, hops, or yeast - whereas in most wines, you only have the grapes to blame; I'm finding websites like yours and venturing into home brewing a bit help in that regard).

Mixing wine with beer though... I can only salute your adventurousness! I've known people who wouldn't even drink them on the same occasion, let alone in the same glass!

The Mad Fermentationist (Mike) said...

I think like many things the more examples your brain gets the better it is able to pick out what varies from the norm. With beer (especially sour beer) I can taste by the flavors that taste the same to those that are unique. I'm getting better at wine, but for spirits I doubt I could pick a rum from a brandy from a bourbon blindfolded because I drink so few of them.