Wednesday, August 27, 2014

#15 Pineapple Wine - Tasting

Recipe     -     Tasting

ABV: 8.2%
Serving Temp: 32F
Grade: C+

So now that this one’s almost gone I guess it’s about time to write up my tasting notes.  Pineapple wine was kind of an odd experiment, and indeed it came out tasting pretty odd.  Just like most fruits, sweetness is a big part of the flavor we associate with pineapple, so tasting a completely dry pineapple wine threw a lot of people for a loop.  I wouldn’t say it’s bad (although some people definitely did), but it’s pretty unique.  I bottled 5 different variants to get a feel for what goes well with pineapple and here’s how they turned out.

Plain (15):  The bulk of the pineapple wine was bottled still with no additive.  If you can imagine pineapple juice without the sweetness, then you’ve pretty well got this one nailed.  At 8.2% ABV, the alcohol is well balanced, not a primary flavor, but maybe just an edge in the background to remind you not to take big swig.  It’s just missing something.  It’s an interesting flavor as an experiment—tart and pineappley--but there’s nothing there to draw you back for another.  Also, this wine was best ice cold.  As it warmed, the background flavors—besides the bright acidity—came out more, and it felt like the wine unraveled, exposing almost a lactic the hole in its flavor profile.  Now that’s easy to account for, serve it cold, but not ideal for something that needs to be slowly sipped.

Sparkling (15s):  I bottled part of the straight pineapple portion with carbonation tablets for just a bit of carbonation.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get enough sugar in there for the carbonation to be very noticeable.  The single most common feedback I received on any of the variants was that it needs more carbonation, so next time I’ll add a few more bubbles and turn it into a pineapple champagne.

Raw Coconut (15rc):  One of my grand plans for this batch was to flavor it with coconut.  I think the raw coconut version was my favorite, out of all 5 variations.  Coconut and pineapple is a proven combination, and the pairing here was as natural as I had hoped.  The coconut aroma was wonderful--I think pineapple on its own is kind of weird--and the taste helped round out the body of flavor.  It also seemed to remain more palatable as it warmed, maybe because the nice clean coconut flavor masked some of the pineapple’s funkiness, or at least filled in the gaps. 
Unfortunately I went hard on the coconut though, so next time I’ll have to dial it back just a bit.

Toasted Coconut (15tc):  I’m not sure why I thought toasted coconut would go well with pineapple.  Maybe because that’s how it has been used occasionally in porters?  Maybe I just had an extra jug and thought I might as well try it?  Regardless, the toasted flavor didn’t really fit with the tart pineapple.  The sweet, toasty aroma was phenomenal, probably my favorite part of any of the variants.  However it didn’t match with the pineapple flavor that followed.  It was pretty similar to the raw coconut, but with a faint roastiness.  There is no reason to revisit the toasted coconut, since the raw coconut was a better fit in every way, but I would love to do something else with toasted coconut, like the aforementioned porter.

Hops (15h):  The last version was a dry-hopped pineapple wine.  Unfortunately this didn’t turn out as well as the Anthem hopped cider that inspired it.  The hops added a harsh bitter edge that maybe clashed with and maybe accentuated the acidity of the pineapple.  I thought it was disgusting and never even opened a bottle for myself, but thankfully I had a friend who absolutely loved it.  Who’d a thunk it.

So given these impressions, I think next time I’ll go with a sparkling version of the raw coconut pineapple wine.  In addition, I think next time I need to do a solid cold crash or maybe even a brief lagering period.  I ended up with significant pectin haze in this batch, and while it mostly settled to the bottom after refrigeration, it was light and wispy enough that it snuck its way into the glass with a normal pour.  The coconut versions also had some congealed globs of coconut oil around the neck of the bottle.  A good cold crash ought to settle out both of these imperfections and let the product seem less amateur.

Overall I would say this pineapple wine didn’t turn out quite as well as I hoped, but I have some easy improvements I can make, and I definitely want to try it again.

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