Why sweet potato wine? Well, why not sweet potato wine?
In addition to grapes and various fruits, i.e. strawberries, blackberries, apple, mango, etc., it seems you can ferment just about anything and make an alcoholic substance out of it. I’ve read a lot of recipes using rose petals, dandelion flowers, prickly pear cactus, pea pods, onions, and other various vegetables.
I love sweet potatoes, and they have a rich, earthy, yet sweet flavor. Why wouldn’t they make a good wine?
After I first got it in my head to ferment sweet potatoes, I did a little digging on the InterWebs. There are several recipes available, including this one from Jack Keller’s site. In addition, I found several message board threads about sweet potato wine on various home winemaking forums. One particular forum poster, who I gather has made many gallons of the stuff, claims it tastes a bit like a white muscadine wine.
That sealed it for me. I LOVE white muscadine wine! I decided right then and there that I was gonna make me some sweet potato wine.
This is a five gallon batch. I chose to make that amount because basically, that’s the only size carboy I had free at the time. My steps are based on Jack Keller’s recipe for a one gallon batch. You can scale everything up or down as needed.
Warning: processing the sweet potatoes takes a long time. A loooooong time. Don’t be a hero and say you’ll do it all yourself; accept any help that’s offered. You’ll also have a lot of cooked sweet potatoes left over. You may want to plan in advance what you’ll be doing with them. (They freeze well.)
5/25/13 – The beginning.
Peel 30 lbs of sweet potatoes. Yes, THIRTY POUNDS. Also known as “every sweet potato in the grocery store.” Coarsely chop them using the blade in your food processor, or finely dice by hand. Put the chopped sweet potatoes in a large pot, working in batches if you have to. Cover with water, bring to a boil, and simmer until tender, 15 to 20 minutes or so.
When tender, strain the liquid out of the potatoes into your fermenter bucket. I used a sieve and pressed out as much liquid as possible to extract as much flavor as I could. You’re now done with the sweet potatoes, and can set them aside for another use (like pie).
Chop 5 lbs of raisins in the food processor, add to a mesh bag, and add to your bucket.
Add 2.5 lbs of sugar and 2.5 teaspoons of pectic enzyme to the bucket and stir well. Add water to 5 gallons, cover, and let sit overnight.
5/26/13 – The next day.
I decided to shoot for an alcohol content of 11-12%, so I added sugar (and stirred) until I got my SG up to 1.082.
Add 5 teaspoons of yeast nutrient and stir well.
Add 1 packet of Lalvin D47 yeast, cover the fermenter, and walk away. I chose D47 because it’s good for blush and dry white wines, and is supposed to help preserve fruity notes. I’m hoping there will be some sweet potato left on the nose when the wine is done.
5/28/13 – Racking.
Yeah, this one went fast. It had already fermented to an SG of 1.006, so I squeezed the liquid out of the raisins and racked to a carboy.
6/18/13 – Fermentation dying down. Topped up with Viognier, because I love the floral notes. Viognier is my new favorite wine for topping up anything I’m making.
6/30/13 – Vacuum degassed the wine.
7/7/13 – Racked and stabilized the wine with ¼ teaspoon K-Meta and 1¼ teaspoon potassium sorbate.
As of this writing, the wine still needs to be fined and backsweetened, and of course, bottled. But none of that is happening for a while…
7/27/13 – With an SG of .998, I decided to backsweeten to taste with 1 cup of simple syrup. My goal was just a hint of sweetness, not a dessert wine. I think I hit it perfectly. (Your mileage may vary.) I also added 2 tsp of bentonite in 3/4 cup water to clear it.
9/22/13 – Racked again, and topped with Viognier.
9/30/13 – Tasted, and added acid blend to taste. In my case, it took 3 tsp of acid blend to brighten the flavor of 5 gallons of wine. Again, YMMV.
10/16/13 – Bottled (26 bottles total).
As of December 2013, we’ve opened 4 bottles and shared them with many friends. The nearly unanimous verdict is that this wine is GREAT! It has a beautiful color and aroma, and fruity, floral taste. Just a hint of sweet and tart rounds out the experience. In my opinion, it doesn’t really taste like white muscadine at all, but that may be because mine is semi-dry.
Verdict: I’m definitely making this one again soon. I’m also seriously considering entering it into the International Amateur Wine Competition in June 2014.