Is Concentrated Fruit Juice a bad Choice for Wine Making?
Fruitwine can be made from fresh fruits, frozen fruits, fruit juice and concentrated fruit juice. But is concentrate a bad choice for wine making at all?
Wineries are allowed to add grape juice concentrate to their wine to boost alcohol content or to add residual sugar in the finished wine. Why would you use concentrated fruit juice in fruit wine making?
There are different kinds of fruit sources out there that you can use for wine making:
- Fresh fruits: you would expect superior quality. But this is not always the case. Fresh fruits contain enzymes which could lead to browning reactions and the fruits need to be washed and processed. The whole processing can be very exhaustive. It depends on the fruits and your machinery. Think of apples, plums/cherries, soft berries, pineapples, pomegranates, citrus fruits and bananas – all need to be processed differently and with different machinery. Making fruitwine from fresh fruits is very complex.
The shelf life of fresh berries for example is very short and they need to be harvested fast. There is always a possibility of higher microbiological activity because all fruits ripen in summer and autumn.
Fresh fruit is the main option for farmers who want to produce their own beverage and who have the space, time and machinery to do it properly. Making fruitwine may not be the first choice for a farmer. The best fruits will be sold fresh, the next best made into jam and jelly, then juice, brandy and wine. Often they produce fruit and sell it to companies who are specialised in fruit-processing.
- Frozen fruits: you can freeze them yourself or buy them frozen from companies. They are ready-to-cook usually and fulfill high HACCP standards. They are sorted, washed, destemmed, stoned. So there is no need for additional processing. What makes frozen fruits superior to fresh fruits is thawing. Fruit cells break up and release juice without mechanical force. They are the number one choice if you ferment on pulp and want to extract colour, flavour and body. But fermenting on pulp is very labour-intensive and costly and therefore often skipped by companies. They rather use fruit juice or juice concentrate. You can also use frozen fruits while pressing to obtain a concentrated fruit juice e.g. iced fruitwines, ice cider.
- Fruit juice: is obtained after pressing fresh fruits. For example apples and oranges are usally pressed. If you are a farmer you would produce apple juice and apple cider. Often there is no need to buy fresh fruits if you can buy the juice instead because you save the work and time for fruit processing and lots of space and machinery. Fruit juice can be bought in bulk by companies.
The usage of fruits to ferment on pulp seems to be obsolete. But there are pros (+) and cons (-).
- Fruit juice is often heated and the enzymes that lead to browning reactions are inactivated.
- They contain higher amounts of phenolic compounds and emit clearer flavour.
- Fruit juice (Berries, Stone fruits) is usually obtained by thermovinification and adding enzymes to the heated pulp before pressing.
- What also works well is using this juice to smooth out some harsher fruit wines. This juices are very suitable for lighter bodied fruitwines like ciders and low-end fruitwines with residual sugar.
- But some juices can also be used to make dessertwines without additional dilution.
- What makes this juices inferior to fresh/frozen fruits is that they lack of body. If you want more aftertaste and tannins you need to pulp ferment. If you want to make lighter, smoother fruitwines you may use fruit juices only. e.g. Ciders, Summer wines, Coolers with low alcohol content.
- Fruit juice concentrate: the word „concentrate“ may has bad reputation. But lets clarify. Fruit juice concentrate is fruit juice without water – no more, no less. It is often concentrated to 65°Brix and has the consistency of honey. It is easier to store and ship than juice because the volume is reduced significantly. To put it simply: from 100L juice with 6,5°Brix you obtain 10L of 65°Brix. After adding the right amount of water to the concentrate you get the original juice back. Apple Concentrate is often used by big brands to make cheap Cider. Easy and fast to produce and to adjust the juice. But quality and taste may not be the best. It’s not always recommended to produce fruitwine from concentrate alone. But….
Why has fruit juice concentrate bad reputation?
There are different qualities of concentrate, cheap and pricy and sometimes the reconstituted juice has not the same quality as fresh fruit juice.
If you buy a fruit juice from concentrate in a store there are often a few % of juice from concentrate, lots of added aromas and sugar and they obviously lack the quality of fresh juice. But normally a reconstituted juice is as pricy as fresh juice and with similar quality (in some cases).
What is fruit juice concentrate used for in fruit-wine-making?
Rectified grape must concentrate can be used in grape-wine-making to boost the alcohol content and the residual sugar content. Because fruit juice concentrate (berries) has high acid content and adding it before bottling does not boost the residual sugar but also the acid content significantly. You can make a fruitwine from concentrate alone. But I would not recommend it. The Taste is a bit flat and as with fruit juice the wine may lack body. So only Ciders and Coolers may be an Option.
Many store bought apple ciders from big companies are made from concentrate alone. They are light and fizzy and should be enjoyed cooled. Sometimes they are artificially flavoured as well. This seems to be the only way that works to produce fruitwines from reconstituted fruit juices. If you want to make low-end beverages that are no more than juice with a little alcohol this is your way. The bad reputation may be justified in this case. But they are big sellers because they are drinky and rival beer. Barbecue and cider may be a good combination.
Why and when do I use fruit juice concentrate in wine-making?
There are some fruits (e.g. tropical, wild berries) that can only be purchased in form of concentrate or it is clever to use them as concentrated juice. There is nothing wrong with concentrates but you need to know „what kinds of juices“ have the high quality that you want in your finished fruitwine. You can only tell by experience.
As simple as it may sound – but the usage of a concentrate is – to use it as a concentrate. There are concentrates with high acid content which obviously need to be diluted heavily and often lack the quality of fresh fruit juices. So it’s not clever to use them except…for Coolers and lighter drinks.
Other concentrates have very low acid content but high sugar and dry extract. And you can add lots of body with this concentrated juice if you don’t dilute it too much. Another Pro is that you are not adding too much taste (e.g. pear, apple). You can use some concentrates in higher amounts which means you get more fruit into your wine. Think of ice wine. This is the biggest advantage of concentrated juice over single strength juice and fresh fruits. A great way is to mix berries with tree fruits or juices. The complexitity is amazing. You also get a complex acid mix in your wine too – e.g. malic acid and citric acid.
I always thought that using concentrate would result in a lesser quality of fruit wine. Because you always have the bad reputation in mind – think of those big brand Ciders and their artificial flavourings. Concentrate sounds like imitation and not real juice. It sounds inferior and cheap. But it is not the case. It’s exactly the opposite if you do it the right way. Sure you need to do trial and error experiments but that’s business. Only „what to do“ and „why“ matters. If you want to make great fruit wine you have to mix different kinds of fruit sources and always add more to obtain a great taste.