pain in the fucking arse!
Why ? Well, in theory, making a brew of some sort, should be easy.
But it's not.
For instance, I make mainly meads, but have had a go at other country wines. Ok. The issue is that you might have a recipe and think that you're following it verbatim and will get the same result as the original recipe author.
Why ? So, in theory (using mead for the analogy), you use the "same" honey, yeast and other ingredients.... but when it comes down to it, you're not are you. Honey might, theoretically, be the same but is "English" heather honey the same as "Scottish" heather honey? Is the actual heather that the bee's have collected from the same i.e. bell heather or ling heather ?
Then there's the issue of the make up of the must. With proper "grape" wines, the must is just pure grape juice, whereas, with country wines and meads, it's a certain amount of fruit or honey and water - with mead you just add or subtract a certain amount of honey to get to the required gravity, and other fruit wines you add a certain amount of sugar to correct the gravity of the fruit/water mix.
Which gives rise to the quality of the water. Where I live, the water is very hard, and has high levels of chalk/calcium. It does seem that this doesn't make for good wines and meads, though normally, to soften water, a device adds a specific amount of salt to the water (a bit like in dishwashers, where you may or may not have to use salt in the device to get the same cleaning performance from the detergents).
As I've mentioned, I make mainly meads, and I've just had to go through my stocks, that have been "bulk ageing", too work out which ones I need to leave and which might be ready for bottling.
Out of fourteen and a half gallons (yes, 14.5 gallons), I've identified six and a half gallons that I'm gonna "treat" to recover as much of the alcohol as possible. I just didn't like the taste of it. Of the other 8 gallons, there is 2 gallons of the same batch that was "sort of" Ok (the third gallon from the same recipe/batch/method of making is one of the "failed" batch gallons - why that should be, I haven't the faintest idea). So I've just added about a table spoon i.e. just over 15 grammes, of toasted oak chips (which looks for all the world like dark/dirty saw dust) to each of the 2 gallons from that batch and I'll leave it for a couple of weeks to see how it gets on.
The other 6 gallons of the meads/wines have been put back in storage until I've got time to do something with them......
Of the actual meads, the gallon that I made using cheap "Greek" honey, from Lidl, tastes the best. The gallon of "heather" honey mead, the heather honey being the most expensive, was Ok, but a little light in flavour, I'm thinking that I might blend the 2 and then bottle them. The other 4 gallons, well there's 1 gallon of "Joe's Ancient Orange" that's come out good, another is JAO, but made with lime instead of orange, there's 1 gallon of a recipe called "Winter Mead" (I don't have the recipe but it should be available via google) and the other one, that has turned out surprisingly well is a "Tinned Strawberry" country wine (it does actually taste, convincingly, of tinned strawberries).
I don't know why it is that I'm getting so much variation in the taste of the end result. Yes, I'm happy to admit that I'm not particularly anal about method so it's replicated perfectly everytime, but I'm quite careful to try and maintain absolute hygiene when making a batch.
Oh, and of the yeasts used, the Greek Honey mead was made using Lalvins D47.
The only other thing(s) I'm thinking of doing, is getting a "Reverse Osmosis" filter, so I can get "pure" water i.e. water that's had all the chlorine, chloramine, chalk/calcium and any other "dissolved solids" removed. Yes I could distil the water, but that does take a hell of a long time and I also don't have the kit to be able to do that quickly enough (I need in the region of 3 to 3 and a half litres of water for each gallon of mead or wine that I make).
Plus I think it's time I took very extensive notes.
Because right now, I'm stumped and I've got 13 gallons of various wine under airlock and I'd rather not have quite such high levels of "failed" batches.........
Hey ho! back to the drawing board.......