What to do with 17.5% ZIN? Make a port!
Due to harvesting the grapes a little on the sweet side, we decide to make a batch of port. The wine's 17.5% alcohol was a little overbearing although the underlying flavors were very nice. The adventure had begun!
We did a lot of blind tasting of trial blends (what a great job) to determine a balance in which none of the individual elements overpowered the others. We wanted to taste the wine and the brandy, while keeping appropriate residual sugar and alcohol levels. Balance and tastiness were the goals.
We were constrained by our concern for creating an environment that would keep our bottles from our exploding, since the overall alcohol was less than 18% and we used super-duper-he-man yeast. Home winemakers can't just put the batch through the reverse osmosis or centrifuge. So in the end, we decided on adding 80ppm of SO2 and adding a preservative (Sorbistat, a.k.a., Potassium Sorbate). This worked like a charm and we didn't have to clean up port and glass mess.
The final blend we came up with was:
Unfermented (although something biological had begun) Cab Juice- 7.8%
ZIN concentrate- 7.8%
Residual Sugar- 5.4%
This is not really a "recipe" but an approach. There are too many variables to say, "I put in 78.7% of wine, why don't I like it". In retrospect, the grape juice we added was wonderful for the layers and brightness it added without having the overall sweetness of a concentrate. We could have made the RS and Alcohol higher, which is typical of most ports, but we thought that the fruitiness and great characteristics of the wine were lost.
Brian Cline, Diane Cline, Doug Ramo