Here in the uk at this time of year the hedgerows are full of sweet smelling elderflower - I thought it would be a shame not to try my hand at making some traditional Elderflower Champagne.
So, me and my girlfriend went on a walk through the countryside on a mission to pick as many elderflower heads as possible. We returned triumphant, and after picking out all the bugs and bad bits, we ended up with a decent amount of elderflower for the wine.
I took the recipe from a website of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipes. (I'm a massive fan of hugh's - if anyone's seen 'river cottage' you will know why!)
Click here for the original recipe
* About 24-30 elderflower heads, in full bloom
* 2kg sugar
* 4 litres hot water
* Juice and zest of four lemons
* 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
* A pinch of dried yeast (you may not need this)
1. Put the hot water and sugar into a large container (a spotlessly clean bucket is good) and stir until the sugar dissolves, then top up with cold water so you have 6 litres of liquid in total.
2. Add the lemon juice and zest, the vinegar and the flower heads and stir gently.
3. Cover with clean muslin and leave to ferment in a cool, airy place for a couple of days. Take a look at the brew at this point, and if its not becoming a little foamy and obviously beginning to ferment, add a pinch of yeast.
4. Leave the mixture to ferment, again covered with muslin, for a further four days. Strain the liquid through a sieve lined with muslin and decant into sterilised strong glass bottles with champagne stoppers (available from home-brewing suppliers) or Grolsch-style stoppers, or sterilised screw-top plastic bottles (a good deal of pressure can build up inside as the fermenting brew produces carbon dioxide, so strong bottles and seals are essential).
5. Seal and leave to ferment in the bottles for a further eight days before serving, chilled. The champagne should keep in the bottles for several months. Store in a cool, dry place.
I replaced the 2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar, with 2 tablespoons of cheap white wine, and one tablespoon of cider vinegar.
Brewsmith says my OG would have been 1.130.
It's been in the primary fermenter for a week, I had to add a pinch of rehydrated bakers yeast along with a little yeast from the bottom of a secondary of a bitter I brewed the other day.
The wine has been bubbling away, I just tasted it (it tasted incredible, but very very sweet still) and measured the SG at 1.090 (5%abv)
So, my question is:
Do I add a champagne yeast and try and get it down to 1.035 (13%)?
Should I rack to secondary before adding a champagne yeast?
Should I leave it as it is and let it try and ferment down as low as possible with the beer/bakers yeast?