Blend & Test

Blend & Test

Hey, home barrel enthusiasts! We're thrilled to have you back for another exciting instalment at the Liqlux Academy. Today, we're delving into the essential elements of maintaining your home barrel like a true legend - freshening up your fortified wine, analysing its flavours, and mastering the art of blending. So grab your tasting glass, sharpen your palate, and let's dive straight into the barrel of knowledge!

Now, if you haven't reached this step just yet, no worries! You can always head back to our Barrel Basics lesson. You'll find it further back in the LiqLux Academy uploads (Barrel Basics 101) 

But if you're all set and ready to roll, let's crack on, shall we?

First, let's set the scene and imagine how things are unfolding. You, our esteemed hero, have patiently waited for your wine to mature, captivated by the idea of crafting an exquisite and unrivalled fortified wine. Sure, there might have been a few moments where your determination wavered, but your patience is almost saintly. You resisted the urge to prematurely indulge the barrel's precious contents during a moment of spontaneity. Your enthusiasm to embark on this journey toward on-tap magnificence remains steadfast!

Behold, your home barrel, perched atop the mantlepiece, basking in its own magnificence. Within those oak walls, something magical is happening. The once-fresh and vibrant elixir is undergoing a remarkable transformation, maturing into a symphony of depth and decadence. Time, it's that trusty stead of the winemaking process, blessing your creation with a gradual evolution.

Day by day, the flavours within the barrel harmonise and intertwine, creating a tapestry of complexity that only patience and diligent care can achieve. You, my friend, are an artist in your own right, eagerly anticipating the culmination of this metamorphosis. You can almost taste it—the moment when your handcrafted masterpiece graces your table, fills the glasses of your mates and sparks lively conversations. Who knows? Maybe one day, the legends at Stanton & Killeen will even bestow upon you a gold medal or the bloody prestigious best-in-show award at a future Liquid Luxury Amateur Wine Show. You understand that good things come to those who wait, and your unwavering commitment to the craft fuels your excitement.

And now, the moment has arrived for you to relish the sweet rewards of your dedication and the pursuit of your newfound craft. It's important to acknowledge that this craft, steeped in rich tradition and heritage, is at a crossroads. The folks who carry the torch of this time-honoured tradition (that's us!) are becoming rarer than a hen's tooth, with their skills and knowledge slowly slipping away into history. But fear not! In the face of this encroaching darkness, you emerge as a beacon of hope and determination. No pressure, right?

As the hero wielding the home barrel in this story, the responsibility falls on your capable shoulders to nurture and shape this liquid masterpiece. It's all about attention to detail to create a fortified wine that embodies depth and complexity.

The upcoming steps we're about to take together hold immense significance. Your unwavering focus will unlock the full potential of your creation. So, take pride in your dedication and commitment because they will guide you on the path to greatness—a journey toward the perfect blend of fortified wine! Hurrah!

Okay, it's time to take a sip.

Yup, you heard me. The moment has finally arrived. It's time to relish the rewards of your hard work. I'm talking about taking that first well-deserved sip of your lovingly handcrafted fortified wine. Remember when you first strolled into Stanton & Killeen, eager to get your hands on that barrel? You had visions of pouring yourself a glass straight from the source, and that dream is about to become a reality.

So, grab a good-sized glass and fill it with that aged beauty you've patiently waited for. As the rich aroma hits your nose and the liquid touches your lips, take a moment to appreciate the journey you've been on. Remember when we urged you to exercise restraint, encouraging patience in the face of temptation? At the time, you probably cursed us under your breath. But now, the wisdom behind our guidance will reveal itself; you'll soon realise that we were onto something and that 150 years of winemaking history has taught us a trick or two.

This sip is more than just a tasty indulgence—it's a chance for you to understand the true nature of your fortified wine. How does it look, smell, and taste? These initial impressions will guide you on what to do next. You're the master of your barrel, and this moment of reflection will set the course for the next steps on your home barrel adventure.

That first sip should be a moment of excitement, pride, and maybe even a pinch of disbelief. As you sip, pause and let it sink in—the fact that you, an average Joe (or median Maddie) with no culinary wizardry or handyman skills, have crafted this remarkable masterpiece. But here's the thrilling part: this is just the beginning.

Now that you've established where your blend is, let's set our sights on the big picture, shall we? Where do you want this masterpiece to go? Are you considering keeping it youthful and fresh, perfect for chilling and pairing with a good cheese board? Or maybe you lean towards the Classic style—a harmonious fusion of age and vibrant fruit. Or hey, perhaps you're after a wild ride and want to conjure up a dark, decadent monster that becomes folklore amongst your friends.

No matter what blend you aim for, we're in this together. It's all about patience, a bit of mixing magic, and your top-notch winemaking skills. The beauty is you've got the freedom to switch things up whenever you fancy. Think of your barrel journey as a choose-your-own-adventure tale without any dead ends!

Bench Trials

Before you dive into topping up your barrel, let's have some fun and get creative. You can do this right on your kitchen bench. No fancy equipment is needed. And guess what? Stanton & Killeen has your back with our blending fortified sample kits. Take your pick from our Muscat, Topaque, or Tawny varieties, and we'll send you three different tiers to play around with.

Now, it's time to unleash your inner mad scientist. Draw down some wine from your barrel and blend it with the wine samples in different ratios. Take your time, taste, and adjust until you hit that sweet spot of perfection. Once you've found your winning blend, you'll know exactly which wine you'll need and how much of it to order.

If you're savouring the delightful taste of your youthful, fresh blend, we recommend topping up your barrel as you consume the wine, aiming to fill it back to the top every time it hits one-third empty. This little trick will keep your barrel happy, ensuring it stays moist and doesn't dry out. We recommend topping up with our Standard or Premium range to maintain that vibrant flavour. How will you know when your barrel hits one-third empty? Why, with your Stanton & Killeen home barrel dipstick, of course! Available on our Liquid Luxury website and at our cellar door in Rutherglen.

As a proud member of our Barrel Club, you get access to some special wine parcels, including those delightful young single vintages. They're the perfect match for your lively barrel, bursting with bright fruit and freshness.

Now, the game changes a bit if you're after an aged and complex fortified wine. Keep your barrel two-thirds full at all times and top up at a slower rate. This allows your base wine to age and mature gracefully.

And as a member of our Barrel Club, you get to enjoy some older material than our Premium and Deluxe ranges. Give our Members Reserve, Club Classic, or Grand a try. You won't need much of it, especially if your blend is still young. Start by adding one or two litres to give your barrel an impressive kickstart. Remember, the older your barrel and blend become, the more aged wine you can add without messing up the ratios.Once you've done your first top-up, it's time to become a taste-testing champ. Keep a close eye (and palate) on your wine's progress. You'll know when it needs a top-up with an older fortified wine or a dash of fresh fruit to keep things in balance.

Let's address the burning question: Can you add different aged fortifieds? Absolutely! In fact, we highly recommend it to build that complexity in your wine. That's why we call them "Blending Fortifieds" – they're meant to be blended!

If you notice your wine becoming thick, viscous, and syrupy, that's a sign of old age (we're not talking about ourselves here, just the wine!). If you're not enjoying those characteristics, then it's time to top up with some fresh young wine from our Standard range. No need to wait; adding younger wine will make it more drinkable right away.

Analysing your blend

If you need a helping hand to guide your barrel to greatness, don't worry. The friendly crew at Stanton & Killeen are here for you. Just send us a sample of your home blend (around 150-200ml should do the trick), and our expert winemaking team will test and analyse it. They'll provide you with feedback and tips on achieving your desired results. And remember, it's a good idea to send in a sample every 12 to 18 months for sulphur analysis.

Sulphur testing isn't something you can do at home, but don't stress. As part of our Barrel Club service, if you submit a sample, we'll let you know what additions are required and provide effervescent tablets to top up the sulphites. Trust us, conducting a sulphur analysis is critical in ensuring the quality and stability of your fortified creation. Those sulphur compounds are like the superheroes that protect your wine from unwanted oxidation and pesky microbial spoilage.

Alright, my friend, now you've got the know-how! You know what your blend tastes like, where you want it to go, what wine to add to achieve those desired results, and how to get it analysed by the experts at Stanton & Killeen.

These processes are your ticket to barrel success! Sure, some true barrel aficionados out there take aging their fortified creations to the next level. They'll hide it away in a top-secret cellar under lock and key or even bury it deep in their backyard (we're eagerly awaiting the outcome of those underground experiments!). But really, you just need to keep it simple, follow the process, and you're on the right track!

So, keep tasting, testing, and blending to fine-tune your creation. And mark your calendars because we'll be back next quarter with another exciting instalment. We'll dive into some of the challenges you might encounter along the way, like leaky barrels, unexpected wine flavours, and even the dreaded mould. But fear not, my friend, with our expert tips and tricks, you'll be equipped to overcome any barrel hurdle that comes your way. Until then, keep savouring the fruits of your labour and enjoy every sip of your remarkable creation! You've deserved it!
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