Debatable Brewers' Recipes:
Wine and Clarrey

(started Sept 16th, 1996; clarrey made Mar 24th, 1998)

Documentation by Tofi Kerthjalfadsson, Debatable Brewers' guildmaster; Wine and Clarrey (recipe and entry) by Tofi, Anwen ferch Morgaunt, Ellisif Flakkari, Leif Hjalmsson, and Barak Ben David (called "Red").

About Wine

``Wine is period.'' Wine is also very simple. You take a bunch of ripe, sound grapes. Crush them. For white wine, press them, collect the juice, tun it up, and let it ferment. For red wine, first let the crushed grapes, stems, and seeds ferment for a few months. Then press them, tun the already-fermenting must, and let it ferment for a while. [Taylor]. The wine ferments because the grapes attract an appropriate strain of yeast, which clings to the skins. (This is much of the white powder one finds on grapes, even in the store.)

Markham spend an entire chapter on ``The ordering, preserving, and helping of all sorts of wines'' [Markham, pp. 137--145]. Also, just about the entire process is depicted visually in "The Wine Harvest", (Dutuit B. 37, fol. 8, Petit Palais, Paris) found as the picture for September in The Medieval Woman, An Illuminated Calendar [MedWoman]. This late 16th c. French tapestry depicts, among other things, a worker carrying grapes in a backpack-mounted basket, several people pressing the grapes; one by foot and four using a type of press, several people collecting the pressed juice and pouring it into a large wooden barrel, and, of course, a noble couple overseeing the whole process.

From this, it should be evident that wine is easy to understand. It is, however, easy to make poor wine and very hard to make good. This was our first attempt, and despite the considerable experience of the guild members did not come out all that well.

Recipe pt. 1: White Wine

5 gallons of lesser wine:

These directions follow the directions suggested by the Country Wines wine-making supplies store [CountryWines].


Into a primary fermenter, mix together the grape juice concentrate, 5 3/4 cans of warm water, and sugar. Mix well so that the sugar dissolves and the must is well aerated.

Dissolve wine additives into a cup of warm water. Add to must.

Put water lock on fermenter, and allow must to sit for a day. (The juice concentrate comes already sulfited, so with care it should not catch an infection at this point.) Our starting gravity at this point was 1.072, which in retrospect was a bit low -- it should be at least 1.090.

Hydrate the yeast according to the directions on the packet. Add to must. The water lock should start to bubble within a couple of days.

When the fermentation starts to slow, and much of the yeast has dropped out of solution, rack into a 5 gallon glass secondary fermenter. There should be enough liquid that the 5 gallon can be filled all the way to the neck with a bit left over. Don't be greedy.

Allow to sit for 6 months. Rack again into another 5 gallon glass fermenter, and fill this to the neck ("top off") with boiled-and-cooled water.

At this point, the specific gravity was 0.996, and the wine was (a) very, very dry, and (b) not of the highest quality.

Part 2: Clarrey

We decided to treat some of our wine in the way described by Master Corwin in Scum #23 [Corwin]. We made two batches of a slight variation on "The Peoples Choice Clarrey"; the variation was mostly due to lacking a few of the spices Corwin used. The first batch was a one-gallon size, made with the above wine. The second was a 3/4-gallon size, made with Livingston Cellars brand Chablis Blanc wine.

Ingredients (for 1 gallon):

Grind all spices.

Heat the honey in the same volume of wine, and simmer until no more scum riseth. Add the spices and gently simmer a bit more. Then let cool, covered.

Drain out about 24 oz. of the wine into a clean container. Pour in the honey and spices mixture. Top off bottle with some of the wine you set aside. Do something useful with the rest.

Close the bottle and shake reasonably well to mix it all up. Set it in a cool, dark place for a week. (Optionally shake it up again after a couple of days).

The Clarrey will develop a plug of floating stuff, and a bunch of sediment. Gently swirl the bottle enough to barely loosen the plug of floating stuff, and then pour out the plug into a large glass. Discard this. Set the bottle back to settle for a day.

The next day, carefully decant or siphon out the clear clarrey off of the sediment.

Ellisif has found that if the spices are simmered (to disinfect them), and adequate sanitary precautions are followed in the above steps, the siphoned-off clarrey will keep for at least six months. And it will mellow and slightly improve during this time.


Corwin of Darkwater (pseudonym), ``A Pype of Clarrey,'' in Scum, Vol. 23, Spring A.S. XXXII, 1997

Country Wines, "Home Winemaking" (pamphlet), no date.

Fox, S. and Tuten, B., The Medieval Woman, An Illuminated Calendar (1996 ed.), New York: Workman Publishing, 1995

Markham, G., The English Housewife, Best, M. ed., 1986 McGill-Queen's Press. (originally published 1615, 1623, and 1631.)

Taylor, W. S. and Vine, R. P., Home Winemaker's Handbook, New York: Harper and Row, 1968

Tofi Kerthjalfadsson, guildmaster, BMDL Brewers' Guild.
pwp+ (AT) cs dot cmu dot edu