I'm slowly making the move to greater than 1 gallon batches of beer. The biggest expense in doing this is upgrading my brewing pots and mash tun. Since I'm still buying furniture for my new apartment, I can't really justify those expenses yet. However, fermenters are pretty inexpensive, and that's all you need to make wine.
I've made a few batches of wine in the past that have worked out pretty well. Peaches made some of the best wine I've had. Their flavor held up amazingly without the aid of sugar. Blackberries made pretty good wine, but I had to add some sugar and preservatives (called back-sweetening).
Around this time of year cranberry sauce is pretty inexpensive, much more affordable than whole cranberries (at least down in Texas). My idea was to use cranberry juice and cranberry sauce to make up the must. It's always a good idea to use as much pure juice as you can. The artificial flavors of "fake" juice will impact how the final product tastes, and a lot of fruit tastes different after fermentation. The classic Cranberry cocktail juice is basically cranberry flavored sugar water. Since I'm already not able to use raw fruit, I wanted to stay as close to real ingredients as I could. I wasn't able to find 100% cranberry juice. The juice I ended up using was a blend of 4 juices (cranberry, grape, apple, and pear) with cranberry as the main component and flavor. The juice had a SG of around 1.040. I was shooting for a strong wine, but the sugar content of the cranberry juice and sauce was much less than I was expecting. Since I was expecting to have more sugar from the juice/sauce, I didn't stock up my pantry before blending the must. I had 2 pounds of white table sugar and 1 pound of brown sugar that I added to raise the gravity to 1.080. It means the wine will only be about 10-11%. Not quite the 14-15% I was shooting for.
I have no idea how cranberries are going to taste post-fermentation, but that's what experiments are for.
Cranberry Table Wine
//6 gallon batch
9.5 bottles 100% Juice Cranberry Juice (1/2 used for starter)
10 cans whole berry cranberry jelly
2 lbs white sugar
1 lb brown sugar
6 tsp Fermax yeast nutrient
3 tsp pectic enzyme (may need more to compensate for the jelly)
6 Campden tablets, crushed (to sanitize the must before pitching yeast)
1L starter of Lalvin 71B-1122 (white, red, rose wines yeast)
With no airlock activity after 24 hours, I panicked
Sprinkled 1 packet Lalvin EC-1118 (champagne, all purpose)
Blended Dec 1st
I wish I used more cranberry sauce, since it added less sugar than expected
Rack to secondary Dec 17th
Color is orange/pink, surprising since the juice and sauce was more maroon/burgundy
Very tart, will probably need to backsweeten this one.
Usually I'm trying to guess the final taste of my young wines through the alcohol heat, but there was none this time.
I had about a half gallon of wine and a half gallon of lees leftover after transfer. (Lees are the wine equivalent of trub, the yeast and fruit parts leftover after racking.) I put these leftovers into jugs to freeze and melt out some of the sugar and alcohol. Maybe that can boost the weak body of the wine. I may end up freezing more and making a port/sherry.