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Mississippi Blueberries Yield A "Fine Wine"
By Marcela Cartagena
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Strawberry wine may have a place on country music charts, but Mississippi State University wine researches are looking to score with the state's own blueberries.
"Blueberry wine tastes different," said Dr. Juan Silva, associate professor in MSU's Food Science and Technology Department. "It has a softer and less acid flavor than grape wine."
Silva said the blueberries are shipped from South Mississippi, near Collins and Poplarville, to make this 12 percent alcohol wine.
Blueberries like muscadine grapes contain low amounts of sugar which is important in the wine making-process.
"Once we select the fruit, we placed them in steel tanks and wait for three to five days to extract its color," Silva said. "During these days the blueberries go through fermentation which is the conversion of sugars into alcohol."
When the blueberries are fermented, wine makers press the fruit to extract the juice. Sugar and yeast are added to the blueberry juice which ends in a special container that holds 5 gallons of liquid. The container, called a carboy, has an airlock to avoid air but allows carbon dioxide to exit so fermentation can occur.
"When fermentation is finished in nearly six to eight weeks, yeast and other solid particles, called racking, fall into the bottom of the carboy," Silva said. "We filter the racking off the wine several times to make sure there is not a single solid particle left. Then, we taste the wine."
Silva added that after the wine has been tasted, they add preservatives so no molds or yeast would grow in the wine.
"Preservatives are only added when sugar is used because sugar can cause mold growth in the wine," Silva explained.
When the entire wine making-process is done, the wine is bottled, sealed and placed in a dry and temperate room to be conserved. Silva said it is unknown how long blueberry wine can be stored.
"We have kept some bottles of muscadine wine for nearly six years, but we are still researching about blueberry wine's aging process," Silva said. "When the research is completed, we do an inventory, then we throw most of the wine away because our license only permits us to do research, not to sale it or to give it away."
Silva stated they make wine to produce a product that would be accepted by the customers. Then they publish their recipes in different publications.
He said there are possibilities of making wine with other fruits, such as peaches and strawberries. "It depends on what Mississippi grows because we prefer to do research with Mississippi fruits only," Silva said.