Wine Making 101
What is it? Technically wine is fermented grape juice between 8 and 14% alcohol. Grapes are the perfect fruit, giving enough sugar and acid to produce the alcohol. The skins of grapes are crawling with wild yeasts, and in Socrates time, those wild and wacky yeasts made for some unpredictable fermentations.
We strongly recommend using pure yeast cultures to give all your wine a predictable, and more importantly, reproduce-able results.
It takes 18 pounds of grapes to make one gallon of wine. Your local supermarket does not carry wine grapes; they have table grapes with less flavor and acid than wine grapes. Table grapes cannot make a Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet or Chianti. Some people are fond of Concord grapes and Muscadine grapes for wine. Wine from these grapes should be treated as fruit wine in production.
If your interest is in Traditional Grape Wines, the best way to do it is to use Concentrate Kits.
These are inexpensive and very easy to make. There is no guesswork. There are varying price points and correlating quality levels, generally based on the volume of concentrate and sugar added.
A four-gallon concentrate to make six gallons of wine typically will need no added sugar and has tons of natural aromas and depth of character. The gentle juices have not been subjected to the strenuous reduction process, and they retain all the original goodness. Your wine will be comparable to a $16 to $25 bottle from your local wine merchant.
A two-gallon concentrate to make six gallons will also typically need no added sugar. The juices have been reduced further, so sometimes aromas are somewhat lesser. This improves with aging. Definitely use a pure yeast culture on these. Your wine will be comparable to a $9 to $14 bottle from your local merchant.
The canned concentrates require adding a couple pounds of sugar. Use cane sugar or honey. Corn sugar will give a cidery flavor (good for ciders, not for a chardonnay). Follow the directions, and you will get a very nice wine to serve your friends and family. Again, because of the lower volume of juice, use a pure yeast culture to enhance your wine's character. The longer you can let these age, the better they will get. Your wine will be comparable to a $7 to $12 bottle from your local merchant.
Typically wines from concentrate are clear and ready to bottle in six to eight weeks, not a bad turn around time. Wines from actual fruit will take typically two to four months to clear, and can benefit from bulk aging—let the wine set in a big glass carboy for as long as you can stand it.
If your interest is in fruit wines, you have many alternatives. Canned fruit wine bases are quite good, easy to use, and usually have instructions. Fruit from the market should be the best you can find. This is not the time to get the bargain basement bruised and bland fruit—you will have blah wine. Be ruthless in your pursuit of quality, toss out the bad berries, and your wine will be your reward.
Fruit from your organic, pesticide-free garden is ideal because you can pick it at the peak of ripeness. "But wait, I'm too busy." you say. Never fear, put your fresh picked yummy fruits in heavy duty Ziplocs in the freezer and those fruits will wait for you.
Let's go through the other standard ingredients.
• Sugar—cane or honey, beet or corn. Yeast eats sugar and makes CO2 and alcohol
• Campden Tablets
1-2 per gallon to kill wild yeasts and bacteria's to let your yeast (24 hrs later) do the work
Also used during aging at racking 1 tab/gal, and bottling 2-3 tab/gal to stabilize
• Pectic Enzyme—prevents hazy wine, gets more flavor and aroma out of the fruit
• Acid Blend—gives wine it's bite, maintains color and clarity, and preserves wine
• Grape Tannin—gives dryness to the mouthfeel, helps clear and stabilize wine
• Yeast Nutrient—yeast's vitamin pill, highly purified urea nitrogen's
• Potassium Sorbate—stabilizer to stop your yeast when you sweeten & bottle
• Sulphite Solution—sanitizer, use 13 campden tabs in a quart of water
• Glycerin—sweetener and thickener—adds body to finished wines—also makes
• Gelatin—clarifier pulls down cloudy particles like a net
• Polyclar—clarifier grabs onto cloudy particles with static electricity
Taken from The Joy of Home Winemaking by Terry Garey
(An excellent book and we wouldn't make wine without it.)
Sanitizing Equipment and Bottles
•Use Brand sanitizers according to the manufacturer's directions
•Or use a solution of 12 mashed Campden Tablets dissolved in a quart of water
•Remember: heat destroys the above sanitizers • NEVER mix sanitizers
•It is ok to leave CT solutions unrinsed in equip. If you pour out the solution before use
•Gather your equipment
•Sanitize your equipment
•Prepare the ingredients and put them in the primary fermenter
•Add the water and sugar or honey
•Cover and fit with an airlock
•Cool the must to tepid
•Add chemicals. If you are using Campden tablet, wait 12 hours before adding pectic enzyme, and another 24 hours before adding yeast
•Check potential alcohol (PA)
•Add the yeast, cover, and add an airlock
•Check PA in 5 to 7 days (remove fruit at some point)
•Rack into sanitized secondary (carboy) and add airlock
•Rack once or twice in the following 2 to 8 months until fermentation is finished and wine is clear
•Stabilize and sweeten if you like
•Bottle or store in bunged jug or cask
•Clean and sanitize all equipment
•Check all other airlocks for good luck
•Resanitize all equipment
•Make notes on dates, condition, ingredients, etc.
•Choose wines to bottle, checking PA and clarity
•Clear area of any dust, cats, dogs, birds and children
•Clean and sanitize all equipment and bottles
•Stabilize and sweeten any wines you want to
•Lay down paper or plastic on all surfaces
•Drain bottles and line them up
•Rack wine into bottles
•Rinse outside of bottles
•Dry exterior and label
•Sanitize and clean and put away all equipment
Amaze and astound your friends with your delicious home made wines.
Serve proudly. Experiment and be daring, and above all, be patient.