What recent advancements allow a better home winemaking experience?
In spite of common belief, winemaking is a very simple process that can be done just about anywhere with the most ordinary ingredients. This art has come to us, the modern man, though ages and ages of wisdom and experience. In ancient times, winemaking was simple, fast and the result was exceptional. In modern days, there are a lot of ways to make wine, some simple on the lines our ancestors, and some as complicated as you would like them.
Thankfully, home made wines have become a fad the world over and with the pleasure of making wine at home, the demand for better ingredients, automation and fast maturity of the wine have grown by leaps and bounds.
The modernization has not, as expected, improved much of the process of wine making. You can still create the best wines in the traditional way at home, with ingredients that you can pick from the shelf of your kitchen. However, there has been some high tech contributions to fast forward the maturity time of the wine. This development has made it possible for people to have their wine, almost immediately after it has been bottled. Many love this development because the patience of a human being is not the same today, that had been some hundred years ago.
The second great achievement and gift of science-technology to the making of wine is that the grapes quality has become much better, and much more uniform in taste. Hence, the wine’s flavor is fast to develop and better to taste.
Modern science hasn’t made too many changes to the actual art of wine making. The basic craft remains the same.
Extract the pulp of the grapes by soaking and then crushing and pressing
Add helping ingredients, (yeast, sugar, etc) and leave for fermentation for initial period of about one week
After 7-10 days take the liquid and strain it of the grape skins and other ingredients also allow the liquid to ferment further, while being careful to maintain the temperature at 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit
Wait until the fermentation totally stops (you will know when the bubbling of the liquid ceases completely)
Strain the liquid again through very fine cheese cotton cloth and let it ferment again – this time for the secondary fermentation. You can repeat this step once or twice at intervals of one or two months
Bottle the resulting liquids and cork them tightly. The bottles will need to be left standing for about five days, after which these should be stored at an angle at 55F for 6-24 months. For white wines, aging should not exceed 12 months. Use green bottles for reds, and clear for whites.
Sample the wine; if you find it matured, enjoy it. If not, let it age for about six months to one year more.
This is the basic process and no matter what twists and turns you add to it, the process remains this much. The complications that you read in different recipes are most of the times unnecessary and avoidable. Stick to the ancient style of wine-making and you can do no wrong.
One of the great advantages of making your own wine is that you are able to take control of as much of the process as you want. If you want to grow and harvest your own grapes or any other kind of fruit and produce wine you can control every aspect of the process. If, on the other hand, you choose to purchase grape concentrate, you can begin making your wine from that point on. Making wine is largely about making a number of different decisions and taking various factors into consideration. Each factor and each decision will have an impact on your final wine.
One of the first choices you will need to make if you elect to make grape wine and use fruit in order to do it instead of concentrate is whether you want to de-stem the grapes or use the entire cluster. When making this decision it is important to keep in mind that it really does make a difference. If you decide to use the whole cluster then you will find that your wine has a certain flavor and even nuance that is not present if you de-stem the grapes first. This flavor may or may not be appealing to you. Some people describe it as somewhat ‘green.’ If you like that sort of flavor, then using a whole cluster is an excellent choice. A number of very good, award winning wines are produced using the entire cluster. If; however, you do not think you would like that flavor, then it is best to go ahead and de-stem the grapes before you use them for your wine.
Another choice you will have to make is how you want to ferment the must. Yes, there are choices to make here as well. You have two basic choices. You can either ferment in a barrel or a tank. Most winemakers prefer to ferment using a tank. This gives you greater control over the process because the sleeves on the tank give you the option to either heat or cool the must. For example, in the beginning of the fermentation process you may wish to ensure the tanks are cool in order to extract the color from the grape skins. This can also help to stabilize the wine. Of course, you can also choose to ferment your wine in a barrel. This is a popular method when producing white wines because it tends to give them some character that might not be possible from tank fermentation. In the end, it is really up to you and your personal choice, but you will need to make this decision before you produce your first batch of wine.
You will also need to give some thought to the types of yeast that you wish to use. Most beginning winemakers are not aware of the fact that grapes picked straight from the vineyard actually have yeast on them. These are naturally occurring yeasts. As a result, you may choose not to add any additional yeast to the fermentation mix. In this case, you can allow the natural or native yeasts to work on their own. The one downside to this problem is that you may run into a problem known as a stuck fermentation. This is when the yeast reaches a certain point and then it just simply stops. Generally, yeasts that are created in the lab will be more stable. Of course, there is a downside to this as well. Many winemakers feel that lab created yeasts are lacking in flavor when compared to natural yeasts.
If you do choose to use natural yeasts, you will need to be prepared to handle a stuck fermentation in the event that it does occur. Adding a yeast nutrient or energizer can often help to combat this problem by providing the natural yeasts the ‘kick’ they need to finish the fermentation process.
Finally, you will need to give some thought to whether you wish to filter or not filter your wine. There is no set rule regarding this matter. You may find that a wine that has been unfiltered will have a great amount of richness; however, do be aware that there are bacterial issues which may arise if you choose not to filter your wine. In addition, wines that have not been filtered tend to have a cloudier appearance than those that have been filtered.
Before you begin your first batch of wine, it is a good idea to understand something of the background of wine and the basics of winemaking. Today there are certainly many kits which can be purchased which will walk you step by step through the process of winemaking. Even so, you may find that you enjoy and appreciate the results all the more for understanding the background of each step.
Wine is produced by fermenting grapes that have been freshly harvested. While many people today have taken up an interest in winemaking, the actual process of making wine has remained relatively unchanged over the years.
As we all know, yeast is essential to the fermentation process as part of making wine. Yeast actually grows on grape skins and then begins to automatically ferment the grape juice as the grapes are crushed. This begins the process of turning the grapes into wine. The combination of grape skins and grape juice is known as the must. When the mixture is in this phase of immersion it is known as maceration. This is one of the most important stages of winemaking, especially when making red wines. The actual color of red wine is obtained not from the juice inside the grapes but from the color of the grape skins. The juice inside all grapes, regardless of the skin color of the grape, is actually clear. In order for red wines to obtain their dark color they must extract the color from the skin of the grape. This is why black grapes are commonly used for the production of red wines. Conversely, light colored grapes are used for the production of white wines.
During the actual fermentation process, the natural fruit sugar that is contained within the grapes undergoes a conversion process into equal parts of carbon dioxide and alcohol. As this process continues, heat is released. It is for this reason that stainless steel fermenters that can be temperature controlled are commonly used for the production of rather delicate white wines. This prevents the wine from ‘cooking.’
The ripeness of the grapes and the sugar content contributes to the level of alcohol that is produced during the fermentation process. The time at which the fermentation process is stopped can also contribute to the alcohol level as well.
The dusty look of grapes, frequently referred to as their bloom, is produced by yeasts. The skins of grapes contain what is known as vinegar bacteria. Once exposed to air, vinegar bacteria can spoil new wine quite quickly. As a result, it is necessary to eliminate wild yeasts in order to avoid ruining the taste and the aroma of the wine. Winemakers use a centuries old process of utilizing sulfur dioxide to kill the vinegar bacteria as well as slow the growth of other bacteria and molds in the wine. Sulfites can also help to cease the browning or oxidation of wine as well as preserve its flavor.
Generally, the amount of sulfur dioxide that is used in the winemaking process is quite small. Typically, only between 60 and 125 parts per million are used. It is important to understand that even if no sulfur dioxide is added to the wine, there will still be some sulfites present in the wine due to the fact that they will be produced from fermenting yeasts. This is why all wines that are purchased in the United States contain the label “Contains Sulfites” on the bottle.
Wine contains from two to four times as much alcohol as beer. Most of the wine is made in : California, France, and Germany because grapes grow better in these countries than elsewhere. Wine may be made from the juice of any fruit, but the grape is generally used. The grapes after being picked are thrown into large tubs and crushed so that the juice runs out. The wild yeast always present on the grape skins begins to grow in the juice and change some of the sugar into alcohol. This work of the yeast lasts from one to eight weeks. At the end of that time, the grape juice has become a kind of poor wine, consisting of alcohol, water, grape flavor, and some acid. To make the wine good it must be drawn off into casks, where the yeast causes further changes during several weeks. It is then put into bottles, where it should remain about five years to get the right flavor.