A beginner's guide to producing your own wine
Wine making has been around for centuries. In days gone by, townspeople used to stomp grapes with their feet. The wine making process was a lengthy and ceremonious event. Today, wine making has changed a lot, due to technology and the mass production of wine.
Wine making can be as easy or challenging as you want it to be. There are many wine making shops that will let you mix your wines and bottle them yourself. While this wine making process is relatively easy, some true viticulturists think that it's cheating. However, it does still require some skill. You have to know what you like, how long to store the wine and the basics of the fermentation process.
Making wine without professional assistance is much harder. If you grow your own grapes you must be aware of vine canopy management, which is half art and half science. Not only can you make wine from grapes, but pretty much anything organic can be made into wine. There are many people who are wine makers who use elderflowers, dandelion and blackberries. You can always incorporate these into your grape wine making for a different flavor. There are many things to consider when wine making at home, such as the sterilization of the equipment, the grapes themselves, the skins, the process used (there are a few different ones), temperatures etc. This wine making site will clarify all of the wine making processes, in detail, to ensure you are educated about the science of wine making before you start.
The Wine Making Process
The wine making process is quite convoluted, but once you know the basics you can tweak your winemaking skills to your own taste and budget.
Obviously, the first thing you do in the wine making process is get your grapes. If you buy grapes ensure there is no mold, no insects or diseases to the grapes themselves. After obtaining your wine making grapes the next step in the wine making process is to crush the grapes. Crushing the grapes can take time, so ensure you allow the time to include this in your overall wine making process.
Following crushing, the juice is allowed to run off in a special container, or it is pressed out. The mass of grape mush is called must, which must be treated to further separate solids and facilitate settling prior to fermentation.
The next step in the wine making process is one of the most important to the flavor and color of the wine. Fermentation requires a very controlled process involving temperature, a proper mix of good yeasts and bad yeasts, and methods to prevent oxidation and to treat skins and pulp which float on top of the juice. Fermentation can take from 10 to 30 days, and there are a number of steps that need to be taken throughout this stage of the wine making process.
Clarification, or removal of the suspended materials like skins and yeast cells to eliminate cloudiness, follows the wine making fermentation process and involves six procedures: fining, filtration, centrifugation, refrigeration, ion exchange and heating.
Aging during barrel wine making or bottle wine making improves the quality of wines by reducing acidity and enhancing clarity, flavor and aroma compounds. This is where the tweaking is involved in the wine making process. After you have made a few batches of wine you will likely become a wine making expert and will know what to do. Most wines will reach their peak and then begin a decline if aging continues. The vast majority of table wines on the market are aged and consumed within two years.
Wine Making Supplies
There are a few essential supplies you'll need in your wine making endeavors. The first, of course, is the grape juice or concentrate, which you can buy in kits of almost any grape variety from different regions of the world. Depending on the variety, these wine kits will range in price from about $35 to over $100. A kit will make about 30 bottles of wine.
Even before you consider the type of wine, cleaning and sanitizing your equipment and wine bottles are essential to great-tasting wine. There are environmentally friendly sanitizing solutions and bottle brushes designed specifically to reach the contours of all wine making vessels.
A hydrometer measures gravity to fermentation process. It helps monitor the fermentation progress, potential alcohol and help you estimate when the wine will be ready to bottle. A thermometer tests fermenting temperature, which is very important to control.
Acid test kits help determine acid levels and are essential if you are making wine from fresh grape juice or wild fruits. Kits come with refillable titrating solutions.
Corking can mean a little or a lot of effort depending on the type of corker. The easiest to use is a counter or floor model that you can bolt down. These have a tray for the bottle and a handle like the pump on a fountain well. Hand-held corkers require more effort, and a note to those with small hands: get one that is adjustable, as the process can get a bit unwieldy if you can't get a good grip on the handles.
After corking, you may want to apply a shrink cap around the top of the bottle and cork for extra decoration and to make your bottles look more professional. Although you can just hold a steaming kettle under them to seal them into place, a shrink cap sealing tool is a handy accessory that holds the shrink cap in place while you immerse the top of the bottle in boiling water.