Home Winemaking Techniques and Recipes

THE TECHNIQUE OF MAKING WINE AT HOME

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Here I describe in much more detail the entire procedure of making wine, and explain the roles of all the  different additives recommended in the recipes. The sections are set out in a way designed to correspond roughly to the actual sequence of operations involved in making a wine at home, beginning with the different methods of extracting the flavor from the ingredients. Later there is a list of faults and problems, and how to solve them. 

SELECTING THE INGREDIENTS AND EXTRACTING THE FLAVOR

These are the main types of ingredient from which wine can be made: 

1 fruit - fresh, canned, dried, or frozen 

2 fruit juices 

3 flowers - fresh, dried 

4 vegetables - fresh 

5 cereals

There's a lot of different ingredients from which to make wine, at any time of year. Exactly where you start depends on a number of factors, including the season of the year, the time and money you wish to spend on selecting and preparing your ingredients, and your personal tastes and preferences. Generally, fruit wines are by far the most popular, followed by flower, vegetable and cereal wines, probably in that order. This does not mean that fruit wines are always better than, say, vegetable wines: there are simply fewer vegetables suitable for good winemaking than there are fruits. As I have explained, the basis of winemaking is to extract the flavor of the main ingredients in such a way that when sugar is added, the liquid produced can be fermented into wine. There are many ways of achieving the extraction of flavor; they may be listed as follows: 

1 direct fermentation of fruit juice diluted with water 

2 boiling the fruit or vegetables in water

3 hot-water extraction 

4 pulp fermentation carbonic maceration 

5 infusion 

6 sugar extraction 

1 DIRECT FERMENTATION

Pure fruit juices can be bought easily and cheaply. There are the well-known varieties of apple, orange, pineapple and grapefruit as well as more exotic varieties such as passion fruit juice. If you use these juices as the basis for making wine - and they give excellent results with no fuss or mess - buy those which contain no preservative (this might affect the wine yeast) and no added sugar (this would affect the amount of sugar needed in the recipe). Besides fruit juices, concentrated fruit syrups are also useful for winemaking. Suitable recipes are included in another section of this website. 

There are various ways of extracting fruit juice at home. The most obvious is to chop or crush the fruit and then to press it. Small presses for the amateur winemaker are easy to find. They range from small models suitable for single gallons (4.5 litres) of wine to large presses capable of taking large batches of fruit at one go. Any winemaking store should have details of the different sorts of equipment available. 

Two points to note: the fruit or fruit pieces should be wrapped in cloth (muslin) bags before pressing; and the same quantity of fruit will be required whether one presses it to extract the juice or uses a completely different method such as pulp fermentation (see 4 below). You may not want to buy or borrow a fruit crusher and press, at least to start with. Suitable alternatives include electric juice extractors or steam juice extractors. The electric machines are certainly convenient and efficient with hard fruits (although not suitable for soft or citrus fruits), but they are also rather expensive. If you do decide to make the investment, try to ensure that you buy a machine which ejects pulp and juice separately.

Many fresh fruits and juices turn brown when the fruit is cut or damaged, in the same way that an apple discolors when it is cut in half. This browning spoils the taste of the wine, but it can be prevented by dissolving one Campden tablet in each gallon of juice or must, or by dropping the crushed fruit into sulphited water, i.e. water containing one dissolved Campden tablet per gallon (or 4.5 litres). This will also help to destroy bacteria and wild yeasts. 

But always remember that whenever Campden tablets are added to a must, twenty-four hours should elapse before the wine yeast is added. By this time the sulfur dioxide will have dispersed and there is no danger of the yeast being inhibited by it. The enzymes responsible for browning are destroyed by hot or boiling water. Thus canned fruits or fruit juices in scaled cartons, which have been heated to sterilize them, will not turn brown. Equally, a steam extractor produces sterile juice which will not discolor. The steam extractor consists of a lower pan of boiling water and an upper pan containing the fruit, all enclosed. The steam breaks down the tissue of the fruit or vegetables and the juice runs out of a special outlet. Steamers are efficient and very good at producing a must ready for fermentation. Once again, any specialist winemaking shop should be able to supply details. 

2 BOILING

Some ingredients, notably vegetables and bananas, may be boiled in water until they are tender but not mushy. The liquid is then strained off the solid matter, diluted as required, and the yeast and other ingredients introduced for fermentation. In fact all vegetable wines are prepared in this way. 

3 HOT WATER EXTRACTION

Some winemakers heat red fruits, especially blackcurrants, sloes and elderberries, in water at 70 - 80 degrees Centigrade for about fifteen minutes. This softens and sterilizes the fruit and also extracts the maximum amount of flavor while reducing the harshness of the fruit tannin (see page 40) which is sometimes quite concentrated in red fruit - especially. elderberries. After heating, the fruit pulp is pressed gently and the liquid strained off, after which it is made up to the required volume and fermented. In my opinion, all hard, sour or unripe fruit benefits from being heated in this way, even if a pulp fermentation is planned (see below), since it softens the fruit and aids the extraction of flavor. 

4 PULP FERMENTATION

This is one of the most common and popular methods of extracting the flavor from winemaking ingredients, and is the method outlined in the majority of recipes in this book. So what does it entail? 

The basic ingredients are placed in a fermentation bin or bucket and then sterilized. This is done by pouring boiling water over them and ensuring that any fruit is crushed so that the boiling water reaches every part of the material. The idea is to kill any wild yeasts and bacteria which might otherwise spoil the wine. After the boiling water has been added, the bin or bucket is covered and allowed to cool to 20 - 25 degrees C before the yeast and certain other ingredients are mixed in. Despite what you may read elsewhere, the addition of one or two Campden tablets to a must is not a totally effective method of sterilization. Boiling water should be used if at all possible. 

However, if for any reason the wine yeast cannot immediately be added to a cool sterilized must, dissolving one or two Campden tablets in each gallon (4.5 litres) will help to prevent infection by air-borne bacteria; obviously the must should be kept covered with a non-porous sheet or lid and, as explained elsewhere, twenty-four hours should elapse before the yeast is added. 

In some cases, boiling water cannot be used because of its harmful effects on the basic ingredients. For example, flowers, especially dried ones, are ruined by the use of boiling water, which drives off all the volatile oils and essences that contribute to the special character of flower wines. And pouring boiling water over cereal grains produces a sticky, starchy mass. In such cases, hot water and/or Campden tablets must be accepted as adequate sterilizing agents.

The tablets are dissolved in the must when it is cool (as already explained, they are rendered useless if added to hot or boiling water) and the fermentation bin is covered and left for twenty-four hours before the yeast is added. Fermentation begins soon after the yeast is added and continues in the presence of the fruit, cereal or flower "pulp" for a certain period of time, the length of which depends on the nature of the ingredients. During this period, the yeast multiplies vigorously and establishes a strong colony. It also produces a small amount of alcohol which leaches out the flavor, color and body of the ingredients. 

To help this extraction, and to reduce the risk of infection, the fermentation bin is covered and the fruit "cap" (which rises to the surface because of the gas produced during fermentation) is stirred into the liquid twice daily. When enough color and flavor have been leached into the wine, the liquid is strained off the pulp. Sugar is added if necessary, the liquid is poured into a demi-john and topped up with cool boiled water. Then the air-lock is fitted and the anaerobic fermentation begins. 

5 CARBONIC MACERATION

 This is one of the newest and least well-known winemaking techniques. It was developed In California. The Californian vineyards keep whole bunches of red grapes in in atmosphere of carbon dioxide for one week. While in this atmosphere, each grape is isolated from all the others, and chemical reactions rather different to those of a normal pulp fermentation take place in the skin of the grape. Those elements of the grape which provide flavor and color dissolve into the juice, but the harsh tannins are not extracted as they would be in a pulp fermentation. After a week, the grapes are crushed and pressed and the juice is separated and fermented In the normal way. Carbonic maceration can be successfully adapted for the home winemaker. When used with red fruits such as plums, elderberries and blackberries it is claimed to give the full flavor of the fruit with a fresh taste and without the need to mature the wine for years while the harsh flavor of the tannin mellows out. 

And the technique is simple enough. First, the fruit is washed, any bad parts are removed, and It is soaked in sulphited water for a few hours. It is then placed in an almost airtight container with as small an air space as possible. Any air in the container is displaced by carbon dioxide produced through the action of yeast. One pint (600 ml) of yeast starter containing about 4oz (110 g) of dissolved sugar is required for each gallon (4.5 litres) of volume in the container. 

The yeast starter should be poured down the side of the container so that it rests on the bottom. The container is kept at 20 degrees C for one week, after which the fruit is crushed and pressed to extract the juice. The juice is made up to the required volume in the normal way and fermented out under an air-lock. Obviously the technique is only suitable for certain fruits, i.e. smooth-skinned berries and all tree fruits with single stones. Otherwise it seems to be a technique with which you may find it is well worth experimenting. 

6 INFUSION

This is an alternative to the use of hot water techniques for flower wines. It is designed to preserve the delicate scents and oils which are responsible for the bouquet and flavor of flower wines. Basically, the flowers are soaked in water for one or two (lays to extract their aroma and character, and the infused extract is then added to a fermenting must made with grape juice. This is used because flowers impart only flavor and scent. 

To ensure a wine-like quality in the finished drink, a suitable fruit base is required. An alternative technique recommended by some authors is simply to soak the flowers in a fermenting must after the initial violent ferment has died down. (It is said that the rapid escape of carbon dioxide in the first stage of fermentation can carry off the volatile scents and oils from the flowers.) The recommended method is to place the flowers in a suitable bag made of linen, muslin or nylon mesh and to hang this in the fermenting must. This avoids any problems of separating the solids from the liquid. Clearly there is room for experimentation here. 

7 SUGAR EXTRACTION

This is a method of flavor extraction originally designed for use with rhubarb, which contains unpleasant oxalic acid that dissolves easily in hot water. However, the method could certainly be used with other fruits. The fruit is washed, dried and sliced into a bucket. It is then covered with the sugar specified in the recipe. After 24-36 hours, the sugar will have sucked out the juice and dissolved in it. This can be strained into a demijohn, diluted and fermented at once. The pulp can be washed with water to remove any flavor remaining on the fruit.


Next: selecting fruit and other ingredients

 

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Contact the author, Rod, on    rod"at"home-winemaking.com (change "at" to @ to make it work)

Original posting date
01/01/2008
01 January 2008

Original posting date
01/01/2008
01 January 2008