This is a guest post by HBoy, a DIY personal finance and wine enthusiast, on the financial benefits of making your own wine. This is a continuation of part 1 (the introduction to making your own wine), where HBoy now explains the process behind making your own wine.
The wine kits typically come with very complete instructions, but here is what you do in general.
Creating the Mash
The first day, the primary fermentor and cover are sterilized. The primary fermentor is filled with the juice concentrate then cold and hot tap water as required to get the initial 23 litres of solution (the mash) at room temperature or a little warmer. There may be other chemicals or ingredients to add as per the instructions. Toss in the yeast and cover with the plastic sheet held in place with string/elastic. The mash must be stored between about 18 and 25 degrees Celsius for the yeast to work it’s magic over the coming days.
The second session of work is when fermentation is mostly done in 7 to 20 days (again, see instructions for details as to know when it is time). The secondary fermentor, siphon, and air lock are sterilized. The wine is then transferred from the primary to the secondary fermentor using the siphon, being careful to leave behind most of the sediment. This process of transferring the wine between vessels is known as racking. Some chemicals may be added at this point as well.
The wine is now left to complete fermentation and to have particulate settle out. This takes a few weeks to months depending upon the use (or not) of clearing agents and one’s time schedule. I often leave the wine for months at this stage if I am otherwise busy. This is fine as long as there isn’t much sediment remaining to give the wine an off taste. If there is, and you don’t have time to bottle (or bottles!), just rack it again.
The third work day is bottling day. This is a good day to get help (if you can) as it can be tricky to keep all the balls in the air while bottling. After you have done it a few times, it can be done solo. The bottles are washed and sterilized along with the siphon hose. The corks are soaked in body temperature water with a bit of sulphite for a half hour. The wine is siphoned to the bottles and the bottles are corked. Labels and capsules can be affixed, but personally I don’t take the time to do any more than label the wine in some way. Often I just use one of the many return address labels I get from charities to label the wine with a simple short symbol such as “SVB 09″ for Sauvignon Blanc 2009.
Anyone can make wine if they can cook a meal from scratch. As in real estate with the “location, location, location” rule, in brewing it is “cleanliness, cleanliness, cleanliness.” About half your time in the brewing process will be washing and sterilizing equipment. This is very important, do not take shortcuts.
I suggest getting one of the many books available on wine making, either at the library, or by purchasing your own reference. This article is but the briefest introduction to the art. My favourite book is I am sure long out of print, but it is still my “go to” resource even some 30 years after my Father gave it to me. If you can find a copy of “The Winemaker’s Companion” by B. C. A Turner and C. J. J. Berry first published in 1960 and revised and reprinted into the 1970s, I strongly urge you to grab it. I actually have two copies as I picked up the second one for a buck somewhere. I am waiting to give it to just the right person who shows an interest.
Once you have a few kit brews under your belt, you can try a from scratch recipe. My first, second, and third best batches ever would easily be the raspberry recipe on page 193 of Turner and Berry. This is pure nectar of the Gods when it turns out, but there is about an hour’s picking of wild berries per bottle. I don’t seem to have the time any more to pick berries and my child, wife, and other assorted relatives don’t have the robustness to do this task for me (mosquitoes and all). I remember one time years ago, I made 24 bottles of this recipe and it tasted terrible. Over the years, I gradually tossed most of it as I needed the bottles, but 5 years after brewing I came across a bottle and it was spectacular. I think I cried that day. That day I learned that in general, the higher the alcohol content, the longer the maturation time. This is also why the one month kits are usually 10% alcohol.
How does homemade wine taste? Well it tastes fine to me when made well with clean equipment. In fact, a recent double blind study found that Joe and Jane average preferred typical $10 wine to very expensive premium wine. There is no reason that homemade wine can’t be as good or better than regular budget commercial wines. Sure, you may blow a batch every now and then, but so what? Things can go wrong in every human endeavor. The mistakes that really ruin wine are a lack of cleanliness, and access to air (say the water in the lock evaporates out). Watching these two factors will avoid most of the outright failures, the rest is mostly subjective.
That is my introduction to wine making. Happy brewing to all who give it a try.