Thursday, January 24, 2008

Wine-making workshop

We had a great winemaking workshop here last Saturday! Our friend Alfred, who is an accomplished home winemaker (having made wines from all manner of berries, herbs, fruit - banana!, tea, etc) was here to facilitate the day.

We went through various stages of winemaking:
- pressing the fruit & adding yeast
- primary fermentation which is the first 5-6 days of vigorous fermentation where the yeast cells feed on the sugars in the must and multiply, producing carbon dioxide gas and alcohol
- secondary fermentation which can take 3-6 months as the fermentation continues very slowly and the wine is kep under an airlock to prevent oxidation
- racking which means siphoning the wine away from the sediment into another jug
- checking specific gravity (sugar content) with a hydrometer
- bottling and of course tasting.

We prepared a new blueberry wine from scratch using wild blueberries; then tasted a completed blueberry wine which Alfred had been made a year ago. Next we bottled a sourcherry wine, made from sourcherries picked this summer from a neighbouring yard. Finally the entire group made a hard apple cider, using fresh locally pressed apple cider which comes in the perfect glass bottle to act as a primary carboy. It was such a simple process - basically just adding yeast, extra sugar (if wanting a higher alcohol content), and a pectin enzyme to prevent the cider from becoming cloudy. No sulphites are necessary if the apple cider is pasteurized. If not using sulphites and the cider is unpasteurized, there is a possibility of it turning to vinegar. In a week we rack it into the secondary carboy, and let it ferment for a few more weeks - this is a very quick process and can be drinkable and ready in less than a month as a sparkling hard apple cider. Very tasty!

The tools needed for the winemaking process are not difficult to find. Many you will have around the house, or can find used. Others can be rented from a winemaking supply store for minimal cost.

You need:
- pail (for primary fermentation)
- glass jug or carboy (for secondary fermentation)
- Stir stick or spoon
- tube for siphoning the wine; racking, bottling
- air lock
- hydrometer (useful to measure specific gravity, i.e. potential alcohol)
- thermometer
- corker (can be rented)
- corks and bottles
- bottle brush to ensure bottles are thoroughly clean
- cheesecloth for straining fruit
- plastic and string to cover primary fermenter

All in all, the day helped to demystify the winemaking process. Here are a few good books that Alfred recommended to those who wish to pursue winemaking more seriously at home!

Garey, Terry A. The Joy of Home Winemaking. 1996.
Anderson, Stanley and Dorothy. Winemaking.

1 comment:

  1. If you make a lot of beer or cider (like me, especially "Poiré") I reccomand you to buy a cider carboy washer in order to offer something clean to your guests.