How to Get Started Making Wine at Home If you have given some thought to the idea of making wine at home but just haven't quite gotten around to it yet, there is no reason to delay any longer. Thousands of people around the world happily enjoy the benefits and rewards of making their own wine. While certain equipment is required, you do not need to make a prohibitive investment or even have a large space in order to enjoy a hobby that can be quite rewarding. In reality, making wine at home is much easier than you might at first think. The entire process really only involves combining concentrate or fruit with a few simple other ingredients, placing it into the container and then letting it go to work. The resulting process is actually quite natural and will not require a lot of interaction from you. In fact, it could be said that all you really need to do is make sure that the proper proportions of ingredients are combined and then provided with an environment that is suitable and stable. Before you begin making wine you will need to decide on a recipe. This part might actually be one of the hardest steps because there are so many home winemaking recipes from which you can choose. If you purchase a winemaking kit, the kit will probably contain at least one recipe you can use to get started. Even without a kit there are numerous winemaking recipes available online as well as in winemaking books. You will also need to give some thought to the type of fruit that you want to use in your wine. Most wine varieties are made with grapes; however, there are also many wine recipes that call for the use of a wide array of fruits including strawberries, blackberries, apples and much more. Beyond making wine from fruit, another option would be to make wine from concentrated juice. Wine juice concentrated can be easily purchased in a home brewing store as well as online. In fact, you will generally find that most concentrates contain directions and recipes on the package, so it is easy to get started even if it is your first batch. Many beginning winemakers prefer to use concentrated wine juices for their first batches because they are so easy to use. They are also available throughout the year, unlike fruit which may only be available during certain times of the year. In addition, you will need to give some thought to whether you want to use a wine making starter kit. Many beginning winemakers do prefer these kits, at least in the beginning because they contain all of the ingredients and equipment that you need in order to make your first batch of wine. In addition, these kits will walk you step by step through the process. If you have delayed getting started making your own wine because you were intimidated by the process, these kits can help to demystify the process and guide you through the entire process with very little problems. For your first batch of wine you will need a few basic ingredients. These ingredients are necessary whether you are making wine from fruit or concentrate. Yeast nutrient is not yeast per se; instead it is a type of energy that is used to make sure the yeast starts the fermentation process. Pectic enzyme may be added to assist in the breakdown of the fruit during the fermentation process. Acid blend is used in controlling the amount of sharpness that is present in the wine. You may find in some cases that your wine seems somewhat flat. Acid blend can help to correct this problem. Wine tannin is the zest of fruit and is available in powder form. You may wish to add it to your wine in order to improve the wine's character. Wine yeast is what actually starts the fermentation process by converting the sugar into alcohol. Campden tablets are typically added right before the fermentation and also before bottling. These tablets are used to make sure that the wine does not become spoiled. Guide to the Basics of Winemaking 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. The Different Types of Wine One of the most common questions you may have when you begin considering making homemade wine is what type of wine you should make. There are certainly plenty of different types of wines from which to choose. Understanding the different types of wines can help you to narrow down the choices and select the type that would be best for your first, or your next, batch of wine. First, it is important to understand that while wine is generally made from grapes, you can actually use practically any type of vegetable matter to make wine. When grapes are used to make wine, they fall into three categories. They are red, white and rose; a pinkish white wine. Red wines are not only different in color from white wines and rose wines but they also have flavors that are stronger and richer. The exact color of a red wine can vary from russet brown to full red to a dark purple color. It is the skin of the grapes that give red wines their color. White wines typically have a more delicate flavor. The actual color of white wines can vary from the palest yellow to a deep gold. Some white wines can even have a pale green color. Rose wines, also known as blush wines, are made with the same grapes as are used in red wines; however, they are submitted to a much shorter period of contact with the skin of the grapes. This results in a delicate blush color. There are several different types of well known white wines. Chardonnay is one of the most popular types of white wines along with Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most popular types of red wines. Other popular reds include Grenache, merlot, pinot noir and Zinfandel. It is also important to understand the sugar content of wine. Wines with less amounts of sugar are drier. You have probably noted that wines are classified in the store with numbers 1-3. Higher numbered wines have more sugar and are therefore sweeter. You should also understand the difference between various types of wines and how they are typically served. Apefitif wines are commonly served prior to a meal. They are commonly produced in either herbed or non-herbed varieties. The purpose of this type of wine is to stimulate the appetite; however, they are not frequently served with meals. Table wine is commonly served with dinner at the table. This type of wine is commonly dry and for a very specific purpose. It is meant to compliment the food instead of compete with it. Typically, a white wine is served with white meat while red wine is served with red meat. The reasoning behind this is that white wine flavors tend to subtle in a similar fashion to the flavors of white meats. Red meats are stronger flavored and do well with red wines, which are also stronger flavored. With a rose, there is more flexibility. If the wine in question is somewhat dry, it will go with either red or white meat. Dessert wines, of course, are served at dessert because they tend to be quite sweet. When dessert wines are served at other times, the sweetness of the wine can seem to be overwhelming. After-dinner wines are also sweet; however, they tend to be served as one would guess; after dinner. While after-dinner wines may be spirits they could also be wines that are fermented. Brandy, sherry, port and liqueurs all fall into this category. Guide to Making your Own Wine Recipe After you have had an opportunity to experiment with making your own wine you may naturally decide that it is time to begin creating your own wine recipes. This is quite common. There are a number of advantages to creating your own recipes. For example, you can avoid the hassle of having to look around for a recipe every time you want to make a batch of wine with the fruit that you have available. In addition, you gain the ability to experiment and possible produce a really original, great batch of wine. Like any recipe; however, wine recipes must have a specific format and certain ingredients in order to be successful. Let us examine it from the point of view of baking a cake. There are certainly hundreds, if not thousands, of different cake recipes. Line them all up and they are decidedly different. In order for a cake to be a cake; however, the recipe must have several basic ingredients. For example, you are usually going to need some type of flour, sweetener and something to help the cake rise. This is a basic formula that forms the basis of cake recipes. While you may not think of it, it is really a matter of science. A wine recipe is no different. There are certain ingredients that must be included in any wine recipe in order for the end result to work. These ingredients are: produce, sugars, water, nutrients, acid and yeast. First, you will need to start with something to make the wine. Most wines are made from grapes but you can use practically any fruit or vegetable matter; even herbs if you wish. You can also use concentrated juices as well. In addition, you will need sugars in order to start and support fermentation. If you do not add sugar to your wine recipe, fermentation will not take place and without that, your wine will not have any alcohol. In most cases, the fruit that you select for your wine will produce the necessary amount of sugar but that is not the case with all produce. For example, if you are making dandelion wine then you will need to provide sugar because the produce will not be able to produce any of its own. You may also find that you need to occasionally add some sugar to support the sugar that is provided. Water is essential in order to dilute flavors that may be too strong. Common examples of wines which may need to be diluted with water include blackberries, elderberries and gooseberries. Nutrients are also essential. Keep in mind when creating your wine recipe that the yeast which you will add to your wine is a living organism. As a result, it needs nutrients to thrive and support a healthy fermentation process. Usually, you will need to add some nutrients to your wine. Common examples of nutrients include Yeast Energizer and Yeast Nutrient. Do not overlook the importance of acid in your wine. While you certainly do not want to have too much acid in your wine, it does play an important role in the fermentation process. If the acid level in your wine is too low then the fermentation will not be as successful as it should be. Acid also assists in the stability of your wine. Also, without sufficient acid, your wine may very well develop bacteria and molds that could ruin your wine. Tannic acid and Acid Blend can be used to help add necessary acid to any wine recipe. Of course, no wine recipe can be complete without yeast. Yeast is what basically does all of the work of converting the produce you have chosen into wine. Without yeast, there can be no wine. You will need to make sure that you have yeast that is specifically designed for winemaking. Do not make the mistake of thinking that you can use the yeast you have in the kitchen for bread making. Even yeast designed for brewing beer will not work for making wine. An Introduction to Making Sparkling Wines While many people who make their own wine prefer to make wine that is suitable for everyday drinking with meals, there may be times when we you wish to make something more special that would be suitable for special occasions and parties. The obvious choice is sparkling wines. If you have considered making sparkling wines but have been intimidated by the thought because it seemed too complicated, rest assured that it is not nearly as complicated as it might at first seem. The term sparkling wine refers to wine that has been carbonated. Many people think of sparkling wine as champagne; however, the word champagne is used to refer to sparkling wine that is produced in the Champagne region of France. In Spain, this version of sparkling wine is known as Cava and in Italy it is known as Prosecco. Regardless of the different names that are used to refer to sparkling wine, the same age-old process can be used to make sparkling wine at home. The basic process calls for beginning with white wine and adding sugar and yeast to the mixture. The wine is then corked so that carbon dioxide will begin to build up. Since the bottle is corked, the bubbles will then become forced back down into the wine. The process really is quite simple and there is no reason why you cannot begin producing your own version of sparkling wine at home with a few bottles, some sugar, a lemon and some yeast along with your own white wine. Remember that your bottles will need to be sanitized first. While the bacteria that may grow in bottles that have not been sanitized will not necessarily hurt you, it will definitely affect the taste of your wine and could ruin the entire batch. The first step in the process is to make your white wine somewhat more acidic. The acidity of the wine will give it a texture that is more flavorful and overall crisper. To do this, add the juice of one lemon per twenty-five ounces of white wine. The next step is to add in the yeast and the sugar. Both of these items are necessary in order for the carbonation to occur. You must make sure that your measurements are exact; however, when you add the sugar into the wine. If you use too much sugar the result will be too much carbonation. This can actually cause the bottles to explode so you want to make sure you use only one teaspoon of sugar per twenty-five ounces of wine. After you have added the sugar into the wine, you will then need to add in the yeast. You will only need to add 1/2" teaspoon yeast into the wine and sugar mixture. Make sure that you sprinkle the yeast carefully into the wine; do not just dump it into the wine. Now, using a large spoon, stir the mixture to be sure the sugar and yeast become well combined. You may even note that the carbonation process has already begun to occur. Now, it is time to bottle the mixture. To achieve successful results, the mixture must be properly bottled. The biggest mistake in making sparkling wines is to pour the mixture into a bottle and stick in a cork. Many home brewers prefer to use what is known as swing cap bottles that contain a metal rod attached to the cork. Once the cork has been inserted into the bottle, the rod can be locked into place. This works to pressurize the contents inside the bottle. You can purchase these types of bottles at most home brew stores as well as online. When you pour the wine, be sure to leave about two inches of space in the neck of the bottle. This will allow plenty of room for the pressure to build as the carbonation process occurs. If you do not leave enough space, the pressure will have nowhere to go and you could end up with exploding bottles. Once the bottles have been filled, they should be placed in a location that is cool and dry. Generally, they should remain there for between one and two weeks. When you are ready to drink the wine, do make sure that you chill it first. The Importance of Cleanliness and Patience in Winemaking Winemaking can be an extremely satisfying activity and hobby with a wonderful end result that also makes for wonderful gifts. If you have already experimented with brewing ales and beers you may already be familiar with many of the steps associated with the process of making wine. Winemaking is generally the next step for many home brewers. If you have already done some brewing at home, you probably already own much of the equipment that is required and are familiar with the patience and cleanliness that are required in the process. If this is a completely new process to you; however, and you have not previously done any home brewing then it is important to make sure you understand the role of both patience and cleanliness in the process of successful winemaking. Cleanliness is one of the most important steps of making wine. If your work area and equipment are not clean you will find that you encounter innumerable problems in the process and the end result will not be successful. One of the keys to producing good wine is to make sure that your equipment as well as your work area is kept very clean and sterile. Before you begin any new batch of wine you will want to make sure that your equipment has been cleaned and sanitized thoroughly. The most common cause of homemade wine becoming contaminated is equipment that has been poorly cleaned. In fact, it has been estimated that as much as 90% of failures in winemaking can be attributed to poor sanitation. To avoid this problem, make sure that you sanitize all of your equipment that will touch either the juice or the wine. This can be easily done by rinsing all equipment using a solution of MetaBisulfate. Potassium MetaBisulfate is an active ingredient that is used in Campden tablets; a compound that is frequently used for sanitizing brewing equipment. Place 3 tablespoons of the compound into a 1-liter container of hot water. If the container is kept tightly sealed and stored at room temperature, the cleaning solution should last up to six months. Using the solution, make sure all equipment is rinsed thoroughly. Next, rinse all equipment with cold water. Make sure you take the time to clean all equipment before you store it as well as before you take it out of storage before each use. This will help you to avoid any contamination problems and assure that your equipment lasts as long as possible. In addition, patience is quite important as well. One of the most common mistakes of many new winemakers is a lack of patience. They want to rush through the steps and as a result discover that their wine is not all that it could be. Remember that just because wine is ready to bottle that does not necessarily mean that it is ready to drink. While it is common to be anxious to drink your homemade wine, waiting is well worth the effort. At a minimum, it is usually about a month from the time your wine is bottled before it will be ready to sample. Generally; however, you should wait at least six months before your wines will have developed sufficient character and be ready for drinking. For heavy reds, be prepared to wait at least a year for the wine to improve. While waiting may be difficult, you can be assured that it will be rewarded with a bouquet that is absolutely delicious. Your Choices: Decisions to Make when Making Wine 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. A Look at the Steps of Making Wine If you are a true wine connoisseur, the next step in appreciating a fine wine may be to make your own wine at home. While the process may seem to be complicated, wine can be made rather easily at home. Before beginning the process of making your own wine at home it is important to understand the basic steps of winemaking. In order to make wine at home you will need either grape concentrate or grapes. If you have a sufficient growing area, you may choose to grow your own grapes and make wine from that. If you choose to use grape concentrate, keep in mind that you will need to use high quality grape concentrate. This can be purchased online as well as in wine and home brewing stores. In addition, you will need yeast and brewing equipment. If this is your first batch of wine you may wish to consider purchasing a wine kit rather than buying all of your equipment separately. After you have had a chance to experiment with making wine at home and decided whether it is an endeavor you wish to continue you might then begin accumulating various pieces of equipment for brewing larger batches of wine. There are five to eight basic steps involved in the process of making wine, depending on whether you are using grapes or concentrate. If you are using grapes then the fruit will obviously need to be harvested first. After the grapes have been harvested, you will then need to remove the stems from the grapes. This is an absolutely essential step as very bitter tannins are contained in the stems that can have a heavy influence on the wine. After the stems have been removed, the skins of the grapes will then need to be broken in order to release the juice from the fruit. There are certainly many different ways in which to do this. Crushing is the preferred method for most winemakers. The degree to which the fruit is crushed will have an impact on the resulting wine. If your goal is to create a wine that has a fruity aroma then you may wish to leave the berries almost completely intact. The next step is known as the primary fermentation. During this step the yeast cells contained in the wine will feed on the sugars. Alcohol and carbon dioxide is produced as a result. In some cases, you may wish to add additional yeast. This helps to ensure a stable and consistent conversion which may not be the case if you rely solely on the yeast that is found on the fruit itself. After the primary fermentation, more juice will need to be extracted from the fruit. It should be noted that the juice that is extracted in this step is typically not as high of a quality as the juice that is extracted during the crushing phase. This is because the juice that is obtained during crushing, known as free run juice, has had less contact with the stems and skins. This does not mean that press juice is useless; however. Even large wineries may choose to use press juice in order to increase their yield. A secondary fermentation occurs after the pressing, at the same time as the wine is aging. As the winemaker, it will be up to you to determine how long the wine should ferment. Blending is an optional part of the process; however, one which can assist you in creating a highly customized wine. Blending is most commonly used in order to improve two or more batches which may be slightly lacking. The last step of the process is bottling. The wine is poured into bottles and at times you may wish to add sulfites in order to help end fermentation as well as to preserve the wine. Finally, the bottle of wine is sealed with a cork. Making wine at home can be a very enjoyable experience. As you learn more about the process of making wine, you will likely gain a more thorough appreciation of wine. Troubleshooting Fermentation Problems As we all know, fermentation is one of the critical stages of winemaking. Without fermentation, it is impossible to create wine. In some cases; however, you may find that you have problems with the fermentation process. Usually, these problems will take the form of either fermentation that just does not occur at all or else is too slow. One of the reasons that this may occur is that the temperature was either too cold or too hot. Remember that yeast cells are live and in order to become activated they require a temperature that is between 70 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Ideally, you should aim for around 72 degrees; however, if you drop below 70 or go above 75 degrees, you will have problems. When the temperature is too cool, the fermentation will likely not occur at all. When the temperature is too warm; however, the yeast can become damaged and will also perform poorly. This is why it is critical to ensure that you have a stable temperature in the room where you ferment your wine. If the temperature in the room fluctuates, you will generally have problems. Basements tend to make the best places for fermentation; provided the area does not become too cool during the winter. In that case, you can provide a small heat source. Making sure that your fermentation containers are not placed directly on the floor may also help. You can also use a thermometer to monitor the fermentation. A floating thermometer can be placed right in the wine and you can lift it out when you want to check the temperature. Improperly starting the yeast can also result in problems with fermentation. This is also commonly due to problems with temperatures. Most yeast packets require the yeast to be rehydrated, or moistened, with some warm water prior to use. Ideally, this should not cause any problems. That is, unless the water temperature was too warm. Most yeast packets call for the temperature to be somewhere between 95 and 105 degrees. If the water exceeds these temperature limits even just a small bit, the yeast is likely to be destroyed. As a result, it is unable to support the fermentation process. As a result, it is important to make sure that you actually verify the temperature of the water before you add the yeast. In addition, it is important to make sure that you do not leave the yeast in the water for too long. Generally, you will need to leave the yeast in the water for about fifteen minutes. If you walk off and forget about the yeast and leave it in the water for even a few minutes longer, you will also run the risk of destroying the yeast cells. Therefore, it is important to keep an eye on the clock and make sure that the yeast does not remain in the water for any longer than 15 minutes at the most. Adding too much sugar can also cause problems in the fermentation process. Remember that while it is necessary for yeast to have sugar in order to produce alcohol, you can add in too much sugar. When the sugar level is too high, it may begin to have a detrimental effect on the ability of the yeast to produce alcohol. This is why it is critical to verify the amount of sugar that is already present in a batch from the fruit itself before you add in any additional fruit. Remember that the fruit itself will have its own amount of sugar. This level can vary from one fruit to another, making it even more important to verify the sugar content level. A hydrometer can be used for this purpose. If you have not previously used a hydrometer it is a good idea to invest in one and become acquainted with it. A quality hydrometer can help you to avoid many of the problems that might otherwise ruin a good batch of wine. Tips for Making Wine with Grapes As you contemplate the prospect of making your next batch of wine you will need to decide whether you want to use fruit, such as grapes, or packaged fruit juices. Packaged juices are known as concentrates and can be easily purchased online as well as in home brewing stores. There are many advantages to using concentrates, including the fact that they come with easy to follow directions and usually all of the extra ingredients you may need. Many novice winemakers feel that concentrates are a great introduction to the process of winemaking. There are also advantages to using fruit rather than concentrates; however. The main advantage to using fruit is that you have more control over the process, and thus the results, when you use fruits. For the most part, the process of making wine from fruit is similar to making it using concentrates. There are a few differences; however, and those differences are critical. Before you begin, you will need to make sure that you have plenty of fruit. It is not uncommon for many novice winemakers to think they have a sufficient amount of fruit when in fact they do not. You will need at least 70 pounds of grapes in order to produce six gallons of wine. This is the equivalent of about two bushels. The one exception to this is if you are using wild grapes such as Muscadine. In that case you will only need about 25 pounds of grapes due to the fact that wild grapes tend to have a stronger flavor as well as more acid. Since you will be dealing with a large amount of grapes, you will need to make sure that you have sufficient facilities to deal with them properly. Before you are able to use them to make wine, you will need to remove the stems as well as crush the grapes. Later, the grapes will then need to be pressed after they have had a few days to ferment. You can easily remove the stems as well as crush the grapes by hand. For small batches of grapes, you can use something as simple as a potato masher to crush the grapes; just make sure it has been cleaned and sanitized first. If you are dealing with larger amounts of grapes it may be worth it to go ahead and invest in a grape crusher as this will speed the process along. As previously mentioned, after the grapes have fermented for a few days, you will need to press the pulp in order to extract as much juice as possible. In the event you are making white whine, the grapes will need to be pressed directly after they have been crushed but before the first fermentation. When working with fruit rather than concentrate you will also need to have a hydrometer on hand in order to assist you in controlling the sugar level. As you may recall, this essential in determining the alcohol level in the final wine so it is a step that must not be overlooked. An acid test kit may also be helpful in controlling and monitoring the levels of acid that are present in your wine when you are using fruit rather than concentrate. When the acid level in the wine is too high, the resulting wine will typically have a taste that is too sour or sharp. If there is not enough acid; however, the wine may taste somewhat flat. An acid test kit will provide you with accurate readings and help you to determine whether you need to add water or acid blend for balance. Tips for Making Wine with Fruits other than Grapes Most people commonly associate wines with grapes; however, it is entirely possible to make wines from fruits other than grapes. The production of wine using fruits other than grapes has become quite commonplace as the hobby of home winemaking has become more pronounced in just the last few years. The process of making wines from various types of fruit is no more complicated than making wine from grapes. The only difference between making wine using grapes and other fruits is the fact that you may need to make some adjustments when using other fruits including sugar content and acid levels. This will mean a couple of extra steps that may not usually be necessary when making grape wine; however, winemakers who have made the decision to use different fruits report that the extra effort is well worth it as you can often produce a stellar wine. Any number of different fruits may be used for making wine including peaches, watermelons, plums, strawberries, blackberries, boysenberries, gooseberries, pears, grapefruits, persimmons, pineapples and much more. The first step in making wine using other types of fruit is the same as making wine using grapes. You will need to evaluate the fruit. Keep in mind that the resulting wine cannot be any better than the fruit that was used to produce it. This means that you will need to pay careful attention to the quality of the fruit that you use to make your wine. Avoid fruit that contain excessive bruises and molds. Try to use only fruit that is completely ripe. Fruit that is not fully ripe tend to produce wine that is somewhat lacking in character. Make sure that you rinse off the fruit before the crushing. In some cases, you may need to dilute the fruit with water in order to get a good wine. This is because certain types of fruit are too strong on their own without dilution. Other fruits have a level of acid that is too high without dilution and will result in a wine that is sharp tasting. Blueberry and gooseberries are both examples of fruit that require some dilution because of their natural acid levels. Take note that this is not the case with all fruits. Apples, for example, do not require any dilution. You may use pure apple juice with no worries. The exact amount of fruit that you use to make your wine is dependent on a few factors. Really, there is not a single right formula when it comes to fruit amounts. If you want a dessert wine then you may wish to use more fruit in order to create a heavier, sweeter wine. On the other hand, if you want a wine that is lighter and crisper then you may wish to use less fruit. In order to monitor and adjust the sugar levels as necessary when using fruits for your winemaking, it is necessary to use a hydrometer. The hydrometer will help you to easily determine the amount of sugar that is present in the juice and how much alcohol will be produce from the level of sugar that is present. This will aide you in understanding whether more sugar needs to be added to produce a higher alcohol content. A hydrometer is a tube of glass with a floating weight on one end. You will be able to gauge the sugar level by looking at how low or high the hydrometer floats once placed in the juice. Generally, there will be a meter on the hydrometer that indicates the alcohol potential. You will also need to test and adjust the acidity as necessary when using fruits. This is imperative because acid levels can vary greatly among different types of fruits. There are two ways in which acid can be checked. One way is to use pH testing strips or litmus papers. This is generally a very fast and cheap way to check acid levels; however, it is not the most accurate way to check acid levels. The most accurate way to check acid levels is to use a process known as titration. A titration kit can be used to measure the acid level and how it will actually taste. If it is necessary to adjust the level of acid, you can do so using three different fruit acids. They are malic, citric and tartaric and they can be purchased either separately or in a blend known as Acid Blend. You can find these items in a home brewing store. Guide to Blending Blending has become a highly respected part of the process of winemaking. Many winemakers in fact view blending as a highly evolved art form. The basic idea of blending is to mix different wines in order to create a final wine that possesses a quality that is superior to that of each of the different components singularly. The most common type of blending involves blending at least two different grape varieties of wine. Blending has become some a popular concept that many winemakers specifically plant their vineyards for the purpose of blending by growing a variety of different grapes in order to create a blended field. Another way of achieving blending is to combine at least two different varieties of grapes that have been harvested separately but then ferment them together. This process commonly involves at least one red grape and one white grape. Still yet, you might choose to create a blend which contains the same grape; however, different fermentation containers are used. Because the containers are different they will produce a taste that is somewhat different even though the grapes are essentially the same. You might even choose to go so far as to create a blend containing wine from a batch that has been barrel fermented and another that has been fermented in a stainless steel container. Another way to blend wines is to blend wines that are from different vintages. If you have been making your own wine for some time, there is a good chance that you probably have a few bottles of wine in your cellar that were produced in different years. It should be pointed out that there are some wines that do not lend themselves particularly well to blending. Chardonnays are known to not be particularly improved by blending. Red Zinfandel and Pinot Noir also rarely see many improvements from blending. There are also some wines which are too delicate for blending such as Gewürztraminer. When properly handled, blending can help to balance the flavors as well as the levels of tannins and acids. It should be pointed out that blending can help to improve the quality of wines that already at least somewhat good on their own. Blending one good wine with a bad wine; however, will not improve the bad wine enough to create a single good blended wine. Typically, rather than the bad wine being improved, the good wine will take on the lesser qualities of the bad wine. If you have a bad wine that you wish to improve, consider mixing; a process that can take away an off flavor. Generally, if you are new to blending it is best to start with just two wines. Many home based winemakers discover the benefits of blending when they taste a wine in order to see how it turned out and discover that it could be slightly better. Blending gives you the ability to select the best characteristics of multiple wines and then blend them together to achieve a far better flavor. While the process may seem complicated, even the most novice home winemakers can create a good blend at home. The basic process of blending involves testing, comparing the flavors and then finding the ratio you prefer for the final blend. Remember that it is best to blend on an incremental basis, starting with small amounts and then making minor adjustments until you find a preferred blend. As you may wish to blend in the future, it is a good idea to take notes as you go along; noting how many millimeters of each wine you have used for subsequent tests. It is also important to note that in some cases, certain blends may need some time in order for the individual components to marry and achieve a good flavor. This is commonly the case with young red wines. Tasting a blend of young reds right away can give you an inaccurate idea of what the final result will taste like. Whites; however, can usually be blended and tasted right away. Most winemakers find that blending produces better results when it occurs as soon after fermentation as possible. Blending right after fermentation will protect the final product from oxidation and also gives the wines the opportunity to age together into a single wine rather than separately.
Tips for Making Wine with Concentrates One of the decisions you will need to make before you start your next batch of wine is whether you are going to use fruit or concentrates. Concentrates are often preferred by many beginners because they provide a rather easy way to produce very good wines quite consistently. This can be important if you are concerned about starting your first batch of wine and whether or not you will get good results. You will notice when you purchase concentrates that easy to follow directions and recipes are contained right on the package. This means that even if this is your first batch, you will be able to follow the directions very easily and be assured that the final result will produce good wine. Another advantage of using concentrates is that in most cases they will also include the other ingredients that you will need for your wine. These ingredients are typically already pre-measured and ready for you to use right away. This avoids the need to go out and purchase any other items as well as worrying over weather you have the measurements rights. If you are a novice winemaker, this can be a great advantage. Due to the fact that all of the guesswork has been taken out of the equation, a lot of the mistakes that first time winemakers tend to make are eliminated. Many winemakers also prefer using concentrates because they offer far more variety that most winemakers would be able to achieve on their own if they were relying on either growing their own grapes or purchasing them. With concentrates you can purchase grape concentrates that hail from all over the world including such countries as France, Spain, Germany, Italy and Australia as well as many more. These options give you the opportunity to create an extensive variety of wines. In addition, you have the security of knowing that you can purchase concentrates and make wine at any time of the year; even during times when grapes are not normally in season. The process of getting started using concentrates to make wine is quite easy. The first step is to simply pour the concentrate into whatever container you are using for fermentation and then add the appropriate amount of water. Next, add the yeast and any other ingredients that may be included and called for in the directions that accompanied the concentrate. In most cases, you will need to add about six gallons of water to the concentrate; however, this could vary from one specific concentrate to another so always be sure to refer to the directions carefully. Next, you will need to siphon the wine from the sediment. This will usually need to occur from time to time; however, the directions will instruct you as to when this should be done. After this process is complete, the wine is ready to be bottled. From start to finish, the entire process usually takes from around 30 days to 45 days. The exact amount of time that may be required usually depends on the exact concentrate you are using. You do not need a large amount of space to make wine from concentrates; another great advantage for many home winemakers. As long as you have a small space to dedicate to your winemaking it can be quite easy to get started making your own wine using concentrates. Tips for Making Wine from Scratch As you go along with the winemaking process there may come a time when you have a batch of fruit that you think would make a great batch of wine. If you do not have a recipe available you may be tempted to begin throwing some things together and creating your own wine recipe. If you have been making some wine for some time, this is not normally a problem as long as you may sure you include important additions such as sugar and yeast. There are a few important guidelines to keep in mind; however, in order to make sure that everything turns out well. First, you will need to take into consideration how much produce must be used. If you have only made grape wine in the past you may be tempted to believe that you will be able to use the same amount of any other kind of produce that you use when making grape wine. This is not the case. The main reason why you may not be able to use the same amount of certain types of produce as grapes is the fact that some types of produce are stronger than others. The goal is to make sure that you achieve balance in your wine. If you are using a produce that is very strong and/or contains a high amount of acid then you will need to make sure that you balance that with some water for dilution purposes. Generally, the stronger the fruit; the less of it you will need. If you used the same amount of elderberries to make a batch of wine as you use to make grape wine, you will likely end up with a batch of wine that is practically undrinkable. In order to make up an average five gallon batch of wine; however, you will need to add enough water to constitute five full gallons. If you are using wine grapes, you typically do not need to add any water at all to make up your full five gallons. On the other hand, if you are using something like ginger root, which is a much stronger flavor, then you will need to use a good bit of water because you will typically be using less of the actual produce. You will also need to decide how much, if any, sugar you need to add to your developing recipe. With a lot of produce, you may not actually need to add any sugar because the produce may have enough of its own to support the fermentation process. If you are not sure whether the produce you are using needs to have any sugar added, use a hydrometer to test the juice. This is a very simple and easy to use device that contains a scale referred to as the Potential Alcohol. This scale measures the potential amount of alcohol that can be produced from the juice in terms of percentages from zero to twenty. This will give you a good idea of how much alcohol can be produced from the sugar level that is already present in the must. For example, if you get a reading of 4 on the hydrometer then you know you have enough sugar to produce 4% alcohol content in your wine. This is not enough alcohol for most people; so you would need to add some sugar. If you wanted to increase that level to around 12% then you will need to begin adding sugar gradually and testing at intervals until you test it and the hydrometer attains a reading of 12. In most cases, one pound of sugar will raise the alcohol level by approximately 1%. Do keep in mind that it is usually not a good idea to try to produce a wine that with an alcohol content of more than 13%; however, because higher alcohol contents could interfere with the stability and balance of the wine. Timing your Racking Racking is one of the most essential parts to making stellar wine. Generally, you will need to rack the wine at least two times and in some cases you may need to rack it as many as four times. Making sure that you rack in a timely fashion will ensure the wine is properly clarified as well as prevent off flavors. If you are not familiar with racking, it is important to understand that racking does not refer to bottling the wine. This is a misinterpretation. Basically, racking involves siphoning the wine from one container to another. The purpose behind this is making sure that all of the sediment is left behind. The first racking typically occurs about five days into the fermentation process. In some cases, you may wait one to two days; however, the first racking should always occur by day 7. This is because by this time you will need to place an air lock on the container in order to protect the wine must due to the fact that the fermentation has slowed down. Outside contaminant could easily influence the wine, so you will need to provide necessary protection using an air lock. You will also usually find that at this point in the fermentation process at least 70% of the sediment will have already begun to appear. If you rack between days five and seven, this will be a good opportunity to get rid of most of the sediment. It will be some time before the remainder of the sediment appears. Racking at this point is also important because it presents you with a chance to remove pulp from the must. This is imperative if you used fresh fruit instead of concentrate. If you leave pulp in the must for any longer, you may find that your wine has a harsh taste. The second racking should take place when the fermentation process has been completed. The amount of time necessary for this to occur may vary. In some cases it may take only a few days following the first racking while in other cases it could be several weeks following the first racking. The amount of time depends on how quickly the fermentation progresses. After you have completed the second racking, do take care to re-apply the air lock as the must will still need some time in order to clear. The third racking should take place after the wine has become completely clear. This will give you the chance to get rid of any remaining sediment. Under specific circumstances, you may find that it is necessary to perform subsequent rackings. For example, when you are aging a heavy red wine in bulk, you may find it necessary to rack the wine approximately every three months or so. This is because some sediment may still occur over the course of the wine being stored in bulk for a long period of time. In the event you decide to use clarifiers or finings you may also need to perform subsequent rackings. In this case, you would need to rack the wine once before the wine is treated and then once again after treatment. It should be noted that it is entirely possible to rack your wine too many times. This should be avoided as it can cause the wine to become over-oxidized. A Look at the Steps of Making Wine If you are a true wine connoisseur, the next step in appreciating a fine wine may be to make your own wine at home. While the process may seem to be complicated, wine can be made rather easily at home. Before beginning the process of making your own wine at home it is important to understand the basic steps of winemaking. In order to make wine at home you will need either grape concentrate or grapes. If you have a sufficient growing area, you may choose to grow your own grapes and make wine from that. If you choose to use grape concentrate, keep in mind that you will need to use high quality grape concentrate. This can be purchased online as well as in wine and home brewing stores. In addition, you will need yeast and brewing equipment. If this is your first batch of wine you may wish to consider purchasing a wine kit rather than buying all of your equipment separately. After you have had a chance to experiment with making wine at home and decided whether it is an endeavor you wish to continue you might then begin accumulating various pieces of equipment for brewing larger batches of wine. There are five to eight basic steps involved in the process of making wine, depending on whether you are using grapes or concentrate. If you are using grapes then the fruit will obviously need to be harvested first. After the grapes have been harvested, you will then need to remove the stems from the grapes. This is an absolutely essential step as very bitter tannins are contained in the stems that can have a heavy influence on the wine. After the stems have been removed, the skins of the grapes will then need to be broken in order to release the juice from the fruit. There are certainly many different ways in which to do this. Crushing is the preferred method for most winemakers. The degree to which the fruit is crushed will have an impact on the resulting wine. If your goal is to create a wine that has a fruity aroma then you may wish to leave the berries almost completely intact. The next step is known as the primary fermentation. During this step the yeast cells contained in the wine will feed on the sugars. Alcohol and carbon dioxide is produced as a result. In some cases, you may wish to add additional yeast. This helps to ensure a stable and consistent conversion which may not be the case if you rely solely on the yeast that is found on the fruit itself. After the primary fermentation, more juice will need to be extracted from the fruit. It should be noted that the juice that is extracted in this step is typically not as high of a quality as the juice that is extracted during the crushing phase. This is because the juice that is obtained during crushing, known as free run juice, has had less contact with the stems and skins. This does not mean that press juice is useless; however. Even large wineries may choose to use press juice in order to increase their yield. A secondary fermentation occurs after the pressing, at the same time as the wine is aging. As the winemaker, it will be up to you to determine how long the wine should ferment. Blending is an optional part of the process; however, one which can assist you in creating a highly customized wine. Blending is most commonly used in order to improve two or more batches which may be slightly lacking. The last step of the process is bottling. The wine is poured into bottles and at times you may wish to add sulfites in order to help end fermentation as well as to preserve the wine. Finally, the bottle of wine is sealed with a cork. Making wine at home can be a very enjoyable experience. As you learn more about the process of making wine, you will likely gain a more thorough appreciation of wine. The Importance of Racking The process of racking involves siphoning the wine away from the sediment. Sediment is primarily comprised of inactive or dead yeast cells. While yeast is beneficial to the must in the beginning, over time it becomes multiplied many times over. As each new generation of yeast is produced, older generations die off. Most of what you will see at the bottom of your fermentation container is dead yeast cells. As the fermentation nears the end of the cycle, there should be a significant amount of active yeast cells which are beginning to wind down because they are running out of fuel; or sugar. After the sugars have become consumed the active yeast will begin to starve and feed on itself. An enzyme will be produced that will break down the inactive yeast cells. The purpose of this is to release the nutrients in the dead yeast cells that can be used by the yeast cells that are still active. This process is called autolysis. Over a period of time, an otherwise perfectly good batch of wine may be ruined as a result of this process. Racking is also important because it can assist in the clarification of the wine. If wine is not racked, the end result will be wine that may be clear on top; however, the bottom will be somewhat thick and hazy. The racking process is not terribly difficult. In fact, it is quite simple. A siphon is necessary for racking. The key; however, is to make sure that you siphon off the wine without stirring up any of the sediment. It should be noted that while food grade hosing can be used many winemakers do prefer to use what is known as a racking tube in order to rack their wine. This is because, if you are not careful; using a hose to rack the wine can cause the sediment to become stirred up and it may also move around. A racking tube fits on the end of the hose and serves as a type of wand that gives you control over where in the container you draw the wine. In the old days, wine was racked by manually sucking on the end of the hose; however, today there have been numerous advancements made in winemaking equipment. One of those advancements is an automatic siphon that works with a pump in order to start the siphoning action. Keep in mind that during the first two to three rackings, it is not essential to remove all of the sediment. You should try to siphon as much of the wine liquid as possible; however, even if you do bring up a small amount of the sediment this will be fine. It is during the final racking that it becomes imperative that you make sure that all of the sediment is left behind with none following through into the wine. After the fermentation process has been completed, it you still need to rack the wine (such as when storing wine long-term in bulk) it may be necessary to add Campden Tablets to the wine. The purpose of this is to ensure that any air that may have entered the wine during the racking process is driven out. Campden Tablets will also help to minimize oxidation. Keep in mind that this is not a problem when racking wine while the fermentation process is ongoing as the CO2 that is produced during fermentation will naturally eliminate any air that may have been introduced. Guide to Oaking your Wine Certain wines can certainly benefit from the addition of oak chips. Just a few of these wines include Chardonays, Cabernets, Pinot Noir, Chianti, Merlots, Sauvignon Blanc, Burgundy, Pinot Blanc and Fume Blanc. Oaking provides a way to develop a wine that is quite complex. The depth of the complexity is greatly determined by the type of oak that is used as well as the wine itself. Oak can provide a wide variety of flavors to wine including coconut, vanilla and even spices such as cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. In some cases, oak can even add a somewhat earthy tone. The type of flavor that is added to your wine is largely determined by the type of oak that is used. For example, American oak when used with white wines such as Merlot tends to add an aroma that is decidedly vanilla in nature. Generally, most of the oak that is used for flavoring in wine is either American or French. Hungarian and Yugoslavian oaks are also now being increasingly used as well; however. In the past, wine was oaked by placing it into an oak barrel. The wine would then stay in the barrel until it reached the aroma and taste that was desired. There were few ways in which to control the process other than by choosing the type of oak as well as the size and age of the barrel. A vintner could also decide whether they wanted to use a toasted or charred barrel or not. This process typically took quite a long time. Older barrels tended to take even longer. Today, the method of oaking wine has shifted from using just oak barrels to use oak pieces. This has made it much easier and more affordable for home vintners to oak their wines. Today, winemakers can choose to use oak chips as well as oak beans and oak powder for the purpose of oaking their wines without the concern and expense of having to use large barrels. You will need to give some thought to which method you think will best suit your purpose; however. There are advantages as well as disadvantages to each. For example, oak chips are commonly preferred because they are easily available and can be obtained in a variety of different types. The problem with oak chips is that once you have put them into your carboy, you have to find a way to get them out. Oak powder works quite well during the fermentation process and you do not need a lot of oak powder to achieve the results that you want. The flip side to this is that if you are not careful, you can easily over oak your wine. In addition, it can be difficult to rack your wine using oak powder. When oaking your wine you will need to decide when you wish to add the oak. Generally, the oak is added either during fermentation or after the wine has been racked and you are ready for bulk aging of your wine. Oak powder really does work best if you decide you want to oak during the fermentation process. Over time the oak powder will absorb wine and eventually it will just sink to the bottom of the container. For a small batch of wine, you should not use any more than 20 grams of oak powder per gallon. You may wish to use less than that. If you decide to oak your wine during bulk aging, oak chips tend to work best. Plan to use somewhere between two and four ounces of chips for every six gallons of wine. Ideally, it is best to make sure that you sanitize your chips before you put them into your wine. You can use Campden Tablets for this purpose. Just soak the chips in some water, add a tablet and allow them to sit for a few minutes. Finally, remember that as when trying anything new with your wine, it is best to start small with oaking. You can always add more, but it is virtually impossible to take it away once it is there. Testing and Adjusting your Wine Two of the keys to making a great batch of wine are testing and making adjustments based on those tests. There are two critical areas where you will need to perform tests and possibly make adjustments. Those are sugar and acid levels. As you are already aware, the sugar level of your wine is incredibly important as it is the sugar that the yeast feeds off of in order to produce the alcohol. The amount of sugar that you start your batch with will ultimately determine the level of alcohol that is present in the final batch. In order to run these tests you will need to have a wine making hydrometer. This is not an area where you want to try and guess at how much alcohol and sugar is present. The hydrometer gives you the ability to accurately test and measure the amount of sugar that is present in the juice and consequently the amount of alcohol that can be produced from the sugar. As a result, you will also be able to measure how much additional sugar you may need to add to the juice. You can purchase a hydrometer online as well as in any winemaking store. It looks quite simple. It is comprised of a glass tube with a weight on one end that will float. Sugar levels are tested by reading how low or high it ultimately floats. Almost all hydrometers also have a scale on them. This is the Potential Alcohol scale. You can read this scale when you first start the fermentation process to determine whether you need to add additional sugar based on the amount of alcohol that you want to be present in the final wine. If you determine that you need to adjust the sugar level in order to increase the alcohol level, you may wonder what type of sugar is the best type to use. There are many different types of options available. It is important to remember that each type of sugar will offer different characteristics. The different options include brown sugar, cane sugar, fructose, beet sugar, rice sugar, etc. Corn sugar and cane sugar are usually the cheapest and the most widely available; however, there is certainly nothing stopping you from experimenting with other sugar options if you have them available. Be sure to take notes so that you will know whether you want to use whichever type you decide upon again for future batches. You will also need to test and possibly adjust the acid level of your wine. Remember that maintaining the right acid level in your wine will provide your wine with balance and character as well as assist in the fermentation process. When testing acidity, it is important to keep in mind that it typically varies from one fruit to another. This is why it is so critical to test the acidity level and then make adjustments as necessary. The best way to test the acidity level of your juice is to use a titration kit. You can find these at any winemaking store as well as online. This kit will help you to measure how acidic the wine will actually taste. For example, if there is too much acid in the wine then it will taste bitter or sour. If; however, it does not have enough acid then it will have a flat taste. Based on those readings, you will know whether or not you need to adjust the acidity level of your wine. If you find that you do need to make adjustments you can do so using one of three different fruit acids. They are citric, tartaric and malic fruit acids. Once you are ready to bottle your wine, it is time to make any final adjustments that may be necessary. There are many ways in which you can adjust your wine in order to improve the flavor. Perhaps the easiest way to go about this is to simply experiment and find out what works well for you personally. By keeping notes, you will quickly discover what works and what you like and what should be avoided in the future. Just a few ways you can adjust the flavor of the wine when bottling it includes blending it with other fruit based wines, adding spices or oak chips, body enhances or flavor enhances. You can even fortify your wine with something such as grain alcohol. The most critical rule that should be followed when making final flavor adjustments is to make sure that you adjust in small amounts. In other words, always experiment with small amounts rather than a full batch. Should you Stop the Fermentation Process? In some cases you may find it desirable to stop the fermentation process before it comes to a stop on its own. The most common reason for wishing to stop the fermentation process is that you have found the wine already has the exact amount of sweetness that you prefer and you do not want it to progress any further. By stopping the fermentation at that point, many winemakers believe that they can preserve the amount of sweetness that the wine has already produced. If you want a really sweet wine, such as a dessert wine, this is certainly understandable. The idea behind stopping the fermentation process is that if you allowed the wine to continue fermenting it would become less sweet as time went on. When the wine became completely dry, the fermentation process would eventually stop on its own without any intervention from you. As a result, there are several different methods that home winemakers tend to use when attempting to stop the fermentation process in order to preserve the sweetness. None of these methods work very well; however. Let us examine each. One of those methods is using either Campden Tablets or Sodium Bisulfite. It should be noted that fermentation will not completely stop using these methods. You should also be aware that the chance does exist for some live yeast to be left in the wine, providing the opportunity for the fermentation process to begin again. In fact, it is not unknown for the process to begin again even after you have bottled your wine and stored it. Obviously, that would not be a good situation and would result in some really poor wine. Another common option used by some winemakers is Potassium Sorbate. Generally, Potassium Sorbate is used for the purpose of sweetening wine. When it is used for the purpose it is commonly after the fermentation process has already been completed and you are ready to bottle your wine. The Potassium Sorbate is then added with sugar. The purpose of the Potassium Sorbate in this instance is to prevent the yeast from fermenting sugar that has just been added. When added prior to the end of the fermentation cycle; however, Potassium Sorbate will not kill the yeast; it only makes it sterile. This means that it stops producing but it doesn't stop the fermentation. In other words, it does not prevent the yeast from fermenting the sugar and turning it into alcohol. If your goal is to preserve the amount of sweetness that is already in the wine, the best way to do this is to actually go ahead and let the fermentation continue on its own until it is completely finished. After the yeast has had an opportunity to settle over a couple of weeks, you will then be able to siphon the wine off and then add some Potassium Sorbate with some sugar. Keep in mind that it is really imperative to allow the fermentation process to finish before you add anything like Potassium Sorbate or more sugar. If you are not sure whether the fermentation process has finished, you can check it using a hydrometer. Remember that this is the tool that you use to check the alcohol content of the wine. If the process has completed, there should be a reading of no more than 1.000 on the hydrometer. The Most Common Problems in Winemaking Whether you are a beginning winemaker or you have been making wine for some time and have experienced some problems, it is important to understand the most common mistakes made in winemaking so you can learn how to avoid them. By far, the most common problem in most winemaking failures can be attributed to equipment that is inadequate. Many people make the mistake of using common household items for their winemaking because they seem to be familiar to the carboys, spoons and air locks that are required for the process. It is important to note; however, that specific winemaking equipment is constructed of special materials. Using products made from other materials can have an impact on your finished wine. In general, it is a mistake to attempt to reuse products that have previously held other items, especially foods. While you may believe that the container is clean, too frequently food odors will have become immersed into the plastic and as a result your wine may become tainted. In addition, it is not a good idea to use even brand new plastic pails due to the fact that the UV protectants that are used in the plastic could leak into the wine. It is far better to go ahead and invest the money necessary to purchase proper winemaking equipment so that you can be certain of the success of your wine. Failing to follow instructions is another common mistake. The process for making wine may seem to some beginning winemakers to be complicated. As a result, there usually exists a strong urge to simplify the process. This is generally a mistake. If you are an experienced cook, you probably understand the necessity to follow the directions of a recipe. Veering from the recipe usually results in disaster. The same is true in winemaking. The quality of your water can also impact the quality of your wine. Hard water or water that has a high mineral content can result in wine that has flavors that are somewhat off or even have somewhat of a haze. It is also important to know that water from a salt-exchange water softener should not be used for winemaking. To be certain of the best quality wine, it is usually best to use bottled water for your winemaking. The difference in the results will certainly be appreciable. Proper yeast handling is also essential. Have you ever made homemade bread? Yeast must be moistened at the proper temperature in order to become activated. If the temperature is too cold, the yeast will fail to activate. If it is too hot, it will kill the yeast. This is because yeast is a living organism and it must be handled properly for success. As a result it is imperative to make sure that you maintain proper temperature control during the fermentation process. Ideally, it is best to try to maintain a temperature between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Be certain the temperature remains consistent. If the temperature in your fermentation area is too cool, the formation process will take too long, which can lead to excess fizz in your wine. Another common mistake is eliminating the sulfite in the wine. The most common reason for this is sulfite allergies. It is true that some people are allergic to sulfites; however, it is important to point out that even if you eliminate the sulfite from the wine the wine will still not be completely sulfite free due to the fact that the yeast always creates additional sulfites anyway. The purpose of the sulfites is to prevent spoiling and oxidation. In less than a month the wine will begin to taste somewhat off and in less than three months it will be rendered practically undrinkable. Finally, make sure that you give your wine the proper amount of patience and time that it requires. Successful winemaking truly is an art form. In order to appreciate the results of your labor it really is best to wait the amount of time necessary for the wine to improve before you attempt to drink it. In far too many cases, beginner winemakers have believed they had a bad batch of wine when the problem was that they were trying to drink it too soon. Be patient and wait and you will appreciate the effort. Making Rose Wines The interest in Rose wine has become markedly increased. At one time this type of wine tended to be somewhat looked down upon and was frequently referred to as a 'summer' wine due to the fact that it was much lighter than a white wine or red wine. Today there are many different styles of Rose wine available on the commercial market and many home based winemakers are experimenting with the different ways to produce Rose wine. Dry Rose wines, in particular, have become increasingly popular. This type of wine may be referred to quite commonly as Rose; however, it is also referred to a blush wine. Generally, this rather pinkish wine is referred to as Rose in Europe, where it tends to be drier, while in the United States it is referred to as a blush wine. Most American blush wines tend to be far sweeter than their European counterparts. If you are looking for a way to expand the types of wine that you produce there are several reasons to consider including a good Rose as part of your wine repertoire. First, while this type of wine has certainly earned a reputation as a sweet wine that does not necessarily mean that you must produce a very sweet Rose. A slightly off dry or very dry Rose wine can still be quite pleasant and fruity. In fact, in some cases, you can produce a Rose wine that is just as good in terms of quality as a red wine, if not better, in fact. When deciding to venture into making Rose wine it is important to keep in mind that there are really three different ways in which to make Rose wine. The first method is known as "blanc de noir". This means that a white wine is produced from red grapes. Another method, referred to as saignee, separates juice from red wine. The final method is blending red wine and white wine. When skin contact is used to create Rose wine you will need to determine how long you wish to leave the skins of the grapes in contact with the juice because this will determine the color of the wine. In most cases, the time period is quite short; generally between two and three days. After this point the grapes are pressed and you can discard the skins. Keep in mind that the longer you leave the skins in contact with the juice, the deeper the color of the final wine will be. The exact type of grapes that are used with this method can also contribute to the color of the wine. For example, if you use a very deep colored grape then naturally the resulting wine is going to have a deeper pink color. The saignee method, also referred to as bleeding, is often chosen when you want to have more color and tannin in a red wine while also removing the juice. The juice must be removed very early. This process is referred to as bleeding the vats. You can then ferment the juice separately and produce a Rose wine that is really more of a by-product of your red wine. Your separate red wine will then be far more intense because the volume of the juice has been reduced. Blending is a very simple process that involves mixing red wine and red wine in order to add color to the red wine. Most wine makers have moved away from this method; however. Most people prefer to use one of the first two methods mentioned above. Primarily the only region in the world where blending is still used to produce a blush wine is Champagne, France. When you begin making your first blush or Rose wine you may find that you need to experiment some in order to find what you like best. If you have tried blush wines previously you may already have an idea of whether you prefer a dry wine or a sweet wine. Experimenting with different methods as well as different types of grapes; however, will aid you in finding out which method you prefer and which one produces the most agreeable blush wines. Guide to Temperature Storage of Wine After your wine has been bottled you will need to take careful steps to ensure that careful temperatures are maintained in order for the wine to remain stable. In most cases, it is best to store your wine in cool temperatures. For long-term storage, most bottled wines do better when stored at a temperature of about 55 degrees Fahrenheit. The reason why it is so important to store wine at cool temperatures is because cool temperatures help to reduce the effects of oxidation. Keep in mind; however, that you do not necessarily need to obsess if you absolutely cannot obtain a storage facility at exactly 55 degrees. The improvement provided for each degree in temperature you are able to reduce in the storage area is really only marginal. Of course, a dark area that has a temperature of 65 degrees is always going to better than an area with a lot of light that has an average temperature of 75 degrees. Being able to store your wine in an area at 55 degrees; however, would only be slightly better than the 65 degree storage area. The most important key is to try to avoid fluctuations in temperature in the area where you store your bottled wine, even if this means that area is slightly warmer than 55 degrees. Changes in temperature can be very difficult on bottled wine. Over time, temperature fluctuations will wear down your wine. Wine that is stored in an area with temperature fluctuations will take on a weak aroma and may begin to lose its character. The main reason that temperature changes have such an effect on bottled wine is due to the expansion and contraction that occurs. When temperatures change, anything in that area naturally expands and contracts. With bottled wine, the glass in the bottle will expand and contract; however, the wine inside the bottle will also expand and contract. They do not expand and contract at the same level; however. Wine tends to expand and contract at a far greater level than the glass in the wine bottle. The result is the buildup of pressure inside the bottle. The aroma of the wine may then seep through the cork. In addition, the expansion and contraction process can result in carbon dioxide seeping into the wine through the cork and the vacuum that is left in the process. This can result in a very bad taste in your wine. In some cases, you may not be certain whether the temperature in your storage area is stable. In that case, it is a good idea to set up a monitoring system to make sure that the temperatures are remaining stable. It is not uncommon for an area that was thought to be quite stable to have temperature fluctuations. In some cases, these fluctuations can amount to as much as 10 degrees each day. Over time, this can prove to be disastrous for your wine. Therefore, if you are not entirely certain that your storage area is consistent in terms of temperature it really is a good idea to monitor it over a period of time to make sure that the temperature is remaining consistent. Keep in mind that when monitoring your storage area, you should check the temperature at least twice a day at different times in order to get an accurate idea of whether the temperature is remaining stable on a daily basis. Introduction to Wine Grape Growing While wine can certainly be made from a variety of different vegetable matters, most wines are produced from grapes. Ironically, grapes commonly grow in areas where it is difficult if not impossible to grow other crops. Bordeaux, France is known for producing some of the best grapes, and wines, in the world; however, at first glance the unfertile, stony ground in that region would seem an unlikely growing region. In order to completely understand the process of making excellent wine, it is important to understand how grapes are grown and harvested. This is especially important if you wish to grow your own grapes for the purpose of winemaking. There are actually more than five thousand different varieties of wine grapes. There are only two broad families; however. They are Vitis Vinifera and Vitis Labrusca. Vitis Vinifera is a European type of grape and include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Riesling. Vitis Labrusca includes American grapes such as Concord, Catawba, Delaware and Niagara. The process of growing grapes is known as viticulture. Factors such as soil, color, chemicals, geology, topography and climate are all important to that process. In most cases, grapes begin to bud during the spring and then grow and develop fruit during the summer. During the growth period, it is extremely important to minimize the growth of the leaves, so as to allow more sunlight to reach the grape cluster. Attentive growers must also take care to be on the watch for indications of disease, pests and of course, drought. By early fall the grapes are reading for harvesting. The exact time at which grapes need to be harvested can depend somewhat on the local climate as well as your own personal judgment. The phase during which grapes begin to change color is known as veraison. This is an especially important phase for red or black grapes. Regardless of what color they will eventually become, all grapes begin as dark green and hard. It is only during the ripening phase in the sun that they begin to take on their true color. It is during this time that white varieties of grapes will begin to achieve their golden hue and red varieties of grapes will begin to take on their deep purple hue. The natural sugar content as well as the ripeness of grapes determine the appropriate time for harvesting. When grapes are typically ready to harvest, the leaves on the grapevines of white varieties will begin to turn yellow while the leaves of red varieties will take on a red hue. You may have wondered what accounts for the different price of wines when you purchase them in a wine store. The most expensive wines are produced from the first pressing of the grapes. This is frequently referred to as free run wine. Second and third pressings of the grape juice results in wine that referred to as press wine. Press wine is less expensive than free run wine because it is typically not of the same quality. Most press wine lacks the smoothness of free run wine. This is the great advantage of being able to grow your own grapes and then press them for your personal wine. You can have the advantage of enjoying first press wine and the smoothness that is associated with it. How to Start your Own Wine Journal Many years ago homemakers made a practice of keeping kitchen journals. A lot of information went into those journals, including successfully adapted recipes and the likes and dislikes of guests who were frequently invited to dinner. These kitchen journals made the process of running a kitchen far more efficient. If you are going to make wine at home, it is a good idea to consider keeping your own wine journal or notebook. One of the keys of producing good wine is being consistent. A wine journal will allow you to do that as well as track your progress as you develop advanced skills. In the beginning your notes may not seem like much; however, over time this information can become extremely valuable. You may think that you will be able to rely on your memory; however, this can be quite dangerous if you want to consistently develop good wines. After a few batches, there is a very good chance that you will forget exactly which details worked best and which you would like to avoid. The type of information that should be recorded in your journal includes any information that would have an impact on the final outcome. Of course, it is not necessary to list trivial information that will not really have any impact; however, you will definitely want to include information such as the brand of yeast you used and temperature recordings for your wine must. Other information that should be included in your winemaking journal includes: * How much fruit you used * The type and amount of sugar you used * Amount and type of yeast * Amount and type of nutrients It is also important to keep specific information about dates as well. You should make a note of when the yeast is put into the must as well as the dates of when rackings are performed. In addition, any time you add ingredients, you should make a note of this as well. Also, be sure to note when you bottle the wine. You may also want to include any information about how the wine looks or even how it tastes when you do a sample taste test. Hydrometer readings are also critical to the development of any batch of wine so it is a good idea to record those readings and the dates they were taken. Over time, you will be able to gain a lot of insight from the hydrometer readings that you record. Keep in mind that you should take hydrometer readings when the fermentation process is first begun as well as during any rackings. Readings should also be taken at the end of the fermentation process as well. In the event you add any fruit or sugar to the must during the fermentation process, it is also a good idea to take a hydrometer reading before the addition is made as well as after. Practically anything that you feel comfortable with can be used for your winemaking journal. If you want to keep it simple, consider using something like a spiral composition notebook. The one problem with using this method is that you may find it difficult to keep your notes consistent. To combat this problem you might want to develop your own wine log. This can be easily done using any word processing program on your computer and then printed out and placed in a 3-ring binder. When every page is identical you will have prompts to help you remember the type of information that should be recorded. This type of binder will hold up better over time as well. In addition, depending on the width of the binder, you can easily add more pages as you need without worrying about running out of space. You may also find it helpful to add other reference information that will be right at your fingertips. For example, you might wish to print off conversion charts and place those in your binders so that you can access the information quickly while working with your wine.
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