Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Basic Wine Knowledge from a Kit!

What about a wine making kit for that hard to buy for wine lover on your list ... check this one out from Amazon:

A great gift!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Basic Wine Making Information

Humans have been fermenting stuff into alcoholic beverages for thousands of years, it is not rocket science, but, of course great wine is! With a little bit of basic wine knowledge, you can learn how to make wine that you and your friends can enjoy.

Some things you need to think about.

"Good quality water” means either well water or spring water and this is what you want to make your wine with. If neither is available, you can use tap water but it will be necessary to allow the chlorine to dissipate first. Letting water stand over night and boiling for 10 to 15 minutes should do it. If you can taste or smell the chlorine in your water it will affect the flavor of the wine. Water purchased from machines in supermarkets comes from the same source as your municipal tap water. Don’t buy this thinking it will be chlorine-free.

There are a lot of special ingredients for changing the character and flavor notes of your wine. As you develop expertise as a vintner, you will learn how and when to use oak chips or add different types of acid to change the flavor notes. There are several other strains of yeast available to amateur vintners, also. Never be afraid to experiment. Always keep notes of what you do when putting together your wine. There is nothing more frustrating than producing an exquisite wine and being unable to remember exactly how you did it a year later.

Relax, wine making is a great way to spend your time!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Whooo Hooo! It's Time to Bottle

The last step in wine making is filling and corking your bottles. It is very critical how you handle the wine from this point on. The better the care, the better the wine. This is basic wine knowledge.

Make sure that your wine is finished. It should
clear, stable, and free of C02. Clear means free of particles that could later fallout of suspension and leave sediment in the bottles. Stable means finished fermenting and free of C02 means that although the fermentation may be finished, a wine can still be saturated with carbon dioxide. You will know this if there is any fizziness left. If it is, it will go into the bottles and depending on the conditions, could expand and push the corks out.

When your homemade wine is almost ready to bottle, you will need to de-gas it by stirring it repeatedly over the course of a day to release as much carbon dioxide as possible from suspension in the wine. If you are adding fining agents to the wine, now is the time. This is a simple, but VERY important element in the aging process.

WHOO HOO! The big day! You'll clean, fill and cork your bottles.

Wash and sterilize enough bottles to hold your special juice. Use your bleach solution again or run the bottles through the hot cycle on the dishwasher. Siphon the wine into the bottles, leaving about two inches of space for the cork. Soak your corks in tap water while you are filling the bottles. This will make them easier to insert and will clean them adequately. Following the instructions for your corker, cork all the bottles.

Get creative and design some colorful labels with your computer print shop program and print them out on self-adhesive labels. Be sure to put the bottling date on each bottle and always do this for future reference.

Put the bottles away in the cool, dark place to age. Try to forget about them for at least six months. OK, I know, you can't wait! Go ahead and open a bottle after the second week. It will be wine, and it should taste pretty good. There might be a slightly raw flavor from the fresh alcohol, but this will go away over time. As the wine develops in the bottle, the flavors will marry and meld. By the time the wine is six months old, it should be getting pretty smooth and should improve for another six months. Most homemade wine will not continue to improve after a year. This is especially true of home made fruit wines. Plan on drinking it all within six to eight months of its first birthday.

So now that you know how to make wine, be brave and give it a try!


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Wine Making - It's time to Peek!

Usually, your homemade wine is ready by the end of the second week to siphon into your glass carboy. So, take a peek and see what is going on. Is the wine clear on top with a layer of sediment on the bottom? If so, then it's time for step two.

Learning how to make wine is all about the basics, so get out your bleach /water solution and make sure that the carboy, siphon hose, fermentation lock, and drilled stopper are sterilized. Rinse very well, then rinse again! Being VERY careful not to shake the contents of the wine bucket or jug, put it higher than the carboy. A counter or table top works good ... then gently remove the lid. Place the carboy on the floor. Let me just interject here, this can all be done by one person, but it is much easier with two because you are trying to keep your siphoned "wine" as free from the sediment as possible. Now slip the siphon hose just a few inches down (stay clear of the bottom sediment!).

Here comes one of my very favorite parts ... rinse your mouth with vodka, gin would be OK, also ... you will be priming the pump, so to speak, by sucking on the hose to get the siphon started and you don't want any mouth cooties contaminating your wine. You may swallow or spit ... it is up to you! I love to share "wine education"!

The wine should start flowing up out of the high jug into your siphon hose, heading for the lower point of gravity, which just happens to be the end of the hose between your lips. Remove it from your lips and insert into the carboy and let the wine flow in. Try to avoid vigorous splashing because introducing oxygen at this point could possibly ruin the flavor. Be careful, during this whole process not to suck up any of the dead yeast cells ... stop before you get to that point.

When all the wine has been transferred to the carboy, insert the stopper and fermentation lock and then place your carboy back in your cool dark place. Check the progress of your wine every now and then. You should notice that it is becoming clear, along with the fact that sediment is growing on the bottom of the carboy.

You can tell if the wine has finished fermenting, all the available sugar has been eaten, by gently tapping the jug to see if any little bubbles rise to the top. If they do, it's still fermenting. Be patient. Time is on your side!

All of this may take up to a couple of months. If it is warmer, it may take less time. Once the fermentation is complete, it will be time to move to step three .... YIPPEE!!!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Wine, the Beginning - Cleanliness is next to Godliness!

To learn wine making basics you have to use a lot of common sense. Once you decide to make a batch wine, you will need to invest in some equipment. If you haven't already collected the equipment that we talked about below, it might be a good idea to purchase your wine making supplies from a supplier. You can get these online ... see ads to the right or go to a home brew supplier. The basic kit should include a 6.8-gallon bucket with lid for primary fermentation, a 3-piece fermentation lock, a 5-gallon glass carboy for secondary fermentation, a drilled stopper to fit, some lengths of vinyl tubing for transferring to bottles, a thermometer, corks, a corker, and of course you will need wine bottles. This is all you need to get started. A hydrometer is a lot of fun because it lets you know what your alcohol content is.

Next comes one of the most important steps ... SANITIZE THOROUGHLY ..... !!!!!! In this case cleanliness is next to Godliness! Any cooties left over in your equipment can cause mold to grow and that means all your hard work is destroyed. You can use commercial wine making cleansers sold at most wine making shops, or bleach. The aim is to clean out your carboys and other equipment as thoroughly as possible. If you use bleach begin by sterilizing your primary fermentation vessel (the plastic bucket) and lock with a solution of ¼ cup chlorine bleach to 5 gallons water. Rinse completely. For the commercial cleaners just follow the instructions on the package.

Decide on the wine making area. The room should be around 70F. This is a natural process that is going on! It needs a good temperature to work with. If the temperature is too hot or cold, your wine is not going to come out properly.

Next, decide what you are going to ferment!

Fruits, vegetables, honey, even dandelions will work, but, for your first project, stick to something reliable. Berries, concentrates, grapes, peaches, cherries, or plums are all good choices of wine for the beginner.

If you're starting with the raw fruit, begin with about 12 pounds of fruit, press it, strain out the skins for peaches and other fruits, although you should leave red grape skins on if you're making a red wine. If you remove the skins on red grapes, you'll end up with White Zinfandel! You can use one kind of fruit or a combination. If you don't want to press it, you can freeze the fruit. Freezing makes it unnecessary to crush the fruit as freezing ruptures the cell membranes, allowing the juice to flow freely.

Now we go back to making sure that our bucket in sanitized and rinsed thoroughly. Add the thawed fruit. Bring four gallons of good quality water to the boil and add 8 pounds of sugar. You can use regular granulated sugar, but corn sugar will producer a nicer flavor. Boil until the sugar is dissolved then pour over the thawed fruit in the fermenter/bucket. This step pasteurizes the fruit, killing all the wild yeasts. Cover with the lid and allow to cool down to 90Âș F. When the mixture is cool, add the yeast, ½ tsp. pectic enzyme, and 1 teaspoon yeast nutrient. Press the lid down tight and insert the fermentation lock in the small hole provided. Fill the lock about half full of water, put the second piece in place and snap down the lid.

Place the bucket in a cool, dark place and wait for the magic to happen! Check back the next day and there should be evidence of fermentation, maybe some bubbles escaping from the lock. This can be exciting, watch it until you are bored, then go away and leave it alone again for two weeks. You can check back periodically but there is really nothing to do except sniff the aroma escaping in each little bubble and start polishing your wine glasses!

Use your basic wine knowledge to make homemade wine .. it's fun!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Basic Wine Knowledge - Basic Terms

Wine making is no different than any other activity ..... it has it's own terms to describe the process. Below, are just a few to get you started on your wine education and basic wine knowledge.

Aging : Letting a wine sit for months to years, to allow its flavor to properly develop. Aging is often done in oak barrels or in glass bottles.

Alcohol : When yeast eats the natural sugars in the grapes, along with oxygen from the air, it creates as an end product alcohol and carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide bubbles out of the wine before it's bottled. This process is fermentation.

Blending : Mixing together two different wines to create a blended wine which has flavors of both of the original wines. Classic Bordeaux, for example, is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.

Brix : Usually thought of as a 'sweetness scale', Brix measures the amount of sugar in the original grape juice.

Cap : The leftover grape skins and stems and such that float on top of the liquid during primary fermentation.

Capsule : Not used on many wine bottles in modern times, the capsule was a foil or lead covering for the cork, often used to keep rats or mice from chewing their way into the cork.

Carboy : Glass or plastic bottles used for home winemaking. These come in a large range of sizes, from 1 liter up through 20 liter and larger.

Chaptalize : To add sugar into a grape juice that does not naturally have enough sugar to make a decent wine.

Cold Stabilization : In essence it is chilling a wine solely to precipitate out the natural potassium bitartrate crystals, to ease wine buyers' fears that it is unnatural.

Enology : The Science of Winemaking.

Extended Maceration : Letting the red grapes sit for a while before being pressed, so that they flavor and richness develops.

Filtering : Sending a wine through a filter cloth or paper, to remove any remaining sediment or impurities.

Fining : Adding a substance to a wine - often clay or egg whites - to collect together impurities and sediments in the wine. The wine is then racked, leaving behind the 'sludge'.

Hydrometer : A measuring device that tells you the specific gravity of a wine. This helps you determine the amount of alcohol in the wine.

Malolactic Fermentation :This is a secondary fermentation done to convert the malic acid in a wine to lactic acid, giving it a smoother flavor.

Methanol : Methanol is wood alcohol, and is poisonous. It is made normally from wood, coal or natural gas. This is NOT the kind of alcohol created in winemaking.

Must : The original grapes, stems, skins, and liquid that is used to create a wine.

Oxidation : Oxidation occurs when air comes into contact with a developing wine. Usually a fault in a wine, it causes the wine's flavor to change and the liquid to brown.

Pigeage : When you make a red-grape wine, the skins of the red grapes form a 'cap' on top of the wine while it ferments. This cap must be broken up and stirred back into the wine to give it a lot of contact. This breakingup is called pigeage.

Pomace : What is left behind when the must is pressed, and the juice is all removed. Pomace is often used for a traditional Italian drink, Grappa.

Primary Fermentation : The main fermentation that turns a vat of grape juice into a wine. This is where the yeast works on the sugars in the raw juice, converting those sugars to alcohol and carbon dioxide.

Racking : When you move a wine or developing wine from one container to another, leaving behind whatever sediment has collected at the bottom of the first container.

Stuck Fermentation : This is the term for a fermentation which simply won't begin, or which begins but then loses its wind partway through the process.

Sulfite : Sulfite is normally added to a wine to kill off the wild yeasts, so that a certain yeast can be added to the wine. Also, sulfites help a wine age.

Tannins : Tannins are natural substances found in grapes, and also in tea, chocolate, and other items. They help a wine age properly, but can also give some people headaches.

Yeast : Yeast is a one-celled organism that is found naturally on grapes, that turns the sugar in grape juice into alcohol and carbon dioxide. Some winemaking regions use solely the natural yeasts that come with the grapes. Others kill those off with sulfites, and then add in a special yeast that is known to work well with their grapes.

OK, read these terms over a few times so you will know what to look for while you gather your supplies and recipes. Remember, have fun with your new hobby ... think of it as winemaking 101!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Basic Wine Making Equipment

One of the things that makes wine making so attractive is that you don't have to spend a ton of money to get started, and if you already are buying wine at the store it can actually save you money, after all , you should have plenty of bottles. But there are some basic pieces of equipment you will need before making your first batch.

Of course you will need a container, I have found that plastic works best for fermenting the juice and an air-lock will also need to be able to fit the container. This is to allow gases to escape without letting stuff back into the wine during fermentation like nasty buggies! For siphoning your wine off of the sediment a 1/2 plastic hose works well. All very simple items.

If you are making wine from fresh fruit a straining bag comes in handy. It is used for easy removal of the pulp during fermentation. You can leave the bag in the fermentation, filled with pulp, and simply pull it out at the right time.

A hydrometer will allow you to determine the alcohol level of your wine and it will help you to track the progress of your wine's fermentation. So you will also want to get one, you will find that it is an invaluable tool!

There is a lot of other cool wine making supplies, but these are really the basics to get you on the road to making your first vino! Wine making should be fun so relax and enjoy the experience!

Learn basic wine knowledge here and make your own homemade wine.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Learn Wine Making Basics - the Beginning!

Basic Wine Knowledge ... every story has a beginning and my wine experience started quite young for an American girl.

My parents always enjoyed wine. My grandmother was born and raised in Germany and wine was something everyone drank over there...young or old, it didn't matter. This custom was passed on to me. I was always allowed just a tiny glass of the grape, sometimes cut with water, sometimes Kool Aid ( I was always a bit on the adventurous side!) and so it seemed very natural when a new neighbor moved in from Austria (very exotic for Seattle) and she and her husband brought with them all the grape presses, barrels and equipment from the "old country". WOW!!!

My parents were fascinated and, of course, I was too! They taught my parents basic wine knowledge and how to use this knowledge to make good homemade wine.

Soon Polly and Andy taught us where to look for grapes and how to press them in their garage/winery! They added this and that to the mix and I stood by watching, my love affair with wine just beginning. The anticipation was always there. I would wander over after school and take a look at the barrels and listen, or try to, as Polly and Andy described in their broken English the process taking place.

Fast forward now, forty five years later, My parents and grandparents are gone and so are Polly and Andy, but the memory is still there. I love wine. I am fascinated with making wine. This blog is dedicated to learning wine making basics. Let's take this journey together and have fun along the way. We will never take ourselves too seriously and we will enjoy the ride.

Learn wine making basics? Sign me up!