Sunday, April 4, 2010

Making Wine Part 1

I've been away from the computer again this week. We spent a few days in Sydney, as both my children were taking part in the Primary Schools' State Swimming Championships at the Sydney Aquatic Centre , where the Sydney Olympics swimming events were held. Both days were early starts, which meant traversing Sydney during peak hour. It took us as long to drive the last 10 kms as it did to drive the first 150kms. I am not joking. This experience brought into clear relief the reason why Action Man and I left Sydney in the first place. AND they reckon they'll fit another 2 million people in the place by 2035! And how, pray tell, will they get anywhere to do anything?

Right, enough! Don't get me started on population policy in Australia! I can feel my blood pressure rising and I don't even live there!
I've been promising a wine making tutorial for a while, and here, today is part one. Excited? Let's get on with it then...


Getting started


In order to make wine, you will need a bit of specialised equipment, but if you've ever made beer, you probably have a lot of it already. Did you enjoy science classes at school? You'll love this!

Here is the list:


  • Food grade drums with airtight lids and airlocks (beer brewing drums are fine).
  • Hydrometer for testing sugar content
  • Plastic tubing, buckets and a large funnel for racking
  • Scales that weight down to grams
  • pH meter

Beg or borrow a grape crusher/destemmer and a wine press.
Wine making ingredients:
  • Grapes - of course. Grow your own, or keep a look out for wine grapes for sale. At this time of year in Sydney and Wollongong, you will see semi trailers pulled up on the side of the road, selling wine grapes from the Riverina or South Australia. (This year our grapes were ruined by too much rain in February, just before picking, so we found our grapes via the internet and met one of these trucks to purchase our grapes). Check the internet. Or ask your greengrocer to pick up some wine grapes next time they go to the markets. NB. you are looking for winemaking varieties - shiraz, grenache, mouvedre, cab sauv etc. not table grapes!

  • Sodium metabisulphite - to sanitise equipment and bottles, and kill of natural yeasts.
  • Tartaric acid

Winemaking yeasts and nutrients (from winemaking suppliers - again check the net).

Step 1
Check the sugar level
Before you pick or buy your grapes, check their sugar level (baume). When we bought our grapes recently, the old hand home winemakers were simply tasting the grapes. Action Man got out his hydrometer, crushing a few grapes through some muslin and testing the grape juice. To make wine you need a baume of between 12 and 14, as it is this sugar that will convert to alcohol. Anything less than 12 results in an insipid, barely drinkable wine. Above 14, it's blow your socks off territory.

If your sugar levels are a bit low, you can always cheat with a bit of white sugar, added at 8 to 10 grams per litre after crushing.

Step 2


No, this doesn't involve hitching up your skirts and having a good old stomp. Not any more anyway.
First, sprinkle a bit of sodium metabisulphite onto the grapes to kill off the natural yeasts on the grapes. Some home winemakers don't do this. They rely on natural yeasts, but the results are totally unpredictable.
The aim of crushing is simply to break the skins of the grapes, so yeasts (which you will add after crushing, having just killed off the natural ones. Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous) can do their work converting sugar to alcohol.
Beg or borrow a destemmer/crusher which will do the crushing job in a trice.
Transfer the crushed grapes, skins and all (called the must) into a food-grade plastic drum. The sodium metabisulphite will continue to do its job killing off the natural yeasts.
After about 24 hours, you now inoculate the must with winemaking yeasts and yeast nutrients according to the directions on the packet. Don't skimp, because the nuttients help prevent the formation of rotten egg gas - a smell not happily associated with wine.

Crushed grapes, the must, fermenting


Soon you will hear the snap, crackle and pop of fermention. Your job now is to regularly punch the skins back into the juice so that they don't dry out.
Test for pH, keeping the level between 3.3 and 3.4. If you need to reduce the value of the pH, add tartaric acid at one gram per litre to reduce pH by 0.1 (got that??)

Tomorrow...pressing, racking and bottling.


Sincerely, Emily said...

What a process!! Really neat to hear about it. Emily in South Texas

Zen Forest said...


Do you have a simple recipe for wild fermented wine?

I've just recently purchased supplies from the local homebrewer's shop and they mentioned I didn't *have* to buy the campden tablets, sulphur and such but that I could make an organic wine using: fruit, sugar, water, yeast.

Now, I'm just looking for the amounts of each to use ;)