Imagine coming home to a full bottle of wine every day, maybe every two weeks, without having to spend a dollar for the entire year. It sounds a little utopic, but it can be as real as you make it. Wine has become that modest alcoholic beverage you can take any time of the day or night. The sweet or dry tastes of the various types of wines calm us down and take us away from the pressure of juggling between school, work, and family. Wine is a superhero in its way. However, good wine can make us rethink our need for it. This is not because we want to stop drinking but because with quality comes a high cost.
Of value and cost
The value of wine complements the calm it brings about. When the craving for wine is deep and the pockets are shallow, then you have a problem. This is where the idea of making your wine comes in. It sounds complicated but with simple ingredients, commitment, and discipline, it is possible to make your wine in the comfort of your home.
How to go about making wine at home
It must have crossed your mind that this is a crazy idea bound to attract serious legal action. Well, surprisingly, the law is not against the brewing of alcoholic beverages at home. The only rule is that it must be conducted within the allowed limits and the beverage cannot be used for sale for obvious reasons.
Making wine at home has to be done with utmost care. Ensure that safety is observed at all times. The items to be used should always be kept clean both before and after use to avoid cases of contamination, poisoning and potentially ruining the process of winemaking. The basic equipment you will need is clean buckets, wine bottles, a large sieve, clear pipes, a clean room with enough ventilation, clean water, sulfite, and yeast.
Step 1: The Grapes
The grapes used in the winemaking process are specific and unlike table grapes, come smaller and have less pulp. The selection of the grapes is based on quality as well as quantity. The quality of the grapes is essential in determining the outcome of the wine to be made. The quantity determines how much wine you will get at the end of the process. The grapes have to be carefully selected and the good separated from the bad to make sure that only the highest pedigree varieties are cut.
Wine is more about the skin of the grapes than it is about the pulp. Ensuring that the skin of the grapes is of good quality is mandatory so that the quality of the wine is not compromised. It is best to buy the grapes in bulk-anything from 10 pounds onwards. The large quantities will aid in producing more wine in the process. Always keep in mind that you will discard some of your grapes for one reason or another, so plan for the excess.
Step 2: Mash
The tedious work finally begins. This step involves washing the grapes first then getting them off the stems and putting them in a clean bucket. Once all the grapes have been plucked out, add enough water into the bucket and mash them. In mashing the grapes, it is best to use your hands or even feet as long as you have cleaned up well. The grapes are to be mashed to a pulp to have the skin peel off completely. The mashing process is applied to give the color of the wine as well as set the stage for the coming together of flavors. After mashing up all the grapes and ensuring there are no more whole grapes left, add the sulfite to the mash and shake to mix evenly.
Sulfite is a preservative used by winemakers. Once done, let the mixture rest for a day and then add yeast. The role of the yeast is to ensure that the mash ferments and ideally, bring up the alcohol content in the wine. It is only the beginning of a rather long month’s journey. Maybe you can use it to test the endurance of your patience-just how far can you go to spend less on wine and make your own?
Step 3: Alcohol Fermentation
This step is as exciting as it sounds save for the fact that your home may end up smelling like a brewery! The stage involves ensuring that the alcohol content is enough and not excessive as that could ruin the wine and turn it into a broth of bitter vinegar. Therefore, for a period of close to two weeks, the bucket has to be shaken vigorously to ensure that the alcohol content is well spread out in the bucket. One factor to take note of is that yeast activity results in the production of both alcohol and carbon dioxide. This is the part in which a clear pipe will be required to take out the carbon gas and ensure no other gas goes into the bucket to prevent oxidation.
Opening the bucket is not a suitable solution because this will cause the entire brew to oxidize. Making an airtight outlet will be the best path toward achieving the best results. Leaving a window open will also work effectively to reduce the strong smell of alcohol. At this point, making your wine suddenly sounds like an extreme sport and yet you are about a third of the journey. However, at this stage, you cannot afford to turn back after all that investment in terms of finances and time regardless of the setbacks.
Step 4: Strain
Here, you get the opportunity to ‘filter’ your wine. It is not perfect at this stage, but you want to see how far along you are in the process. You are also looking to gauge the acidity of the drink and note how sweet or dry the product is.
At this stage, it is time to transfer the wine from the bucket and into a deflatable bottle to make it possible to drain into a vessel that can be further made airtight. The straining process also makes sure that all other impurities are left behind in the bucket. You may taste your wine, which is practically halfway ready.
One thing to note is that since the process is not complete, the drink will still be cloudy and fizzy. A taste of your efforts thus far seems like a perfect prize. The end goal is to have crystal clear wine that soothes the taste buds. Before letting the wine sit in for more days, add one egg white and shake vigorously. This will help in ensuring that all impurities settle at the bottom in preparation for the next stage.
Stage 5: Malolactic Fermentation of Wine
The high acidic pH of the wine is because of the presence of malic acid naturally found in grapes. The introduction of the egg white was to help with the introduction of lactic acid bacteria. These bacteria are responsible for turning the hard malic acid into the softer lactic acid that is more bearable. Malic acid may be compared to the sour and sharp taste we experience when we bite a green apple. At this stage, we reintroduce the sulfites as we continue to work towards creating clear and tasty wine.
This stage is equally tedious but at least not as much as mashing the grapes. It is important to ensure that the wine is fermenting properly to eliminate the sharp acidic taste. To do this effectively, you need to drain the wine from one deflatable bottle into another and add sulfite in every exchange. The draining process is akin to siphoning a liquid from one bottle into another. This should be done twice every month for three months at least or more if you wish.
Step 6: Wine Bottling
Patience is indeed a virtue. Going through the winemaking process is not an easy feat and getting to this level takes a lot. After three months or so of malolactic fermentation, the time has finally come to have our wine poured into actual wine bottles. It is important to ensure that your wine bottles are well cleaned to provide a non-contaminated environment for the wine to continue aging.
The bottling process also requires the utmost care to be applied to avoid any impurities from being bottled. The impurities from the malolactic fermentation process will settle at the base of the deflatable bottle. Ensure that the wine bottles are tightly closed using proper corks and stored in the right conditions.
You can keep your wine for as long as you need to. The longer it takes in storage, the better it becomes. However, you need to keep in mind that some wine varieties out there don’t do too well after sitting around for a couple of years. When the time is right, take out your bottle and drink up!