Wine can be made out of many materials grown on the farm from peaches to berries. Wine can even be made out of dandelions. But, for most people wine comes from the fermentation of grapes. Many people have grapes growing in their backyard for making wine and of course in this part of Texas we are lucky to have native grapes growing wild in the countryside just waiting to be picked. Before the grape varieties of Europe were brought over and planted here, there were already many native American varieties of grape vines growing an abundance of grapes. On such native American variety is the Vitis Rotundifolia, or as it is locally known as the muscadine.
A neighbor of mine had planted native muscadine or Vitis Rotundifolia in his backyard. He had them growing beautifully along a fence he made to stake and give support to the grape vines that were heavily laden with fruit. He had made muscadine wine out of these same vines in his younger days and had not plan on doing anything with the fruit this year and wanted to know if I wanted to pick some. Yes! Of course I did! I ended up picking 40 pounds of muscadine and still did not even make a dent in the amount of grapes that were still growing on the vines.
I am making my first grape wine! I am excited about this and a little apprehensive at the same time. I believe I can produce a good first time grape wine product because I know the basics of wine making. Or at least I hope I can! This recipe makes 6 gallons of wine.
36 pounds of grapes
36 pints of water
12 pounds of sugar
3 teaspoons of pectic enzyme
¼ teaspoon of potassium metabisulphite
1 package of yeast
I use a clean and sanitized primary fermenter which is basically a 7.5 gallon food grade plastic container that comes with a lid. This size of container allows me to make up to 6 gallons of wine at one time. Inside of this container I add 10 pints of water. To the water I add 12 pounds of sugar which I stir in well with my large 28 inch long food grade plastic spoon. Next, I add pectic enzyme and potassium metabisulphite. I blend these ingredients in well. I purchased these ingredients from Austin Homebrew Supply in Austin, Texas when I visit my daughter who attends college in San Marcos, Texas. But I have also had them ship me supplies as well. They are very informative and once when I ran into a wine problem I called them over the phone and they told me how to fix the problem. They are very helpful. The link below will take you right to their website.
|Smashing Grapes to Aid in Extraction of Juice|
|Water in Primary Fermenter|
|Adding Sugar to Primary Fermenter|
3 teaspoons of pectic enzyme and ¼ teaspoon of potassium metabisulphite
I washed the grapes, remove stems, leaves and any moldy or badly bruised grapes. I decided to crush the grapes to aid in the extraction of the juice, so I used a potato smasher to crush the grapes in small batches. Next, I got a nylon straining bag and placed it inside the primary fermenter where all of the other ingredients had been added. I then put the 36 pounds of grapes inside of the nylon straining bag and tied the top of the bag.
At this point I covered the primary container. It will stay in a corner in my kitchen because it will need to be in a handy place because I will have to be checking it daily for the next few days. In 24 hours I will add yeast. I will also eventually add more pints of water. At this point there just is not enough room for the other water needed. I will add it when I finally remove the straining bag of grapes.
|This is what the wine look like on day 2 before I added the yeast.|
After I add the yeast I need to spend the next few days giving it a daily stir, pressing the grape pulp lightly to aid in the juice extraction, and checking the specific gravity of the wine. To check the specific gravity I use a wine thief. A wine thief is a hollow plastic tube with a hole in each end. It is used to remove a sample of wine from the container. Once I have my wine sample I drop in the hydrometer to read the results. The hydrometer is used to measure the specific gravity in the wine. The hydrometer is basically a glass thermometer like instrument that is used to monitor the progress of the fermentation. When the hydrometer reads 1.030 I will remove the grape straining bag and move the wine to a carboy.
|The Yeast at Work|
About 5 Days Later:
When the hydrometer reads 1.030 remove the grape straining bag. To remove the grape straining bag requires a second pair of hands to do the job. My husband held the straining bag that contains the grapes over the primary fermenter. As he did this I squeezed the bag with both hands to get out all of the juice. Since the bag is quite big with so many grapes, I had to use another method to help extract the maximum amount of juice. I placed a medium size pot upside down in a large pot. I then placed the grape straining bag on top of the upside down pot. I then added the lid and waited several hours until the grape juice had empty out of the straining bag. I then discarded the leftover grape pulp.
Next, I siphoned the wine from the primary fermenter to the secondary fermenter. My secondary fermenter is a carboy. This is called racking the wine. To siphon or rack the wine you need to let gravity help you to do the work. I put the primary fermenter on top of my kitchen counter and the secondary carboy on the kitchen floor right below. I used a siphon hose. The end where the wine will come out of goes into the carboy and the other end that has the siphon pump is submerged into the wine in the primary fermenter. I hold this end a little from the bottom of the fermenter. I then pump it about two times and then gravity takes over and moves the wine from the top container to the carboy container on the floor. I want to pump as little as possible because I do not want to get oxygen into my wine.
|Siphoning Wine into the Carboy|
|Placing grape filled straining bag on an upside down pot inside of a larger pot so that grape juice can run out of straining bag.|
Once I rack the wine, I filled up to about within 2 inches of the airlock rubber bung with water. This is the rest of the water I needed to make the wine that could not fit into my primary fermenter at the beginning of the wine making process because there was not enough room in the container. I filled the rubber bung halfway with water. I then attach the airlock rubber bung to the top of the carboy.
I am attaching a brew hauler so that I can move the wine. A brew hauler is a sturdy polypropylene material that creates handles for the carboy. Once that the wine, 6 gallons of it, is in a carboy it can be quite heavy to lift. The brew hauler gives you a good grip on the carboy to let you more easily move it, but it is still pretty heavy.
The wine needs to ferment more. Fermentation is complete once the specific gravity has reached 1.000, which should take about another 3 weeks. At that point I will add stabilizer to the wine. In the meantime the wine needs to continue to ferment. The temperature for fermentation can vary. Some ferment at 55 or as high as 78 degrees Fahrenheit. The lower the temperature the longer it takes to ferment. What is more important than the temperature is the temperature fluctuations. The temperature needs to be constant because the yeast really cannot handle much wide variance in the temperature; hot one day, cold the next. If this happens the yeast will go dormant. In about 3 weeks I will add the stabilizer and siphon off the sediment again.
Another 3 Weeks Later:
Once the wine reaches a specific gravity of 1.000 I stabilize the wine. To stabilize the wine I added 1 ½ teaspoons of stabilizer to the bottom of a clean and sanitized carboy. I put the empty carboy on the floor and moved the grape wine filled carboy to a counter. To siphon or rack the wine you need to let gravity help you to do the work. I used a siphon hose. The end where the wine will come out of goes into the empty carboy and the other end that has the siphon pump is submerged into the wine. I hold this end a little from the bottom, so as to not suck up any of the sediment. I then pump it about two times and then gravity takes over and moves the wine from the top container to the carboy container on the floor. I want to pump as little as possible because I do not want to get oxygen into my wine.
Once I rack the wine. I filled up to about within 2 inches of the airlock rubber bung with water. I make sure that the rubber bung is filled halfway with water. I then attach the airlock rubber bung to the top of the carboy and place it to the refrigerator.
|Wine has reached 1.000!|
|The Stabilizer or Potassium Sorbate|
|Racking the wine, again!|
|The Sediment Left at the Bottom of the Carboy after Racking the Wine|
|This is how much wine is left after racking.|
|I add water to top off the wine within 2 inches of the airlock rubber bung.|
Racking the Wine and Aging the Wine:
I will siphon the wine about every 3 weeks until the wine in clear for bottling which will take about 4 more months. I have heard that this wine is robust and I will need to give it time to age. So there is a possibility it make take longer before I am ready to bottle it. I will let the taste of the wine, the clarity, and the aroma help to dictate to me when it will be ready to bottle. At that time I will be ready to sweeten the wine to my taste and bottle it. At bottling time if I prefer to sweeten the wine back a bit I will add 3 teaspoons of stabilizer and then add sugar to taste.