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How to become an expert winemaker | acids

wine and grapes

I started this series of blogs on how to become an expert winemaker a few weeks ago, so you can go back and read the first blog. Then two weeks ago I explained how to make your first batch of wine using apple juice. Then last week we went on to clearing and filtering the wine. The more you understand the process and the science bit, the less likely you are to make a bad batch. I chose apple juice for the first batch because it’s cheaper than grape juice and it contains malic acid like grape juice.

Many old winemaking books advise adding citric acid to your fermenting wine, but you know that it is much better to eat grapes high in malic acid than eat  a lemon that is high in citric acid! If you add citric acid the fermentation might be better, but the wine tastes very sharp. Citric acid can be added when making up a sterilising solution using sodium metabisulphate to make it more effective at killing bacteria; the winemakers enemy. Bacteria will turn all the alcohol in your wine to acetic acid (vinegar) and so be careful to sterilise all your equipment.

Malic acid is also in other fruit besides grapes and apples. Peaches, raspberries, blackberries and other fruits will make excellent wines. You can make the wine with apple juice and then add some juice from blackberries that you’ve picked to make a rose or red wine. There are two types of juicer for extracting the juice from fruit, one works like a mincer and the other uses centrifugal force rather like a washing machine on the spin cycle! The former seems better for apples and the latter for soft fruits like blackberries. You can simmer your black berries  in a little water and then strain off the juice through muslin. Old net curtain works as well as muslin and it can be cleaned by soaking it in thin bleach.

The more sugar you put in a wine, the more alcohol you get. The more juice you use, the more body that you get in the wine. If you use a litre of concentrated juice and a kilogram of sugar, you get a fairly full bodied wine with 12% alcohol. If you use a better quality juice like concentrated grape juice, you get a better quality wine.

You can increase the grape juice even more, perhaps use 2 litres of grape juice and a kilo of sugar and ferment it to medium dry (sg 1.000). Then clear and filter the wine. You will lose some wine in clearing, but fill up a demijohn with the finished wine and then top it up with a vintage wine. Now the enzymes from the vintage wine will go to work on the wine that you have made. The quality will improve, but it will need syphoning off the sediment again, filtering again and eventually bottling.  It should be kept at least 6 months, but you can experiment and keep wines for years. You should filter them several times before bottling and even then they will throw another sediment in the bottle. You have made vintage wine! Vintage wine is very expensive and sought after and you won’t believe the taste of your first bottle. You might want to share it with friends.

You first wines should be fairly light wines and you should leave the vintage wines until you have some experience. When you have lost a couple of batches because fruit flies have got in them, you can become more adventurous. Watch out too for ants invading your winemaking! You can make exotic tropical drinks from orange and pineapple juice, but I’ll explain the best way to do that in a future blog. The same goes for parsnip wine, carrot whisky, something that tastes like sherry and other exotic drinks!

There are more amazing blogs on the Home Page. Please comment if you have a question.

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  1. Pingback: Thrifty Thursday | surviving the recession « Mike10613's Blog

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