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How to become an expert winemaker | Carbs

wine and grapes

Carbs or carbohydrates are sugars and starches. Sugar is fairly easy to understand and the sugar used in wine making is the granulated sucrose that we are familiar with, but there are other types of sugar. There is fructose, otherwise known as fruit sugar, but also found in some vegetables like potatoes and carrots. Fructose is important to mental health and so those foods are important to us. Then there is lactose, that is a sugar that yeast won’t break down and so is sometimes used to sweeten wine after it’s finished fermenting. Artificial sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose aren’t usually used to sweeten wine. There have been accusations that these sweeteners can damage health too. I try to avoid them because although the digestive system doesn’t absorb them, they can be broken down in the large bowel causing gas. Who wants more gas?

Carbohydrates as the name suggests are made up of atoms of carbon and hydrogen. Fermentation will use the carbon and bond it to oxygen to make the gas carbon dioxide and the hydrogen will go to make alcohol. The yeast can’t ferment starch however and so if you make drinks from vegetables, you need to get an enzyme from your winemaking supplier to break down the starch so it’s fermentable. The starch tends to make your wine cloudy.

If you make wine from fresh fruit rather than clear fruit juice, your wine might turn out cloudy because of pectin. Pectin is the stuff that makes jams set and so not at all good in wine. If you use a juicer or press on soft fruit like blackberries, you don’t really want too much pectin and it’s a good idea to use a pectin enzyme. In summer you can go picking wild blackberries, but not from the side of roads where they get polluted by traffic. You can also go to farms that allow fruit picking to pick strawberries to make strawberry wine. Make sure the strawberries are really ripe or the pectin will be more of a problem.

If you have juiced your blackberries of whatever with a juicer, you can then add a little sodium metabisuphate or a camden tablet to sterilise the juice. Make sure it’s really dissolved and maybe leave it overnight before using the juice to make your wine. The sodium metabisuphate releases sulphur dioxide and that kills bacteria, but can give the wine a slight off taste and inhibit the yeast a little; so allow the sulphur dioxide to dissipate a little before using the sterilised juice. You can also buy some cheap apple juice at the supermarket and add fresh blackberry juice to add flavour and produce a nice rose.

If you use 1 Kg of sugar for each 5 litres you’ll get around 12% alcohol. I used to use less, about 800 grams to make a lighter wine and you can reduce the amount of juice too. For a heavier wine add more juice and more sugar and you can go up to about 1,400 grams of sugar and aim for a wine that is 18% alcohol. You need a special yeast that is tolerant to high alcohol or fermentation will stop as the alcohol level increases. If you make wine with a citrus fruit, then it’s advisable to increase the sugar to 1,200 grams for a drink that is about 15% alcohol. You can make tropical style drinks from orange juice or pineapple juice. These drinks are citrus and so can be quite sharp, but great to make a punch; add sugar, fruit, ice and some lemonade for a summer drink that is great for those balmy summer barbecues.

If you missed last weeks winemaking blog it’s here. There are more amazing blogs on the home page.

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